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?

Misled by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: How did we survive before GPS! It was somewhere in the mid-2000s that I first heard about the Global Positioning System. If you were born after this time, you’re an IY and you probably don’t know what it was like before GPS. How many of ya’ll remember carrying an Atlas in the car/truck? How many of ya’ll still do? How many of you remember stopping to ask for directions? How many of ya’ll remember getting the wrong directions? I remember one time driving 2 hours in the wrong direction before realizing what had happened! In life, you need the right directions. Wrong directions or failure to follow the right directions can lead to disaster. The Bible is God’s right directions for our life every time. In fact, Jesus is the Way of life. But, he is much more than just our GPS. He is also our road and our destination; and, he never misleads us. Today, in our miniseries called SKILLFUL on the Book of Proverbs, we come to our final message titled MISLED.

Proverbs 6     20 “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. 21 Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. 22 When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, 24 To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattering tongue of a seductress.”

Question: How is your GPS? I’m not talking about the Global but the God Positioning System. Are you going in the right direction? Is Jesus your Way and your Destination? Are you saved?

Context: I’ve been very pleased by the positive response of so many of you to our short series on the Book of Proverbs. Many of you are reading it in your daily devotions, and that’s wonderful! Some of you contacted me with questions about something in this book, and that’s awesome! Others of you are disappointed that we’re not staying longer in this book. I promise you that we’ll be back. In fact, every year, we will do a short series on the Book of Proverbs. Why short? Because of the concentrated truth principles in this book. We can handle it only in small doses. If not, it can become unattainable, repetitive, and, even dry. Little at a time allows you to appreciate and apply.

Now, back to our final message: Listen again to Proverbs 6:20 “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” Before we go any further, the primary instructors in any child’s life are the parents. They have to provide their kids with the GPS of life. We need to spend some time here. This message will be top heavy. There’s a saying that has been around for some time—“It takes a village to raise a child.” I understand what people mean by it. Back in the day, a child was influenced by everyone from the neighbors, church members, teachers, coaches, and anyone on the street. That may have worked at one time when people believed the same, but, today, I don’t want the village to raise my children. Why? Because the village has changed! Why would I want someone who doesn’t share my values to influence my children? There are many village idiots running around! Listen carefully: God has given the parents the primary responsibility of training up their child in the way they should go. (Proverbs 22:6)Some know how to bring children into this world but raising them is not their problem. They are absentee parents. In some cases, the parents (or parent) actually do more harm than good to the child. It’s very tragic. Some people don’t want the burden of raising kids. They see it as a waste of time and energy. No one did it for them. Why should they do it for someone else?

Other parents believe that it is their responsibility to instruct their children, but they do it for the wrong reasons:

  • Self-image: Some do it to make themselves look good. They give their children their best so they themselves can shine. Some even do it to meet the approval of their legalistic communities.
  • Trophy: Some do it to live vicariously through them. This happens with athletics, beauty contests, and academics.
  • Nursing Home: Some do it so they can get something back from their children. In Asian countries, and even here, the parents invest in their children so their children will take care of them in their old age. They are to take on the family business or responsibility. This is not totally wrong but it’s not the right reason.
  • Instinct: Some do it because they truly love their children. They grew up with loving parents. So, they genuinely love their children and try their best to instruct them. I would take this over all the other reasons, but, it’s still the wrong reason.

So, what is the right reason for instructing our children? I can give many references but here’s a big one from Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD…” The word for “heritage means “inheritance” or “gift.” This means that our children don’t ultimately belong to us but to God. He wants us to cooperate with him in bringing them into this world to fulfil his holy purpose. Malachi 2:15 “But did He not make them one, (talking about a husband and a wife) Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring…” So also, 1 Corinthians 7:14 “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” In both the passages, children are to be godly, God’s representatives in this world. That’s why he wants us to join him in training them in the right way, in giving them the GPS of life. In the process, he loans them to us to share in the joys of life—baby, childhood, growing up years, marriage, grandchildren, etc.

Application: How do you see your children? How do you see your role as parents? Was that done for you growing up?

We spent a lot of time on the importance of parenthood but we will move rapidly now. Listen again—20 “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” This is not your personal commandment and law. The word for law is “torah,” which in this context is referring to the law of the covenant, the Word of God. You have to instruct and model it. 21 Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. 22 When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”

Application: How well have you instructed your children in the law of the covenant, the Word of God? This is their GPS of life.

Now comes the major purpose of the GPS: 24 “To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattering tongue of a seductress. 25 Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids.” Instead of living by instincts, emotions, or senses, we need to teach our children to live by the truth coming from the Word of God. We should teach them to stick to the GPS of God’s Word. Even if the most compatible person were to walk through those doors and you feel an instant connection with them, your warning signal should go off! What happens when it doesn’t? Verse 26 “For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread; and an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.” This is not the best translation. A better translation would be—“A harlot will cost you a loaf of bread but an adulteress will cost you your life.” This does not mean that going to prostitutes is better than committing adultery. You need to read Proverbs 5. There Solomon warns his son against the “immoral woman.” In Proverbs 6, he warns his son against someone worse than the “immoral woman,” the adulteress. This is someone who does not need a loaf of bread, one meal. She wants your soul. She wants to destroy you. Although this is written in the masculine, the application is to both men and women. Teach your daughters to stay clear of adulterers. In fact, teach both your boys and girls to be faithful in their marriage.

Let’s keep reading: 27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? 28Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent. 30 People do not despise a thiefif he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. 31 Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; He may have to give up all the substance of his house. 32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 33Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy isa husband’s fury; therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35 He will accept no recompense, nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.

Application: Do you take the time to talk to your children about these things? Unfortunately, TV and social media is now raising our children. That’s where they are getting their values. That’s one big reason we are hosting the marriage conference.

Does all this mean that you will have perfect kids? Of course, not. It’s about raising kids who recognize how much they need God to walk in his way. It’s about raising kids with the GPS of life so they won’t make immoral mistakes.

Most importantly, have you introduced your children to Jesus?

John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 14:6   Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Invitation: Is Jesus your light and your way? He will never mislead you.

Out-of-Bounds by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

Foul #1 – Arrogant Eyes

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

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

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

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

Foul #2 – Uncontrolled mouth

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

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

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

Foul #3 – Bloodstained hands

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

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

Foul #4 – Scheming heart

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

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

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

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

Foul #5 – Wicked Feet

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

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

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

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

Foul #6 – Corrupt

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

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

Foul #7 – Troublemaker

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

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

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

Application: Are you a troublemaker or peacemaker?

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

Skillful by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Last Friday evening at our Valentine’s banquet, I showed some pictures of people doing some foolish things and it drew a lot of laughs! Let’s look at them again. What is the problem in all those pictures? Sometimes people are using the wrong tools for the job, sometimes they have the right tools but they are locked up, sometimes they are being reckless in the face of hazardous materials, or sometimes they are overestimating their abilities or misjudging their obstacles. All of this reflects lack of skills and sense of discernment. So also, in life, people lack the right skills and a sense of discernment, and they make foolish and costly decisions. Skillful living comes when we turn to God for wisdom and guidance. More specifically, true wisdom is Christ. When he becomes our life, we begin to live skillfully. For the next few weeks, we will be in a brief series through Proverbs titled “SKILLFUL” (also the title of today’s message). The goal of this series is to help us live life skillfully.

Proverbs 3     5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Question: Who do you lean on for understanding in life? Self, friends, family, or God. Are you living your life skillfully? Is Christ truly at the center and focus of your life?

Background: When it comes to the Book of Proverbs, people typically have a low view of it compared to other books like Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any of the New Testament books. This is a huge mistake. In Jeremiah 18:18, we find an ancient saying that reveals to us the various ways that God spoke to His people. It goes like this—“… for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet…” The context of this passage is negative but the implication is still valid. It is this: God considers the counsel from the wise (proverbs) to be on the same level as the law from the priest and the word from the prophet. In other words, Law, Prophecy, and Wisdom are the 3 different ways that God spoke to his people. Proverbs are not secondary or optional. They are just as important for our spiritual growth. In fact, Billy Graham used to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs every day. He said that there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, one for every day of the month. I encourage you to do the same and get your children to read a chapter of Proverbs every day.

Back to the passage we just read—Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” Before we go any further, this goes completely contrary to what the world says—“Trust your heart.” Amazing how the Enemy has stolen some key words from this verse! As a result, we have made the heart the object rather than the means to the real object who is God. Trusting your own heart is like the guy who attached the safety harness to himself! But it’s worse than that—Jeremiah 17     9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart…” Jesus said inMatthew 15:19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Are you trusting your heart?

Let’s look at this verse carefully: The Hebrew word trust is “bethath,” which means “to lie helplessly, face down.” It is a picture of a servant patiently waiting on his master’s command. Trusting in the Lord is not “I’m hoping things will work out”, “I’m trying to hang in there,” “I’m trying to be strong or positive,” “I’ve been going to church and reading the Bible every day,” “It is what it is. I cannot control what happens. The man upstairs is in charge,” or “I’ve given up.” Trusting in the Lord is about developing a deep personal relationship with God.How do you develop a deep personal relationship with God? How do you develop a deep personal relationship with any person? Listening and Talking to them. Isn’t that what dating is all about? Same with God. You listen to his voice by reading his Word. You talk to him by praying to him. This does not happen automatically. You have to work at it and invest time in it. Unless you receive Jesus as your Savior and King, your relationship with God will only remain superficial.

The proverb emphasizes that this trust has to be “with all your heart.” There is no place for half-hearted, wishy-washy, quick waiting before God. In fact, if you are wise, you will wait on your face before God for as long as it takes. The longer you look at God through the eyes of faith, the more you will get to know him in a deeper and more personal way; you will begin to understand how he thinks and how he feels; and, you will begin to understand how much he loves and cares for you. Please don’t misunderstand: Waiting before God does not mean inactivity. It is not sitting there just staring at God. We’ll come to that in a moment. For now, just remember that “trusting in the Lord” means developing a deep personal relationship with him.

Application: Do you have a deep personal relationship with God?

Listen again, Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Unfortunately, instead of lying on our face before God, we tend to lean on our own understanding. What falls in this category of “understanding?” Our upbringing, our experiences, our education, our impulses, etc. You have to be willing to lay all of them aside if they don’t line up with the Word of God. In the Bible we see many examples of such “understandings”:

  • Abraham did this when there was a famine in the land and they had to flee to Egypt. In a moment of fear, he told Sarah to pretend to be his sister rather than his wife. What a colossal mistake. Pharaoh was about to take her to be his wife!
  • Joshua did this when he decided to send a measly two to three thousand men to go up and attack the city of Ai. In a moment of self-confidence over Jericho, he failed to consult the Lord if there was sin in the camp.
  • Peter did this when he decided to follow Jesus on the night he was betrayed and ended up denying him three times. In a moment of fake loyalty, he failed to obey his Master who had told him to watch and pray.

Let me give you some positive examples:

  • Job faced the worst trials anyone other than Christ faced and yet he said Job 13:15“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
  • Ruth refused to go back to her people and chose to follow Naomi to Israel.

Application: Are you trusting in the Lord with all your heart? Are you leaning on your own understanding and insights?

Now, verse 6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him…” The Hebrew word “yada” can be translated admit, confess, acknowledge, and recognize. In other words, in all your daily happenings give God credit for everything. Lift him up. Glorify him. Use every opportunity to magnify his name. It also means check to make sure that he is still with you. Don’t drop him and run ahead. Stay right behind him. No matter what that step is (a job, a date, a venture, an opportunity), say a simple quick prayer, “Your will be done God, not mine.”

Application: Do you do that? Do you constantly glorify God no matter what’s happening? Do you constantly glance up to make sure that he is still ahead of you and you haven’t wandered off? Do you pray “Your will be done, not mine” daily?

What is the promise if you do that? 6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” The actual word here is “yashar,” which means smooth, straight, and right. The idea is that God will help remove the obstacles from your path as you follow him. It does not mean that there will be no obstacles. Only that, he will remove them for you. Isn’t that awesome! Now you can live skillfully as you follow Christ.

Personal Illustration: My parents taught me growing up to always acknowledge God and to keep him first in everything. This did not make life easy. I had many obstacles in my life. I remember the Christmas of 1993 being stuck at an exit waiting for my brother to come get me. The weather is freezing cold. I wrapped myself inside a telephone booth to keep myself warm. I made a promise to God then and there that my life belongs to him from here on. It hasn’t been problem free but God has made the path clear for me. I give him the glory.

Invitation: What is your testimony? Is Christ the center of your life? Do you have a deep personal relationship with him? Do you acknowledge him in all your ways? Are you saved?

Confidence by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: When our kids were young, they loved watching Winnie the Pooh. Their favorite characters were Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, and Tigger. My favorite was Eeyore—always pessimistic and down on life. I’ve met a lot of people who may not sound like Eeyore but they definitely have an Eeyore view of life. They have a victim mindset. They feel that life is just a series of unfortunate events. They often compare themselves to others and wish that fate had dealt them a better hand. They often moan, “all these things are against me.” As we stand at the starting line of a new year and a new decade, does that describe you? How confident are you about your future? Here’s the gist of the message: How you see your life—past and future—is a direct result of what you believe about the sovereignty of God. The right view of the sovereignty of God will give you the right perspective on your past and give you the confidence to face whatever lies ahead and win. That’s the title of our message today—CONFIDENCE.

Genesis 42:36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Question: Which one are you? Are you like Jacob who moaned “All these things are against me” or are you like Paul who proclaimed “All things work together for good to those who love God?” Do you love God? Are you saved?

Context: The first passage we just read from Genesis 42 is one of the most depressing statements in the Bible. Listen to it again36 “And Jacob their father said to them, ‘You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin…’” The Hebrew word for “bereave” is “shekel,” which translates as “childless.” Why did Jacob make such a drastic claim? Like always, we need to look at the context in which Jacob said those words. The beginning of Genesis 42 tells us that there was a famine in the land and Jacob had sent his sons to Egypt to get some grain. His sons had just returned home, but, unfortunately, one of their brothers Simeon was not with them. He had been held hostage by the ruler of Egypt, who they didn’t know at the time was Joseph, their younger brother. He had told them that he was going to keep Simeon there until they returned with their younger brother Benjamin. Keep in mind, Joseph and Benjamin were the only sons from Rachel, the wife he really wanted to marry. Joseph had mysteriously died (or so Jacob thought) and now they had to take Benjamin back with them to Egypt. To make matters worse, when they opened their sacks of grain, their money pouches were still there! Now, they were probably deemed thieves in Egypt for stealing grain or so they thought. When Jacob heard all this, he cried out “You have made me childless!” Keep in mind that 10 of his sons were standing before him! In other words, in his anguish, he was exaggerating the situation.

Application: Do you exaggerate your situation? You may not say “You’ve bereaved me,” but how about, “You’ve ruined my life” or “he/she has ruined my life?” Don’t misunderstand. It is bad what’s happened to you and people may have to be held accountable for what they did to you. But, do you exaggerate what’s happened to you?

Nonetheless, all this was still understandable until Jacob said something that went beyond the immediate context. He cried out “All these things are against me.” What was Jacob talking about? This was the magma, volcanic ash, and gases that were churning below the surface in Jacob’s heart that finally burst through into a devastating volcano. This is how he had been feeling for quite some time and he finally just let it out. In some ways, Jacob had every reason to say what he did. Yes, things had been rough for him. At a young age, he had to leave his home and run for his life. All this because his brother Esau had tried to steal the birthright that rightfully belonged to him and his father Isaac was more concerned about his taste buds than the plan of God. Then, his uncle Laban had tricked him into working for 7 years and gave him the wrong daughter for a wife. That’s enough to ruin your day! After working for 7 more years, he finally got the right one. But now, he had 2 wives plus 2 concubines! If that wasn’t enough, Uncle and now Father-in-law Laban even tried to take advantage of Jacob by giving him the defective livestock. Fast forward a few years, Jacob’s sons killed all the men of Shechem out of revenge over their sister Dinah. If you remember Jacob’s words in Genesis 34:30 “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land…” In other words, he couldn’t control his sons any longer. Then, Rachel, Jacob’s love of his life, died in childbirth. Finally, the worst happened when Jacob sent Joseph to take some food to his brothers and a few days later, his sons returned with Joseph’s tunic of many colors covered in blood and asked him, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?” Deep down, Jacob knew that his sons had something to do with Joseph’s death. Now Simeon was held hostage in Egypt and Benjamin had to be taken to meet this Egyptian ruler. Any wonder that Jacob exploded like he did!

Application: Have you ever exploded like Jacob—“All these things are against me?” Have you ever felt like he did?

Yes, Jacob had every reason to say what he said but he knew better than to say what he said. God had given him plenty of assurance that he was with him, guiding and protecting him.

  • When Jacob was fleeing from his brother, he had a special vision of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending. It was a reminder that God was with him.
  • When Laban was cheating Jacob, he had a special visit from God warning him and calling him to head back to the land of his family.
  • When Jacob was afraid to face his brother Esau, he had a personal visit from the pre-incarnate Christ. In fact, he wrestled with God and prevailed. He received a new name.
  • When Jacob was afraid of the repercussion of his sons killing the people of Shechem, “the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue them.” God appeared to him again in Bethel and assured him in Genesis 3510 “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name…” 11 “…I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. 12The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.”

Even after all this, he still said, “All things are against me.” What a poor testimony before his children!

Application: Have you done that? You need to repent.

But, thank God that for every negative example, he has given us a positive one to follow. Just a few chapters later, in Genesis 50:20, we find a different declaration—“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Who said this? Jacob’s son Joseph. Yes, Jacob had a rough life no doubt, but Joseph’s was no less. For starters, his mother Rachel died giving birth to his brother Benjamin. That’s rough on any child. Next, his brothers envied him and could not speak peaceably to him. As we’ve already discussed, they did the ultimate—sold him into slavery. Imagine that! In Egypt, he was bought by an influential man named Potiphar who was super impressed with his work ethic and integrity and made him the head of his household. Just when things began to look up for Joseph, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of trying to rape her and had him thrown into prison. In prison, he interpreted the dream of the chief baker and the chief butler. The chief butler’s dream restored him to his previous position. As he was leaving, Joseph begged him “remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house.”Unfortunately, the chief butler did not remember him for some time. Joseph could’ve had a horrible attitude towards life. When his brothers came before him, he could have taken his revenge. Instead, he did what he did to bring them to a point of repentance (I don’t have time to get into that right now) and reconciled with them. But, after their father Jacob died, the brothers were afraid that Joseph would try to take his revenge now. Instead, he said to them, “You meant evil against me but God meant it for good.” Don’t miss this: He didn’t excuse their behavior. Neither did he blame them for everything. By the way, blame is a tell-tale sign that you are still not over your past and you’re not ready to move forward. Instead, he simply chose to affirm the sovereignty of God in his life. To say it another way—the son succeeded where the father failed!

Listen carefully: For every negative experience in your life, God has given you a positive one. You have to choose to see it:

  • You have to choose to see the sovereign hand of God guiding you and protecting you as you walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
  • You have to choose to praise God than to curse those who have caused you pain.
  • You have to choose to proclaim “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” rather than to moan “All these things are against me.”

Unless you have the proper view of the sovereignty of God in your life and in this world, you will not have the confidence to face whatever lies ahead and win. Are you a Jacob or a Joseph? 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.

Inheritance by Dr. Shah

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

Introduction: Few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a sheep farm nearby. It was incredible! What got me was when the sheep saw their owner, they immediately went to him! Now, I was standing nearby but they kept eyeing me. It reminded me of what Jesus said in John 10:5 “the sheep will by no means follow a stranger…” Then the owner told me to step near and pet them. I did, and one by one they came near. What was most fascinating to me was how their owner knew each of them by name. To me they were all the same but he could tell the difference. Again, just like Jesus said in John 10:3 “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” So also, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows each of his sheep by name. You can pretend to be his sheep but there is a day of judgment coming when he will identify his own and the test will be acts of compassion done in his name. Those who belong to him will receive an inheritance but those who don’t will receive everlasting fire. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, and the message is titled “INHERITANCE.”

Matthew 25    31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feedYou, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Question: Which ones are you? Are you the sheep or are you the goat? Will you receive an inheritance or will you go into the everlasting fire? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is the 3rd of the 3 parables that Jesus gave in his famous Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 & 25. If you remember from the last weekend, it was the message Jesus preached on the Mount of Olives where he explained to his disciples how things will be at the end of the age when he returns.

  • The message of the 1st Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids was “Be prepared. Jesus is coming back at a time you’re least expecting.”
  • The message of the 2nd Parable of the Talents was “Don’t just stand there. Use the money God has given to you to build his kingdom and make profit.”
  • The message of the 3rd Parable of the Sheep and the Goats was Jesus is coming again but this time to judge and his judgment is not based on our confession but our compassion towards the least of these.

 So, let’s examine the parable of the Sheep and the Goats carefully. (By the way, this is not really a parable like the others. It is more like a brief analogy with a long explanation. Hence, we will focus a lot on the explanation than the story.) Listen again to Matthew 25:31“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” In other words, Jesus is coming again but this time it is not to be laid in the manger but to sit on the throne, the judgment seat.

First, let’s talk about the importance of judgment. Repeatedly, the Old Testament refers to God as the Judge. Genesis 18:25 “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Psalm 75:7 “But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” Isaiah 30:18 “For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Why is judgment so important to God? Because God’s judgment is the natural outflow of God’s holiness. Sin disrupts God’s holiness and judgment sets everything right. If you think that judgment is unnecessary, then you don’t understand the holiness of God nor the horribleness of sin. There is a connection between holiness and judgment. Listen to Isaiah 5:16 “But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God who is holy shall be hallowed in righteousness.” Also, Psalm 50     1 The Mighty One, God the LORD, has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. 3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: 5 “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6 Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge.”

Question: Do you believe there’s a judgment coming? Do you truly understand the holiness of God and the horribleness of sin?

What’s unique in this parable is that Jesus is given the role of the judge. Why? Because of the title “the Son of Man.” Listen again to Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” It is also found a chapter later in Matthew 26:64 Jesus said to him (high priest), “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” That designation “Son of Man” implies that, as prophesied in Daniel 7, Jesus came as a representative of God. Not only that but lest anyone say “You don’t understand what we go through,” he was also fully man. Who has given him this authority? John 5    26 “For as the Father… 27 … has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.”

What will this judgment be about? 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him…” Lot of discussion has been centered around those words. The Old Testament does talk about a “Judgment of the Nations.” Joel 3:2 “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.” So also, Isaiah 2     3 “…For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people…” Bottom line: God will deal with nations and peoples throughout history based on how they treated the people of Israel.

In the midst of this judgment, there will be a judgment of compassion. The sheep are put on the right side and the goats on the left. (By the way, this does not mean that sheep are better animals than goats. It’s just an analogy.) What is the basis of the positive judgment towards the sheep? Listen again to verse 34 “…Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” The sheep are confused because they don’t remember seeing Jesus hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. 40 And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Who are the least of these My brethren? Some think that they are Jewish people but their leadership was rejecting him. Others think that they are the disciples but he was speaking to them. Still others think that they might be Christians or even Christian missionaries. There were no “Christians” or “Christian missionaries” yet. There was one more group—the poor and the less fortunate. This made up the majority of the people who followed Jesus. This is where the context helps us. This is who Jesus had in mind. And, yes, many times, his own followers (believers) are poor and less fortunate even today.

How about those goats on the other side? Listen again to verse 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: Why? Because they didn’t show any acts of compassion. They refused to help those hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. In the process, they didn’t help Christ. 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

For e.g. Someone refused to help me during a snow storm a couple of years ago. They wouldn’t even let me park in their driveway.

Big Question: Doesn’t this contradict the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone? This is the old Paul vs James debate. Galatians 5    13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Ephesians 2     8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Another big question: Doesn’t this bring condemnation to believers? Yes, we can have assurance of salvation—I Corinthians 3:15 “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Don’t forget that this same Paul also said—2 Corinthians 5    10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” Ultimately, Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Invitation: Which group do you belong to? Are you saved or lost? Will you be able to stand on the day of judgment? How are your acts of compassion?

Abundance by Dr. Shah

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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?

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