Discern by Dr. Abidan Shah

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DISCERN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Most people are very discerning as to who they allow into their personal space. There was a time when you could hitchhike but not anymore. When we are at a stoplight, we make sure our doors are locked. At home, we make sure our doors are locked. If someone knocks, we look through the peep hole first and then there’s the screen door with a lock on it. Now, they even have video doorbell cameras with motion alerts and facial recognition! Unfortunately, the one place we are the least discerning is in the area of our mind, what we believe, in doctrine. We allow anyone and everyone to speak into our lives. This is so critical in the age of social media where everyone with a voice is an expert and they have access to us. The Bible commands us to be discerning against false teachers and their doctrines. Failure to do so is to become a participant in their evil works. Today’s message is a stand-alone message from 2 John titled “DISCERN.”

2 John 7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christas coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. 9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”

Question: Who are listening to that you shouldn’t? Who has access to your mind? Are you abiding in the doctrine of Christ? Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Context: 2 John, from which we just read, has only 200 Greek words, but it has much to say to us today. The writer, the apostle John, was warning the readers to be discerning as to who they let into their homes. Apparently, some so called “Christian teachers” were going from door to door preaching and teaching, but they did not share the same beliefs regarding the person and nature of Jesus Christ. John the elder was warning the Christians not to be gullible. Pay attention to what they are teaching. Recognize that they have an agenda, an ulterior motive. In fact, don’t even engage them. Refuse to let them inside your doors. Truth is vital. Truth is critical. Failure to stick to the truth is self-condemning. Guard your mind. Don’t overestimate your ability to recognize error.

Application: Do you guard your mind? Are you being misled, not just about the doctrine of Christ but other areas of Christian life? This is an important question in this era of social media. Are you letting anyone and everyone to speak into your life?

With that said, let’s get back to our message. To get at the seriousness of John’s warning to the readers against false teachers, we need to begin reading in verse 6 “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” Just like in our day and age, people have always had all kinds of definitions of love—Love is being there for someone no matter what. Love is mutual respect. Love is reaching our dreams together. There is some truth in all of them, but how does the Bible define love? Love is walking according to God’s commandments. In other words, love is obedience to the truth. If you say that you love God, then the question is—Are you obeying his truth? Failure or refusal to obey God is failure and refusal to love God. They go hand in hand. Verse 6 goes on to say, “…This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” What is “it?” The answer is found two verses earlier in verse 4 “I rejoiced greatly that I have foundsome of your children walking in truth…” So, listen again to verse 6, ““This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in the truth.” Here’s the point: Truth is not optional. Truth is essential. It is the verification of our love for God.

The question that follows is—“What is the truth?” We actually have to go to I Johnwhere John gives us the definition of truth in 3 points (Karen Jobes):

  1. The man Jesus is the Christ, God’s Anointed King.
  2. The Son of God has been incarnated as a human being.
  3. The death of the Son of God is the atonement for sin.

In other words, the truth that John is referring to is regarding the Identity of Jesus, Incarnation of Jesus, and the Atonement of Jesus—“Who he was, How he came, and What he did.”

Application: How seriously do you take this “truth?” Are you easily blown about by “every wind of doctrine?”

All this is not just chit chat. There is a serious situation at hand. Listen to verse 7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” In other words, truth about Jesus Christ is under attack. Which truth specifically? The truth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. “Come in the flesh” is much more than just how he was born, his incarnation; it also refers to his sacrificial death for the atonement of sin. Now, listen carefully to how he describes those who contradict this truth—“This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” People often ask me—“Do you think the Antichrist is alive today?” “Do you think that so and so is the Antichrist?” Listen carefully: The only person in the Bible who talks about the Antichrist by name is the apostle John and he only does that here and in I John. He doesn’t use that title in the Book of Revelation. What can we learn about the Antichrist from him? Listen to 1 John 2    18 “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” There are many antichrists and not just one. Maybe one big one in the end. Also, they’re not just in the future. They’re also here right now. 19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” They seem to be emerging out of the church. Their exiting is their unmasking. One more thing: 1 John 2    22 “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either…” In other words, the Antichrists deny the apostolic tradition regarding Christ.

Application: Do you know Christ? Are you connected to him? Are you listening to someone who could be Antichrist?

What is at stake in listening to the deceivers and Antichrists? 2 John 8 “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” What is the “full reward?” That phrase is found several times in the New Testament. Here’s the most helpful one in Revelation 22    12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. 14 Blessed arethose who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” The reward is eternal life itself! I know some will now wonder what that does to eternal security. I believe in it as well but this verse reminds as the truth is not something to play with if you want eternal life. If that’s not enough, here comes the next verse—9 “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” Before we look at this carefully, this is the center of this letter. The Greek word behind “abide” is “meno,” which can be translated as “continue,” “remain,” or “wait for.” This is not some novel idea. Jesus said the same thing in John 8:31   Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

So what action can you take? 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him.” Hospitality was a big deal in that culture and still is in that part of the world. John goes a step further to say that even a “hello” should not happen. 11 “for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”

Invitation: How seriously are you taking the truth about Christ? Are you walking in the truth? Are you remaining in the truth? Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Divisive Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

DIVISIVE MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: One of my favorite episodes on the Andy Griffith Show is the one where Andy plays the marriage counsellor. Fred Boone and his wife Jennie are some of the nicest people in Mayberry but they have one problem – they can’t get along with each other. They fight all the time. When they run out of words, they start throwing dishes at each other. Andy feels like he can help them out. So, he tries to teach them how to speak lovingly to each other, hoping that in time it’ll become a habit. It actually works but then something happens. Fred and Jennie begin fighting with everybody else in town. That’s when Andy and Barney realize that it is so much better to let them fight with each other, if they want to have peace in Mayberry. Do you know people like that? They are always fighting with someone. For them, its normal to be at odds with someone. They have a divisive mind. Unfortunately, such people are also in the church. Today’s message will help us deal with a divisive mind and exchange it for the mind of Christ.

Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Question: Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know what it means to be of one mind with others? Are you saved? Do you have the mind of Christ?

Context: Many of you have shared with me how much the sketch of the volcano and the plant has helped you. So, here it is once again. All of us have certain EXPECTATIONSin life. These Expectations represent our goals in life and how we expect life to turn out through the good times and the bad. These Expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. These Assumptions come from how our mind has been built by God through our parents, through our upbringing, and through the circumstances in life. What happens when our Expectations don’t turn out according to our Assumptions? We have FRUSTRATIONS. These are usually manifested as Anxiety, Guilt, and Resentment. In the past two sermons I gave you some illustrations from wanting success in life, marriage, and child-raising. Here’s another one from being hurt in life. If your Expectation is that the world owes you for the pain you have suffered in your past, you are in for a lot of Frustrations in life. This false Expectation is based on the false Assumption that life is perfect, that human beings are inherently good, that hurts can be rectified in this life, and that if you are hurt, you are entitled to special privileges. That’s not true. You have to abandon the volcano model for the tree planted by rivers of water. Instead of Assumptions, you have to seek after BIBLICAL TRUTHSi.e. THE MIND OF CHRIST. Instead of Expectations, you have to trust in the PROMISES OF GOD. Then, instead of Frustrations, you will have FRUITS. You will have to believe in the fallenness of human beings, the reality of sin, the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the importance of forgiveness.

Now back to our message on the Divisive Mind – Listen again to Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” In order to understand why Paul said those words, we need to take this passage apart and look at it a section at a time. To start with, Paul implores the Philippians – “Fulfill my joyby being likeminded.”The word for joy is “chara” which Paul uses 5 times in various forms in this letter:

  • In Philippians 1:4Paul prays for the Philippians with joy.
  • In Philippians 1:25Paul wants to continue with them for their“progress and joyof faith.”
  • Of course, here in Philippians 2:2 Paul wants them to fulfill his joyby being like-minded.”
  • In Philippians 2:29Paul wants them to receive Epaphroditus, one of his companions in ministry, with joy
  • In Philippians 4:1 Paul calls the Philippians his “joyand crown.”

I don’t have time to look at the related word “chairo” meaning rejoice, which is found about 7 times in various forms. The most famous one being Philippians 4:4Rejoicein the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Why is Paul so obsessed with joy and rejoice in his letter to the Philippians?

Before we answer that question, what is the meaning of this word “joy” and even “rejoice?” Of course, we can go to the Lexicons and the Greek dictionaries but the best way to discover the true meaning is by looking at the context in which those words are used in the Bible. Here is what I have found: Joy is a feeling of deep happiness based on biblical truths.What does this “deep happiness” feel like? C.S. Lewis, in his book Surprised by Joy,describes it as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” What Lewis is saying is that true joy never runs out or reaches its goal but keeps multiplying. Furthermore, it is not depended on our circumstances.

Back to our question – Why did Paul use the words “joy” and “rejoice” so many times in his letter to the Philippians? Listen again to Philippians 2:2Fulfillmy joy…” Fulfill implies that at the moment Paul’s joy was incomplete. It had depleted. It was leaking. What caused it to leak? “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” Just in case the Philippians were to misunderstand what Paul meant, he clarified it in 3 different ways – “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Talk about being emphatic! Why did Paul restate this in 4 ways? Because the Philippians were either divided or on their way to being divided. 

Listen very carefully – Nothing will deplete your joy in the Christian life faster than division in your life, your marriage, your family, and your church.

Where do divisions come from? 3“Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”Divisions come from selfish ambitions, conceit (excessive pride), sense of superiority (especially spiritual superiority, legalism), and self-interest. If a person has grown up in an environment marred by arguments and fights because of these negative qualities, it becomes a normal “Assumption” for them to live in contention with those around them. It is an unhealthy, evil, and destructive normal. It takes one divisive person to start something and before you know it, the whole body is infected with a spirit of division. 

How do you counteract such a divisive mind?Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:14-15“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…”Philippians 4:8“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” What do you do when someone brings negative divisive junk to you? Here’s an example from the Old Testament worth considering – David and Jonathan were best friends even though Saul (Jonathan’s father) hated him. After Saul’s house collapsed and David became the King over Israel, David wanted to do something nice for his old friend Jonathan. He asked if there was anyone left and a servant of Saul by the name of Ziba informed him that Jonathan had a son by the name of Mephibosheth who was lame in his feet. David had him brought and told him not to fear and that he will give him all the inheritance of his grandfather Saul. Wow! Then he told Ziba that he is to serve Mephibosheth the way he served Saul. All sounds great. Jump ahead to Absalom’s rebellion against David, his father. David had to run for his life and Mephibosheth could not accompany him because of his handicap and sent Ziba to help David fight against Absalom. Ziba met David and told David that he has come to help even though his master Mephibosheth has pledged his allegiance to Absalom. David told Ziba that in that case, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is now his. The battle is over, Absalom dies and David is victorious. Mephibosheth comes to congratulate David and David asks him why he did not go with him. He replied that he couldn’t because of his handicap and that Ziba had lied to him.What did David do next? Did he put Ziba on trial? Did he return Mephibosheth his property? No. He said in 2 Samuel 19:29“You and Ziba divide the land.” Why? Even though Ziba had lied, David’s mind was now contaminated against Mephibosheth and he could never trust him again. Factually he knew that Mephibosheth was good but emotionally he couldn’t trust him anymore. This is what happens when you allow a divisive person to speak into your life.

What needs to happen is that your assumptions have to be replaced by biblical truths. Philippians 2:1“Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” So much I could say about each – Salvation through Jesus, love for one another, Holy Spirit binding us in him and actively showing affection and mercy is need to deal with a divisive mind, whether yours or someone else’s.

Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know someone who does? Pray for them. Are you saved?

Keeping Your Word

KEEPING YOUR WORD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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As you know very well, we are again in our series on the Sermon on the Mount and our message is titled – KEEPING YOUR WORD.

Matthew 5   33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your “Yes’ be “Yes,’ and your “No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read Jesus is raising the bar on how we make and keep promises. Just like today, people back then made a lot of promises, which they never intended to keep. They had become experts on breaking promises. The Rabbis came up with a whole system that would allow people to get out of their oaths. Jesus told them to stop all this nonsense and let your “Yes’ be “Yes,’ and your “No,’ ‘No.’

People haven’t changed much since then. They still make excuses, look for loopholes, hunt for an escape clause, find some technicality, and do whatever they can to get out of a promise. Gone are the days when a man’s word and a handshake was all that you needed. Unfortunately, Christians are no better. When we break a promise, we even have some verse to go with it!

Question: What kind of a person are you? Do you keep your word to your spouse, children, neighbors, and church family? Are you a promise keeper or a promise breaker? Do you keep your word to God? What promises have you made to God that you still haven’t kept? I believe more promises are broken to God than to anybody else. Or do you hide behind the line – “I’m not going to promise anything?” Are you saved?

This morning we will try to understand the importance of keeping our word, not just to our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, church family, but also to God. 4 things we will try to understand here:

I. HUMAN TENDENCY IS TO BREAK OUR WORD. 

34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.

Background: Some people have misunderstood Jesus’ statement, like the Anabaptists and Quakers. They thought that He was commanding us never to take an oath or make a vow. Not true. To understand what’s happening here, you have to go to the Mishnah, which is the Jewish oral tradition and especially to the Shevu’ot = the section on oaths. According to them, in the Jewish religion, God’s name was very sacred. It could not be used in making an oath. Only the high priest could take God’s divine name and only on the Day of Atonement, all other uses of divine name were blasphemous. If you took an oath with God’s name, it really didn’t count. Now, you could use substitutes known as kinnuyim with alphabets out of God’s name – Aleph-dalet for Adonai and Yod-He for Yahweh. All that would do was create some more technicalities to break a promise. But the people didn’t stop there. They also came up with a lot of innocuous substitutes for God – heaven, earth, Jerusalem, my head, just to name a few. According to these rabbinic interpretations, taking such oaths was not legally binding. So you could swear by all that and then break your vow legally. Jesus exposed their wicked schemes. He reminded them that all these technicalities are wrong because everything belongs to God – heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and my head or your head. In fact, He called all that from the evil one.

Isn’t it interesting that human beings haven’t changed much? We make promises because we like the immediate benefits but when its time to return our end of the bargain, we want to break the contract. Everyday all over the world, promises are made to be broken.

  • A Father promises to play ball with his son if he would only let him watch his game right now. Once the game is over, he is too tired to play ball.
  • One spouse promises the other to do something only if they would do something first for them. Once they get what they want, they conveniently find excuses to get out of keeping their end of the bargain.
  • Young man makes a promise to a young girl that if he would just come a little closer, he will love her forever. Once he gets what he wants, he says “Bye.”
  • Church members make about a million excuses when it comes to doing their ministry.

I can go on and on. Why do we do that? Because we are sinful, selfish, self-centered human beings. We do that even to God! Hosea 6   4 “O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away. 7 “But like men they transgressed the covenant; There they dealt treacherously with Me.

Application: Are you an honest and forthright person or are you a deceitful and manipulative person? Do people trust you? Are you a person who is known for keeping a promise? Are you always looking for some technicality to get out from keeping your word? Have your broken your promise to God?

II. DIVINE TENDENCY IS TO KEEP HIS WORD. 

Background: The reason Jesus even brought up this matter is because being God Himself, breaking promises goes against everything in His nature. God is a covenant keeping God. Deuteronomy 7:9 “Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;

  • In Genesis 9:11 He made a vow to Noah and his sons saying, “Thus I establish My covenant with you…never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” He kept His Word.
  • In Genesis 22 God made a vow to Abraham saying, 16 “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you…have not withheld your son, your only son – 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants…” The book of Hebrews comments on it in Hebrews 6:13 “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.”
  • Judges 2:1 Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you.
  • In Ezekiel 33:11 God made a vow saying, “As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” Throughout history God has kept His Word.
  • Listen to Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:4 “…O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments.”

I can go on and on but here’s the point: No matter who has broken their promise to you, you can rest assure that God will always keep His word to you. He will never fail you. He is faithful. Listen to Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Application: Do you trust God? Do you take Him at His Word? Are you living your life on God’s promises? Have you trusted Him with your eternity?

III. GOD EXPECTS US TO KEEP OUR WORD. 

37 But let your “Yes’ be “Yes,’ and your “No,’ ‘No.’

Background: Jesus expects us to be promise keepers.

  1. To our spouses – As a pastor for 17 years, I’ve done a lot of weddings. All of them begin with this statement – Dearly Beloved: We are gathered together before the presence of God and these assembled witnesses to join together this man and this woman in the holy estate of matrimony.” Then we have the exchange of vows – “I promise to take you so and so to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, I promise to love and cherish you.” Then they exchange rings as the sign and seal of their promises. Then I end it with – By the authority vested in me as a minister of the gospel, in the presence of God and these assembled witnesses, it is my privilege to pronounce you husband and wife. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

What if we take out the name of God from the wedding ceremony? It doesn’t matter. God is a witness every time a man and a woman come together. It is His institution. He will hold you accountable for it.

  1. To our children – When you bring a child into this world, you are entering into a covenant with God to further His plan into this world. Human beings have done a great job in enjoying the pleasure of the moment but they have long forgotten the responsibility that comes with it. Our responsibility is to lead the child in God’s way.
  2. To our church family – As part of the family of God, I am obligated to keep my word to them. If I say, “I will be there,” then I should be there. If I say, “I will serve,” then I should serve. It is a shame when fellow church members cannot be counted upon! By the way, some people try the tactic – “I’m just not going to promise anything” – and this way I don’t have to break any promise. I am more impressed with the man/woman who serves faithfully than with one who claims to know the Bible or theology.
  3. To our neighbors – As a Christian, I am obligated to keep my promises to my neighbors, which includes people next door, people at work, and people in the community, and our nation. When people find out that you are a Christian, they should be doing all they can to hire you. They should know that you are a trustworthy person.
  4. To God – As I mentioned earlier, “more promises are broken to God than to anybody else.” Promises are made on sick beds, deathbeds, during financial struggle and relationship struggles. Sadly, once things get better, people forget God. Psalm 66 13 “I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows, 14 Which my lips have uttered And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble.”

Application: Are you a promise keeper to your spouse, children, church family, neighbor, and to God?

IV. THE HOLY SPIRIT ENABLES US TO KEEP OUR WORD.

Let’s recap – human tendency is to break promises, divine tendency is to keep promises, but God expects us to keep promises. What should we do? God understands our weakness. Hence, Jesus sent us His Holy Spirit. He is the encourager. His job is to do through us what we could never do by ourselves. His task is to make us faithful when we surrender to Him. Listen to Galatians 5   22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. This especially helps when the other person does not keep their end of the bargain.

Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you saved?

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