Invitation by Dr. Abidan Shah

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INVITATION by Dr. Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: I’ve done a lot of weddings in my 20+ years of ministry. What I have observed is that one of the toughest things for any couple in planning their wedding is sending out the invitations—who to invite and who not to invite. Does that sound right? “If we invite so and so, then we have to invite so and so. But, if we don’t invite so and so, but invite so and so, then their feelings will get hurt.” At times, I’ve had to talk a couple or two out of eloping because they couldn’t agree over the invitation list! So also, the kingdom of God is like a wedding to which everyone is invited. Unfortunately, not everyone accepts the invitation. But, if you do accept the invitation, don’t forget it’s a gracious gift. Dress appropriately. Your confession may get you in but it’s your clothing that will keep you in. Are you dressed in Christ’s righteousness? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we coming to the final parable of the Wedding Banquet and the message is titled “INVITATION.”

Matthew 22      1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, “Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Question: As you know by now, parables are like a mirror. You have to see yourself in the story and ask which character you are playing. Are you the invitee who made light of the invitation and went his way? Are you the invitee who seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them? Have you ever received the invitation? If not, here it is—Jesus, the Son of God, came 2000 years ago in the form of a baby, lived a sinless perfect life, preached the good news, and then gave his life on the cross for our sins. He was buried and he rose again on the third day, according to scriptures. If you repent and believe in him, you can have forgiveness and life everlasting.

Context: The parable of the wedding banquet is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. As you know by now, the context is the key that helps us understand its correct meaning. To understand the context of this parable, we have to back up to Matthew 21    14 Then theblind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant.” I want to focus on the blind and the lame for a moment. Why were the chief priests and the scribes so indignant over the blind and the lame coming to Jesus in the temple? It could be because of a misunderstanding of Leviticus 21. Listen to verse 16 onwards—And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying: ‘No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame…21 No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the LORD…22 He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy; 23 only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I the LORD sanctify them.’” On first reading, those words seem so cruel and heartless? Does that mean that God discriminates against those who are sick, weak, and cannot help their circumstances? Of course not! If you read further at Leviticus 22, it will begin to make more sense, starting in verse 17 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, who offers his sacrifice for any of his vows or for any of his freewill offerings, which they offer to the LORD as a burnt offering— 19 you shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. 20 Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf. 21 …it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. 22 Those that are blind or broken or maimed…you shall not offer to the LORD25 …because their corruption is in them, and defects are in them. They shall not be accepted on your behalf.’” Why was there so much emphasis on being perfect? Because sin is imperfection and it can only be countered with perfection. All these sacrifices were simply a picture of the sacrifice of the perfect lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Listen to what Peter says in I Peter 1    18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” What happens when we receive Jesus as our Savior? Our sin is countered with his holiness. Now, we are made perfect and holy before God as he is.

Application: What sacrifice are you bringing before God? Are you still trying to offer your defective and broken sacrifice to God? The only one acceptable is Jesus Christ.

With that in mind, let’s return to the parable: The king arranged a marriage for his son and send out his servants to those invited to come to the wedding. It appears that the wedding invitation had already gone out and this was simply a reminder that the dinner was ready. Surprisingly, they were not willing to come! He sent out other servants to plead with the guests saying “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. The Greek word for “to make light of it” is “ameleo,” which means “to have no care for” or “be unconcerned.” Question: Is that you? God’s invitation is coming to you but you are making light of it, you have no care for it. Do you think you are too good for it?

But some went beyond that. 6 “And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.” Keep in mind that this parable is coming to us in the language of Israel’s history but the application is to all of us. Throughout history, God has sent his messengers to different peoples with the gospel. Some have accepted and some have rejected. People ask me what happens to those who haven’t heard the gospel. My answer to them is that many times people haven’t heard because servants and missionaries who went with the gospel were treated spitefully and killed. Nonetheless, our job is to go or send others. That’s what the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is all about. What was the king’s response? 7 “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” That’s judgment. Listen to what Jesus said in John 12:48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” Don’t forget: Grace is amazing because there is a judgment!

The king decides to revise his list—8 Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.” 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. The word for highways is the Greek word “diexodos” which means the place where the street leaves the city limits and goes into the open country. Translators made it highway, which is technically okay but not in the sense of our highways today. What is the significance of this? In the city limits, you could find the lame and the blind on the street corners but these are those who are not even worthy to come inside the city limits!

Illustration: My father did not grow up in a Christian home. He never even went to a church. He was one of those who were outside the city limits. By the grace of God, he was invited to the banquet and he came!

Just when you think that the parable is done, there is a twist in the story. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.” Just like today, weddings are special occasions. You want to put on the best that you have. The man may have been poor, blind, and lame but he could have put on his Sunday best for the wedding. Apparently, he didn’t care! 12 So he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” Application: You may have been the blind and the lame. You may have grown up in a rough situation. You may have gone through a rough past. But, when it comes to the kingdom of God, it doesn’t give you the excuse to live as you please. Is that you?

What was the consequence? 13 Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Listen carefully: Your confession will be powerless on the other side. God will also look at your clothing. What is your clothing? Isaiah 61:10 “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herselfwith her jewels.” Paul sings out from the New Testament—Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” How is your spiritual attire this morning? Are you clothed in his righteousness? Do people see Christ in you? Are you saved?

Cornerstone by Dr. Abidan Shah

Cornerstone

CORNERSTONE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obedient by Pastor Abidan Shah

OBEDIENT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many parents have ever said these words to their children – “Who is the parent here: me or you?” “Why? Because I said so, that’s why.” “As long as you live under my roof, you’ll do as I say.”My favorite: “When I was your age…” The goal of all these statements is to get our kids to obey us. So also, God repeatedly commands us in his word to obey him. He is our Heavenly Father who wants our total, immediate, and cheerful obedience. Partial, delayed, and disgruntled obedience is also disobedience. We’re in our series on the Parables of Jesus and today we come to the Parable of the Two Sons and our message is titled “OBEDIENT.”

Matthew 21    28“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘Igo,sir,’ but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of hisfather?” They said to Him, “The first.”

Question:  As you know, parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. Who are you in that story? Are you the son who said “yes” to his father but didn’t go or are you the son who said “no” but actually went? Is there disobedience in your life? Is God your Heavenly Father? Only through Christ you can be his child.

Context: The parables that we’ve looked at so far have been generic parables, applicable more or less to all the people who were listening to Jesus. The parable we just read is a specific parable, applicable especially to the religious leaders. There were 2 groups of people in Jesus’ audience: the religious crowd and the “out crowd.”Jesus gave this parable to confront the stubbornness of the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Sadducees in rejecting him. To understand this, we have to look at the context of the parable starting in Matthew 21:23Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”In essence, they were saying to Jesus, “We’re in charge. You have to prove to us who you are before you do anything around here.” Now, keep in mind, they had a legitimate reason to question Jesus. Just the day before he had cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. If their hearts had been truly open to him, they would’ve known that everything that Jesus did was fulfilling prophecies given about the Messiah and the temple. Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Malachi had talked about this. Listen to Malachi 3:1“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.” Can you get any clearer than that? But, since they were rejecting him and refusing to obey him, they couldn’t see that.

Listen carefully: Obedience brings Illumination. Disobedience breeds Incomprehension. F.B. Meyeronce said, “If a man refuses to obey the truth, so far as it is revealed to him, the glimmering light dies out from his soul, and his eyes become dimmed, so that he cannot see.”

Application:Is there some disobedience in your life? Is there some place in your life that God has shown you what to do and you are still refusing to obey him? Just know that disobedience will always breed incomprehension. Many people are stuck in their spiritual lives because they are refusing to obey God at some command in their life.

So how did Jesus answer the religious leaders when they questioned his authority? He didn’t pull out his list of endorsements. Instead, he asked them a question – 24“…I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” This was not some brain teaser or some riddle that Jesus used to dodge their question. He was making a very important point – Since the religious leaders had rejected John’s authority, there was no need to explain the source of his authority. Their disobedience to John had left them unable to understand what he was doing.

At this point Jesus gave the Parable of the Two Sons. It’s a very simple parable. A father had 2 sons. He commanded both to go and work in his vineyard. The first son said “no” but later regretted and went. The second said “yes” but did not go. The question is “Which of the two did the will of hisfather?” Of course, the answer is“The first.” Now Jesus gave the meaning of the parable –“Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you sawit,you did not afterward relent and believe him.”Tax collectors and Prostitutes were the lowest members of the society in that period. The Tax collectorshad sold themselves out by working for the Romans and fleecing their own people. They were considered to be unclean like the lepers. They made a house impure just by entering into it. They would even resort to beating the poor people for not paying their taxes. It was so bad at times that people fled their land, completing depopulating entire villages, because of this extortion. Eating with them was approving their actions. The Prostituteswere no better. The Bible forbade prostitution. Gentiles also looked down at prostitution as something shameful, foolish, and hurtful.  Now, John’s preaching was no feel good, positive, and ear tickling preaching.It was hard hitting, direct, and confrontational. Just when you would think that lost people (tax collectors and prostitutes) would have been offended by it, they actually obeyed from the heartwhat they heard from John. They repented. They changed their ways. What’s the result? Their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus for who he was. To the contrary, the religious crowd accepted John at first until his words began to expose their sins. Instead of confessing, repenting, and submitting to what God was saying, they began to oppose John and criticize him. They held on to their “Table Fellowship” and “dietary laws.” They were more into comparative religion, comparing how much better they were to the tax collectors and the prostitutes. What was the end result? Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”

In my time as a pastor, I have often noticed 2 kinds of people in church. There is the “in crowd” and then there is the “out crowd.” The “in crowd” are those who have grown up in church. They know the ropes. They know how to act and behave in church. They know the Christian lingo. They haven’t done anything “really bad.” The “out crowd” are those who haven’t grown up in church. They don’t know the ropes. They don’t know how things are done in church. They don’t know how to talk “Christianeese.” They have a long list of stupid things they have done in life. They have a lot of regrets. The “in crowd” has a tough time when the “out crowd” shows up. They try to tell the “out crowd” the house rules. The “out crowd” try the rules for a while and then slowly drift away because they see the hypocrisy in the “in crowd.” The “in crowd” continue in their behavior and always keep an eye out for any other “out crowd.” Which one are you?

Are you the “in crowd”? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • You love to hear great messages but you don’t do anything with them.
  • You say a word of prayer every morning but you don’t confess and repent for your sins.
  • You often complain about how terrible the world is getting and how good things used to be back in the day but you don’t take one step be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
  • You love discussing the Bible. You may even read it cover to cover but you just don’t do anything that God has commanded in the Bible. (Forgiveness, Evangelism, Giving, etc.)
  • You love going to Church but you never serve anywhere.

Are you saved? When you got saved, you made a promise to God. Are you keeping that promise? Have you created your own standard of righteousness?

Illustration: F.B. Meyer was rooming next to the great missionary C.T. Studd during some convention. His spiritual life was just up and down, nothing consistent. But then that morning he noticed that the light was on in Studd’s room at 7am. So, he remarked to him, “You have been up early.” “Yes,” said he, “I got up at four o’clock this morning. Christ always knows when I have had sleep enough, and He wakes me to have a good time with Him.” Meyer asked, “What have you been doing this morning?” And he replied, “You know that the Lord said, if you love Me, keep My commandments; and I was just looking through all the commandments that I could find and putting a tick against them if I have kept them, because I do love Him.”

Illustration: Father with the firewood story.

Are you lost?No amount of good works is going to save you. 

  • What do you have to do to be saved? You have to come to Christ to be saved. 
  • What do you have to do to be lost? Nothing. That’s Ultimate Disobedience.

Fruitful by Pastor Abidan Shah

FRUITFUL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Farm life is often romanticized in advertisements, on school field trips, and especially in country music videos. We have some farmers in our church and they’ll tell you that farming can be rewardingbut it’s far from romantic. It’s hard work, long hours, and very unpredictable. It’s not as much “She thinks my tractor’s sexy” but more like “Farmer’s Blues”! I believe that if God were to come down and choose an occupation, farming would be on the top of his list. In fact, Jesus used the analogy of a farmer sowing seeds to describe his preaching of the gospel. The seed, the word of the kingdom, falls on every heart, but it is the nature of the soil, the nature of the heart, that decides whether or not it will bear fruit.That’s the title of our message today – “Fruitful.”

Matthew 13     3Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, someseedfell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Question: What kind of a soil is your heart? Is your life bearing fruit? Do you have ears to hear? Are you saved?

Context: Before we dive in and start exploring the Parable of the Sower, we need to once again clarify the reason why Jesus used parables in his teaching. We tend to think of the parables as stories given by Jesus to make his message clearer but that’s not altogether true. The parables were used by the prophets to confront the people of God when they sinned and to expose the true condition of their hearts. A good example of this was when David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah the Hittite murdered. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David. Nathan didn’t come and say, “David, why did you sin like this?” Instead, he told him a story of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had many flocks and herds but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb, which had grown up with his family and it was like a daughter to him. She ate from his table and drank from his cup. One day, the rich man had a visitor and instead of taking from his own flock and herds to prepare the meal, he took the poor man’s only lamb. What was David’s reaction? As the Lord lives, that man will sure die and he shall have to restore four times! What is Nathan’s response? “You are the man!” David realized what had happened and he could only mouth – “I have sinned against God.”You have to think of the parables like a mirror. Why do you use a mirror? To see what condition you’re in. You don’t look in the mirror to see what condition the mirror is in or to find fault in someone else. So also, you look in the parables to see the condition of your own heart. When we come to the parables, our question should not be – “I wonder who this story is for?” That’s the mistake the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees made. Our question should be – “I wonder which character I am playing in this story.” If you do that, you will see yourself even more. If you don’t, you will never see yourself.

With that in mind, let’s look at the Parable of the Sower.To start with, it’s known as the foundational parable. As someone (Klyne Snodgrass) said, “It is theparable about parables.” In other words, the Parable of the Sower is the guide to all the parables that Jesus gave. On the surface, the story is very simple – One sower, 4 kinds of soil, and only one fruitful ground. Pick which one you are when you listen to Pastor Shah preach. Not so quick. Let’s back up for a moment and first identify each element in this story:

1. Who is the Sower? Jesus or any of us who is sharing the good news about Jesus.

2. What is the Seed? Matthew calls it the “word of the kingdom” and Luke calls it the “word of God.” Either way, it’s the gospel of the kingdom.

3. What are the different kinds of Soils? Wayside, Stony Ground, Thorny Ground, and the Good Ground. There is no problem identifying the first and the last soil.

1stSoil – Wayside

19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understandit,then the wickedonecomes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

The Wayside is the path on the side of the farms where people, animals, and wagons have travelled for so long that the ground has become hard. Of course, it represents the heart of the religious leaders – the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees. They cannot understandwhat Jesus is saying. That word in Greek “suniemi” means “to have an intelligent grasp of something that challenges one’s thinking or practice.” This is not understandas in “comprehension.” This is understandas in “reception.” For the religious leaders, it is the foot traffic of traditions and the animal wagons of rituals that have packed their heart solid. It has become stubborn towards the things of God. Unfortunately, Satan is perched nearby waiting for the opportune time to swoop in and snatch away the seeds of the gospel that lie on their hearts.

4thSoil – Good Ground

23“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understandsit,who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

The Good Ground is the heart of the disciples. They hear the word, understand it, and bear fruit. The quantity of fruit may vary but they will bear fruit.

But how about the 2ndand the 3rdSoils? Who are they?

2ndSoil – Stony Ground   20“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”

3rdSoil – Thorny Ground   22Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 

Some people have tried to identify these two soils as the immature Christians, carnal Christians, and baby Christians. They will say something like – “None of us are perfect. All of us are a work in progress. Of course, we need to be like the 4thSoil but sometimes the world gets the best of us. Other times, our own flesh gets the best of us.” Based on this kind of thinking, we have 4 kinds of people when it comes to the gospel – the lost, the saved, the sort of lost, and the sort of saved. The 1stSoil is definitely lost but the other 3 are definitely going to heaven. God grades us on a curve! He knows our hearts. Problem solved! Right? Not really. Jesus completely negated this! Listen to what he said in Matthew 13    10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

How do we solve this problem? Go back to the mirror analogy. How do you know whether or not you belong to the second or third soils? If you can see that it’s you and you are willing to change, then it’s not you. If you can’t see that it’s you, then it’s you. You can only see for yourself, not for others.

Question:

  • Has your heart become hard towards the things of God? Are you willing to let Christ soften it with his grace and mercy?
  • Has the sun of trials and tribulations been beating down on you? Do you see how shallow you are in the gospel? Are you willing to let him replant you?
  • Have you been caught among the thorns of the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches? Are you willing to let him entangle you?
  • Are you the bearing fruit but its only 30 or 60 when it could be more? Are you willing to let him prune you and fertilize you so you could bear more?

Can you not see yourself in the mirror? Come and let the Savior open your eyes.

Heart Exam by Pastor Abidan Shah

HEART EXAM by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: When the kids were young, we bought them a toy doctor’s kit. It had everything – stethoscope, thermometer, blood pressure cuff, syringe, tweezers, etc. They would go around taking our temperature, checking our blood pressure, and listening to our hearts. Then, like many of you, we would say – “My turn. Let me check your heart” – and we would take their toy stethoscope and listen to their heart – “Oh, it sounds good!” Here’s a question – how seriously did you take that test? Not really. It was all pretend. Would you do that at a real doctor’s office? Would you say to your cardiologist – “My turn! Let’s check your heart now.” Of course not. It’s real. Today, we’re going to take a heart exam and it’s not pretend. It’s very real. We’re checking our hearts, not our physical hearts made out of muscles, tissues, and blood vessels, but our spiritual hearts made up of our minds, our thinking, and our attitude towards the things of God. The Stethoscope is the Scriptures, the Examiner is the Holy Spirit, and the Goal is the heart of the disciple of Jesus. This is a very critical exam. A physical heart exam can determine how longyou will live. A spiritual heart exam determines ifyou are alive.

Matthew 13     10And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15For the hearts of this people have grown dull…’”

Question: How is your spiritual heart? Is it out of rhythm with the things of God? Is there a blockage due to sin? Is it dead? Only Jesus can make your heart alive. Are you saved?

Context: This is the first message in our series on the Parables of Jesus. It’s an introductory message in which we will answer the question – “Why did Jesus use parables in his teaching?” In fact, it’s the question that the disciples asked Jesus inMatthew 13:10“Why do You speak to them in parables?”We tend to think of the parables as stories given by Jesus to make his message clearer but that’s not altogether true.Listen to his answer in verse11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Before we unpack that verse, let’s first identify the two groups that are around Jesus. The first is the “you” group who understand what Jesus is teaching and the second is the “them” group who seem to be missing it. Who are the “you” and who are the “them?” That information is available in the surrounding chapters. 

Who is the “you?” The “you” were the disciples, the tax collectors and the prostitutes (Matthew 9:11And when the Pharisees sawit,they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”), the multitudes (Matthew 12    15“…And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. 16Yet He warned them not to make Him known.”), demon-possessed, blind, and mute. This group was open to the things of God and they understood more of the things of God. Listen to verse12“For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” 

Who is the “them?”

1. Pharisees: 

Matthew 12:2And when the Phariseessawit (Jesus disciples eating grain in the field),they said to Him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” Matthew 12:14“Then the Phariseeswent out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Matthew 12:24Now when the Phariseeshearditthey said, “Thisfellowdoes not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

The Pharisees were mostly a lay movement of people who were trying to live a pious life. They believed in the right doctrines. They advocated a simple lifestyle. They were popular with the common people because they would help them keep the law. They focused on “Table Fellowship” – 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. Every household was held responsible. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. This does not mean that they rejected the priesthood or the temple. Their meals were exclusive and hierarchical because they believed that what you put inside of you matters and who you have around matters. They couldn’t get over Jesus’ eating habits and association with sinners.

2. Scribes:

Matthew 9:3And at once some of the scribessaid within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” Matthew 12:38Then some of the scribes andPhariseesanswered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 

The Scribes interpreted and taught the Law to the people. They were closely connected to the temple in Jerusalem and in the smaller villages, they held positions of authority. They were envious of Jesus’ knowledge of the bible and popularity with the people.

3. Sadducees:

Matthew 16:1“Then the Pharisees andSadduceescame, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.” Matthew 22:23The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him…a trick question.

The Sadducees considered themselves to be of priestly descent but no one knows for sure. Much of it was just political.They controlled the Temple. Unlike the Pharisees, they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the righteous, angels, or spirit as much. They denied the eternality of the soul, punishment in the underworld, and rewards. They were not very popular with the people.They worked in cooperation with the Romans in order to maintain peace and carry on the responsibilities of the Temple in Jerusalem. They were afraid that Jesus was messing up the power balance.

4. Jesus’ Family Members:

Matthew 12     46While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Someone informed him and listen to his response –48But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” They were embarrassed of Jesus.

These 4 groups of people were not evil. They were what we would call “church going” folks but their hearts were not open to what Christ was teaching. Listen to what he said about them in verse13“Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Why would Jesus do that?He actually tells us in the very next verse –14“And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; 15For the hearts of this people have grown dull…’” Listen carefully: Just like in the time of Isaiah there were religious people who were rejecting the message of God, these Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, and Jesus’ family members were also rejecting Christ. The more they rejected him, the less they could understand him. The parables were much more than just stories given to illustrate a point. They were the tools of the prophets to confront the people of God and to expose the true condition of their hearts. If their hearts were open to the things of God, they would understand even more. If their hearts were closed to the things of God, they would understand even less. 

1. The Pharisees had a self-righteous heart that was hung up on traditions and could not see the need for Christ.

2. The Scribes had a show off heart that could not see Christ in all their bible knowledge.

3. The Sadducees had a status quo heart that was more interested in power than submission to Christ.

4. The Jesus’ Family Heart was the cynical heart that had become overly familiar with Christ.

Jesus’ family did come around but the others help put Jesus on the cross.

Invitation:What kind of a heart do you have? Is it even alive to the things of God? If not, you need to get saved today. This is not a pretend exam.

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