Watch by Dr. Abidan Shah

Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Produce by Pastor Abidan Shah

Produce

PRODUCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application: Are you a merciful person?

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

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

Neighbor by Pastor Abidan Shah

NEIGHBOR by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOW THE BIG REVEAL!

Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: “The best things in life are free.” True or false? True. How about “There’s no such thing as free lunch.” In other words, there’s nothing truly free in this life. Somebody has to pay for it. True or false? True. Which one is truer? Both are just as true. So also, when it comes to our salvation, it is a free gift. It doesn’t cost us a thing to be saved but it cost Jesus his life. No, you don’t have to pay anything for your salvation but salvation means that now you are a disciple of Jesus and everything you have belongs to your Master. Have you counted the cost of discipleship? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we will try to understand the cost of discipleship and that is the title of our message today–COST.

Luke 14     25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Question: Do you have an unfinished spiritual tower? Are you way over your head in a spiritual battle? Are you truly saved? Are you a disciple or just an uncommitted, wishy-washy fence-sitter?

Context:  How do you picture Jesus 2000 years ago when he came the first time? Do you see him as a solitary figure praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? Do you see him with his 12 disciples? Maybe walking through the fields or sailing on the Sea of Galilee? Maybe you see him sitting on a mountaintop with a small crowd seated on the side of the mountain preaching the beatitudes. Listen once again to verse 25 “Now great multitudes went with Him.” Can you picture that? Imagine walking with the huge crowds of people at the state fair. It’s overwhelming to say the least! Now imagine that ten times worse and everyone is trying to get to one person! Why were they following Jesus? Of course, some like the disciples were committed to him. They had accepted the call to discipleship but many had not. They were following him for Food (Walking/Talking Cafeteria), Miracles (Mobile E/R), and Preaching (New and Different). Jesus being God knew that and he stopped, turned around, and declared—26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Does it mean that we have to literally hate our family in order to follow Jesus? Of course not. In Greek, when influenced by Hebrew and the Old Testament, the words “love” and “hate” can mean “choose” and “not choose.” For example:  Malachi 1     2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” So also, Jesus wants us to pick him over any earthly relationship. By the way, this is not the first time that Jesus had made such a statement. In Luke 9 someone told him 57 “…Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air havenests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: My father’s testimony of leaving his family to follow Christ.

Application: How about you? Is some relationship getting in the way of discipleship? Why do you go to church? Will you sacrifice your spiritual life for friendship?

Something else in verse 27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” There is an immediacy to this call. It doesn’t mean that you follow flippantly. It means go now. Just like the passage from Luke 9 “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” and “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: Again, my father left that very night. If not, he would’ve stayed.

Application: What is keeping you from committing your life fully to Christ? Are you waiting for things to settle down? Are you waiting to have all your fun and then give what’s left over to God? Listen to what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12     1 “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: 2 While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain.”

Now Jesus gives 2 parables to show what lack of counting the cost and following fully looks like: 

1. Tower Builder: We’re not told why the individual decided to build this tower. Maybe it was for agricultural purposes to watch over the fields or maybe it was for military purposes to watch the enemy. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this awkward unfinished structure is standing now in the front yard that does nothing. Now it is a monument to shame. Listen to verse 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” They were probably saying things like “Are you going to hang clothes on it?” “Maybe you can tie your goats in it,” or “You should sell it. Oh wait, you can’t move it, can you?” Why did this happen? Because he didn’t count the cost of building—28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a tower going nowhere! Is that you? To give another analogy, they have these half-baked, soupy, uncooked, and unfinished Christian life.

2. King on a Warpath: Unlike the last parable, the consequence of failing to count the cost in this parable is deadly. This king thought that he was big and bad with his 10,000 soldiers only to find out that the other side had 20,000! You’re about to get a whooping! Again, why did this happen? 31 “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a defeated army. After all these years of playing Christians, the promises in the Bible still don’t work. Unfortunately, people blame God for those defeats. Is that you?

Question: Have you considered the cost of following Christ? Are you willing to follow him in order to be saved? Some people may ask at this point—“Isn’t this works salvation?” Don’t misunderstand. Following Jesus is always the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. Listen to Philippians 2     12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

We need to rethink what we have believed about getting saved. Listen to 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. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.Are you willing to lay aside your old ways and step into the good works that God has prepared beforehand for you?

Invitation:  Are you willing to get saved? Are you ready to be a disciple? Maybe you are already saved but you haven’t become a disciple, today is the day. Maybe you are lost, are you ready to do it the right way and be his disciple right from the start.

Reward by Pastor Abidan Shah

REWARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How do you feel when someone breaks in line ahead of you? It happens in grocery stores, on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. You’ve been standing patiently in a line and then some inconsiderate jerk decides to jump ahead! Sometimes, it happens on the highways. There is a merge sign 5 miles back and you do the right thing but people keep driving past. Then they try to butt in right before the lane ends and some bleeding heart lets them in! It’s so unfair! So also, God’s grace can sometimes appear unfair by our standards. We expect God to honor our lines of justice, fairness, and seniority but he operates by his own lines of goodness and mercy. Just when we think we are next in line for his rewards for all the good and faithful service we’ve done, God puts us at the back of the line! We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The message is titled “REWARD.”

Matthew 20     1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, “Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are. Which laborer are you? Are you the one who came early or are you the one who came late? If you came late to God, are you working hard to make up for lost time? If you came early to God, are you still working hard for him or have you lost your focus? Have you become envious of the newcomers? Or maybe you are part of the third group who is still standing idle in the marketplace. It means that you’re lost. The Master is calling you. It’s time to get saved.

Context: The parable we just read is deemed by scholars as one of the three most difficult parables of Jesus. The reason it’s difficult is because it’s hard to identify whom Jesus meant when he said in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Were the “first” the “Pharisees and the scribes” and the “last” the “tax collectors and sinners”? Or were the “last” the “disciples of Jesus”? In my opinion, we have to begin 15 verses earlier in Matthew 19:16f to understand the true context of the parable. Here Jesus had the famous encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. Remember, he came to Jesus and asked him what he should do to have eternal life and Jesus told him to keep the commandments—“You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” etc. The young man very confidently replied, “I’ve already done them. What’s next?” Then Jesus raised the difficulty level and said to him in verse 21 “…If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Why did Jesus tell him that? After all, Jesus didn’t say that to Nicodemus who was also a very rich man. In fact, if you remember, he actually said the opposite when the woman broke the expensive alabaster flask of perfume at his feet. When people complained that it could have been used to help the poor, Jesus defended her and said in Mark 14:6 “Let her alone…She has done a good work for Me.” The reason Jesus told the young man to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him is because he was possessed by his possessions. Listen carefully: There is a big difference between you possessing riches and riches possessing you. You possessing riches is not a problem. There were many rich people in the Bible and many rich Christians throughout history. On the other hand, riches possessing you is a problem. It is not based on how much money you have in your bank account. It’s your attitude towards money. You can have only two dollars in your name but those two dollars can control your life. This young man was not ready for Jesus because he already had a god. As a result, he walked away sorrowful. Please don’t forget: Coming to Jesus does not mean you have to give up everything. It simply means that now Jesus is everything. That is a very hard thing to do if you are possessed by your possessions. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples in verse 23 “…Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were shocked at this statement and asked in verse 25 “Who then can be saved?” and Jesus replied in verse 26 “…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Application: Are you the rich young ruler? Are you possessed by your possessions? God can help you. He is not here to take your money. He wants to give you eternal life.

Now Peter in his characteristic manner takes this opportunity to gain some points—27“See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Unlike this rich young ruler who refused to part with his wealth, they had left all and followed Jesus. He wants to know what will be their reward? 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” I can imagine the twelve disciples thinking “Yes! Payday is coming!” Jesus being God knew what they were thinking and he said in the next line—30 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” You can almost hear the disciples say, “Wait! What? Isn’t it first we give and then we get and those who give first, get first.” Listen carefully: Even though the disciples had given up their earthly possessions to follow Jesus, they were still operating by earthly principlesTo counter this, Jesus gave the parable of Laborers in the Vineyard. Think about the parable again—The landowner had gone out early in the morning to get laborers to work in his vineyard. Those who came early in the morning were the first disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the other 8. Since there weren’t enough laborers, the landowner went back at the third hour. Still they weren’t enough and he went back at the sixth hour, the ninth hour, and the eleventh hour. Everything was great until it was time for the wages. The disciples were thinking that they were going to be the new leaders, replacing the Pharisees and the scribes. They were going to get the motherlode of the rewards. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way in the kingdom. First, the order got reversed. The eleventh hour once got paid first. Second, the eleventh-hour people got the same amount promised to the first hour people and the first hour people didn’t get any extra reward. Don’t misunderstand: We are not talking about the rewards in heaven. I Corinthians 3:8 “…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” The reward in this life are the presence of God, the gift of the Spirit, the joy of the Lord, the peace that passes all understanding, the riches in Christ. The first ones don’t get an extra helping! Unfortunately, church people like to act like they have an extra helping when they encounter the 11th hour people. We like to show off Bible knowledge, our spirituality, our understanding of the deep things of God, etc. God says, “You are all on the same level to me.” I believe that the greatest evangelists and Christian heroes and heroines have yet to be born. Again, don’t misunderstand: We are not saying that any new believer can get up and start teaching and preaching. I Timothy 3:6 tell us that an overseer should not “a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” Having said that, we don’t have levels of membership at Clearview.

Application: How do you see other believers who are less mature than you? How do you treat people who do not know the Bible as well as you? How do you treat people who are still struggling in their spiritual walk?

When the first hour people began to fuss12 “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’” Their problem was envy. Then Jesus made the same statement from Matthew 19:30 in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Invitation: Have you heard the call? Have you answered his call? Are you saved? This may be the 11th hour for you.

Debt: Part 2 by Pastor Shah

DEBT – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Change in perspective

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

  • Power of the Holy Spirit

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

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

Forgiven by Pastor Abidan Shah

FORGIVEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: There’s an old saying, “There are 2 things in life that you can take for granted: death and taxes.” I beg to differ. I think there are 3 things: death, taxes, and debt. Unfortunately, all of us are under one debt or another – credit card debt, medical debt, student loan debt, auto loan debt, home mortgage debt, and the list goes on and on. Someone said “If you don’t think anyone cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of loan payments and someone will find you!” Now imagine if someone were to come to you and say, “I’ve paid off all your debt. You don’t owe anything ever.” How would you feel? Ecstatic, relieved, grateful. That’s exactly what Jesus did for us! Sin is a debt that we owe to a holy God that we can never repay. Jesus came and paid the debt with his own life. Our response now should be gratefulness manifested in love and obedience to him. The title of our message today is FORGIVEN in our series on the Parables of Jesus.

Luke 7    41“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the onewhom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. In this parable, sin is a debt; God is the creditor; and you and I are debtors to a holy God. How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as the one who owed much or do you see yourself as the one who owed little? Do you see yourself as a “wretch” in need of God’s Amazing Grace or do you see yourself as the “not so bad after all”? Are you saved?

Context:The Parable of the Two Debtors is a short simple story but with a deep, profound, and life-changing truth. To get at this truth, you have to examine this parable in its original context. The context is the account of the woman who came to Jesus when he was having a meal at someone’s home and did something very odd. She began to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipe them with her hair, and then proceeded to anoint his feet with fragrant oil. (Again, just like the Parable of the Prodigal Son, this one has also been a favorite of painters throughout history.) At first encounter, we’re shocked by this bizarre incident! It appears so unbelievable! What woman in her right mind would do that to a man without being forced to? You may think that this may have been acceptable by ancient standards but that’s not so when you see the reaction of the onlookers. They are just as much repulsed! Not only that but why would Jesus allow something like this? Was he just a male chauvinist who believed that women were below men? Did he enjoy this woman groveling at his feet? Of course not. Then there is a bigger question – how do we handle a story like this in today’s cultural climate? It appears highly offensive in our time with Fourth-Wave Feminism, Women’s Empowerment, Me-Too Movement, and even Radical Feminism. It is unthinkable on so many levels! 

Listen carefully – If you believe that this book is the Word of God, then there is a reason why the Holy Spirit laid it on the hearts of the Gospel Writers to include it in their individual gospels. Also remember, the Bible has always elevated the status of women in society. Contrary to other teachers and leaders, Jesus always uplifted women. In this message, we will discover what the real reason is for this account.

Before we dive in, I need to clarify something: The Parable of the Two Debtors is only found here in Luke’s Gospel but all four gospels mention an incident of a woman anointing Jesus. Are they all referring to the same incident? There are similarities and then there are differences in the 4 accounts. I don’t have time to deal with all the issues here but this is what I believe – There were 2 different anointings of Jesus but one and the same woman who did them both. The woman is none other than Mary of Bethany, Lazarus and Martha’s sister. The first is the anointing of gratefulness for her salvation and the second is the anointing for Jesus’ burial. In Luke it is the first anointing of gratefulness for salvation. With that said, let’s look at it now:

Luke 7    36“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him…” Again, remember the “Table Fellowship” of the Pharisees. They believed that all Jewish people should live according to the priestly laws and every dinner table should be as the altar in the temple. So, repeatedly, the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine at their homes. (Luke 11:37; 14:1) It may be because they were moved by Jesus’ teachings and desired his holy presence at their homes. But, unfortunately, they ended up judging him for not washing his hands and associating with tax collectors and sinners. Same thing happened this time. 37And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner…” More than likely, this implies that she was a prostitute or a woman who lived for one affair after another. She may also have been a powerful woman. If not, the servants would’ve stopped her. “…when she knew thatJesussat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38and stood at His feet behindHimweeping…” During formal meals, the people would recline at the table, angling away from the food. Also, banquets were not as private as we have in the West. Houses were typically open and common people could come in, stand on the sidelines, and watch. Then something happened –“…and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wipedthemwith the hair of her head…” For a woman to let down her hair in that culture was seen as a seductive and shameful act (Snodgrass). The big difference is her tears.“…and she kissed His feet…” Kissing the feet was the ultimate way to show someone honor, gratitude, and submission.“…and anointedthemwith the fragrant oil.” Now, anointing with oil was not something unusual. Exodus 30:30 “And you (Moses) shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that theymay minister to Me as priests.” 1 Samuel 16:13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointedhim (David) in the midst of his brothers…”Psalm 23:5“…You anoint my head with oil…” But, anointing the feet would be very unusual. Even more so, anointing the feet with fragrant oil or perfume would be almost offensive. If she was a prostitute or a loose woman, then this was coming from her work!

What in the world is going on? The Gospel writers don’t tell us but more than likely Jesus had transformed her life. He had set her free from the debt of sin. She had come to realize what an awful life she was living. All her life she had used men and men had used her until she met Jesus. He was the only man who did not come to take from her but to give to her truth, love, joy, and peace. More than anything, he had given her something that no one else could – forgiveness. Earlier in Luke 5, Jesus had declared his power to forgive sins when he had saidto the paralyzed man, 20“…Man, your sins are forgiven you.”21And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”22But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? 24But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.” The religious leaders doubted Jesus’ power to forgive sins but not her. Her entire act of washing his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, and then anointing his feet with fragrant oil was to demonstrate her gratefulness for the forgiveness through Christ.

What is the reaction of the Pharisee? 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him sawthis,he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of womanthis iswho is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” Jesus was/is much more than a prophet. He saw what was in his heart. 40And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” Now Jesus gives the Parable of the Two Debtors. The first one owed the creditor 500 denarii (more than a year and a half’s wages) and the second owed only 50 denarii (barely two month’s wages).42And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the onewhom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Now listen to the powerful contrast drawn by Jesus – 44Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wipedthemwith the hair of her head. 45You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47Therefore I say to you, her sins, which aremany, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the sameloves little.” Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that the Pharisee sinned less than the woman or that his sins were forgiven too. The Pharisee invited Jesus into his home but he never invited Jesus into his heart. The point is “how do you see your sin?” “Do you see it as a debt against a holy God?” That’s how the Bible sees it. In the Old Testament, the Year of the Jubilee was the call for the cancelling of debts. Luke 11:4 “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Jesus came to fulfill Isaiah 61:1as quoted in Luke 4    18“…to heal the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captivesand recovery of sight to the blind,to set at liberty those who are oppressed;19To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” As a result of the forgiveness of the sin debt, love begins to flow towards the Forgiver. This woman was so overwhelmed by her forgiveness that she did what she did. We’re not done yet – 48Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” How does faith fit into all this? Faith and Love are 2 sides of the same coin. Love is faith in action and faith is love in belief.

Are you lost? How do you see yourself? Are you saved? How do you see yourself? 1 Timothy 1:15“This isa faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

Prodigal by Pastor Abidan Shah

PRODIGAL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Has anyone here ever been lost? Thank goodness we’re living in the age of GPS technology. How did we survive before that! What is worse than getting lost? Its losing someone, especially a child. Have you ever lost your kids? If I’m not wrong, we have lost all of them at least once. One of them we locked in the church, twice! It’s a horrible feeling! There’s a kind of lostness that no GPS can fix and its nothing to laugh about. It is spiritual lostness. It is much more than just losing your way or being temporarily out of sight. It is rushing headlong away from God and towards the eternal chasm. It’s only through Jesus Christ that we can be found or saved before it’s too late. Our message today is titled “PRODIGAL” in our series on the parables of Jesus.

Luke 15     11Then He (Jesus)said: “A certain man had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to hisfather, “Father, give me the portion of goods that fallsto me.’ So he divided to themhislivelihood. 13And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave himanything.17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ 20“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and putiton him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals onhisfeet. 23And bring the fatted calf here and killit,and let us eat and be merry; 24for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

Question:  Parables are like mirrors. They expose to us who we are. Who are you in this parable? Are you the lost son? Are you one of the onlookers? Are you seeking the lost? Are you rejoicing over their salvation? If you’re lost, do you hear the Savior calling your name? Take the hand of Jesus and be saved today. 

Context: The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most popular parables of Jesus. It’s up there with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Many artists, especially the old Dutch Masters and Baroque painters, loved painting the scene of the Prodigal Son. The story is so simple and so true to life that we cannot help but be moved by it.Unfortunately, this parable is often misunderstood. To understand the true intent of this parable, we need to ask the question – “Why did Jesus give the Parable of the Prodigal Son?” To answer that, we have to understand the context in which Jesus gave this story. We have to back up to Luke 15and verse 1Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’ 3So He spoke this parable to them…” The reason for the parable was the Pharisees’ complaint against Jesus’ eating habits – his frequent dining with tax collectors and sinners (prostitutes, soldiers, business owners, and gentiles). 

Why did the Pharisees have a problem with Jesus’ dinner company? Do you remember when we talked about the “Table Fellowship” of the Pharisees? They called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. They believed that what you put inside you is what makes you holy or unholy before God. Not only that but who you eat with is also very important. Here’s a case in point – Luke 11    37And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. 38When the Pharisee sawit,he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.Listen to Jesus’ response: 39Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. 40Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 42“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone…” What was the response? Now Jesus had 2 groups of people around him: the haters and the fans. The Pharisees hated him even more and the lost people loved him even more! In this tense context, Jesus gave this parable!By the way, it’s not “parables” plural but “parable” singular. It has 2 short stories and one long one:

#1 Lost Sheep – Luke 15      4“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? Don’t read more into it than is intended. The imagery is of a helpless lost sheep. The shepherd knows that if he doesn’t go after the sheep, it is a matter of time before it is killed or seriously hurt. So also, we are to seek after the tax collectors and sinners as helpless lost sheep. 5And when he has foundit,he laysiton his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls togetherhisfriends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. What’s the point? You should be happy to see the tax collectors and sinners around Jesus!

#2 Lost Coin – Luke 15      8“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she findsit?Again, don’t read more into it than is intended. The imagery is of a valuable coin. The word for coin is “drachma” which was like a “denarius,” one day’s pay for a laborer. This meant a lot for a common woman in those days. So also, we are to seek after the tax collectors and sinners as invaluable coins to be retrieved. 9And when she has foundit,she calls herfriends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” What’s the point? You should be happy to see the tax collectors and sinners repenting before God!

#3 Lost Son –The father had 2 sons: the older who responsibly served his father and the younger one who did everything opposite:

  • To start with, he was rude and ungrateful – 11“Father, give me the portion of goods that fallsto me.”
  • Next, he was immoral and self-indulgent– 13“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
  • He was alsoirresponsible – 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
  • He was degenerate and shameless– 15Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave himanything. The Mishnah and the Talmud had forbidden raising pigs. The point is that just like the prodigal son the tax collectors had joined the Romans in fleecing their own people.
  • He finally wakes up and realizes what has happened. He comes with a preplanned confession– 18“…Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”

What was the Father’s response? 20 “…But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”While the son is still giving his confession speech, the father orders the best robe, the family ring, the sandals, and a big feast with a fatted calf.

The story is not over. Here comes the real point of the story. The older son is in the field and hears what the noise and finds out what has happened. What was his response?28“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29So he answered and said to hisfather, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.”Who is really disrespectful and ungrateful now? The older son! He knows better. The Pharisees and scribes should have known better but they were disrespecting Jesus.

What was the father’s response? 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.Again, don’t read more into it than is intended. It does not mean that the Pharisees and the scribes were saved.32It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” 

Invitation:How many Christians and churches need to hear this parable today! We are so quick to look down on our culture and the depravity around us that we fail to see the lost as the helpless sheep, the invaluable coin, and the unworthy son.

Jesus did not compromise with sinners or condemned them. Instead, he converted them. How about us? Are you the lost sheep, the lost coin, or the lost son or daughter? Come today and be saved.

Vicious Cycle by Pastor Abidan Shah

VICIOUS CYCLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Have you ever made the same mistake twice or thrice or more times? Have you ever found yourself saying – “I knew better.” I love spaghetti but spaghetti and white shirts are magnets. It seems like every time I eat spaghetti I am wearing a white shirt and it’s a matter of time before there’s a red spot on my shirt. It’s a vicious cycle. That is very very trivial compared to what is happening in our country. We are about to make the same mistake that other ancient cultures that were very advanced for their time also made and they suffered total extinction. We are talking about the issue of abortion. We think that it’s no big deal but we are about to repeat a very vicious cycle of self-destruction. The message is called “VICIOUS CYCLE.”

Deuteronomy 12     29“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

Question: Are you aware of the debate that is taking place in our country today regarding late term abortion? New York passed a bill that would allow abortion after the 24thweek and as late as the 40thweek. By the way, there were eight other states that already had no gestational limits – Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington DC. According to the CDC, only 1.3% of the abortions are after 21 weeks. How many is that? If there were 638,169 abortions per year recently, that’s about 8000 late term abortions in a year in America. It’s right there with gun related murders and yet abortion is okay but guns are not. Last week, many of you saw the video of delegate in Virginia introducing a similar bill in the House of Delegates. Where do you stand? What do you think about life? It’s an issue that affects all of us. Do you have eternal life? Are you saved?Pray: Holy Spirit – give us biblical convictions. Help us to stand for the innocent, especially those who don’t have a voice. Save the lost.

Context: As many of you know that we went to Israel in January. When I was planning the tour, I purposely chose to include some Middle Bronze cities. Middle Bronze is the period between 1800-1550. This is the time period immediately following the time of Abraham and before the coming of Moses. This was very important to me because they represented the time period before the people of Israel entered Egypt. So, we went to 6 cities that came from that era – Megiddo, Hazor, Tel Dan, Beth Shan, Jericho, and Jerusalem. We wrongly think that the Canaanites or the Amorites who lived in the land that God promised to the children of Israel were just a bunch of savages. We only focus on the part of the people of Israel getting scared of the people in the land and suffering from the “grasshopper syndrome.” What we fail to realize is that they had every reason to be afraid of them. What do we know about the Middle Bronze Canaanite Cities?

1. Around the start of the Middle Bronze period, the city life was revived in the land of Canaan. For some reason, these cities began to grow and advance. They build large fortifications around their cities. They built walls that were as large as 50 feet tall, with each stone about 8-10 feet long. But they were very smart. They would build the outer walls and then build a man-made mountain followed by another wall. They built the walls in such a way that the Mesopotamian battering rams were useless against them. This was all psychological warfare. It was meant to discourage the enemy and make them feel emotionally defeated. Did it work?Deuteronomy 1:28“…Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, ‘The peoplearegreater and taller than we; the citiesaregreat and fortified up to heaven…”

2. They had some advanced water storage facilities. When an enemy would surround a city, they would first try to cut off the water supply. So, the Canaanites dug deep into the ground to find water through springs. They built cisterns to collect rain water. They even had underground drainage system. We saw similar structures in Megiddo, Hazor, and Jerusalem. They had superior hydraulic engineering that are still a work of marvel. 

3. How about farming? They knew how to plant wheat, barley, and fruits like olives, grapes, pomegranates, and everything you can imagine. They knew how to store food. They also knew how to raise sheep, cattle, camels, and all kinds of farm animals.

4. When it came to pottery, they had learned how to turn clay on a wheel. Now they could mass produce pottery. Museums have some incredibly pieces of pottery.

5. Something much more incredible happened. They learned how to make bronze. They learned how to alloy copper and tin with 90% copper and 10% tin. Now weapons could be shaped better. They could be made sharper and sturdier. (Pics of spear blades)

6. They were also known for their export business. With Egypt – grain, olive oil, cattle, timber, copper, etc. They even learned how to make glass. We find glass beads.

7. Finally, they created the ancestor of our alphabet. They didn’t want the Egyptian hieroglyph or the Mesopotamian cuneiform. They came up with 22 signs for each sound. Later the Phoenicians, the descendants of the Canaanites/Amorites standardized them. 

What’s the point of all this?The Canaanites or the Amorites were a very advanced people. They were at the height of their power, technological advance, and prosperity. Nonetheless, their time was up.Archaeologists still don’t have any solid answer why they collapsed. Was it drought? Was the threat of Egypt too much to bear?

Leviticus 20     1Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who givesanyof his descendants to Molech…” Meaning:  He was a Canaanite god to whom the people offered their children as a sacrifice in the Valley of Hinnom, to the South of Jerusalem. Archaeologists/guides will tell you that they did not find any bones of children in this area. But, the descendants of the Canaanites/Amorites were the Phoenicians who later established a colony in Carthage, North Africa (Tunisia) who practiced child sacrifice. We can learn about the Canaanites from them:

  • Cleitarchus, a Greek historian of Alexander the Great, wrote: “Out of reverence for Kronos, the Phoenicians, and especially the Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity if they are especially eager to gain success.” 
  • Siculus, a Greek historian, wrote – “There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.”
  • Plutarch, a Greek writer, added that “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”
  • There are tophets, burial sites for the urns with markers. One such says that the parents sacrificed a defective child with the hopes of getting a healthy one. Isn’t that the same with amniocentesis if congenital abnormalities are suspected? 

Let’s come back to Leviticus 20    2 “…‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who givesanyof his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has givensomeof his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. 4And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he givessomeof his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, 5then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.”

Deuteronomy 12     29“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess…” Meaning: The Middle Bronze Cities of Canaan were under God’s judgment and he was going to use the Children of Israel to destroy them. Instead, they got scared of their height and their city walls. Listen again to what God said to them –30take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” Child sacrifice was a major sin against God. That’s why God destroyed them and wanted the land cleansed. Now you cannot find any trace of the Canaanites. If I were building a church building on a piece of property and adjacent to that property, there used to be some cult site. What’s the first thing that I would do? I would clean up the place. Later Josiah cleansed that valley as well.

Same thing with the Phoenicians: People tried to claim that all this was just propaganda by their enemies. Dr. Josephine Quinn (Oxford University) said in 2014 – “Perhaps the reason the people who established Carthage and its neighbours left their original home of Phoenicia – modern-day Lebanon – was because others there disapproved of their unusual religious practice.

Will we go down the way of the Canaanites, the Amorites, and the Pheonicans?

Psalm 139     13For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfullyandwonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And thatmy soul knows very well. 15My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, Andskillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there werenone of them.

What do you believe about the baby inside the womb? They are not a hindrance but our example to come to Christ.

 Matthew 19    13Then little children were brought to Him that He might putHishands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Are you saved? Are you willing to come to Christ as a little child?

We’re going to see the importance of handling this issue and how we as believers should respond when faced with the topic of abortion. The title of this weekend’s message is “VICIOUS CYCLE.” Have we, like so many around us, fallen into the vicious cycle of sin? How do you view the issue of abortion? Are you saved?

Uncomfortable Obedience by Pastor Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2018)

Manger NativityIntroduction: Thank you once again for being here this evening. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, using our gifts in his service, and leading someone to Christ. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our comfort zones. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Matthew 1     18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a justman,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were in their teenage years or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Joseph today (next Christmas Eve, we may focus on Mary). He was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary was pregnant and it was not his child.What a shock. Furthermore, she was not claiming that she was raped. She was not admitting to any guilt. What a shame. What a scandal. What’s even worse is that the word on the street was that she was claiming to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Joseph must have gone through a range of emotions: Shock, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, and even hate.
  2. They were still in the betrothal period and he was not officially married to her. Even though she was his wife technically, he still had the option to walk away from her. He was not the bad guy in this. No one was blaming him. They knew him better. In fact, they were expecting him to divorce her. Not to do so would be admitting to personal guilt.

Joseph gets a visit from the Angel of the Lord telling him that what Mary is saying is true. Plus, he had to stick around and name that child. Joseph chose to obey God instead of his emotions, his culture, or his family and friends. What would you have done?

How could he do that? The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally.I John 5:3“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Joseph loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

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