Breakthrough by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  The building of the Transcontinental Railroad is one of the greatest construction marvels in our nation’s history. The Union Pacific built west from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific built east from Sacramento, California, with a little help from Western Pacific. Through mountains, valleys, rivers, and desert, they laid about 2000 miles of railroad tracks between 1863 to 1869, right in the middle of the Civil War! Now, what would have taken 5-6 months in a stage coach over treacherous conditions could now be done in less than a week in fairly restful conditions. So also, when God is with us, a difficult journey becomes a restful one. Here’s the point of today’s message: God allows us to come to impossible situations in our lives, not to discourage or demoralize us, but to call us to trust him and him alone. When we do that, he not only gives us breakthroughs but he also leads us to a life of rest. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.

Joshua 5     13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand.

Context: Last week, we saw that Joshua and Caleb had wholly followed God. While the other 10 spies had incited fear in the hearts of the people, they had tried to instill faith in them. Unfortunately, the people believed the evil report and God’s judgment came upon them. Over the next 40 years, the entire generation along with the 10 spies died in the wilderness. They never got to experience the rest that God had for them. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews describes it in Hebrews 3     16 “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” So, the people of Israel came out of slavery but they could never enter the Promised Land and experience God’s rest because of sin, disobedience, and unbelief. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.

Application: Is that you? Are sin, disobedience, and unbelief keeping you from experiencing God’s rest in your life?

Now it was time for the second generation to reenter the land. Moses was gone and Joshua was to lead them to possess the land. By the way, he was in his 80s and the second generation were the children of the first generation. I can only imagine the fear in his heart. On the eve before the battle of Jericho, he must have been by himself praying, asking God to help. Just then, he saw a man near him with a sword in his hand. Listen to 13 “…And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” 14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” This was a Theophany, maybe even a Christophany. 15 Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. In last week’s message titled Onward, we learned that “When we wholly follow God, he doesn’t let us face our battles alone. He not only shows up but he takes over.”

Application: Are you facing some impossible situation in your life? Instead of fearing and doubting, start following God fully. He will not only show up, but he will take over.

Listen to the next verse – Joshua 6:1 “Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in.” The Hebrew words for “securely shut up” is “sigereth misigereth.” That’s like a double reinforcement. It’s like saying that it was “shut down in itself.” We need to understand a little bit about how the city walls were during the Middle Bronze Period in the Southern Levant to appreciate that statement. I’ve been to Jericho. It is about 13 ½ miles Northeast of Jerusalem, about 6 miles north of the Dead Sea, and the Jordan River is to the east just a few miles away. In the past century, there have been 4 different excavations at the site. Although, it is tough to interpret the date because of the time that has passed from the time of Joshua, there has been much that has come to light. Let’s look at it from the outside in:

  • First, there was the Revetment wall at the foot of the earthen rampart to prevent soil erosion due to rain. It was built using Cyclopean Masonry (massive stones without mortar) and was about 2-10 meters tall and about 1-4 meters wide.
  • Second, there was the Earthen Rampart on which soldiers could be stationed.
  • Third, the Outer and the Lower Wall, which could be about 23 feet tall and as large as 50 feet tall, with each stone about 8-10 feet long.
  • Fourth, there were the Retaining Walls at specific points to make sure the various walls were stable.
  • Fifth, there was another Second Rampart inside that was quite wide and had houses, and maybe even barracks. This would be on an upward slope towards the inner and upper wall. It looked like a terrace. You could also call it a Glacis.
  • Sixth, the Inner and Upper Wall, that was about 4-5 feet wide, 30 feet tall, and could be about 50 feet high in places.
  • Inside were the people. Keep in mind that the people probably lived beyond the walls but they must have come in during the siege.

Jericho was shut down in itself. Is it any wonder that when the people came to the Promised Land, they said in Deuteronomy 1:28 “…Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven…”

Application: How tall are the walls in your life? What are you facing that seems impossible?

So, what is God’s plan? Joshua 6     2 And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” Scholars, historian and archaeologists have tried and tried to find ancient parallels to this ritual, but there is none.

Why did God make them go through this process before he gave them the breakthrough?

  1. He wanted them to get a good look at their problem and realize how impossible it was for them. Day after day they had to see the Revetment wall, the 2 Ramparts, the Retaining Walls, the Inner and Outer Walls. God was bringing them to the end of themselves.
  2. He wanted them to patiently obey, even if it didn’t make any sense. What if they had stopped after the first or even the sixth day?
  3. He wanted them to learn that they were not to battle like the world. Their weapons and their tactics were very different.

2 Corinthians 10     3 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

  1. He wanted them to understand his rest.

Hebrews 4     2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them…3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains that some mustenter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.

Invitation: Do you have his rest or are you still struggling? Only Jesus can give you rest.

Matthew 11     28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Are you saved? Do you have his rest? Have you been to Jesus? Only he can give you rest.

Onward by Dr. Abidan Shah

Onward

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

Introduction: How many of you remember the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could?” My parents got me a copy of it when I was very young. It was one of my favorite books as a child. The story is of a little blue engine that did not have any confidence in himself to pull a train full of toys and food up on the mountain to the little boys and girls on the other side. The Shiny New Engine didn’t have time to help and the Big Strong Engine didn’t want to help. So, the Little Blue Engine thought about all the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain who were waiting for their toys and food, and decided to give it a shot. He tugged and pulled as he went up the mountain, saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” He climbed and climbed, and, at last, he got over the other side, saying, “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could…” Finally, he pulled in to the station, saying, “I made it.” Here’s the point: Some of us are standing on this side of the mountain, saying, “I know I can’t, I know I can’t…” We are terrified to go onward to the other side. What is needed is not “I think I can, I think I can…” What is needed is “I know I can’t but I know God can, I know I can’t but I know God can.”

Numbers 14     36 Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, 37those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.”

Context: Last weekend, we learned that 14 months after God freed his people from their slavery in Egypt that he brought them to a place called Kadesh Barnea on the southern end of the Promised Land. God told Moses to send in 12 spies, one from each tribe of Israel. Numbers 13:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.” These 12 men went into the land for 40 days. Then they returned with their report. Ten of the spies said that the land is indeed wonderful, but the cities are well fortified, the people are big and strong, and the giants are still in the land. And, they added, Numbers 13:33b “…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” What was the result? The people were terrified. Listen to how Moses recounts it in Deuteronomy 1     26 “Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; 27 and you complained (Lit. “rawgan” = murmur, whisper, grumble) in your tents, and said, “Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. What a statement! 28 Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, (Lit. “mawsas” = caused to melt, intimidate,).

Question: Do your words breathe faith in people or fear? Do you bring out courage in people or cowardice? 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.”

Only 2 men exercised “power, love, and sound mind.” They were Caleb and Joshua. Who were they?

  1. Caleb represented the tribe of Judah. There is one more designation given to him other than that he was the “son of Jephunneh.” It is found only 3 times in the Bible, once in Numbers and twice in Joshua. He is called a Kenizzite. Numbers 32:12 “except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD.” Who are the Kenizzite? That’s not a Hebrew or even a West Semitic name. We find it mentioned in Genesis 15   18 “…the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites,…” They were a non-Israelite group that came from the desert below Negev. Somehow, they became associated with the tribe of Judah, maybe intermarriage, and were grafted into God’s people!
  2. Joshua represented the tribe of Ephraim. What do we know about the tribe of Ephraim? They came from Joseph. If you remember, Joseph had two sons from his Egyptian wife: Manasseh and Ephraim. They were half Egyptians. Nonetheless, they had a good portion in the Promised Land. If later texts are any indication of how the early people of Ephraim behaved, it doesn’t look good for the tribe of Ephraim. Psalm 78:67 “Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph, And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.”

What’s the point? You don’t need godly pedigree to understand the heart of God. It doesn’t matter what your family tree looks like. We all have a few nuts hanging on our family tree. My dad came from a Muslim home. Look where God has brought me today!

How did these 2 men respond to the reaction of the people to the 10 spies?

  1. They spoke up. Listen to Numbers 13:30 “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.’” You can imagine someone saying, “Look at this Kenezzite trying to get us killed!”

Question: Do you speak up? “Well…I wanted to say something…But, I feel like I’m a nobody.” Don’t misunderstand: I’m not talking about being argumentative or combative or trying to get the last word, or even speaking up for your rights. I’m talking about speaking up for God.

  1. They feared God. Listen to Numbers 14:6 “But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes.” Why did they tear their clothes? Tearing clothes was a sign of distress. Sometimes, it was a sign of mourning for dead. Unlike the multitude, these two understood the ramifications of failing to obey God and going into the Promised Land.

Question: Do you fear God or do you fear people? Do you fear people more than you fear God? If you fear God, you won’t fear anyone else.

  1. They tried to inspire others. Listen to Numbers 14 7 “and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, “a land which flows with milk and honey.” 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread”; What does that mean? Earlier inNumbers 13:32, the 10 spies had given a bad report to the children of Israel saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants…” That could mean that the land was barren, wild, filled with plagues, constant wars, or even like Hell. To this, Joshua and Caleb said that the people of the land “are our bread”! Several times the Bible uses that manner of speaking. It means more than just winning over our enemies. It also means that with each victory we become stronger just like with each meal we become stronger. Instead of fearing our enemies/challenges, we should face them, because we get stronger with each victory. Furthermore, “their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”

Question: Are you helping others stand up to fears or are you hiding behind your own fears?

Both Caleb and Joshua had a glorious future.

  1. Caleb: God said in Numbers 14:24 “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” Sure enough, in Joshua 14, Caleb came to Joshua to redeem God’s promise – 10 “And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12 Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.” Caleb got his mountain!
  2. Joshua: Listen to Deuteronomy 34:9 “Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.” Repeatedly, God told him to be strong and of good courage. Then, right before the Jericho campaign, the pre-incarnate Christ came to him in Joshua 5:13 “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, ‘Are You for us or for our adversaries?’ 14 So He said, ‘No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant?’ 15 Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, ‘Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” Joshua saw God! (Revelation 22:8-9)

Matthew 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Invitation: What kind of a spirit is in you? Spirit of Fear or the Spirit of God? Only those with the Spirit of God can see God. Only those who can see God can help others see God.

Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Without him you cannot have the Spirit of God.

Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

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PRAYER – DOCTRINE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Kids have some very interesting prayers! I found a few online:

  • Dear God, If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set. Raphael
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Larry
  • Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. Joyce
  • Dear God, Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. Peter
  • God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. Love, Chris.
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. Sam

Unlike kids, who pray with a childlike faith and innocence, adults have a complex and sometimes even an unbelieving attitude towards prayer. Today we begin a 2-part series on prayer: first, we will focus on doctrine, and then, on practice. Here’s the main point of the first message on the doctrine of prayer: Our prayers reflect our understanding of God’s providence. In other words, our understanding of how much God is in control and how much free will we have will directly impact how and how much we pray.

1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Background: The Greek word for confidence is “parresia,” which can be translated as openness, confidence, boldness, and frankness. This is the kind of spirit we should have when we come to God in prayer.

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for my dad. We were not a perfect family, but we were a praying family. From an early age, I remember watching my mom, my dad, and my grandma pray. In church, I remember listening to adults pray, just like we do here. We even had home prayer meetings twice a week. We had 2 different language services (still do) and we would meet at different people’s homes each week to pray; Wednesday evening was people of the Hindi language service and Thursday would be of the English language service. As a little boy, I remember praying all the time—for a baby sister, for a new bike, for new shoes, for good grades in school, for being able to win a race with the other boys. I believed in prayer. But then, it happened. When, I can’t pinpoint the time, but I began to become more “realistic” and “grownup” about what I asked in my prayers. I began to lose the childlike faith and innocence in my prayers. I still prayed, but it wasn’t the same. I believe I have just described the prayer life of most of you here.

Why do we experience such a shift in our prayer life? Short answer: We grow up and face real life. We go through suffering and loss. Our hopes get dashed. Our prayers remain unanswered. We even come face-to-face with evil. Now, there is a change in our view of God and our prayers. It’s like the child who has a toy doctor kit and one day he gets a little cut. Instead of using the instruments (thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure kit) in the box, mom and dad take him/her to a real doctor or nurse who have real instruments. That’s when the child realizes that the instruments are simply toys. They are just pretend. Now, the child does play with the kit but it’s only pretend.

Long answer: Real life jars our view of God’s providence, and, with that, our prayers change as well. Let’s begin with defining the word “Providence.” For starters, that word is not found in the Bible but the concept is everywhere. Basically, it is the answer to how much is God in control of the world he has created and how much can we influence him. When we begin to seriously deal with the matter of God’s providence, a lot of complex and deep questions rise up. I don’t have time to deal with all of them here. There are some wonderful books out there like “Providence and Prayer” by Terrance Tiessen. Here, I just want to bring out a few of the major ones (they are interconnected): Is God timeless or is he bound by time just as we are? Because if he is in the same boat as we are, then, how can he really be prepared for what is coming around the corner? Does God know the future? How much does he know? If he does know the future, why doesn’t he do something about bad things? Does God allow evil to exist? Is he helpless to combat evil? Is he allowing evil to bring about something good? How about when it brings a lot of pain? Do I have any free will? Can people interfere with the plan of God? Does God change his mind? Bottom line: Does prayer change things?

If such questions about God’s providence are not answered, our prayer life will suffer.

Here’s how the proper view of the providence of God can help our prayer life:

  1. God’s providential control is comprehensive, detailed, capable, loving, and best.

There is much about the providence of God in creation in the Book of Psalms and Job. But, here is a classic passage from Matthew 6     26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 10     29 “…And not one of them (sparrows) falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Miracles are also part of his equation, but they are rare.When they don’t happen, we have to trust his perfect plan.

  1. People act freely within God’s overall will.

The best way to understand that is to imagine a road trip growing up. Mom and dad will get to the destination but it’s up to us as to how we will enjoy the trip. When it comes to humans, his sovereign will is always done, even if his moral will may be rejected. God’s purpose was to bring the people into the Promised Land. This was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah one day. Nonetheless, they all had a choice in how they would live in the land.Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Even evil has been allowed to exist temporarily but the boundary is set, as in Job. In his divine wisdom and care, he allows it. Through his foreknowledge, God already knows what we or evil will do, but everything is always within his reach and control. Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

  1. God works in us to bring us in partnership with his will and he uses prayers as a major means.

This happens through scripture, prayer, (personal and corporate) and fellowship with other believers. 1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Moses prayed for God’s people and miracles happened. The early church prayed and circumstances changed. Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Jesus wanted his disciples to participate in prayer. John 16      23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This applies to our personal lives as well because we are connected to his comprehensive plan. James 4:2 “…Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” Can we change the mind of God? In his perfect wisdom and plan, he has even allowed for that. His overall plan is always intact, but it does impact the immediate plan of God.

  1. Providence, Prayer, and everything else are ultimately connected to our salvation through Jesus Christ.

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: What do you believe about prayer? Does God answer? Can he answer? Have you prayed to invite Jesus into your life to be your Savior and King?

Press On by Dr. Abidan Shah

Press On

PRESS ON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: As many of you may know, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo had to be postponed to next year because of the COVID-19 crisis. One of my favorite events is the 100-meters dash, where you see the fastest man or woman on earth. My favorite athlete in that event is Jesse Owens. He represented the United States at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, where he was not just competing against other athletes but against Hitler’s Nazi ideology. What many people don’t realize is that he grew up in a devout Christian home. When he was five years of age, he had a fibrous tumor on his chest. Since his parents were just poor sharecroppers, they could not afford any medical care. So, his mother, Emma, took a sharp kitchen knife, sterilized it, and removed a golf ball size tumor from his chest. You can only imagine the pain he must have felt. The bleeding continued for days and little Jesse Owens remembers his dad, Henry, praying for him, “Oh, Lord Jesus, ‘Please, please, hear me. I know you hear everything, but this saving means everything. She’ll die if he dies — and if she dies, Lord, we’ll all die — all of us.’” Within minutes the bleeding stopped. God answered his prayers. But, listen to Jesse Owens philosophy on running. He was told to run as if the track were on fire. He said, “I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up.” I cannot think of a better philosophy for living the Christian life – “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”That’s the title of our message today – PRESS ON – in our series on Paul’s letters to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     12 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Question: How are you running the Christian race? Will you win the gold medal? We are not competing against each other but against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Who is winning? You cannot be in the race unless you are saved. Are you saved?

Context: Athletics or competitive sports were a big part of Greco-Roman life. Altogether there were 4 Panhellenic games: Olympic (Olympia), Isthmian (Corinth), Pythian (Delphi), and Nemean (Peloponnesian region). There were also some lesser games. More than likely, Paul went to the Isthmian games because he was in Corinth planting the church the years those games were held there in AD 49 and 51. That’s why he was in tent-making because spectators came from everywhere and needed some shelter during the games. What a perfect opportunity for Paul to share the gospel!

How did the people see these games? We have historical evidence that the Greeks, Romans, Jewish people, and many other ethnic groups came to these events. Although most of the games were for males and attended only by males, there were other games for females as well. These events were not just athletic events, they were also religious events where there were sacrifices to certain deities on the opening and closing days. The athletes even believed that the gods themselves helped them to win. The games were a display of excellence (“arete”), both external (beauty) and internal (goodness). These two aspects are what made someone a good citizen. They thought that an athlete was made into the ideal citizen in the gym through education and practice. Then, the citizens came together in the “agon” or gathering to observe these ideals. The idea was “if a person looked good, then he was a good person.” What about injuries? A mangled ear, broken nose, scars, and intense exhaustion was a sign of endurance through difficulties that led to a superior character.

What would the athletes get for winning the competition? They would get the “stephanos” or foliage crown (wreaths made out of olive, wild celery, or pine), but there were also cash rewards. Depending on how great their achievements, there would also be statues, monuments, and inscriptions. What if you were to lose? In many cases, this was a disgrace. One Stoic philosopher wrote, “In the Olympic Games you cannot just be beaten and depart, but first of all, you will be disgraced not only before the people of Athens or Sparta or Nikopolis but before the whole world. In the second place, if you withdraw without sufficient reason you will be whipped. And this whipping comes after your training which involves thirst and broiling heat and swallowing handfuls of sand.”

Did Paul take interest in those games? We don’t know for sure but he used a lot of athletic imagery in his letters. More than any other sport, he made mention of the “foot race” or “trecho,” from which we get our English word “trek.” These races took place inside a 600 feet enclosure known as the “stadios,” from which we get our English word “stadium.” Nicole and I have been on the race track in Olympia. It was unreal to stand there knowing that athletes had ran there for thousands of years! There were 3 kinds of foot races: first, the “stadion,” which was a dash from the starting line “balbis” to the “terma” (finish line), about 200 meters long; second, the “diaulos,” which was a dash from one side to the other and back, about 400 meters long; and the “dolichos,” which was 24 lengths of the stadium, about 5 miles long. He mentions this race about 3-4 times in his letter to the Philippians. Nicole and I have been to Philippi, Greece. Although, there was no stadium there, there is evidence that people had interest in athletics in Philippi. By the second century AD, a “palaestra” was built there next to the agora. Participating in the games and attending them were probably seen as a mark of preserving their Hellenic/Greek identity.

With all this in mind, let’s walk quickly through Philippians 3:12 onwards:

If you remember from last weekend, Paul counted all his achievements (5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless) as loss (zemeia), actually unspeakable filth (skubalon) compared to gaining Christ. Now, through Christ, he has justification, sanctification, and glorification.

Now, Paul turns to the athletic imagery of a runner.

Philippians 3     12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, (dioko = move rapidly and decisively towards an objective) that I may lay hold of (katalambano = grasp) that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind (past achievements and crowns) and reaching forward (epekteinomai = stretching forward) to those things which are ahead,

14 I press (dioko) toward the goal (skopos) for the prize (brabeion) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

17 Brethren, join in following my example (symmimetai, from which we get mimic but this is in a group context), and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 whose end (telos) is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

20 For our citizenship (politeuma = citizenship) is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” The church is the “agon” in which the “arete” is achieved.

21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown (stephanos), so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

I said in the opening: “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”

Invitation:

  • How are you running the race?
  • Are you too busy fussing about useless things?
  • Are you distracted from the race?
  • Are you following the wrong athletes?
  • Are you reaching forward to the crown?
  • Are you helping others reach forward to the crown?
  • Are you in the race? Are you saved?

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

hosannaIntroduction:  This past Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. Due to the coronavirus situation, parades all across the country were cancelled. Needless to say, a lot of people were disappointed. I don’t think they were disappointed because they couldn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s life, but it was because they couldn’t get out and have a good time with their family and friends. 2000 years ago, there was also a parade and some people tried to cancel it but they couldn’t. It was the parade for Jesus as he came into Jerusalem. Instead of clover leaves, the people held palm branches in their hands. Instead of Irish drinking songs, the people were singing Hosanna to the Son of David. As we draw closer to that time of the year, I want to preach a 4-week series titled “HOSANNA.” Here’s the message in this series: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

John 12    12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” 14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” 16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

Question: Did you know that God desires to save you? I’m talking to believers. He wants to rescue you from your predicament, whatever trials you are facing. Are you saved? I’m talking to unbelievers now. Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Context: When people first come to Clearview, they are somewhat amazed at how much I talk about being saved. Some have even come to me and asked if that was a Baptist thing. I try to explain to them that it is not a Baptist thing but a Bible thing. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about being saved, being delivered, and being rescued by God. In fact, that word Hosanna is literally the combination of “hosiah” and “anna,” where “hosiah” means “save us” and “anna” means “now” or “please.” It’s referring back to Psalm 118 where the psalmist says in verse25 “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.” This was usually prayed after the harvest season celebration. They would even wave and beat the ground with branches of willow and palm trees. Later on, this was also done during times of great needs and burden. In the weeks ahead, we will focus on all that. In this message I want to focus simply on the idea of being saved or rescued by God. It is all over the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus’ name in Hebrew is “Yeshua,” which is Savior! With that said, let’s look at it quickly in the short time we have:

  1. Let’s begin by going to what is considered the oldest book in the Bible, Job:

Job 5:11 “He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”

Job 40:14 “Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.” Here God is speaking sarcastically to Job. He asks Job if he can do all the mighty things that God does. “If so, then you can save yourself Job.”

  1. When God’s people were in slavery in Egypt, he sent Moses to rescue them:

Exodus 14    13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

  1. After they settled into the Promised Land, God sent judges to save his people:

Judges 7:2 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’”

Keep in mind that Gideon’s army was 32,000 men and they were outnumbered. Then 22,000 left when given the choice. Only 10,000 left and only those who drank like dogs were allowed to stay and that was only 300! God said, “Now that’s perfect!”

  1. After the judges came the kings but the formula didn’t change:

1 Samuel 17    45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give you into our hands.”

When the kings trusted in the Lord to deliver, they won. When they trusted in themselves, they fell.

  1. In the wisdom books, it is not cunning and strategy that saves but the Lord:

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I will recompense evil”; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.

Proverbs 28:18 Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, but he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.

  1. Over a hundred times, the prophets call upon the people to look to the Lord to save:

Isaiah 45    21 “Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. 22“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!”

Jeremiah 15:20 “And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you and deliveryou,” says the LORD.

Hosea 14     1 “O Israel, return to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; 2 Take words with you, and return to the LORD. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us…”

Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

  1. Finally, in the psalms, it is everywhere that God is our Savior:

Psalm 28     8 The LORD is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed. 9Save Your people, And bless Your inheritance;

Psalm 44     6 For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. 7 But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. 8 In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever.

Psalm 80:3 “Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”

Psalm 119:94 “I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts.”

Psalm 144     9 “I will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, 10 the One who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David His servant from the deadly sword.”

Let me repeat again what I said in the opening: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Are you saved?

Out-of-Bounds by Dr. Abidan Shah

Out of Bounds.jpg

OUT-OF-BOUNDS. by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Every game has its fouls and penalties. In soccer, it can be an offside, a handball, or tripping an opponent. In football, it can be holding, illegal contact, or delay of game. In ice hockey…I still don’t get ice hockey…. In basketball, it can be holding, charging, travelling, double-dribble, or out-of-bounds. When these fouls and penalties happen, the referee or the umpire is responsible for calling them out and there are consequences. So also, life is a game that has its fouls and penalties. The Bible is God’s rule book on how to play the game of life. God is much more than just the rule maker, he is also the referee or the umpire who calls us out when we fail to follow his rules; and, unlike earthly umpires, he doesn’t have to look at the video replay. He calls it right every time. This is our third message in our miniseries “SKILLFUL” from the Book of Proverbs and our message today is titled “OUT-OF-BOUNDS.”

Proverbs 6    16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

Question: How are you playing the game of life? Have you making a lot of fouls and penalties? Can you hear God’s whistle? Can you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit calling you out? Are you saved?

Overall Background: The Book of Proverbs, from which we just read a few moments ago, was written by King Solomon. As many of you may know, he was the son of David, the great king of Israel. One day, when Solomon was in Gibeon to offer sacrifices to God, he had a dream. In the dream, God said to Solomon, “Ask! What shall I give you?” Instead of asking for more life, more riches, or the life of his enemies, he asked for wisdom and understanding to judge God’s people Israel. God was so pleased with his answer that he not only gave him a wise and understanding heart but he also gave him what he did not ask for: 12 “…riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.” (II Chronicles 1:12) True to his promise, Solomon not only became the richest king who ever lived (over 25 tons of gold went into his treasury every year!) but his fame spread far and wide as the wisest person who ever lived, surpassing the wisdom of the easterners, the Egyptians, and the Edomites. People came from all over the earth to hear his wisdom. The Book of Proverbs is a collection of just some of his wisdom. Now, listen to how he opens this book—Proverbs 1   1 “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.” There are many different words that Solomon used for wisdom in this book but the one that stands out above them all is “hokma,” which means “skill in living.” Everyone lives life, but everyone does not live life skillfully. I have been pastoring for over 21 years and I have seen plenty of unskillful living in marriages, families, parenting, businesses, communities, and even churches. People don’t know how to play the game of life. In fact, they keep fouling out! With that said, here are the 7 worst fouls according to God. Proverbs 6:16 “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him.” (This was an ancient way of saying that this list could be much more but these are the worst.)

Foul #1 – Arrogant Eyes

17 “A proud look…” lit. “rising pair of eyes.”

This can be easily misunderstood. Does this mean that you need to walk around with your eyes lowered? If you do that, you will run into things! Does this mean that you cannot recognize your own abilities and accomplishments? No. Neither does it mean that you cannot compare yourself to your opponent and see that you are better in a skill or a sport. All that is fine. Here’s an example of its meaning from Isaiah 10     12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say,“I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.” 13 For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, And by my wisdom, for I am prudent…” The King of Assyria did not look far up enough to thank God for his accomplishments and God called a technical foul on him!

Question: Why the eyes? Why not just “the proud?” All of us struggle with the sin of pride but we can typically hide it. But, if it reaches our eyes, now we don’t care if others notice that we are proud. Now, we are proud of being proud. When a person reaches this stage, even God says “I hate it.” Don’t look at others’ eyes. Look at your own. By the way, spiritually arrogant eyes are the worst.

Application: Do you have arrogant eyes? Do you give God glory for your abilities and accomplishments?

Foul #2 – Uncontrolled mouth

17 “…a lying tongue…” If this were just falsehood or incorrectness, then some other words could have been used. Here the idea is of an “aggressive deceit intended to harm the other person.” An example of this is in Psalm 27:12 “Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; For false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence.”

Someone might say, “I’m not an aggressive liar. I guess I’m ok.” Every time you lie, you claim Satan as your father. Listen to John 8:44 “… (Satan) He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

Application: Are you an aggressive liar? Are you a liar? God is calling a foul on you.

Foul #3 – Bloodstained hands

17 “…hands that shed innocent blood…” The very first example of innocent blood shed was in the first family. Because God accepted Abel’s offering, Cain killed him. Listen to Genesis 4:10 And He (God) said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” Another example was Saul. He was envious of David. Listen to how his son Jonathan confronts him in I Samuel 19:5 “For he (David) took his life in his hands and killed the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel. You saw itand rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause?” Unfortunately, David did the same to Uriah the Hittite. In his desire to cover his sin, he had him killed. Hence, 2 Samuel 12:9-10 says, “…You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me…” For one murder, David lost 4 sons: 1. Son of Bathsheba (12:18); 2. Amnon – killed by his brother Absalom (13:28); 3. Absalom was killed as he fled (18:14); 4. Adonijah – killed by Solomon (I Kin 2:24-25).

Application: Are your hands clean? Have you destroyed someone’s reputation? That is just as bad as shedding innocent blood. Could it be that our hands are stained with innocent blood? Are you an accessory to the shedding of innocent blood?

Foul #4 – Scheming heart

18 “A heart that devises wicked plans…” The heart is the immaterial part of us. It is made by God for us to have a relationship with him. It is damaged because of sin, but it can be redeemed through Jesus Christ. This heart can allow us to love God, come up with good ideas to help others, plan life, and create things. This same heart and mind can also be used to create and dream up wicked thoughts to hurt people.

For e.g. Think about September 11 – how many years were spent planning, training, and practicing. It was not meant to enhance life but destroy it.

For e.g. Then I think of “Operation Christmas Child.” What a great idea! Bless little children, share the love of Christ, remind us of the blessing we have.

Application: What do you think about? You may not go all out evil like September 11 but do you try to trap others in their words and trip them up?

Foul #5 – Wicked Feet

18 “…Feet that are swift in running to evil…” Feet represent the direction of your life. “Feet that are swift in running to evil,” imply a fascination and excitement toward evil things. A rush/dash towards wickedness; a sense of urgency to check out evil. Some people are drawn to bad news, evil ideas, wicked plans. Something bad happened to someone, we want to know; something horrible is happening in someone’s life, we want to know. We seem to have a morbid fascination with evil.

God wants us to examine our feet. He wants us to have:

  • Beautiful feet Romans 10:15 “…How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace…”
  • Prepared feetEphesians 6:15 “…and having shod (put on) your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…”
  • Clean feet Jesus washed the feet of His disciples to remind them to be humble and holy.

Application: Which way are your headed? Are you drawn to evil than good?

Foul #6 – Corrupt

19 “A false witness who speaks lies…” lit. A lying witness who commits perjury. This person is not just lying on the witness stand to protect someone. They are lying to destroy someone.They are going against the 8th of the 10 commandments – “You shall not bear false witness.” They are not just lying but lying under oath; they are not just lying under oath but they are lying to get someone in trouble. Money is always involved somewhere. Remember the trial of Jesus – Matthew 26    59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” False Witnesses crucified Jesus Christ. When you do the same, you join the company of those who were responsible for crucifying Christ.

Application: Are you a false witness who is lying to hurt someone?

Foul #7 – Troublemaker

19 “…And one who sows discord among brethren.” Lit. Unleashes conflicts among relatives – family, friends, and church.

Why? Because of envy, malice, and strife. They use gossips, lies, doubts, and half-truths. When the seed of dissension is sown they stand back and watch that beautiful field of crops takes over by thorns and weeds and shrubs. They are pyromaniacs, arsonists, fire setters. They start the fire of gossip, lies, dissension and then they stand back and watch that home, marriage, family, and church go up in flames. Where does it come from? Satan did this – Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers. He tried in the NT among the disciples, in the church between the Hebrews and the Greeks.

What do you do?  Proverbs 22:10  “Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease.” Instead, Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Application: Are you a troublemaker or peacemaker?

Invitation: How much are you fouling the game of life? Are you about to be ejected? Do you have Christ in your life? Are you saved?

Watch by Dr. Abidan Shah

Watch

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

Introduction: How many of y’all remember your wedding day as if it was yesterday? Nicole and I are coming up on our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful day with so many wonderful memories! The only thing I would change would be my groomsmen (hope they’re watching!). They were absolutely useless! To start with, I had to stay after them to get their tuxes. Then, they didn’t give me a bachelor party. I wasn’t expecting anything crazy but a couple of pizzas and ice cream would’ve been nice. Finally, when it came to decorating Nicole’s car, they wrecked it with saran wrap, toilet paper, syrup, and foam popcorn! They had no plan. Talk about foolish! Now, what does this have to do with today’s message?Christ is the bridegroom and we who believe in him are the wedding party. The groom has promised that he is coming but he hasn’t given us the exact time. We have to be prepared and we have to be watching. Are you prepared? Are you watching? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, five wise and five foolish, and the message is titled—WATCH.

Matthew 25      1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five werefoolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. 11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. When you peer into this wedding, what kind of a bridesmaid or groomsman are you? Are you ready and watching for the coming of Christ? Will he open the door for you or will he say “I do not know you”? Are you saved?

Context: For the next 3 weeks we will be in Matthew 25 looking at what some have called “the parables of future eschatology” or the “parables of the end times.” A lot of ink has been spilt in trying to understand the end-times’ message around these 3 parables. Before we go any further, let me make one suggestion: When it comes to studying the end-times, it’s always wise to be humble. I’ve seen people get very argumentative and dogmatic over their position. That never helps. If you truly want to learn what the Bible has to say about the end-times, then remain teachable. There is so much we still don’t understand and probably never will, and that’s okay. I preached on the end-times for 2 years and I still have many questions.

Now, back to the parable: To correctly interpret this parable, we have to look at the context in which Jesus gave it. In order to understand its context, we have to back up to Matthew 24into what is known as the Olivet Discourse. Here Jesus spoke a lot about the end-times. It begins with Matthew 24:3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” What things were the disciples asking Jesus about? They were asking about Jesus’ pronouncement against the City of Jerusalem. Listen to Matthew 23     37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate.” Why did Jesus make such a proclamation against Jerusalem? Because Jerusalem was supposed to be the “City of the great King” but the religious leaders had rejected their King when he came to them riding on a donkey. Then, a verse later, Jesus made a shocking prophecy against the Jerusalem temple. Listen to Matthew 24     1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Why did Jesus say that about the temple? Because the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer but it had become a den of thieves. By the way, did these prophecies come true? Yes. In AD 70, the temple was destroyed by Titus and in AD 135, Jerusalem was laid in ruins. The Jewish people lost their land until 1948. That was a heavy price to pay for rejecting their Messiah.

Let me offer a warning here: It’s one thing for God to deal with his chosen ones, the Jewish people, but it’s quite another when others decide to join in. For example: It’s one thing for you to pop your child’s hand for trying to stick their finger in an electrical socket, but what if an outsider decides to pop your child’s hand? You get the point. Don’t forget what Jesus said in the same breath in Matthew 23:39 “for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” It means that God still has a purpose for national Israel in the end times. Paul says it very clearly in Romans 11:1 “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!” You can allegorize that only so much!

In the midst of giving these prophecies regarding judgment against Jerusalem and the Temple for rejecting him at his first coming, Jesus also gave some prophecies regarding the Final Judgment of all people at his Second Coming. This is similar to the “double vision” that is often depicted by the Old Testament prophets. On one hand, they talk about something that will happen in the very near future, but they also have something far in the future in mind. In a sense, Jesus was prophesying about what was going to happen soon after his first coming but he also had another coming in mind. In other words, the coming was not the only trip. Jesus is coming again after he dies on the cross and is resurrected and ascended into heaven. This second coming will not only be for judgment but also for blessing and final salvation.

To start with, will this be a real flesh and blood coming? Yes. Matthew 24:26 “Therefore if they say to you, “Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Meaning: This will be a bodily return of Jesus. By the way, this was the belief of the early church and rightfully so. Acts 1     9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Question: Do you believe in the bodily return of Jesus?

When will this return be? Whether you believe in the Rapture first or the Second Coming, either way he is coming imminently. Here are some signs from Matthew 24.    

  1. Deception—4 “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
  2. Wars and Rumors of Wars—6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars…7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
  3. Natural Disasters—And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
  4. Persecution9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.
  5. Betrayal—10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
  6. False Prophets11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
  7. Lack of Love—12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
  8. Gospel—14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
  9. Abomination of Desolation—15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),
  • Celestial Disasters—29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Bottom Line: Matthew 24:33 “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” Keep in mind that these things have been happening for 2000 years. We have been living in the last days. Don’t hide behind a theological position and be caught unprepared.

Are you ready for his coming? You say, “I’ll take care of it right before he comes.”

If you say, I guess I can take it easy and just go through the list of signs one by one—Matthew 24     36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. …42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming…44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect…50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of.” 25:13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. In other words, we don’t know when but Jesus is coming back.

Question: Are you wise and prepared for the coming of the bridegroom or are you foolish and unprepared? Are you saved?

Treasure by Dr. Abidan Shah

Treasure

TREASURE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you would love to find some hidden treasure in your backyard? Ten years ago (2009) in England, Terry Herbert was metal detecting at a friend’s farm. He had been doing this for 18 years but this time the device actually started buzzing. It had located a small, glittering bit of metal which turned out to be a gold artifact. But that wasn’t it! Within minutes, his detector was buzzing all over the place. Terry had discovered an Anglo-Saxon treasure trove from 1,400 years ago. Archaeologists and museums started buzzing all over the place. After all was said and done, they found 4,600 pieces of gold and silver. It was declared a national treasure valued at four million pounds known as the Staffordshire Hoard. You can see it at the Birmingham Museum and the Stoke Museum in England. The big questions are— “Who owned that treasure? Why did he/she bury it?” No one knows! Here’s the point: Earthly treasures cannot be permanently owned. What you treasure today will belong to someone else’s tomorrow. The only treasure that you can permanently own is what you put into heaven’s bank, the kingdom of God. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the Parable of the Rich Farmer and the message is titled “TREASURE.”

Luke 12     16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are. Are you the rich farmer who trusted in his possessions? By the way, you don’t have to be wealthy to be rich. It’s not about your bank balance. It’s about how obsessed you are with it. Are you trusting in your riches? Are you saved? If tonight your soul is required of you, where will you go?

Preface: Unlike the previous parables, this parable of the rich farmer is somewhat troubling at first glance. If we’re truly honest, what’s wrong with what he did? Listen again to verse 16 “…The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.” What’s wrong with that? That sounds like a blessing! What farmer, business owner, or employee would not want their business or job to be blessed? 17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.” Is that wrong? Not really. He is a visionary. He is thinking ahead and taking the necessary steps to manage his growth. The alternative would be to sit back, do nothing, and lose everything. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ Is anything wrong with that? Once again, no. Isn’t that the reward of a well-planned life? Shouldn’t we all plan ahead so we can retire one day and have the necessary income when we can’t work like we could? It seems like this rich farmer, rather than being a villain, should be a model for all of us to follow! In order to understand the true intent of the parable, we need to look at the context in which Jesus gave it.

Context: To understand the context of this parable, we need to back up to verse 13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”Keep in mind that this parable was given during the Travel Narrative of Jesus in Luke. Remember Luke 9:51, when Jesus knew that the time had come for him to be ascended that he set his face to go to Jerusalem? It was a fulfillment of Isaiah 50:7 “…Therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed” and Ezekiel 3:9 “Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” Face like flint symbolized determination and resolve in the face of incredible trials. When Jesus knew that it was time for him to suffer and die the most awful death on the cross for the sins of the whole world, he didn’t hesitate or dilly-dally. Instead, his eyes became laser focused, his feet picked up speed, and his mind was locked on what was about to happen. Just then—“Jesus, my brother is not sharing…” Imagine a building is on fire and firefighters are rushing in to save lives. Just then someone stops them and say, “My cat is stuck on a tree. Can you help me first?” What was Jesus’ response? 14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” My translation: “Dude, do you really think that’s why I came?” 15And He [Jesus] said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” This is the context in which Jesus gave the parable of the rich farmer. It was not about being successful, planning ahead, or saving up for retirement. It was about covetousness. The desire to acquire more.

Application: Are you covetous? Are possessions controlling your life? Nothing wrong with having things and new things but are you more concerned about material things than about the things of God?

Back to the parable: The rich man has a conversation with himself (soliloquy)—19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ He doesn’t get a chance to answer back because God interjects! 20But God said to him, “Fool!” Why did God call him a “fool”? The word for fool is “aphron,” the same word found in the LXX at Psalm 14:1 “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” This rich farmer probably went to the synagogue and did the ritual sacrifices but he was an atheist at heart. More than that, he was a selfish atheist.

Application: Is that you? Are you an atheist at heart and a selfish one?

20 But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” Sometime back I was teaching a Wednesday evening Bible study and my phone kept ringing. I kept ignoring it until Nicole came by and told me that it was the fire department. There had been a horrible wreck on southbound I-85 and an entire family was killed up near Wise area. Long story short, I got there and prayed for the firefighters before they had to remove the bodies. The saddest part was to watch them remove the things of the people one by one. There was the wife’s cell phone, the little girl’s backpack, someone’s shirt, etc. They were putting them on the side of the highway. Just a little while ago, it belonged to someone but it no longer had an owner. Same will happen to your stuff one day. Listen to the next verse 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” The word for treasure is “thesaurus” from which we get our English word “Thesaurus.” A thesaurus is a dictionary that stores words. The problem was not with his success, planning ahead, or saving up for retirement. The problem was that this rich farmer was only living for self with no regard to God. He was an atheist at heart. He was storing up only for himself.

Application: Is that you? Are you only living for self? Where does God fit in your life?

Now, if Jesus would have ended here, the message would have been “Don’t live for self. Put God first,” but it doesn’t end here. Listen to verse 22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.” By the way, this is very similar to Matthew 6 where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. It could be that Jesus repeated portions of that sermon here. Once again, verse 22 “…Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.” Jesus was not telling his disciples, “Don’t plan your lives.” He was simply telling them, “Don’t be overcome by “merimnaw.” It’s a Greek word for “worry” that’s much more than daily care. It is “paralyzing anxiety.” Question: Are you living under paralyzing anxiety about money, relationship, health, future, etc.? Jesus reminds them that they are not animals. 23 “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” Animals live only for their daily necessities, minus clothing. We human beings were created for things far greater. We were created in the image of God with the ability to relate with Him and help build his kingdom in this world. Jesus appeals to nature to prove his point. 24 “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them.” Ravens were considered to be unclean birds. The point is that God cares for them too! “Of how much more value are you than the birds?” 25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? By the way, one of the best antidotes for anxiety and worry is nature. We turn to TV, shopping, or playing golf. All those things are fine but that’s just substituting one activity for another. Spending time in nature will do that for you more than anything else but the point is that we have far more value than animals and plants.

Jesus continues in verse 29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. 32 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In other words, work on building God’s kingdom and he will take care of your needs.

So, how do you build God’s kingdom? Study the Bible more? Pray more? Serve in church more? Win the lost more? None of these things are wrong and we should be doing them but that’s not what Jesus meant when He told us to seek his kingdom. Listen to verse 33 “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, don’t hoard but help others in need. This is what #iamtheneighbor project is all about!

Invitation: Are you living for self? Are you hoarding? What if your soul is required tonight? Are you saved?

Desperate by Pastor Abidan Shah

DESPERATE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: It’s amazing how God lines up our activities at Clearview. He knew that this weekend Curt Mulhollen will be called home and so he set up our 24-hour prayer vigil during the time that he was dying. Also, as many of you know, Curt was very active with our Men’s Monthly Breakfast. It happens(ed) to be this Sunday morning. Then, today’s sermon in our series on the parables of Jesus is on prayer. This week many of us prayed in desperation to God for Curt. Our message today is titled “DESPERATE” and it will teach us how to come to God in our time of need and trust him to answer what’s best. We will be looking at 2 parables by Jesus on prayer. There are similarities and there are differences but the main point is the same –God eagerly hears the prayers of desperation by his children. We as believers should eagerly seek and expect the help of our Heavenly Father and trust him that he will answer in his way and his timing. 

Parable #1 – Luke 11     5And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessnesshe will rise and give him as many as he needs…13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much morewill yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Parable #2 – Luke 18      1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ” 6Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7And shall God notavenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?

Question:  Do you have a desperate need in your life today? Are you praying to God for it? Even more so, are you expecting an answer from God? Is he your Heavenly Father? Have you prayed to receive Christ as your Savior?

Context:Both these parables are known as the “how much more” parables. They each tell a story and then draw a contrast between the antiheroes and God. People mistakenly think that these parables are about persistence in prayer. We need to persist in prayer but that’s not the point of these parables. The point is that God will do so much more for us compared to the antiheroes who scornfully and grudgingly did so much less. It’ll make more sense as we look at them side by side:

Parable #1Parable #2
SettingFriendship
Friend goes to a friend at midnight to borrow 3 loaves of bread for another friend who is visiting.
Court System
A widow repeatedly badgers a judge to get justice for herself.
AntiheroSleeping Friend
 
“Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you?”
 
This is understandable because houses back then were basically a one-room affair. Imagine waking up your children, especially babies.
Unjust Judge
 
“who did not fear God nor regard man.”
 
This is also sort of understandable because judges have to be unbiased. At the same time, this judge did not even fear God, which means that he was totally heartless.
OffenseInhospitality
 
Don’t misunderstand. The charge of inhospitality is not against the friend who was asleep. It is against the friend who asked for bread. The clue hinges on the meaning of the Greek word “anaideia” – “yet because of his “anaideia”he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” Typically, translators have translated this word as “persistence” or “importunity” (annoying persistence). It almost makes the friend who is asking seem noble for coming in the middle of the night and waking up his neighbor friend. Scholars have rightly concluded that its true meaning is “shamelessness.” One more thing: It’s not “shameless persistence.” This word is always negative. The sleeping friend gave the bread because of the shamelessness of his friend. What does that mean? We will see next.
Delayed Justice
 
Don’t misunderstand: The charge against the judge is not about justice but about delay in justice. Listen to 3“…she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while.” Why was he delaying? Maybe he was looking for a bribe. Or maybe he was in cahoots with the adversary. Either way, the story leaves us believing that he wasn’t right.
ResponseOut of Contempt
 
8I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessness
he will rise and give him as many as he needs…”

 
The friend ends up giving bread but not because of friendship. He gives it out of contempt, disgust, and scorn over his lack of hospitality and common courtesy!Apparently, this friend who asked for bread knew that his friend was coming but he did not plan ahead. His shamelessness is not in waking people up at night but in failing to be a good host in planning ahead for his visiting friend.
Out of Annoyance
 
5“…because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ”
 
The judge ends up giving justice but not because of justice. He gives it out of annoyance, irritation, and exasperation over her constant badgering and pestering!
PointUnlike the Sleeping Friend who gave out of contempt, God is our loving Heavenly Father – Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much morewill yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”Unlike the Unjust Judge who gave a verdict out of annoyance, God is our loving Heavenly Father – Luke 18:7And shall God notavenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”

How do you pray? How do you see your Heavenly Father? Do you doubt his love and mercy? Do you think he looks down on you when you ask in desperation? Does he give so you would stop pestering him? Absolutely not! 

He is a loving father. He wants you to come and ask what’s on your heart. He wants you to believe that he will answer. He will not call you shamelessness. He will not call you a pest. He wants you to seek and eagerly expect the best from your Heavenly Father. 

Are you doubting his best? Listen to Luke 11:9  “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asksfor a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Are you losing heart? Listen to Luke 18      1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…8I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.

God’s answer may not always be what we ask. It will be better than what we ask and it will come at a time we do not expect. Trust him.

Are you saved? That’s the prayer he is waiting to hear from you. Ask Jesus to save you today.

Fearful Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

ROADBLOCKS TO RESETTING YOUR MIND – FEARFUL MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: People have all sorts of phobias. Some people are afraid of snakes, spiders, heights, enclosed spaces, lightning, public speaking, needles, water, etc. Some of these fears are understandable and even healthy but then there is a kind of fear that actually becomes a roadblock to having the mind of Christ. We’re still in our series titled MIND (RE)SET from Philippians 2:5-11 and today’s message is called “FEARFUL MIND.” Here’s the message in a nutshell: A fearful mind will either leave you paralyzed or cause you to flee. What you need is the mind of Christ. What you need is the replacing of your false assumptions about life and future with biblical truth and principles.

Philippians 1     12But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happenedto me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Question: Do you have a fearful mind? Are you paralyzed or have you fled? You might say, “I’m not fearful, just cautious.” There’s a big difference between fear and caution. Caution is seeing a warning sign and slowing down and steering carefully around the hurdle. Fear is pulling over and cancelling the trip. Many Christians have pulled over and cancelled their trip. Some have even turned back. Is that you? Are you saved? Jesus said in Mark 5:36“Do not be afraid; only believe.”Have you believed in Jesus?

Background:Before we dive into our message, let me explain as simply as possible how we work as human beings. In life, all of us have certain EXPECTATIONS. They can be our personal goals in life or how we expect things to turn out through circumstances. These expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. When expectations don’t turn out according to our assumptions, they lead us to FRUSTRATIONS. These can be manifested as anxiety, guilt, and resentment. To give you an example: You see a person who is driven to succeed. He wants to be rich. Nothing wrong with being rich. Lots of godly people in the Bible were rich. Unfortunately, the market crashes or health goes bad and he does not achieve what he wanted. The result is anxiety, stress, anger, addiction, relationship problems, etc. We can treat some of these issues but it doesn’t change this person’s attitude towards what has happened. I’m actually talking about saved people. They know their expectations are wrong but they feel helpless. The real problem is not their expectations but their assumptions. If they grew up learning that if you want to please dad or mom, you have to be rich, then their assumption is that not being rich is failing to please dad or mom. Or, if they wrongly learned that money will make them happy, then they are now sad because they are not. There are other examples (marriage, work, spiritual life) but the diagram is the same. What has to change is our assumptions. They have to be replaced by BIBLICAL TRUTHS. Replacing false assumptions with biblical truths is another way of saying “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When this happens, instead of expectations, we have PROMISESand instead of frustrations, we have FRUITS.

Context: Paul wrote to the Philippians about the mind of Christ because they had some false assumptions which were leading to false expectations with frustrations. One such was fear. They had a fearful mind. Listen to Philippians 1     27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28and not in any way terrifiedby your adversaries…” The Greek word for terrified is “pturomai,” which Paul uses only here. In Classical Greek it was used to describe a horse getting spooked in battle. It would get startled by loud noises or shrieks and it would bolt through the battlefield, stampeding anyone in his path. The Philippians were terrified of their opponents and they were ready to cut and run. 

The Philippians were operating under certain false assumptions. Some of these assumptions were coming from their past lives, which we can only speculate about. They were probably fatalistic– things will be what they will be. Based on Paul’s letter, they were selfish – lookout for yourself. They probably assumed that being a Christian means no more problems. These false assumptions came with wrong expectations. Recently, some more of their expectations had been dashed. They had been keeping up with what was happening to Paul, their founder.Listen again to Philippians 1:12“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happenedto me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” What “things” happened to Paul? Paul was in Roman custody when he wrote this letter. To get the background of his arrest, you have to read starting in Acts 21where Paul was falsely accused in Jerusalem of profaning the Temple. The mob at the instigation of the corrupt religious leaders had tried to kill Paul but fortunately he was taken into custody by the Romans. After several years of waiting in prison, Paul was finally transferred to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. All this news must have gotten out to the churches and destroyed their morale. Their leader was in prison and waiting for his execution. It’s over for him and soon it’ll be over for us. The Philippians were no different, especially since Paul had founded the church. Having these expectations dashed must have led to some frustrations.Scholars used to think that Philippians was Paul’s letter of joy and pride but now this view is changing. If you read between the lines, they had plenty of issues: fear, anxiety, disunity, selfishness, conceit, etc.

So, what did Paul say to them? Listen again to verse 12“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happenedto me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” In other words, “what happened to me is a blessing in disguise.” For 2 reasons:

  1. Verse13“so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” While in Roman custody, Paul was reaching out to the praetorian. They were the emperor’s personal troops and bodyguards. Look up my message titled “Perspective” in this series and you will see how powerful this group was. According to some sources, there were as many as 9000 of them camped outside of Rome. They are now hearing the gospel from Paul! Similar to dad preaching when mom was in the hospital.
  2. Verse 14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more boldto speak the word without fear.” There’s the word “fear” from the Greek word “phobos.” When word got out to the brethren (leaders and pastors in the early church) that Paul was sharing the gospel in prison, instead of cowering and hiding, they started to become more and more bold in preaching the gospel. Billy Graham once said“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”

How could Paul be so bold in the face of execution while the Philippians were terrified by their adversaries? Because Paul had the mind of Christ. Paul had certain biblical truths that the Philippians didn’t. He is listing them all along:

  • Philippians 1:6“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will completeituntil the day of Jesus Christ.” God always finishes what he starts in our lives. That’s his job.
  • Philippians 1:18“What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Rejoicing is not playing safe but preaching Christ. The goal is to preach Christ.
  • Philippians 1:21“For to me, to liveisChrist, and to dieisgain.” A believer cannot lose in life or in death.
  • Philippians 1:29“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Suffering is not a mark of abandonment but a mark of advancement.

Do you have the mind of Paul which was like the mind of Christ or do you have the mind of the Philippians filled with false assumptions?

  • Do you constantly worry that things will fall apart?
  • Do you constantly try to control your circumstances and try to play it safe?
  • How do you respond when people or situations push you out of the safe zone?

Are you saved?

I John 4:18 says, “he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

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