Marvelous by Dr. Abidan Shah

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MARVELOUS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Recently, I was on Twitter when a statement caught my eye. I didn’t know the person making the statement but based on his profile, it seemed that he believed like I did about biblical/ethical/moral values. He said (I am paraphrasing), “Why does Abortion always have to become the main issue? There are other issues that are just as critical.” When I read that, I was like, “Maybe, we don’t agree as much as I thought we did, or, maybe, you’ve lost your moral compass, if you ever had one.” As I was about to dismiss that statement as an anomaly, I saw another one just like it! This one said (again, I’m paraphrasing)—“Abortion is used as the trump card (no pun intended) to get voters to abandon all other issues and vote a certain way.” Again, based on this person’s profile, I would have assumed that we would’ve had similar values. Here’s the heart of the message: Abortion is not about politics. Abortion is not about rights. Abortion is not about science and technology or health and quality of life. Abortion is ultimately about God. With that in mind, our message today is titled “MARVELOUS.”

Psalm 139    13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and thatmy soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Question: Do you believe that you have been fearfully and wonderfully made by God? Do you believe that human life is marvelous? Do you have eternal life? Are you saved?

Background: Many of you may not realize but today is the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday or Weekend. Forty-Seven years ago, on January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in all 50 states. It’s popularly known as Roe v. Wade. On January 9, 1989, President Reagan issued a proclamation designating that day as the first Sanctity of Human Life Day. Since then, every third Sunday (weekend) in January is recognized by churches all across our country as a day to give special emphasis to God’s gift of life, to remember the lives lost due to abortion, and to commit ourselves to speaking out for human life at every stage. Today’s message is again a little different than how I typically preach but it’s one that we need to hear, especially the younger generation. The further we get away from our biblical foundation, the harder it is for people, even some Christians, to understand the importance of certain convictions like the value of the unborn child.

With that in mind, let’s go back to the psalm we just read, Psalm 139. It is known as a psalm of David. As you know, David was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). So, here in Psalm 139, David gives us God’s heart on the unborn child. I want you to notice especially the language he uses to describe God’s creation process of the unborn child. It is beyond beautiful! Shakespeare, Milton, and Elliot have nothing on him! Listen again to verse 13 “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” I don’t have time to pause at every single word and look at its meaning from Hebrew, just the important ones. For starters, David doesn’t say “my parents formed my inward parts” or “the coming together of the sperm and the egg formed me.” He says, “God, you formed me.” Listen carefully: A married couple can come together in love or two strangers can hook up in lust, the forming of life is God’s work. Bringing life inside the mother’s womb can only be done by the life-giver. He holds the copyright on life. “You covered me in my mother’s womb.” David uses a very special word to describe this process, “sakhed,” which is not really “cover.” It should actually be translated “weave.” David is depicting God as the grand weaver who actually knits every child carefully inside the mother’s womb. In other words, God is intricately involved in the development of every child in every womb ever since the beginning of time!

14 “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” The Hebrew word for “marvelous” is “palah,” which can be translated as “surpassing,” “extraordinary,” “beyond one’s power to do,” “wonderful,” and “marvelous.” David is praising God for his marvelous work in creating life. 15 “My frame (skeletal structure) was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret…” The Hebrew word for “secret” is “sether,” which means the “hiding place” or “secret place.” The point here is not a hideout but a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend. “And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” The Hebrew word for “skillfully wrought” is “rekhem,” which means “using different colors, textures, and patterns to make a special cloth. In other words, God makes every child unique and beautiful in his/her own way, even if there are disabilities. The disabilities are not because he failed but because we live in a broken world. His work is still perfect!

Finally, verse 16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.” The Hebrew word for “substance” is “golem,” which means the embryo. It has the idea of an “unfinished vessel.”“And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there werenone of them.” In other words, even before a child is born, even before they are in an embryonic form, all their days, not necessarily their individual decisions but all God’s providential acts designed for that life, are written out in God’s chronicles.

So, what do we gather from Psalm 139?

  • God holds the copyright on every life.
  • God makes every life intricately and lovingly.
  • God’s marvelous work should cause us to praise him.
  • God supervises the entire developmental process of every life.
  • God marvelous work in bringing life can never be fully understood.
  • God makes every child unique and beautiful, even if there are disabilities.
  • God records beforehand his providential acts for every life even before birth.

Abortion goes against this entire list. People may say – Abortion is about a women’s right to choose; it’s about population control; or it’s about the quality of life. No matter how people support abortion, it ultimately contradicts everything about God because it is philosophically based on an anti-God premise. To understand this, we have to look at the roots of the American Abortion Movement. Margaret Sanger, the first president of Planned Parenthood, which provides the most abortion in the world, wrote a book titled “Pivot of Civilization.” If you want to know about the roots of this movement, here are just a few examples:

  • Regarding the poor, blind, deaf, mute, and those intellectually disabled: “When we learn further that the total number of inmates in public and private institutions in the State of New York—in alms-houses, reformatories, schools for the blind, deaf and mute, in insane asylums, in homes for the feeble-minded and epileptic—amounts practically to less than sixty-five thousand, an insignificant number compared to the total population, our eyes should be opened to the terrific cost to the community of this dead weight of human waste.”
  • Regarding the poor and disabled people: It sees that the most responsible and most intelligent members of society are the less fertile; that the feeble-minded are the more fertile. Herein lies the unbalance, the great biological menace to the future of civilization. Are we heading to biological destruction, toward the gradual but certain attack upon the stocks of intelligence and racial health by the sinister forces of the hordes of irresponsibility and imbecility?”
  • In her magazine, Birth Control Review, an article was published by Dr. Ernst Rudin, a Nazi doctor in the Eugenics movement advocating racial hygiene among the Germans. There were other articles advocating ethnic cleansing of American Gypsies and Defective Families. Sanger openly praised Hitler’s policy of racial cleansing and Hitler admired her work. Such racial science fit perfectly with Hitler’s agenda of cleansing the society of the weak and disabled, then moving on to those ethnicities that were unwanted, starting with the gypsies and ending with six million Jewish people being sent to the gas chambers.
  • In the 1930s, Sanger began the “Negro Project.” It started with handing out contraception and then culminated in promoting abortion to control the race.

I can go on and on. The point is not that everyone who is pro-abortion is cruel and racist. What it does mean is that the philosophy behind abortion is one that denigrates and devalues human life, especially the weak, the poor, the disabled, and the minorities. All this is ultimately about claiming that it is my right to decide what happens. As I said, “Abortion is ultimately about God” because–

  • Abortion tries to steal God’s copyright on life.
  • Abortion reduces life to just a biochemical process.
  • Abortion seeks to praise only self.
  • Abortion denies the beauty of the developmental process.
  • Abortion understands life only through personal and collective convenience.
  • Abortion rejects the uniqueness of every child.
  • Abortion destroys God’s chronicles of every life. It brutally murders the child before they even have a chance to live out the days fashioned for them.

What does all this mean for us as believers, as the church? Do we believe that life is God’s gift? Do we believe that he gets to first and the final say on life? Jesus came to die even for the unborn. To terminate that pregnancy, is to terminate the opportunity from that life to receive Christ and live out the days fashioned for him/her by God.

Invitation: Today is the day to repent if you have believed wrongly. Today is the day to pray for our nation and for the unborn. Today is the day to give our lives to Christ.

Related by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Relatives, family members, loved ones—We all have them. We love them. We would do anything for them. Having said that, they’re also the very people who drive us crazy, especially during the holiday season. Someone said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” In today’s message, we’re going to learn that even Jesus had to deal with a crazy earthly family. In fact, throughout his earthly ministry, they thought that he was out of his mind! He had to exercise great wisdom and grace in dealing with them. So also, we need wisdom and grace if we’re going to make it with our earthly family. Our message today is titled “RELATED.”

Mark 3    20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”  31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” 33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

Question: Jesus’ family thought that he was out of his mind. Can you imagine that! Do you have family members who think that you are out of your mind? How much do you let family dictate how you live your life? Do you have lost family members? Have you prayed for them to be saved? Are you saved?

Background: As many of you know, I have been pastoring for about 21 years. Through the years, people have come to me for all kinds of counselling. In my experience, one of the major issues that people struggle with in life is family relationships—How to deal with people we grew up with? How to get along with people who are connected to us for no other reason other than the providence of God! On one hand, our family can be a great source of blessing and comfort to us. They can give us a sense of belonging. They are a reminder that we are not alone in this world. They are people who know our past—good and bad—and still accept us. On the other hand, our family or a family member can also be a great source of consternation and pain to us. There are family members or a family member who for one reason or another have/has turned toxic towards us. They(he/she) use 2 weapons of mass destruction to make our lives miserable—blame and shame. Either way, the result is devastating! Even though Jesus came for the primary purpose to redeem us from our sin, he was not immune to the daily struggles of life. He too had a family that tried to use those 2 weapons of shame and blame against him. But, he dealt with them with wisdom and grace. In the next few minutes, we’re going to learn how to do the same.

Context: Let’s return to the passage we just read—Mark 3:20 “Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.” To understand what this means, we need to back up to Mark 3 starting in verse 7 But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. 9 So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. 11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. I would say that judging by all standards, Jesus’ ministry was extremely successful. Not only that but many people were being helped. Their lives were being transformed for the better. His ministry was so successful that he did not even have time to eat!

What was the response of his family? 21 But when His own people heard about this…” His own people were probably people from his hometown or even extended family members or leaders in the family from Nazareth. “…they went out to lay hold of Him…” They came to Capernaum to “krateo” = seize him! “…for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’” The Greek for “out of his mind” is one word “exhistemi.” It means “to be out of his senses,” “confused,” or “crazy.” In other words, his extended family was not in favor of his success. So, they came to drag him physically because he had gone crazy!

Application: Has that happened to you, maybe not physically but verbally and emotionally? You go out, work hard and smart, hoping to hear a “well done!” from your loved ones.” Instead, you get nothing. You put pictures on social media, hoping that family will like them but they ignore. You check it 100 times an hour! Take heart, Jesus had the same problem.

Why were they like that? Mark 6 gives us some clue—1 “Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ So hateful! Are you like that? So they were offended at Him.” The Greek word is “skandalizo,” which gives us our English word “scandal.” Their problem was SHAME.

Remember: Some people will never get over your past. Hometown heroes and heroines are few and far between. If they build you a statue in your honor, it may be after you are dead and gone. Word to the wise: Grow with the people in your life. Don’t think that people are still where they were when you first met them. They will appreciate you more if you meet them where they are today. They may even give you credit for their success.

4 But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” By the way, this was all a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 69:8 “I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children.” 5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.”

How do you handle “shame”? Know your true IDENTITY IN CHRIST—redeemed, forgiven, made new, child of God, more than a conqueror.

But it’s not over yet. Mark 3:31 “Then His brothers and His mother came…” Maybe the hometown crowd pressured them to. “…and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him.” Why standing outside? I don’t think this was because there was no room in the house. Listen to verse 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” If crowd was the problem, the word would not have reached him. By refusing to come in, they were refusing to endorse his success. They were communicating their displeasure with him for causing such a raucous. They were telling him that they were not impressed with his latest shenanigans! Their problem was BLAME.

What was Jesus’ response? 33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” This is very powerful: Jesus did not submit his ministry to his family’s approval. He stood his ground and refused to go out to meet them. He did not alter God’s VISION to please his earthly family.

Principle to remember: If you keep seeking the approval of those who don’t understand you, you will never complete the vision God has for your life. It’s great to have the blessing of your loved ones but ultimately, it’s God’s approval that counts.

If we were to end here, this would be “us against the world” sermon. This is not what Jesus did. He demonstrated GRACE towards his earthly family:

  1. To his Mother—John 19 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
  2. To his Brother—1 Corinthians 15 4 “…He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After 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. 7 After that He was seen by James…” James was the head of the Jerusalem church and the writer of the book of James. So also, Jude was another brother who wrote the short letter in the New Testament that bears his name.

Ultimately, our goal with our family should not be approval or validation. It should be salvation through Jesus Christ and a growing likeness to him. In the end, that’s all that will matter. When you are clear about your IDENTITY and VISION, refuse to succumb to SHAME and BLAME, and choose to show GRACE, you can overcome any family problems.

Invitation: Are you still hurt about what your family has done? Have you hurt someone in your family that you need to seek forgiveness from? When was the last time you prayed for them to be saved? When was the last time you encouraged them to walk with Christ? Are you saved?

 

Christmas Mythbusters by Dr. Abidan Shah

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CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Couple of weeks ago, I was at a used book store in Raleigh when 2 ladies walked in. I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation, not that I was eavesdropping. They were just so loud and obnoxious! Then, one of them belted out to the cashier—“Hey, did you know that Jesus was not born on December 25th? That day was actually a Roman festival honoring the Greek god Saturn. The church leaders adapted it to keep their people from going back to old pagan holidays.” I wanted to step in and say “Hey, that’s baloney!” but I knew that wouldn’t be good. Please listen carefully: The church did not create Christmas from some pagan holiday. December 25th did not become the birthday of Jesus through some church council decision. Instead, it was passed down through the earliest tradition as the day the Savior of the World was born. In fact, ever since the beginning of time, it was the “most important event” on God’s calendar. Today’s message is different than what I typically preach but it’s one we need to hear, especially our children and grandchildren who are bombarded with anti-Christmas statements this time of the year. It is titled “CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS.”

Galatians 4     3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Question: What do you believe about Christmas? Do you believe that it’s just a myth or do you believe that it’s the “fullness of time” when God sent his Son to save you? Have you received the adoption as sons and daughters of the King?

Foreword: We’re living in what’s known as the “Information Age.” Sometimes, it’s also referred as the Computer Age or the Digital Age. Never in the history of the world did so many people have so much access to so much information. In the past, if we wanted to know about a subject, we had to go to the library or a book store. But, now it’s at our fingertips! Any time any place we can access any information! In some ways, that’s a blessing, but, in some ways, that’s also a curse. People, even Christians, read something on the internet and immediately think that they are getting the truth on a matter. Please listen: Just because something is on the web, it does not mean that it is true. Also, reading a couple of blogs and watching a couple of YouTube videos does not make you an expert on a subject.

Having said that, there is a myth on the internet, which has been around much longer than the internet, that claims that December 25th was actually a pagan holiday that the church adopted as the birthday of Jesus to keep Christians from participating in their old pagan holidays. This began somewhere around the 4th century after Constantine converted to Christianity. Is this true or false? False! Sometimes even Christians say this without realizing the inherent danger. When we say that December 25th as the birthday of Jesus is a myth, the logical questions that follows is “Is anything else about Jesus a myth? Was he really the Son of God? Did he really die and rise again? Is he really the Savior of the world? Did he even come?”

To start with, there are 2 different lines of arguments in support of this myth, sometimes even used by Christians:

  1. The History of Religions View: This view goes back to the 1600s. According to this theory, in AD 274, the Roman Emperor Aurelian built a temple in honor of the Sun God, Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun). He did this because he had won some victories in battle and he wanted to honor the patron god of soldiers. He even instituted some special games in the god’s honor. Guess what date this was? December 25th. Furthermore, this was also the time of the Saturnalia, which ran from December 17th-23rd, in honor of the Roman God Saturn who was the god of wealth and agriculture. This was all based around the winter solstice. In the Northern hemisphere, this is around December 21-22, when the earth is at its maximum tilt away from the sun. The day is short and symbolized the death and re-birth of the sun. It was a time of great feasting, parties, gambling, and gift-giving. Christian leaders under hijacked these pagan festivals and Christianized them.

Listen carefully: There is zero evidence in early history from pagan or Christian writers that the church leaders did this. Instead, we find in historical documents statements that affirm that, according to tradition, Christmas was celebrated in Rome from the very beginning. Furthermore, parts of the world that were not directly impacted by Rome were also celebrating Christmas around the same time period. I can go on and on. In my opinion, the Roman emperor could have instituted his festival to counter the Christians celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25th.

  1. The Calculation View: This view goes back to the late 1800s. According to this theory, the December 25th day was calculated by the church leaders from the date of the annunciation (when Gabriel came to Mary) and the Conception of Jesus. These dates were then taken from the date when Jesus was crucified. This is all based on some rabbinic tradition that all the great prophets of Israel died on the same day as they were born (Integral Age). So, supposedly the early church leaders figured out that Jesus died on March 25th and then they calculated from there 9th months. That’s how they got December 25th. This is the biggest mess because here we’re not talking about the annunciation but the conception. So, what is it? Who knows! By the way, I don’t have time to get into some of the calendar issues, except to say that some of the later calendars are not very accurate. So, we are trying to recreate a date based on a faulty calendar! Again, there is no shred of evidence that the early church actually did this kind of math to figure out the birthday of Jesus!

So, is December 25th the actual date of Jesus’ birth? To start with, I cannot give you all the evidence in the next 10 minutes. I’m going to give you just two from the Gospels:

#1. Matthew 2    1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet…” Let me stop there. When did Herod die?Josephus (Jewish Historian) tells us of an incident before the death of Herod. He had set up a Roman eagle above the gate of the temple in Jerusalem. This was a slap in the face of the Jewish people. Herod was getting sicker by the day and some of the Rabbis called on the young men to tear down the eagle from the gate. They did but got caught. Herod sent them to Jericho along with the rabbis and ordered that they be burned alive. The date of the execution was January 10, 1 BC. But, he’s getting worse. Then he decides to head out of town to the mineral springs beyond Jordan in the middle of February, 1 BC. Now, we have a statement by an ancient writer by the name of Macrobius. He recorded some witty sayings of the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. Here’s one—“On hearing that the son of Herod, king of the Jews, had been slain when Herod ordered that all boys in Syria under the age of two be killed, Augustus said, “It’s better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” This was a play on words from “hoos” (pig) to huios” (son). We have the date when Herod had his son Antipater executed. Herod died just 5 days after his son’s execution. This would place his death on April 8, 1 BC. But, let’s stop here for a moment: When did Herod have boys 2-year-old and younger killed. Matthew 2:16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” So, the wise men probably saw Herod before he left for the mineral springs in the middle of February. Where does this put the birth of Jesus? Exactly where we have always believed around December 25th.

#2. Luke 1    5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. This is referred to as the priestly course. King David had divided the priests into 24 courses to set up a calendar when they could serve. This is complicated but it puts Zacharias’ service around September 5-11, 3 BC. According to tradition, John was conceived around September 22nd, 3 BC. What does John the Baptizer’s birth have to do with Jesus’s birth? Luke 1    26 “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” Can you count 6 months from September? March, 2 BC. That’s when Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Can you count 9 months from March? December.

Then there are other silly arguments that the shepherds could not have been watching their flocks by night in the winter. According to the Mishnah, the sheep around Bethlehem were outside all year. This was especially true of the Passover Sheep which had to be outside for thirty days before Passover. This would be in February, the coldest and wettest month of the year. December would not be a problem.

What’s the point of all this? Listen again—Galatians 4     3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

God sent his Son and that’s a fact. What will you do about it? Have you received him as your Savior and King? Are you adopted in God’s family?

Cornerstone by Dr. Abidan Shah

Cornerstone

CORNERSTONE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: In ancient times, the laying of the cornerstone was a big deal in the construction of a building. Depending on the significance of a structure, there would be animal sacrifices and special rituals. When our new sanctuary was being built (by the way, no sacrifices were made!), I told the guys to be here to capture that on video. Unfortunately, by the time our guys got here, the construction crews had already poured the concrete early that morning. But back then, the cornerstone was very critical because it set the level and the angle of the building. It was the most important stone for the position and stability of the entire edifice. The Bible calls Jesus our Chief Cornerstone. It means that he sets the level and the angle of our lives. If he is where he needs to be in our life, everything else will work out fine. If he is not, nothing else matters. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the parable of the Wicked Tenant Farmers and our message today is titled CORNERSTONE.

Matthew 21     33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” 41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? ”

Question: As you know, parables are like mirrors. Are you the wicked tenant farmers? What have you done with the Son, Jesus? Is he the Chief Cornerstone of your life? Are you saved?

Background: This is the second to the last parable in our series on the Parables of Jesus. When we were praying and planning on this series, we never imagined how influential it would be. Now, today’s parable might seem a little odd for Christmas season but it will make a lot more sense once we get into it.

Context: To understand the correct meaning of this parable, we have to back up to Matthew 21    14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant. The location being the temple is very critical to understand the true meaning of the parable. Keep in mind that the temple had been rebuilt and expanded by King Herod. It was beautiful! It took about 46 years. With its white marble and gold plating, it looked like a snow-covered mountain. There was so much gold on it that when the sun arose you couldn’t look at it! Nonetheless, the attitude towards the temple was sort of mixed. On one hand, it was a great source of pride to have the Temple back, new and far improved. But, on the other hand, people knew that the priesthood was corrupt and greedy. That’s why Jesus cleansed the temple. This was not about selling in the temple or money changing. Buying animals to sacrifice or exchanging foreign currency with gods and goddesses for temple money was not the problem. Jesus was making a symbolic statement against the corrupt priesthood. Again, listen to Matthew 21:23 “Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching…” Listen to their question—“By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” They totally failed to understand the true owner of the temple!

In this context of the temple, Jesus gave the parable of the wicked tenants. We just read it—A landowner planted a vineyard, set a hedge around it, dug a winepress, and built a tower. Then he left it to the tenant farmers and went to a far country. Listen carefully: This was not some random story. It was a clear reference to Isaiah 5   1 “…My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. 2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.” Doesn’t that sound familiar? And, what are the good grapes? 7 He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help. For time’s sake, go down to verse 20 “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight! Isaiah’s indictment was against the temple leaders. What will happen to them? 24 “…Because they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 Therefore the anger of the LORD is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them and stricken them…” Jump over to the beginning of the next chapter, Isaiah 6     1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. What is Isaiah’s response—5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

I know what many of you are thinking. I guess Jesus was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy and judging the temple authorities 2000 years ago. That’s interesting! Listen carefully to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3    16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and thatthe Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

Question: How is the temple? I’m not talking about Clearview or any church building. I am talking about you. How are you, the temple of God? Are you defiled?

Back to the parable in Matthew 21. When the harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to collect his due. What was their response? 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.” What is Jesus talking about here? He is talking about the repeated disregard of the religious leaders for the true prophets of God. Those who spoke up were beaten, killed, and stoned again and again.

Application: How do you respond when God corrects and chastens you?

37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “Son of God” was a title for the Messiah. 38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. This is exactly what the temple leaders were planning on doing. What they didn’t realize is that by opposing Jesus, they were opposing God’s Son.

Question: Is that you? What have you done with the Son Jesus? If you’re here this morning and you’re lost, don’t think that you can circumvent the Son.

Now, its judgment time—40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” 41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” This is in line with Isaiah 5 but Jesus quotes a different passage now. This time from Psalm 118. Verse 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? ” 43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Sometimes, this statement has been used as an anti-Semitic example. That’s not true. Keep reading—45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet. The people were not the problem. The leaders were.

Let’s go back to the Christmas narrative for a moment. The chief priests, religious leaders, and scribes could not recognize him but the shepherds and the magi did. How about you? What have you done with the Son?

Are you bearing fruits worthy for God? Is Jesus your Cornerstone?

Either you are built upon him or one day you will be crushed under him.

Abundance by Dr. Shah

Abundance.jpg

ABUNDANCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you parents have ever given your kids money for lunch or a field trip and said, “Make sure you bring back the change”? Did you get your change back? If you did, please let me know your secret! In today’s message, we’re going to learn that our heavenly father also gives us all the money that we have in this life. But, unlike earthly parents, he doesn’t want just the change back. He wants us to make profit with it in building his kingdom. In fact, Jesus has promised that he is returning soon and when he does, he will require an account of what we did with his money. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we now come to the Parable of the Talents and the message is titled “ABUNDANCE.”

Matthew 25      14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, whocalled his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them… [the 1st & the 2nd received the commendation] 21 His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord…24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant…”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the first two servants who doubled what their Master had given to them or are you the one who hid what was given? When Jesus returns, will he say to you “Well done, good and faithful servant” or will he call you a “Wicked and Lazy Servant?” Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Talents is the 2nd of the 3 parables that Jesus gave in his famous Olivet Discourse. In these two chapters, Matthew 24 & 25, he explained to his disciples how things will be at the end of the age when he returns. Last weekend, we looked at the 1st parable, the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, five were wise and five were foolish. The wise were ready to meet the groom but the foolish didn’t have enough oil for their lamps when he came. At the last minute, they went looking for oil and the door was closed behind them and they couldn’t get back in. They begged to be let in but he answered, “I do not know you.” The message of the parable is that 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 watching. We cannot catch up at the last minute. Matthew 25:13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

Question: Do you believe that Jesus is coming again? We’re not talking about a vision or a dream or an allegory. Jesus is returning in a real physical body. Are you ready to meet him? Will you try to play catch up spiritually at the last minute? Will he know you?

Right after this parable of the Bridesmaids, Jesus gave the parable of the Talents. While the message of the 1st parable was “Be prepared. Jesus is coming back at a time when you’re least expecting,” the message of the 2nd parable was “Don’t just stand there. Use the money I have given you to build my kingdom and make profit.” So, Jesus told the story of a businessman entrepreneur who goes to a far country. But, before he leaves, he gives his three workers some money—5, 2, & 1 talents. Sometimes we just read that casually and don’t think about the vast amount of money that he gave each of them. A talent was about 60-90 pounds, depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). A talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. It would take him 16 years to earn one talent. So, how much for the one with 2 talents? It would be equivalent to what an average day worker in those days would earn over 32 years. And, how much for 5 talents? 32+32+16 = 80 years. In today’s economy, if someone was getting minimum wage of $7.25 per 40 hours for 52 weeks, it’s about $15,000. Now add that over 16 years and it’s about $240,000. Then, for 32 years for someone on minimum wage, it would be $480,000. Finally, for someone with minimum wage over 80 years, it would be close to $1.2M. The point is that this businessman gave away a lot of money!

What did his servants do? The first one doubled it to approximately $2.5M and the second also doubled it to about $1M. The Master was very happy and said to both—21Well done,good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” How about the third guy who got $240,000? Listen to his statement—24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’” Let’s think about his statement for a little bit. To start with, its not a wise thing to label your boss, especially calling him a “hard man”!The Greek word “skleros” can mean harsh, cruel, and merciless. He even came up with an analogy to describe him! Next, he blamed his own fear! He was trying to make himself look weak and oppressed! Poor me!

What was the boss’ response? He saw through it—26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant…” It’s the boss’ turn to label him. The Greek word for lazy is “okneros,” which is more than just “lazy.” It also implies hesitant and reluctant. But, let’s keep reading—“you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, (“trapezites”—Greek word for banker, money changer) and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.” Just when you would think that the boss would’ve said—“No harm done. I have my money back. At least you didn’t lose it. I guess I’ll have to invest it myself,” listen to verse 28 “So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”

What is the message? Jesus is the businessman entrepreneur who has to go away. This is his ascension. But before he goes, he gives all of us an incredible amount of money and resources that He wants us to use to build his kingdom.

Question: Did you know that the money you get paid and earn is given to you by God? You may say, “I go to work and put in my time. I built this business from nothing and made profit.” Who gave you the strength, the wisdom, the connections and the success? God did. You may ask, “How about people who don’t believe in Jesus?” Same answer. God is the one who helps them too but they don’t acknowledge him. They will also have to give an account one day. The question still remains: “What are you doing with God’s money?” Yes, you should work hard and work smart but your goal should be more than just being rich or comfortable or have the good life. Your goal should be to build his kingdom and spread his gospel.

Also, don’t just do the best you can. Make profit! Use the money God has given to you to expand his kingdom. Find creative ways to double the spread of the gospel. At Clearview, we are constantly looking for ways to double our outreach. Everything we do is to reach more than we did before. That’s why we did the #Iamtheneighbor project.

Well, I just don’t have the time or energy. I have too many bills to pay. Matthew 6     31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” When you start making him profit, he has a special eye towards you. Proverbs 10:22 “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” Psalm 127     1 “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It isvain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”

Well, I’m just not going to do any of this. Let’s go back to the parable one more time—28 “So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. In other words, if you don’t use God’s money for the purpose he is giving it to you, he will pass it on to someone else who will! But, wait, there’s more—30 “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

I don’t understand how it works but somehow your eternity is depended on how you spend your money down here.

Let’s get to the point—

  • What are you doing with the resources God has given to you? Are you using them to build God’s kingdom?
  • Are you using your money only on self-preservation and self-indulgence?
  • What will Jesus say to you when he returns? Are you making profit for his kingdom? Are you winning more and more souls for his kingdom?
  • 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?

Produce by Pastor Abidan Shah

Produce

PRODUCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  As many of you know, this was a very busy week for me. I had to give the oral defense for my PhD dissertation. It’s an exam that you have to take before you can officially get your doctorate. I had passed my dissertation already but I was very nervous about this exam because it determines whether or not you really know your stuff and deserve the title of “doctor.” I was so nervous that I asked David to drive me to Wake Forest. By the way, that morning, the entire staff and their families showed up at the house to pray with me. It really meant a lot to me! After 2 hours of sitting in the hot seat answering questions, I was told that I had passed the exam. Needless to say, I was very happy and relieved. Listen carefully:Christian life doesn’t end at “I’m saved and when I die, I’m going to heaven.” If you’re saved, you’re facing an exam where God the examiner is coming around to see whether or not you are producing fruits worthy of repentance. Fruit bearing is the natural outflow of salvation. By the way, these fruits are not what you might think. They are acts of mercy. And, one more thing, your clock is ticking. Are you producing fruits worthy of repentance? That’s the title of our message today—PRODUCE—in our series on the parables of Jesus.

Luke 13      6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are. Are you a fig tree that is bearing fruit or one that is barren? Do you know that your clock is ticking? You may have 3 years left or you may have 3 hours left. Are you saved? Are you bearing fruit?

Background: Compared to the parables of the Wheat and the Tares, the Prodigal Son, or the Good Samaritan, today’s parable of the barren fig tree is not as popular. But, it is a very important parable. It is a continuation of last week’s message on the parable of the Good Samaritan. In fact, this parable was given on the same journey that Jesus embarked on in Luke 9:51. If you remember last weekend’s message, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to be ascended and he started making his way towards Jerusalem. As he is making this one-way trip, he sends his disciples out into the fields that are white unto harvest and they return with joy saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (Luke 10:17) In other words, lives are being transformed and demonic strongholds are being broken. Jesus praises God and blesses his disciples because they are participating in building God’s kingdom and they are seeing and hearing the things of eternal life. Then, a certain lawyer wanting to get in on the action tests him saying, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him what is in the law. He replies, “Love God and Love Neighbor.” Jesus tells him to go do that. Then seeking to justify himself, he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. The message of the parable is “Don’t ask ‘who is my neighbor?’ but instead ask, ‘who needs a neighbor?’” If you remember from last week—“A True Neighbor is someone who shows Mercy. Mercy is the distinguishing mark of those who have Eternal Life. If you want to know whether or not you have Eternal Life, ask yourself ‘Are you a Good Neighbor?’” Don’t just have pity, put some money behind it.

Application: By the way, I am so encouraged to see and hear the testimonies from so many of you of how you have used your $100 cross! Wow! Many of you are still praying for God to send the right person in your path who needs your gift. That’s wonderful. I am glad to hear that you are getting it! It’s not enough just to have pity. You have to put some money behind it. Unfortunately, not everyone will get it.

Not everyone got it when Jesus told the people to show mercy and put some money behind it. Luke 11    53 “And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, 54 lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.” In other words, they missed his message of mercy completely! Instead, they were trying to cross-examine him! Listen to Jesus’ warning to them— Luke 12    40 “…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect… 42 “…Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to givethem their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45 But if that servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 “…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required…56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” In other words, Jesus was saying “I’m teaching you the importance of Mercy and you are trying to cross-examine me? What you don’t realize is that I’m the Examiner and your exam has begun!”

Human beings are masters of deflection. We call that “changing the subject.” Listen toLuke 13     1 “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” We don’t have any historical record outside of the Bible regarding this incident but this is very much like Pilate. He was a very cruel man. In fact, once he was even ordered back to Rome to stand trial for a similar act that he did against the Samaritans. What was the reason for this discussion? Who knows! We love discussing current affairs. We love making small talk. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all otherGalileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Jesus gave them another useless small talk to bring them back to his main point.

Application: Do you like to deflect what the Holy Spirit is telling you? Do you like to make small talk? Do you like to joke about the message or discuss something useless to ease the pressure of conviction? God knows your heart.

At this point, Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree. Listen again, Luke 13    6 “…A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. By the way, the fig tree was a symbol for Israel but it still applies to all of us. 7Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ Here’s where people make a big mistake—they think that fruits worthy of repentance are stop sinning, start going to church, don’t do drugs, don’t cheat, don’t lie, etc. Like the adage – “I don’t drink. I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls who do.” That may be true but this is not what’s implied here. To find its true meaning, we have to back up to Luke 3where John the Baptist used the same imagery—7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Now listen very carefully—10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” Fruits worthy of repentance are acts of mercy!

Application: Are you a merciful person?

Let’s go back to the parable one more time—7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Invitation: You are living on borrowed time. Will you show mercy and put money behind it? Mercy is not the requirement for salvation. It is the verification of salvation. Have you received God’s Mercy through the death of Jesus on the cross? Are you saved?

Neighbor by Pastor Abidan Shah

NEIGHBOR by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How many of y’all grew up on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood? The show ran from 1968 to 2001 with just a couple of years missing in between. It became a hit with many children and parents. Fred Rogers who was also a pastor had a unique and a gentle way of talking to children. He understood how they felt and he got down to their level without becoming silly necessarily. The show dealt with issues like why kids shouldn’t be afraid of a haircut, how to deal with the death of a family pet, what to do when going to a new school, and even issues like divorce, racism, and disabilities. Anybody remember the song? “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” Then it ended with “Won’t you please, Won’t you please? Please won’t you be my neighbor?” Mr. Rogers didn’t come up with the idea of a neighbor. It has been around for over 2000 years ago. In fact, Jesus gave its true definition in his famous parable of the Good Samaritan. Here’s the definition: A true neighbor is one who shows mercy. Mercy is a distinguishing mark of those who have eternal life. If you need proof that you have eternal life, ask yourself, “Are you a neighbor?” “Do you show mercy to others?” “When was the last time you showed mercy to someone?” In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come now to the famous parable of the Good Samaritan and the message is titled “NEIGHBOR.”

Luke 10     30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are. Are you the priest who passed by the other side? Are you the Levite who also passed by the other side? Or, are you the Good Samaritan who stopped and showed mercy? Are you a merciful person? Are you saved? If you need proof of eternal life, check your mercy record.

Background: The parable of the Good Samaritan is right up there with the parable of the Prodigal Son as the most popular parable of Jesus. It has been the subject of numerous paintings, stories, movies, and the name of many charities and hospitals all over the world. In fact, we are about to start our annual Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoebox ministry. Having said that, unfortunately, this parable is often misunderstood. To interpret it correctly, we need to examine the context in which Jesus gave this parable. Typically, people begin with verse 25 where the lawyer asks Jesus “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus asks him “What is in the law?” He replies, “‘Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus tells him to go do this and he will live but seeking to justify himself he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Although that is true and we will come to that, that’s not the whole context. In order to get the whole context, you have to begin in Luke 9    51 “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.”

Who were the Samaritans? If you were to ask the Samaritans (only about a 1000 exist in Israel today), they would tell you that they are the true descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that the worship center was wrongfully moved from Gerizim to Shiloh and that’s when things went downhill. But, if you read the Bible, you will see a different account. In 2 Kings 17 we find out that when God sent Assyria against the Northern Kingdom, they not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples. Under this strategy, they would move the conquered people to another part of the world, and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Samaritans were people who had been settled in the land of Israel by the Assyrians. They somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were left behind. The Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. To make matters worse, the Samaritans even tried to sabotage their building projects when they returned from the second exile in Babylon. Needless to say, there was bad blood between the Jewish people and the Samaritans. Each saw the other as neighbors they wished they did not have. What happened when Jesus came by the Samaritan village? 52 “…And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village. Can you imagine the disciples’ reaction?

Application: What would you have done? What do you when people mistreat you? Who is your neighbor? How do you treat them?

For time’s sake, let me condense the account. In Luke 10, Jesus commissioned 70 of his disciples to go out saying 2 “…The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.” In other words, “You are going out in a cruel and a harsh world. Remember to be kind and merciful.” What if they were rejected? They were only to shake the dust off their feet and go to the next village. They were given a simple promise by Jesus—16 “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” In the very next verse 17 the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” On hearing this, Jesus said something very important for our message—23 “…Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” What was Jesus talking about? He was talking about the Kingdom of God. He was talking about Eternal Life. By the way, Eternal Life is not going to heaven when you die. It begins now through Jesus Christ. It means having a portion in what God is doing and what God will do one day. You see and hear things that prophets and kings have desired but couldn’t. But, to do that you need MERCY.

Now comes the account of the lawyer asking the question 25 “…Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” His answer was correct—Love God and Love your neighbor. 29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Why did he ask that question? He was hoping to prove that he had extended the typical boundaries of neighborhood. To the contrary, Jesus removed all boundaries. Then he gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho and thieves beat him up and left him for dead. Both the priest and the Levite walked by because they had to be somewhere on time or they didn’t want to defile themselves or they didn’t want to get involved. Then here comes a Samaritan. What a twist! In other words, the Samaritan saw no boundary but the lawyer was wanting to know the limits. Instead, he had compassion, lit. splagchnizomai, “to have the insides feel bad.” He bandaged him, poured oil and wine on him, set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, he gave 2 denarii and gave to the pandocheus (inn keeper) and said “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” Here comes the big question—6 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” The question is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “Whose neighbor am I?” In other words, you cannot have boundaries if you want eternal life.

Don’t miss this: People who have mercy don’t ask “Who is my neighbor?” but “Whose neighbor am I?” A true neighbor is one who shows mercy. It is a distinguishing mark of those who have eternal life. If you need proof that you have eternal life, ask yourself, “Are you a neighbor?” “Do you show mercy to others?” “When was the last time you showed mercy to someone?”

Mercy is not a requirement for eternal life but a verification of eternal life.

NOW THE BIG REVEAL!

Debt: Part 2 by Pastor Shah

DEBT – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Kids have an interesting way of saying “I’m sorry.” I found some examples online—“Sorry because of nothing.” “Dear Brody, Miss P made me write you this note. All I want to say sorry for is not being sorry cause I tried to feel sorry but I don’t. Liam.” “I’m sorry I kicked you even know I didn’t but I am not writing this for in apology. I’m doing it to get out of time out. Sorry?” “Dear Aiden, I’m sorry for elbowing you in the mouth. But I did it for one reason you shoved me. First of all, you’re the one who shoved me. Second of all you shouldn’t push. Third of all you played a stupid game. I elbowing you in the mouth was your stupid prize. It was an accident. Love, Alyssa.” Unfortunately, we get more articulate and more defensive as we get older. Today’s message is the part 2 of our message titled “DEBT” in our series on the parables of Jesus. It’s about God’s forgiveness of our sin debt through Christ and our forgiveness of the sin debt of others towards us. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Through Christ, you can forgive anyone for anything but it’s a journey in which reconciliation may or may not be possible.

Matthew 18     23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and tookhimby the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Question: Is there unforgiveness in your heart towards anyone? Are you forgiven?

Context: Last weekend, we answered the first question on this parable—“Why is Sin described as a Debt?”If you remember, it was all connected to the land. God had repeatedly told them that the land was his. Leviticus 25:23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.In other words, the Promised Land was a gift from God and if they obeyed his commandments, they could live and flourish on his land. If they disobeyed, he would kick them out. That’s exactly what happened with the Babylonian Exile. But God, in his grace and compassion, allowed them to return after 50 years. Now they were back in the land but they were in a sin debt to God. But God the gracious landlord already knew that they could never pay that debt and so from eternity past he had created a plan under which his own Son Jesus would come to pay their sin debt with his own blood. All they would have to do was look to him and live. That’s exactly what Jesus did. By the way, this offer was not just for the Jewish people but for all people because all us are under a sin debt to God. It may not be connected to the land but it is just as real.As Paul tells us in Colossians 2:14“having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross…”

Application: Have you received God’s forgiveness of your sin debt through Jesus?

Question #2What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us? Again, we have to keep the land in mind. All of the Jewish people, the rich and the poor, the creditor and the debtor, were on God’s land. For one of them to take the other by the throat was ridiculous. That’s what some of them were doing. When Jesus gave the parable, he had much more than their land debt in mind.He was referring to unforgiveness among them.He was saying—If God has forgiven you, what right do you have to hold a grudge against your brothers and sisters? After all, both the offended and the offender are standing on the same forgiven ground! Then he made a very shocking remark—35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Meaning: “If you refuse to forgive others of the wrong they’ve done to you, God the father will also refuse to forgive you for the wrong you’ve done to him.”What do we do with that? If that’s true, you and I are going to hell if we refuse to forgive others.To understand this statement, we have to first understand how God forgives us our debt.

1. Forgiveness is not a joint agreement. It is a solo decision. Who did God consult regarding the plan of salvation? He consulted himself. It was decided in the secret and sacred counsel of the Trinity. The second person of the Godhead became the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8)Also,I Peter 1    18knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things,likesilver or gold, from your aimless conductreceivedby tradition from your fathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” Ephesians 1:4“just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Here’s the point: Just like God did not need our cooperation to initiate the plan of redemption, you don’t need your offender’s cooperation to cancel their debt. Think about it:Can you forgive someone who is dead? Yes. If not, you will be stuck. You can wipe their offense even if they are gone. 

2. Forgiveness is not forgetting.What do we do with the “Sea of forgetfulness?” That phrase is not in the Bible but it is based on certain passages in the Bible. Micah 7:19“He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Psalm 103:12“As far as the east is from the west, sofar has He removed our transgressions from us.” Jeremiah 31:34“…For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” These verses do not mean that God has amnesia. They simply mean that God no longer holds our sins against us because Jesus has paid our debt.You can forgive and still not forget. The scars are there to warn you of future dangers. Furthermore, God’s forgiveness does not mean condoning, dismissing, or legally pardoning.A murderer can get saved today and be on his way to heaven but still have to stand trial for the crime on earth. So also, when you forgive that does not mean that all consequences are gone.Now, instead of hating the person, you hate the sin. You let them off the way God has let you off but there may still be consequences.

3. Forgiveness is not reconciliation.From God’s perceptive, ransom has been paid and forgiveness has been offered. He is not sitting up there holding a grudge. He wants to reconcile the whole world to himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19“…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” But, the sinner has to take his offer of reconciliation for the transaction to be complete. This only happens when we get saved and receive his forgiveness and submit ourselves to his authority in our lives. So also, reconciliation can happen only if the offender is willing to go through the appropriate process with the offended.If not, there can only be forgiveness but no reconciliation. True reconciliation is a complex process that requires dialogue, time, admittance of guilt, and rebuilding of trust. There are times people have sent me a note saying “Please forgive me” but the way they said it they are really saying “You have hurt me” or “I’m angry at you” or “I am justified for my actions.”What do I do? I just leave them alone. I can tell that they want their pound of flesh.Sometimes people misapply 1 John 4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? Hate is not the same as irreconciliation. 

4. Finally, Forgiveness is not instantaneous. It is a journey. For God, it is not a journey. His forgiveness is immediate. But we’re not God. For us it requires a process.It requires 2 things in a believer: 

  • Change in perspective

2 Corinthians 4:18“while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seenaretemporary, but the things which are not seenareeternal.”

  • Power of the Holy Spirit

Romans 5     3And not onlythat,but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Are you unforgiving towards others? Do you need to seek the forgiveness of someone? Have you been forgiven through Christ?

Debt by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEBT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Someone said, “There are 3 kinds of people in this world: the have’s, the have-not’s, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-have’s.”I think most of us are in that last group. To be honest, debt is not all that bad. It’s debt collection that is bad. Having to payback what you owe is not that fun. I found some memes online that I thought were really funny: “Run for your life, the debt collectors are coming”; “I will find you and I will get my money”; and “I paid off all my debts and now no one calls me.” Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is not as much about debt as it’s about debt collection. Of course, by that we are referring to our sin debt and by cancellation of that debt we are referring to forgiveness of sin. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Unless you understand how God has cancelled your sin debt towards him through his son Jesus, you will never truly understand how to cancel the sin debt of others towards you.

Matthew 18     23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and tookhimby the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. Can you see yourself in this story? Are you the servant who was forgiven a big debt but went out and took his fellow servant by the throat for a small debt? Have you ever experienced the forgiveness of sins? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is very basic and clear on the surface but it’s very baffling and complicated when studied in depth. Think about it for a moment: 

  • Why is Sin described as a debt? Does God loan us a certain amount of holiness?
  • What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us?
  • Why is it so hard for us cancel the debt of others to us?
  • Is it really that we cannot cancel a single sin debt or is it more the fear that if we let this one go, more will follow, it will happen again?
  • Can I be saved if I refuse to pardon the sin debt of others towards me?

There is no way that we can answer all those questions in the next 20 minutes. That’s why this is will be a multi-part message. We will take on a couple of those questions today and the rest next time. (A word to the wise – “Don’t miss these messages. They have the potential to change your life and relationships.) So, let’s begin:

Question #1 Why is Sin described as a debt? The common mistake people make in studying this parable is that they quickly jump over the word “debt” and start talking about “sin.” Of course, this parable is about sin (our sin towards God and others sin towards us), but we cannot truly understand the force of this parable until we understand the significance of debt in that society. To understand this, let’s back up and look at the context of this parable in Matthew 18     21Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” We’ve all heard what that implies. Jesus was not saying 70 X 7 = 490. He was saying unlimitedtimes. All that is true but there’s a reason why Jesus used the number 7 and not 3, 5, or 10. Because 7 in the Old Testament is the number of fulfilment. It is the number of Sabbath. It is very significant when it comes to debt.Listen to Deuteronomy 15     1“At the end of everyseven years you shall grant a releaseof debts.2And this isthe form of the release: Every creditor who has lentanythingto his neighbor shall releaseit;he shall not requireitof his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’S release.” Not only that but even debt slaves were set free. Leviticus 25     8“And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenthdayof the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement…10And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout allthe land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 17Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for Iamthe LORD your God. 19Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety… So when Jesus said to Peter, “not just seven times but seventy times seven,” his listeners knew that he was hinting at the Year of Jubilees.But something else–23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.Not just the land of Israel. Exodus 19:5“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earthisMine.” In other words, it doesn’t matter who has the title, God owns it all.

To us, it doesn’t seem like a big deal but to those people it was nothing short of a revolution.Why? Because the Pharisees had created a system called “prozbul.” According to this system, the debt collector could give someone’s debt over to the court. This way it was no longer an “individual” holding the debt but a court and did not have to be forgiven in the seventh year. Now the creditors could lend in the sixth year and know that their money would be safe and the borrower could borrow money to do their work. On the surface, this seemed like a win-win, but can you imagine what this did to those in big debt. They could never get out of debt. The debt would keep mounting until it would be a foreclosure or slavery. Think about Jesus’ parable for a moment. How much did the servant owe the king? Ten thousand talents. A talent was about 60-90 pounds depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). So, 10,000 talents would be about 225 tons. Let’s say a talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. 10,000 talents would be 60 million denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. Herod’s annual salary was 900 talents. It would take Herod 10 years to pay back as long as he didn’t spend at all. How long will it take for the servant to pay back 60 million denarii? It’s impossible.

When Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he talked in terms that the average person could understand. In the Lord’s Prayer inMatthew 6:12“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Also, remember the parable of the Two Debtors, one owed 500 and the other only 50. Both were forgiven and Jesus asked “Which one would love more?” You can imagine how this must have impacted the people–“That person has been holding the lien on my property for the past 200 years. I wonder what he will do now.” Here’s a reminder:  Are you generous towards those who are less fortunate? I believe in Capitalism but Generous Capitalism. At Clearview we have many very generous people. How about you?

Now we understand the gravity of why Jesus talked in terms of debt but the question still remains – “How is sin a debt against God?” In the Bible, sin is defined by metaphors:

  • Sometimes it is a burden (bear your iniquities – Lev 20:20) and Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden.
  • Sometimes it is a stain (sin be like scarlet – Isaiah 1:18) and it has to be washed (Eph. 5:26).
  • Sometimes it is slavery (Egypt as house of bondage) and it has to be set free (Romans 6:18)
  • And some other metaphors

Sometimes it is also described as a debt. Lev. 5:1“If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and isa witness, whether he has seen or knownof the matter—if he does not tellit,he bears guilt.” It has the idea of assuming a debt. This idea became very prominent after the children went into Babylonian Exile. They had lost their land. Don’t misunderstand: They didn’t lose it to the Babylonians but to God.Remember, God had told them “the land is mine” and “the whole earth is mine.” They were in debt because of sin. They were in the land but it was God’s land. They still had a debt to pay which was impossible to pay. The prophets repeatedly talked in the language of earning your wages.Jeremiah 31:11For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.” Zechariah 9:12“Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare thatI will restore double to you.” Why did Jesus come? He came to pay a debt that we owe to God that we can never repay. Matthew 20:28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus went about offering forgiveness of sins to all those who came to him. He undermined the authority of the temple priests and messed up the nice system of financial security of the Pharisees and the religious leaders. No wonder they hated him. 

Listen to how Paul describes our salvation inColossians 2     13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Invitation: There are no bargain pardons. God himself had to pay our debt of sins by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins. Have you received his pardon? Do you understand how everything you have is his? Are you holding someone’s lien in your hand? Are you saved?

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