Counting the Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COUNTING THE COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

COUNTING THE COSTIntroduction: Have you ever heard the expression “counting the cost?” It means to evaluate whether or not something is worth doing. Last Monday I had to “count the cost” when we went with our Converge College and Career Group to a water park. They have this ride there called the “Daredevil Drop.” It’s a 76-foot foot tall water slide. I saw it as Nicole and I were going down the “Lazy River.” Something inside me said, “Won’t that be cool if you could do that and let Nicole video it! Imagine how much fun that would be! Imagine how many likes you could get on Facebook and Instagram! Imagine how many more people would come to Clearview just to see the Daredevil preacher!” So, we went and stood at the base and I watched people slide down, even kids. I counted the cost and it wasn’t worth it! I chickened out. I couldn’t give up my fear. So also, when it comes to our salvation, we have to count the cost. We have to ask ourselves, “What all am I willing to give up in order to be saved?” Please don’t misunderstand. Giving up doesn’t save us. Salvation from start to finish is the work of God. It’s only by grace through faith in the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb that we are saved. But, being willing to give up everything reveals whether or not we understand the gospel. It demonstrates how sincere and how committed we are to follow Christ our king.

 Mark 10   17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” . . . 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” . . . 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

Question: Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Are you willing to give up all in order to follow Christ? What is keeping you from following Christ? Are you saved?

Context: This series on the gospel has been impactful on so many levels. It has opened our eyes to the true meaning of the gospel. It has confronted our complacency and tolerance for sin in our lives. It has challenged us to live out the faith that we claim to have. And, more than anything, it has demanded from us unconditional allegiance to our Savior and King Jesus. In this message, we’re going to meet a young man who came to Jesus with all the right intentions but he walked away from eternal life because he was unwilling to give up everything he had. 3 things that we will learn from this passage:

I. JESUS DID NOT IMMEDIATELY LEAD HIM IN THE SINNER’S PRAYER.

Mark 10    17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”18So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No oneisgood but One, that is,God.”

Did you notice that Jesus did not immediately lead him in the Sinner’s Prayer? He was not ready for it. He was under conviction but he was not ready to make a commitment to Christ. For starters, he had a wrong understanding of Jesus. Jesus was much more than just a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh, the Promised One, who had come to give his life for our sins. There are people who have prayed a prayer but never got saved because they didn’t know who they were praying to or what they were praying for.

By the way, the problem is not with the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Some people don’t like that term. I had a person say to me, “There is no Sinner’s Prayer in the Bible.” I asked him if he knew that the word “Trinity” is never found in the Bible and Jesus never used the word “grace” in the gospels. The real issue is what are we saying in the Sinner’s Prayer and do we mean it.If someone thinks that just repeating a prayer is going to save them, then they are greatly mistaken. But, if someone truly repents and acknowledges that Christ is the only way to salvation, then the next step is to pray to God. What does it say in 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. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Who do you confess to? Ultimately, to God. So, you have to talk to God and tell him that you believe. What is talking to God? Prayer. What happens when you truly pray and confess? Romans 10:13For“whoever calls on the name of the LORDshall be saved.”

Bottom Line: Jesus did not immediately lead the young man in some rote prayer. He challenged his understanding of the gospel. He challenged his understanding of himself. Jesus was much more than a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh.

Application:How were you saved? Was it just a rote mechanical prayer or did you truly understand the gospel that Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again to save us from our sins? Have you ever prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King?

II. JESUS CLEARLY LAID OUT THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP.  

 19You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,’ “Do not murder,’ “Do not steal,’ “Do not bear false witness,’ “Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”20And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

At first glance, it seems that Jesus was telling this young man that by keeping the Ten Commandments, he could have eternal life! Was Jesus calling him to works salvation? Absolutely not. Paul declares very clearly in Galatians 2:21“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousnesscomesthrough the law, then Christ died in vain.”So, why did Jesus say this? Some have argued that Jesus was trying to get the young man to see the hopelessness and emptiness of keeping the Law. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the context that tells us that Jesus or the young man acknowledged that. Others have argued that Jesus was trying to get him to reject his works righteousness first. Unfortunately, Jesus did just the opposite. 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” That’s not taking away “works righteousness,” that’s adding more “works righteousness!”

Why did Jesus bring up the 10 commandments and then tell him to sell everything and take up his cross and follow him? This young man knew that eternal life was not in keeping the Law but he was looking for an eternal life that was cheap and easy. He wanted to have the stamp of salvation and still carry on his old lifestyle. He wanted to get his certificate of the kingdom and still not obey the king. Jesus knew his heart and what he was saying to him was that “Yes, I will pay for your salvation. It’s free to you but following me will never be cheap and easy. There will be a cost to discipleship.”

Listen carefully:It cost Jesus his life to buy your pardon. If you follow him, it may cost you your life as well.” Don’t misunderstand: You don’t have to go sell everything and give to the poor before you can be saved but you be better be if your king tells you too.

Application:Have you counted the cost of discipleship? What are you willing to give up for your Savior and your King?

III. JESUS REVEALED THE SECRET TO FOLLOWING HIM. 

Mark 10   22But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

By the way, have you noticed that 3 different expressions were used for salvation?

  • The young man asked,“what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
  • Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
  • The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?

This means that the account was not just for the rich young ruler but all of us.

Now, what was Jesus’ response to his disciples?  27“. . . With menit isimpossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”If only that young man had done what Peter did when Jesus found him, this account would have a different ending. Remember, Peter had not caught anything all night and Jesus told him to launch out into the deep and drop their nets. He obeyed and there were so many fish that the net was breaking. Then it says in Luke 5:8When Simon Peter sawit,he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”Then Jesus said to Peter, 10“. . . Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” It was the Holy Spirit who enabled Peter and the rest (Andrew, James, and John) to forsake all and follow Christ.

Invitation: The question is not “Are you ableto follow Christ but are you willingto follow Christ?” If you are willing, he will do the rest. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you willing?

Crucified and Risen by Pastor Abidan Shah

CRUCIFIED AND RISEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Crucified and Risen

Introduction: When kids are little, they love to copy their parents. Little girls will pretend to be like their moms. They will try to do makeup, carry a purse, or pretend to cook in their toy kitchen. Little boys will pretend to be like their dads. They will shave, carry their little tool box around or pretend to cut grass with their toy lawnmowers. Nowadays, there are parents who are pretending to be like their kids but that’s a whole different problem. The point is that we copy those whom we look up to. It’s no different when we get saved. When we place our faith in the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, not only are we saved but we also deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow after Jesus. In fact, true gospel demands that we daily consider ourselves dead to sin and daily live in the power of his resurrection.

Mark 8    34 When He had called the people to Himself,with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the lifewhich I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Question: Do you understand what it means to “pick up your cross” and follow after Jesus? Have you been “crucified with Christ?” Are you saved?

Context:  As you know, we’re in our series on the meaning of the true gospel. Last weekend, we learned that salvation is much more than our free ticket to heaven. It’s also our allegiance to follow and obey King Jesus. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that the gospel is much more than just believing that Jesus died and rose again 2000 years ago. It’s also a call to live daily the crucified and the resurrected life. In other words, salvation begins by trusting in the historical facts of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus but it leads to a daily commitment to die to self and to live the resurrected life.

I. HISTORICAL FACTS

To begin with, listen to Paul’s definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15    1“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 2 essential elements in the gospel:

  1. The Cross:It was the most visible and shameful form of punishment in ancient world. It was probably invented by the Assyrians and the Babylonians and later perfected by the Persians, Greeks and Romans. God in his sovereignty and foreknowledge chose this form of punishment instead of hanging or stoning or decapitation or immolation because it simultaneously displayed his love for us and his wrath on sin.Paul captures this in Romans 5  8“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” The early church was very careful about mentioning the actual physical death of Jesus on the cross in proclaiming the gospel.Listen to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2    22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” In other words, the crucifixion of Jesus was not some spiritual or mythological event. Jesus actually died on the cross. To be saved, you have to believe in the historical fact of the cross.
  2. The Resurrection: God in his immense wisdom included resurrection as part of the plan of salvation.Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:17“if Christ is not risen, your faithisfutile; you are still in your sins!”In other words, if Jesus had stayed dead, he was just a human. No human can die for the sins of others. There is no proof that God’s plan worked. By coming back to life, Jesus proved that he was god. Humans don’t come back to life. He also proved that he was sinless. Also, 1 Corinthians 15:20“But now Christ is risen from the dead, andhas become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In other words, by rising from the dead, Jesus also set the precedent for all of us who believe in him. One day we too will rise from the dead. Again, the early church was very careful about mentioning the actual physical resurrection of Jesus on the third day.Again, listen to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:24“whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”Paul in I Corinthians 15gives a list of the witnesses – 5“and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”Someone might say, “that’s not that many.” He had to be lifted up high so all could see but he had to be verified by a few so that faith would be the key.Bottom line: The resurrection of Jesus was not some spiritual or mythological event. It also happened. To be saved, you have to believe in the historical fact of the resurrection.

Application: Do you believe in the historical death of Jesus on the cross? Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus on the third day?

II. PRESENT REALITY

Once you believe in Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, we go on to believe in another cross and another empty tomb. This is our cross and our resurrection.

  1. The Cross: Let’s read the passage we read in the opening again – Mark 8 34When He had called the people to Himself,with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” What was Jesus saying here? He was not offering salvation by self-crucifixion but salvation that is willing to live the crucified life. He was calling them to count the cost. If you follow me, it will require you to die to self. Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that you have to build a wooden cross and nail yourself to it. Some people may have to die physically because of persecution. Here, it was simply being willing to see yourself as dead to sin and your selfish desires. Listen to the other verse we just read in the opening from Galatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live . . .” Also, Romans 6:11“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Meaning: Accept your old self as done. Don’t indulge sin. Don’t go back to the old life. It’s buried. Leave it buried.
  2. The Resurrection: If you just stop with the self-crucified life, you will only live the morbid, musty, and miserable life. But, just as Jesus rose from the grave, you also rise from the old life to the new life. Listen to Romans 6:4“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”It’s a call to be alive as Jesus came alive. Again, listen to Paul inGalatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the lifewhich I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”Also, Romans 6:11“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s a choice to live in his resurrection power.

How is all this possible? Through the Holy Spirit – Romans 8:11“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” As you daily submit to the Holy Spirit, he gives you the power to live the victorious life. You don’t have to live in the bondage to sin. Yes, there will be times when you will fail but repentance and renewal is the answer.

Invitation: True Gospel is both Historical Facts and Present Reality. The Cross and Resurrection not only save us but they also set the precedent on how to live the saved life. Are you saved? Are you living the crucified and resurrected life? Are you daily submitting to the Holy Spirit?

Anointed by Pastor Abidan Shah

ANOINTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Annointed

Introduction: People often ask me about my name. “What kind of name is ‘Abidan?’ Is that an Indian name or an eastern name?” Growing up in India, people asked me that question too. It’s not an Indian name. It’s actually a biblical name. It’s not the Abaddon in the book of Revelation. That’s the Angel of the Abyss. My name, Abidan, is found about 5 times in the Old Testament book of Numbers. It’s the name of one of the heads of the tribes of Benjamin. It means “My father is the judge” or “God is my judge.” It’s the reverse of Daniel. But, all through people have asked me about my name. By the way, my brother didn’t get any of those questions because my parents named him “Fred.”What’s the point of all this? Biblical names have meanings, especially the names of Jesus. In today’s message we will learn that one of the names of Jesus means king. When we say that “Jesus Christ is my Savior,” we are actually saying “Jesus the King is my Savior.”

John 20    30“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Question: Have you believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Do you have life in his name? Are you saved?

Context:  For those who’ve been away or visiting for the first time, we’re in a series on what is the true gospel. If you ask people in church, even those who have been in church for a long time, what is the gospel, they can’t tell you! It’s like having a car but no key. You can clean it as much as you want. You can argue over the color and the engine size. You can even decide who you will let ride in the car and where you will go. But, without a key, it’s useless. The gospel is the key that gets our salvation going! In fact, it’s more than that. It’s the title deed. Many people are actually sitting in stolen cars!

Last weekend we learned that the gospel should include the idea of the kingdom of God.Jesus came preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.” This is important because when we drop the idea of the “kingdom” from the gospel, following Jesus becomes optional, discipleship becomes a choice.In today’s message, I want us to go further in our understanding of the gospel. I want us to look at an important name given to Jesus. Listen again to the verse we just read – 31“but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”We know what Jesus means – “Yahweh or God Saves.” What does Christ mean? It’s not Jesus’ last name! It was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” The Hebrew word “Messiah” meant “Anointed One,” someone who had been consecrated or set aside for a special task.When the Jewish people translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the LXX, they used the word “christos,” which comes from the Greek word “chrio,” that carries the idea of “to anoint or smear with oil.” That’s the best they could do! So, Christ or Messiah meant someone set aside for a special task. By the time Jesus came, it was a very important title and had deep meaning for the Jewish people. It referred to God’s Promised Savior for the world. In fact, the word “Messiah” is found about 39 times in the OT and9 of the 39 cases were about that someone who was coming in the future to be God’s king.Here are a few of them:

  • I Samuel 2:35“Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priestwhoshall do according to what isin My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before Myanointed
  • Psalm 2:2“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed.”
  • Psalm 132:10 “For Your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.”
  • Habakkuk 3:13“You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for salvation with Your Anointed.”
  • Daniel 9 25“Know therefore and understand, thatfrom the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah(Anointed One)the Prince, there shall beseven weeks and sixty-two weeks. . . 26“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah(Anointed One) shall be cut off, but not for Himself. . .”

These verses and some others led to the development of the understanding that one day God’s chosen king, the Messiah or the Christ, would come to set his people free and rule over them. By the time Jesus came, the title of “Messiah” or “Christ” was very well known.Listen to how Matthew begins his gospel – Matthew 1:1“The book of the genealogy of JesusChrist, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Few verses down he says inMatthew 1:16“And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is calledChrist.” Matthew 1:18“Now the birth of JesusChristwas as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Luke tells us in his gospel that the angel told the shepherds – Luke 2   10“. . . Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Mark does the same thing in his gospel. He begins in Mark 1    1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the Prophets:“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,who will prepare Your way before You.”3“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the LORD;Make His paths straight.’”Mark is calling Jesus the Messiah and Christ and quoting Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. He is saying that Jesusfulfilled all the prophecies regarding the Messiah or the Christ.

In John’s gospel, people keep confusing John the Baptist with Jesus and he kept telling them that he was not the Christ. Andrew brings his brother Peter to Jesus and says in John 1:41“We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).Later Jesus changes the life of the Samaritan woman at the well and she invites her whole village to come hear him. Listen to what they say to her inJohn 4:42“. . .Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

Later in Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They told him John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, 16“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus was very pleased with him and said, 17“. . . Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealedthisto you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” All because he acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God. Listen to what Jesus said in his high priestly prayer – John 17:3“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and JesusChristwhom You have sent.”

Finally, in Mark 14, at his trial, the high priest asked him,61“. . . Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Mark 14:62  Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” They condemned him for blasphemy. I don’t have time to go through the rest of the New Testament and talk about every time the early church referred to him as Christ.Here’s one from Romans 1    1“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, calledto bean apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son Jesus Christour Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4anddeclaredto bethe Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faithamong all nations for His name, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.”

What does all this imply?It implies that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Promised King of the Old Testament. Inherent in his name “Christ” is the understanding of King and Ruler. He commands our obedience and our allegiance. It takes years for some of us to get to the place of total obedience and allegiance and maybe never completely on this side. But, the desire should be there. No desire, no salvation.

Invitation:Have you received Jesus as Christ, God’s Chosen King? Are you saved? Are you obedient to your king?

Kingdom Here by Pastor Abidan Shah

KINGDOM HERE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonKingdom Here

Introduction:Since I’m preaching on the kingdom of God, I went looking for some king jokes and this is what I found. Caution: They’re really bad – When is a stick like a King? When it’s a ruler; What’s the diagnosis when a King has back problems? An aKING back; Why did the King put a bank machine in his castle? So, he could make Knightly deposits; Why did the King go to the dentist? To get his teeth crowned; What does the King do after he burps? He issues a royal pardon. Those are really bad! This morning we will see how the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus and that is not a laughing matter. In fact, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. It’s a false gospel. We’re in our new series on the true gospel and what it means. As we read our scripture today, pay careful attention to a certain phrase that’s being repeated.

Matthew 4:23“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 9:35“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 24:14“And thisgospel of the kingdomwill be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Mark 1   14“…Jesus came to Galilee, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, andthe kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Question: Did you catch the common phrase? “Gospel of the Kingdom.” For some reason we have dropped “of the kingdom” and retained only the “gospel.” As I mentioned earlier, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. Jesus is not just your Savior, he should also be your king. Is he your king? Does he call the shots in your life? Are you saved?

Context: A few weeks back, when we were in our series on discipleship, I preached a message on the importance of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus. I shared with you that more than a hundred times he mentioned it during his ministry. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king.Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. Unless we get this “kingdom” idea back into the gospel, discipleship will never happen. It will always be optional to obey God and follow him. So, 3 things that we need to understand about this kingdom gospel:

I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A SPIRITUAL AND INTERNAL CHANGE.

Background:  As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish people were very familiar with the concept of the kingdom of God/heaven. It was God’s sovereign rule over the whole world. They saw it as indirect and limited at the present time but they believed that one day in the future it would be direct and eternal. It will put an end to all wickedness and bring glory, justice, and righteousness to his people Israel. But, when Jesus began his ministry, he preached – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) This was very confusing and frustrating for them because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting and there was no physical evidence of the rule of God. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when this kingdom would come, he replied in Luke 17    20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have it as “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, it’s aready here. What did he mean by that? Several things:  One, he was referring to himself. The kingdom is where the king is and he the king is here. Second, he was telling them that this kingdom is not external but internal. They couldn’t see it but it was here. To explain this, Jesus often used parables – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13). His purpose in using parables was to conceal the meaning from those who opposed him and to reveal the meaning to those who believed in him. Bottom Line: The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It is not external and visible but internal and invisible which then manifests in the external and visible. Has there been an internal and invisible change in your life that now manifests itself in the external and visible?

II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS SUBMISSION TO KING JESUS.

Background:Unlike our gospels today, Jesus’s gospel demanded submission to him and his words as the requirement to enter into his kingdom:

  • Matthew 21:31“Assuredly, I say to you (chief priests and elders) that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Trusting in self-righteousness will not work.
  • Mark 9:47“if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Reluctance to let go of sin will not work.
  • Mark 10:25“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Trusting in earthly treasures will not work.
  • Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Giving lip service will not work.
  • Luke 9:62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hesitation to follow Jesus the King will not work.
  • Luke 18:17“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Stubbornness to obey Jesus the King will not work.
  • John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unwillingness to let God remake us will not work.

Don’t misunderstand:This does not mean that you have to be spotless before you can come to Jesus. If that were possible, you wouldn’t have to come to Jesus. What it does mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the king demands of you when you come to him. It may take years for you to be free from certain sins and struggles but the willingness is there from day one. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who helps you to become willing.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It demands total and complete surrender. Have you done that? You might say – “that’s so hard!” Here’s a question: “Are you willing to be made willing to surrender?”

III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF RESTORATION.

Background:Sometimes Christians find it confusing that Jesus talked so much about the kingdom in the gospels but the apostles writing the rest of the New Testament do not talk about the kingdom. Actually, they did but they used other terms and language.

Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyoneisin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Galatians 6:15“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”

2 Peter 3:13“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a newearthin which righteousness dwells.”

Revelation 21    1“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Here’s the point: The Kingdom Gospel is a life-long journey of being set free from the bondage and damage of sin and restored to the glorious and gracious rule of God. The more you and I understand that, the more we submit to him, the more we become disciples, not less.

Are you willing to surrender to King Jesus? Are you willing to re-surrender to King Jesus?

Defining Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEFINING GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Defining Gospel

Introduction:  Let’s say if you came out of church today and went to your car and someone came to you, someone you’ve never seen, and said, “I’ve got some good news. Your windshield looks perfect now!” how would you respond? Confused, suspicious, and even upset. Now what if this same man were to say to you, “When I pulled into the church parking lot this morning, I saw that your windshield was shattered. While you were in church, a limb fell from the tree and destroyed it. I repair glass for a living and I happened to have all my tools with me and even the exact size of your windshield. I went ahead and fixed everything and there’s no charge.” How would you feel now? Grateful! What made the good news good? The bad news. Here’s the bad news – We were stuck in sin, waiting for the wrath of God to fall on us. Here’s the good news – God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins but he rose again. When we believe in him, not only are our sins forgiven but we also have eternal life! That is the basic Content of the gospel, the good news. Today we will go a step further and try to understand the Activity of the Gospel (how the Gospel moves) in our message through Philippians titled “DEFINING GOSPEL.”

Philippians 1    5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…7… inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel12…the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. 17…knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel

Question:  What makes the good news good is the bad news. Once again, the bad news is that you are dead in trespasses and sins. The good news is that Jesus came to set you free. Have you received the good news, the gospel?

Background:  Last weekend we learned that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” or “good spell” which means “good news.” Today I want to introduce to you the Greek word behind the word gospel/good news. It’s “euangelion.” It is found a couple hundred times in the New Testament in various forms and 84 times just in Paul’s letters. It was a central concept in his theology. Sometimes he used it to refer to the Content of the good news and other times to describe the Activity of the good news. There is a difference between the two. Content is what the gospel means. Activity is how the gospel moves. If you want to see Paul’s description of the Content of the gospel, turn to 1 Corinthians 15    1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved…3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (Paul is not the manufacturer of the gospel) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (There’s the bad news) 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (There’s the good news) 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren…” (There’s the proof of the good news and it hasn’t changed!).

Illustration: Last week thousands came by the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and then the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC to pay their last respects to Billy Graham. I cannot help but think about how in 1938 when he was just 20 years old, his girlfriend at the time dumped him saying, “I just don’t see any real purpose in your life yet.” I think she was wrong! He definitely had a purpose and it was to preach the unchanging gospel. He once said, “The message I preach hasn’t changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn’t changed.

Now that’s the Content of the Gospel (in a nutshell). But, there’s also the Activity of the Gospel (how the gospel moves). We see this Activity in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Here Paul used that word “euangelion” 9 times. By the way, all of them are regarding the Activity of the Gospel. It’s as if the Philippians knew very well what Paul meant when he used the word “gospel.” He didn’t have to explain it to them. They were a gospel church.

Application: As a pastor, I hope we’re like the Philippians. We are not a contemporary church or traditional church, white church or black church, big church or small church. We are a gospel church. It is a central part of our theology and identity.

4 things we learn about the Activity of the Gospel in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

  1. The Gospel is a powerful, living force

Philippians 1    3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” The Gospel here is not something passive but active, something powerful on its own. Paul didn’t create it nor did he activate it. He was called to join in. The Philippians joined in as well. The message of good news has been powerfully moving since the beginning of time. We can be oblivious to it, go against it, or we can receive it and join in. I received a letter this week from Franklin Graham which I’m sure also came to tens of thousands of people. He said something very powerful in it – “Many have said that his (Billy Graham) death ends an era, but he would be the first to say that when God’s ambassadors die in Christ, the Lord raises up others, because the preaching of the Gospel will go forward until the end of the age.”

  1. The Gospel is not easily received

Philippians 1:7 “because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” Even though the gospel is a powerful living force, it is often misunderstood and corrupted. Paul had to defend and confirm the gospel throughout his ministry. He had to defend the gospel from the legalists and then confirm it through the apostles. Although it doesn’t say it in this passage, the reason is that Satan is always trying to pervert and corrupt it.

Application: The Gospel is in the Bible but it’s not the Bible. It’s not the 10 commandments or the Beatitudes or the Golden Rule. It’s not going to Church, getting baptized, and feeling sorry for all the bad you’ve ever done. It’s not trying to be a better person, better husband, better wife, better neighbor, better citizen, better worker, and giving your time/money to help others. It’s not trying to give all your problems to God and trusting Him and praying to Him to help you. It’s not believing in God, Angels, and Satan. The gospel is believing that Jesus, the Son of God, came as promised and died for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. As the pastor, it is my primary responsibility to defend and confirm this constantly.

  1. The Gospel steadily moves forward

Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” Rulers and religious authorities, governments and groups have all tried to stop the gospel and to shut it down. It has grown evermore and it will continue. What we may think is the end of the road will only turn out to be a bend in the road for the gospel. Case in point: Paul himself. When do you think he first heard the gospel? Not on the road to Damascus. I believe it was when he stood there guarding the clothes of those who were stoning Stephen. As Stephen lay dying, Paul began to come alive. Wow!

  1. The Gospel demands a certain lifestyle

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, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries.” I preached on this last week. The Gospel lifestyle is not for contentious and cowardly people. Those are the 2 no-nos’ when it comes to the gospel. The gospel requires partnership and fearlessness. There’s a higher focus.

Illustration: One of my friends posted this – “Late one rainy night, Christian author and youth worker Mike Yaconelli was driving through Nashville. He saw someone sitting on some steps with his head between his knees, and a coat pulled over his head to keep out the rain and wind. Thinking he was homeless, Mike said, “Hey, mister, you don’t have to sit here in the rain like this. We’ve got enough money to put you up in a hotel. Come on with us. We’ll provide what you need for a good night’s sleep.” The man looked up. It was Billy Graham. “It’s okay,” Graham said. “I just want to sit here for a while and pray for this city.” He had a crusade coming soon and wanted to prepare his heart.”

Invitation: The True Gospel has not changed in the past 2000 years. If you say—

  • I need to be a better person– wrong gospel
  • I need to turn everything overto God – wrong gospel
  • I need to read the Bible and prayevery day – wrong gospel
  • I need to give up all my bad habits– wrong gospel

The gospel is Jesus is God’s son who died for your sins as promised in the Bible. He was buried but rose again as promised. If you believe in him, you can have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

If you have received the Content of the gospel, it’s time to join the Activity of the gospel. It’s time to join the Powerful, Living Force of God that is steadily moving forward changing lives.

Fulfilled: Time of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: TIME OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fulfilled 2

Introduction:  Sometimes pastors get some funny letters! Here are just a couple written by kids – “Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there,” “Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister,” “Dear Pastor, Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class.” I get some funny letters too but sometimes I get some really thought-provoking ones, like the one I’m about to read from a young man in our church. I’ve asked for his permission. He wrote — “Hi Pastor Shah! …I greatly appreciated your message today. I’ve been working on several questions lately that I can’t seem to find an easy way to answer. Questions of faith, I have found, can’t necessarily be resolved by scientific journal databases! Your sermon today, on the other hand, helped me in getting one of those questions to an articulate state. Would you mind either helping me with one of these, or pointing me towards some reputable resources where I can research the topic? Thank you.” I answered, “Of course. I’ll do my best.” “Awesome, thank you! Alright, here’s my main question at the moment: What evidence is there for the supernatural?” Meaning: How do we know that there is a world beyond what we can see and touch? Tough question but a great reminder that our young people have not given up on Christianity. It’s just that they have questions that we need to answer. It’s not enough to say “We believe it and that settles it.” We also have to explain “why we believe it.” I’m preaching our Christmas series “FULFILLED” in the hopes that it will answer some of those questions about the supernatural birth of Christ. Our ultimate goal is to capture our young generation.

Matthew 1:17 “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.”

Question: That’s probably the oddest opening scripture I’ve ever read. Now, you may not know it but that verse is considered the John 3:16 of the Gospel of Matthew. One scholar called it “the gospel in miniature.” We’ll look at it in detail in just a minute but it gives us the timing of the gospel. If you notice, it begins with Abraham with whom God made his covenant promise to bless all the families of the earth. Then, it proceeds to David through whom God blessed the people of Israel. Then, it falls into the Babylonian exile because the people rejected God. Finally, in God’s timing, Christ came to save his people from their sins. Promise – Blessing – Rejection – Salvation. This is the story of God’s people in a nutshell. Is that your story? Is Christ your Savior?

Context: The passage we just read has been a thorn in the side for many evangelical scholars. In fact, many who are against Christianity have pointed to this verse to prove that the Bible has errors. Some of ya’ll are wondering what exactly is the problem in that verse. Listen to it again – Matthew 1:17 “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.” There are several issues here:

  1. To start with, the time between the three sections is not equal. Between Abraham and David, there was at least 1000 years. Now, from David to the Babylonian exile, the there was only 400 years, less than half the time between Abraham and David. Then, from the Babylonian exile to Christ, there was 600 years. So, the sections are 1000 – 400 – 600. If there were 14 generations in between each section, that would make the average generation in the first section about 70 years, the average generation in the second section 28 years, and the average generation in the third section 42 years. It’s all over the place. By the way, the average generation is typically only 25 years.
  2. In the first two sections (from Abraham to David and from David to the Babylonian Exile) there are 14 names but in the last section (from Exile to Christ) only 13 names. One seems to be missing unless you count the last one from the second list again in the third list, then it’s 14 again. It appears so subjective and contrived.
  3. When you compare Matthew’s genealogy with the genealogies in I Chronicles 1:28, 34; 2:1-15, and Ruth 4:18-22 and the list of the kings in I and II Kings, Matthew skips over certain names in his genealogy. In fact, he omits as many as 5 kings between David and the Exile. Plus, you can also compare with the genealogy in Luke 3 and notice several more names there than in Matthew.

What exactly is going on? Does Matthew not know how to count? Did he not have an accurate list from which to copy? Is he manipulating the list to fit his purpose? Does the Bible have errors? Of course not. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. It is given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is God-breathed. If God is perfect, then whatever he breathes out is also perfect. Plus, we have plenty of other places that stand true so we can say “Let’s look for reasons that prove that this one will stand true as well.” For e.g. What happens when a traffic light goes out? Do you reject the entire signal system everywhere? Of course not. They send someone to figure out what’s wrong and repair.

There are 2 possible solutions:

  1. The number 7 is a very important number in the Bible. Many many times it is mentioned: Genesis 2:3 “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 8:4 “Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.” Exodus 13:6Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord.” (Passover) Leviticus 4:6 “The priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil of the sanctuary.” Numbers 28:19 “And you shall present an offering made by fire as a burnt offering to the Lord: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish.” I don’t have time to look at every mention of 7, here’s just a couple more. Psalm 12:6 “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.” Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”

Seven is the number of completion. So, 7 + 7 = 14 means double completion. In the first section, there are 1st 7 and 2nd 7. In the second section, there are 3rd 7 and 4th 7. In the third section 5th 7 and 6th 7. With the coming of Jesus we now have 7th 7 which is total completion. He is it! There’s no one else.

  1. The number 14 is also a very important number in the Bible. Many time it is also mentioned: Numbers 28:16 “On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the Lord.” Numbers 29:13 “You shall present a burnt offering, an offering made by fire as a sweet aroma to the Lord: thirteen young bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs in their first year. They shall be without blemish.” 1Kings 8:65 “At that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days and seven more days—fourteen days.” There is a reason why I focus so much on the Old Testament. Because, the New Testament is grounded in the soil of the Old Testament. Without a proper understanding of the OT, we will misunderstand the NT.

Something else under 14, David’s name, according to a system called Gematria (where each Hebrew letter has a numeric value – A = 1, B = 2, G = 3, D = 4, H = 5, V = 6; An example is 666 in Revelation 13:18 – “Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” Probably, Nero Caesar) had the numeric value of 14 where D = 4, V = 6, and D = 4. If you remember from last week, David is very important in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew begins his gospel by saying Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Even though Abraham was chronologically first, David was as Jewish as they get. Remember the illustration of John Smith and George Washington. The second is far more American. Also, in the list of the genealogies, David is number 14. Bottom line: Matthew is not trying to give us the biological genealogy of Jesus. You can go and find that out like Joseph did when he went to register in Bethlehem. He is far more interested in giving us the dynastic genealogy of Jesus. Matthew wants us to understand that Jesus came from the line of David to claim his rightful throne. He is the true fulfillment of the promise that God had made to David. Jesus is the true king of Israel, the true king of the Jews. Where David messed up, Jesus won’t and didn’t. By the way, we need to remember that those kings who were omitted were all cursed. Read the rest of Matthew and you will realize how much emphasis there is on the title “Son of David” for Jesus!

Ultimately, what Matthew is trying to tell us is that Jesus is the completion of God’s plan of redemption. The true king has come in God’s appointed time. Is he your king or are you still living as if you are your own king? Is he your Savior?

God’s Unfailing Word by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE UNFAILING WORD OF GOD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

God's Unfailing Word

Introduction:  As many of you know, Nicole and I, and the kids were in India for the past two weeks visiting my parents. Some of you may remember that last November I got a call from my sister that my dad had slipped and broken his ankle. It was a very very tough time in my dad and mom’s life. We were hoping to go much earlier to visit them but that would’ve added more burden on them in having to take care of 6 more people in the house. So we IMG_0535went now. It was a wonderful trip especially for the kids since they got to really get to know their grandparents. Several times during our visit my dad said to me “It’s a miracle that I’m still walking today. God has been more than faithful to me. He has more than kept his promises to me.” That really touched me. So, when he asked me to preach last Sunday, the Holy Spirit laid on my heart to preach on “The Unfailing Word of God.” Many of y’all saw that message on Periscope and Facebook. I’m preaching the same message today but with some new additions.

I Peter 1   23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”

Question:  What are you basing your life on? Emotions, experience, human wisdom. Or are you basing your life on the word of God which lives and abides forever. Have you found yourself drifting and doubting lately? Have you found yourself floundering and fearful lately? Have you found yourself struggling and staggering lately? Have you taken your eyes away from the truth of God as revealed in the Word of God? Are you saved? Are you saved under the gospel given in the Word of God?

Context: The passage we just read comes from the first letter by Peter, the chief disciple of Jesus, to the various churches of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. The churches there were going through some difficult times. They were being grieved by various trials. They were getting ready to go through some more fiery trial. They were suffering for righteousness’ sake. Peter wrote this letter to encourage them. He wrote to tell them not to get discouraged. He reminded them that this was simply a test of the genuineness of their faith. He told them to rejoice because they were sharing in the sufferings of Christ. He commanded them to cast all their cares upon God because he cared for them.

Application: All of us go through difficult times. All of us are time-to-time grieved by various trials. Maybe you are going through one right now. Maybe you have just come through one. Or, maybe you are getting ready to go through one. God’s Word to you is “Don’t get discouraged. He is still with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will work all things together for good for you.” You may not understand “Why things happen” but you will never have to wonder, “Where God is.” He is with you working all things together for good.

There’s so much Peter has said in this letter about suffering, love, obedience, and prayer, I don’t have time to talk about all those things. I encourage you to read this book at home. It will be a great blessing to you, especially if you are going through a difficult time. I just want to focus on the passage we just read. Listen again to verse 23 “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God…” In helping these Christians going through some fiery trials, Peter reminded them of how they came to God. He says, “they were born again through the Word of God.” What does it mean? It means “God’s Word saves us.” This sounds very strange at first. How can the Word of God regenerate us? We think it’s only God who regenerates us. We think it’s only Christ or the Holy Spirit who regenerates us. But here it says that it is the word of God that regenerates us. This may be strange to us but it was not strange to the early church. Listen to James 1:18 “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth…” So also, Paul says in Ephesians 5:26 that Christ will sanctify and cleanse his church “with the washing of water by the word.” Then listen to what Jesus himself said to his disciples in John 15:3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” Those verses prove to us that what Peter said in his letter was not unusual or strange. It was perfectly in line with the rest of Scripture. The question is – “How does the Word save us?” We can look at creation and know that there is a God. We can look at the vast heavens and the deep seas and know that he is infinitely powerful. We can look at the many different kinds of creatures and know that he is creative. We can look at the human mind and know that he is infinitely wise. We can look at the beautiful sunset and know that he loves beauty. But nothing tells us that God is holy and we are sinful and Jesus is the Savior who came to give his life for us. It’s only in the pages of God’s Word that we find God’s answer to humankind’s deepest needs – Sin, Sorrow, and Death. If you look anywhere else, it will not be the true gospel. If you look anywhere else, you will be deceived.

Application: What does the word of God tell us about getting saved? Acts 16:31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 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.” Ephesians 2   8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” I can go on and on. Have you received the gospel as given in the word of God? This is the same gospel across the world.

But there’s something else Peter says at this point. Listen again to verse 23 “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” In helping these believers who were facing fiery trials, Peter reminded them that this Word not only saves them but it will never fail them. He says that it “lives and abides forever.” What does it mean? God’s Word never fails. In this life, many things will fail. People will fail. Health will fail. Technology will fail. Automobiles will fail. Government will fail. But one thing we can be sure of – God’s Word will never fail. Peter quoted Isaiah 40 where God comforted his people Israel that he would not abandon them. Listen to what he said in verse 24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” I took my kids around my dad’s garden when we came. 2017-11-13 15.28.10They asked me if it still looked the same from when I was little. I told them that it’s still the same place but a lot had changed. I pointed to the various flowerpots and told them that I remembered them but not the plants inside of them. Those plants had all long gone away. In the same way, all of us are like grass. Then there are few among us who rise to the top as the flowers among the grass. One day both us and the flowers among us will be gone. Only thing that will remain will be God’s Word. Does that mean the copy of the Bible? Maybe. I believe it means what God has promised in the Bible will happen without fail. I don’t have the time to mention all the promises of God in the Bible but here are just a few–

  • God has promised in Psalm 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you.” His word will not fail.
  • God has promised in Isaiah 40:31 “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” His word will not fail.
  • God has promised in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God.” His word will not fail.
  • God has promised in Philippians 4:19 “my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” His word will not fail.
  • God has promised in I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Jesus has promised in Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

The French Skeptic Voltaire said that within a 100 years Christianity would be a thing of the past and the Bible would be in a museum. More than 100 years have gone by and its Voltaire who has become a thing of the past but the Word of God still abides forever. In fact, for almost 100 years after he died, his home was used to keep bibles and sell bibles.

Personal testimony – In my own life God has been more than faithful. Not a single of his promises have failed. Things haven’t always happened the way I wanted them to or when I wanted them to but better things have happened in God’s timing!

Application: How important is this book to you? Do you daily feed upon God’s Word? There was a Chinese evangelist who would often say – “No Bible, No Breakfast.” Is that true in your life?

Be the Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

BE THE GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

I. It began with a wakeup call.

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

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

II. It unleashed a storm of troubles.

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

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

III. It brought discipline from God.

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

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

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

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

IV. It led to a great outpouring of salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENCOUNTERS 4 (CLEARVIEW FOLLOWUP)

ENCOUNTERS 4 (Clearview Followup) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Here are some key points to remember from the message:

  1. A Historical Fact to Learn: For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. Maybe the pool was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple.
  2. A Theological Truth to Believe: Many different views have been advanced for Jesus’s final words to the crippled man – John 5:14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” I don’t think that Jesus was bringing up original sin or some generational sin. Instead, He was simply demonstrated that He knew the man’s past. Apparently, the crippled man had done something bad that caused his paralysis. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. Jesus was warning him not to return to his old lifestyle.
  3. A Biblical Principle to Apply: “…And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.
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