Backsliding Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Do you have to stay on your kids to do something they don’t like to do like cleaning their room or doing the dishes or finishing their homework? With some kids you don’t have to but with most you do. What happens when you walk out of sight? They start goofing around. Then, when you return, they give you some lame excuse and start working again until you leave the room. They have to be held accountable. Typically, the work never gets done. So also, many Christians begin well in their Christian life but they don’t finish well. Just like kids, they get distracted and start goofing around. You need both accountability and personal responsibility to deal with a Backsliding Mind. That’s the title of our in this final message in our series on the Mind of Christ.

Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”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.”

Question: Twice Paul told the Philippians to continue in the faith even in his absence. Do you have people in your life who hold you accountable? Are you growing into the mind of Christ or are you backsliding? Are you saved?

Context:The past four months have been life-changing for me and also for many of you. This series on the “Mind of Christ” from Philippians 2:5-11has impacted so many people, many of whom have never set foot in this church building but they are listening and watching faithfully every week. We have people from all over the world who tune in every week on Facebook, YouTube, Livestream through the church website, sermon podcast, and 2 radio stations every Sunday morning. The reason for this impact is that these messages go to the very heart of the Christian life. They teach us the importance of having the mindset of Christ. The Christian life is much more than getting saved. It’s about becoming more and more like Christ. I want to encourage you to go back and listen to these messages in case you missed them and share them with others. By the way, we’re also planning on putting them in a book format to be available later this year.

Back to our message on the “Backsliding Mind.”As you know, Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this letter to the Philippian church. He wanted to visit them but he couldn’t. But, word was getting back to Paul, maybe through Timothy and Epaphroditus, that the Philippians were beginning to slip back into their old way of life. They were starting to regress in their faith. So, he wrote them a letter encouraging them to press forward. It’s a balance between accountability and personal responsibility. First, let’s look at the accountability:

  • Paul began by reminding them in Philippians 1:6that he is “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”In other words, he assured them that God is the Initiator, the Overseer, and the Perfecter of their Christian lives. They should trust God that he will complete what he began in their lives.
  • Then, he told them in verses 9-11 that he was praying that their “love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” In other words, Paul’s reminded the Philippians that his prayer was that they would finish with flying colors. For e.g. Elderly couple praying for me and Clearview. What a great encouragement!
  • Finally, Paul told the Philippians that there was a strong possibility that he would not make it out of the prison alive and he was perfectly fine with that. But, on second thoughts, it was far more important for him to stay alive. Why? Listen to Philippians 1    24“Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” In other words, going away to be with Christ would be amazing but staying alive will be more beneficial for the Philippians.

What a powerful model in accountability! All of us need a Paul in our lives. All of us need godly people who can speak biblical truths into our lives. All of us need Christlike men or women who would breath confidence in the work of Christ in our lives. I have people like that in my life. They check up on me and tell me that they are praying for me.

Let me flip that around: All of us can be a Paul to someone around us. You may think you don’t know enough of the Bible but there is some person around us who knows much less. Our task is to encourage them with biblical truth and hold them accountable.

Question: Who is your Paul? Get connected through Sunday School and Inner circle. Who is around you who needs a Paul? Call them. Check on them. Pray for them. 

Now, there’s a shift from accountability to personal responsibility. Here’s the opening passage– Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” The word for “conduct that is worthy” is “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the Greek word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Remember, the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were to conduct themselves according to Roman standards, even though they were outside their homeland. So also, Paul was telling the Philippians to act like believers even though they were in the world and he wasn’t around to keep them straight. In other words, he was saying, “You don’t need me to stand over you for you to behave as a Christian is supposed to behave.”What does that look like? Philippians 1:27“…that you stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Paul repeats the same injunction again in Philippians2:12but with a new title – “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.” This passage has been debated a lot over the years. Is Paul talking about our individual salvation? Does it imply that we have a part to play in being saved? Of course not. Paul said it very clearly in Ephesians 2    8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.” In the context, working out our salvation is in the context of having the mindset of Christ. We are to be humble and obedient like our Savior and King in how we relate with each other. It’s about shifting from our false assumptions to taking on biblical truths, i.e. the Mind of Christ. Furthermore, this task should not be taken flippantly but with “fear and trembling.” Ultimately, we need to remember that God sees everything. 

For e.g. Lady telling me that I need to fuss at her to keep her in church.

Question: Do you need people to stand over you for you to behave as a Christian is supposed to behave? Are you taking responsibility to shift from false assumptions to biblical truths? Do you have people to hold you accountable? Do you realize that God is watching over you? Has your fire gone out? Are you saved? Have you ever had the fire?

Humility by Pastor Abidan Shah

HUMILITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you know a proud or an arrogant person? How many of you know someone who thinks he/she is humble when they’re really not? How many of you would say that you are a humble person? All of us tend to think that we are humble and someone else is proud—when in reality, we all have the same spirit of pride. It reminds me of that man to whom they gave the badge of humility but they had to take it away when he tried to wear it. There’s only one who was/is truly humble and his name is Jesus. In fact, he humbled himself to the point of death, even the death of the cross. He is our model and source of true humility. That’s our message today titled – HUMILITY in our series from Philippians 2called MIND (RE)SET.

Philippians 2      5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question: Are you a humble person? Do you have the spirit and the heart of Christ? Have you come in humility before him and received him as your Savior and King?

Context: Last weekend, we learned that Jesus chose to come into this world as a “doulos,” as a slave. He didn’t stop being God. He didn’t give up any of his divine attributes. He gave up by taking on the mind of a slave, the mind of humility and obedience.Listen again to verse 8“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient…”If you read the gospels carefully, he’s constantly serving and humbly inviting people to come to him so he could serve them. Matthew 11    28 “Come to Me, allyouwho labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yokeiseasy and My burden is light.” Multitudes thronged to him. They understood what he meant. They felt that he could help them. They also knew that they could approach him. After all, who is afraid to come to a slave!

Application: 2000 years later, men and women, boys and girls are still coming to Jesus and exchanging their burdens for his. They are laying down their sorrows, regrets, guilts, shame, struggles, fears, worries, and doubts and taking up his cause and living a life of peace and joy. Have you made the exchange?

But Jesus came for much more than just to serve people and lighten their load.Listen again to verse 8“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross.” In other words, Jesus didn’t just live the slave’s life, he also died the slave’s ultimate death. The cross was a slave’s ultimate punishment. Let me explain what that means (My information is coming from scholarly books and articles, especially Martin Hengel’sCrucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross):

1. Crucifixion was widespread in the ancient world. I’m sure you’ve heard that the Persians invented crucifixion. That may be true but we don’t know for sure. There have been citations from ancient sources that it was practiced by the Indians, Assyrians, and Scythians (modern day Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan). Even the Celtic, Germanic, and Brittani people practiced it. The Greeks with all their high ideals of human dignity also practiced crucifixion. At one time, Alexander the Great had 2000 people crucified for rising in rebellion against him. The Carthaginians (Punic people, ancient Phoenicians) were known for brutally crucifying people. More than likely the Romans learned it from them. Men and women were crucified, probably more men than women.

2. Crucifixion among the Romans was for the lower classes of people – slaves, violent criminals, and rebels. The Persians and Carthaginians used it for high officials and commanders and the Greeks used it for state criminals but the Romans used it primarily against slaves and those who were free but not Roman citizens. It was called a servile supplicium. A slave could be crucified if he was found with a weapon (a shepherd was crucified for defending himself against a bear) or if the owners were not capable of controlling their slaves. It was especially utilized against rebellious slaves. This was seen during the Third Slave Rebellion led by Spartacus in the first century BC when the Roman General Crassus had 6000 slaves crucified and lined them all along the Appian Way leading to Rome.

3. Crucifixion was very effective. There were 3 reasons for this: 

  • First, it satisfied the human thirst for revenge, especially against rebellious slaves. One ancient writer called it “resentful rage.” It means torture and scourging would happen before the crucifixion. Jesus was flogged.
  • Second, it spread fear among the onlookers. Crucifixion did not end in 6 hours like Jesus. Many times, the victims would hang there for 3-8 days.
  • Third, it was set up at a high traffic place like a crossroad, theater, high ground, and even the place of the crime. Jesus was crucified on the hill called Golgotha or Calvary. Golgotha is Aramaic and Calvary is Latin for skull. It was outside the city (Hebrews 13:12) and by the main road (Mark 15:29). People were shaking their heads and even taunting him – “Didn’t you say that you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. How about saving yourself and coming down from the cross!” By the way, the victims were never buried. The scavengers would come and eat on the corpses. That’s the worst form of humiliation and dishonor. 

4. Crucifixion was not discussed. Ancient Roman writers did not like to talk about crucifixion. They just mention it and move on. It was horrible sight. Some leaders and philosophers would talk about the heinousness of the crucifixion but they knew it had to be done. The only time crucifixion was ever discussed was in drama and theater. Even here, the hero would end up escaping the cross. The people in Philippi to whom Paul is writing may have seen plenty of crucifixions. It’s horrible but part of life. Just don’t have anything to do with it. 

5. Crucifixion was accursed to the Jewish people. The Hasmonean kings had practiced crucifixion. Alexander Jannaeus had crucified 800 Pharisees and another one had crucified 70-80 sorcerers at one time. It was very shameful, especially because of Deuteronomy 21     22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you asan inheritance; for he who is hangedisaccursed of God.”

Why did Jesus choose a slave’s death? It was God’s plan of redemption. Listen to Isaiah 53      3He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, ourfaces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But He waswounded for our transgressions, He wasbruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peacewasupon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. 8He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9And they made His grave with the wicked—But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, norwas anydeceit in His mouth. 

Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin of 71 leaders, the highest ruling body in Jerusalem, presided by the High Priest) secretly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus and Pilate gave him the permission. Nicodemus (another member of the Sanhedrin) also met him and brought a big bag of mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint his body. Then they put him in Joseph’s tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Why was he not left to rot on the cross or placed in just any old tomb? Yes, he was a slave but he was much more than just a slave. Plus, it was also a fulfillment of a prophecy we will see in a few moments.

So also, the thief on the cross got it. He rebuked the one who was taunting Jesus and said in Luke 23    41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”42Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” By the way, it’s not just these two Jewish men who got it but think about the Roman centurion standing by the cross. Mark 15:39So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Are you humble like Jesus your Savior and King? Do you know him? He is humbly calling you. Isaiah 53:10“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Himto grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall seeHisseed, He shall prolongHisdays, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.”

Bondservant by Pastor Abidan Shah

BONDSERVANT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: March Madness is on. Each year the best basketball teams across the nation come together in an elimination-style bracket and play all the way to the Final Four and then the National Championship. There is a winner and a loser. There is also the Cinderella Team.What is a Cinderella in March Madness?A team that is not well-known but comes in and really shocks everyone. Last year it was UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), a number 16 seed that defeated number one Virginia Cavaliers. Also, Loyola University Chicago that went to the Final Four. As of now, this year it is UC Irvine and Murray State, Kentucky. Why Cinderella?According to the fairy tale, her step mother forced her into servitude and her step sisters belittled her but, in the end, she ended up marrying the prince. In today’s message we’re going to learn how Jesus choseto become a bondservant (he wasn’t forced into it) so that we could become prince and princesses in the family of God. He sacrificed so that we could be saved.Our message is titled BONDSERVANT.

Philippians 2      5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question: Do you understand what Jesus has done for you? He became a slave so that we could become sons and daughters of God. Do you know him? Are you saved?

Context: As you know, we’re in our series called MIND (RE)SET from Philippians 2. We are learning what it means to have the mind of Christ. In today’s message we’re going to focus on what it means to be a “bondservant.” Listen again to verse 7“but (Christ) made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men.” The word for “bondservant” is “doulos” in Greek. It means slave.Why did Paul say that Jesus came as a slave? To answer that question, we need to answer 2 other questions first:

Question 1. How was slavery back then?

  • Slavery was a normal part of every culture and society. Unfortunately, it was even among the main characters of the OT. Sarah gave her female slave Hagar to Abraham so she could have a child for him. So also, Rachel and Leah gave their female slaves to Jacob. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery. Slavery was a part of the culture in which they lived.Ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) from where Abraham came had slavery. Ancient Egypt had slavery. Later, the people of Israel were enslaved. Even Ancient Greece with their high ideals of democracy and freedom had slavery.
  • Ancient Rome was even worse. According to certain estimates, 80-90% of the inhabitants of Rome were slaves or of slave origin. By the way, slaves were not necessarily from Africa. They could be from Europe or Asia or neighboring kingdoms that had been conquered. Spartacus the slave who led the “Third Slave Rebellion” was of Germanic origin. After Rome crushed that rebellion, 6000 slaves were crucified. The conditions of the slaves depended on what they did. If they worked in the mines, it was horrible. If they worked in the homes, things were not as bad. Either way, at the end of the day, a slave was just a human property. Many endured beatings. Many could not participate in education. Even marriage was regulated by the owner. Children were born slaves. In the Western world, the slave trade of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is a very sad and shameful reality. The purchasing of West African people as chattel is indefensible. It’s when Christians with a conscience and courage spoke up that the slave trade was finally outlawed – first in England in 1807 but in continued till 1833. Men like William Wilberforce, William Pitt, John Newton, and George Whitfield. Even the writings of ex-slaves like Equiano and Cugoano finally began to be heard. In our own country, slavery continued until 1863 until the Emancipation Proclamation and then a bloody civil war. By the way, slavery still goes on to this day. Twenty-eight to thirty million are trapped in slavery – sex trafficking to forced labor, even in our own country. We have an episode coming on our radio show Carpe Manana this week.

Question 2. What did God say about slavery?

  • God did not endorse slavery but gave laws in the Old Testament books of ExodusLeviticus, and Deuteronomyon how slaves were to be treated.He even promised a day in the future when there will be no slavery.Joel 2     28“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. 29And also on Mymenservants and on Mymaidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
  • In the time of Jesus, slavery was still practiced and slaves were still just the bottom rung of society. Why didn’t Jesus speak out against slavery? Keep in mind that Jesus did not come to lead a rebellion. He came to save us by giving his life on the cross for our sins. But, he talked about it in his messages. He used it in his parables (Matthew 18:23-35; 21:33-41; 25:14-30). Why? Because there were probably slaves among the listeners. If he had led a rebellion, he would have gotten them killed or made their masters stop them from coming to him.

Question 3. Why did Paul say that Jesus came as slave?

  • Because Jesus truly came as a slave to his Father. He gave up his throne in glory. He gave up his rights and privileges. He emptied his godhead into his humanity. He always obeyed his Father. John 6    38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
  • Because Jesus truly came to serve and not to be served. Think about what slaves did and what Jesus did:
A Slave was responsible to cook Jesus fed the 5000 and the 4000
A Slave came when he was calledJesus was constantly going and helping people – Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus, 
A Slave was responsible to teach the children in the familyJesus preached and taught the multitudes
A Slave did the menial laborJesus washed the feet of his disciples
A Slave would have to go fight in battle for the ownerJesus died on the cross for our sins

Matthew 11    28 Come to Me, allyouwho labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yokeiseasy and My burden is light.”

In fact, think about the categories of our salvation – redemption, justification, and reconciliation. They are all connected to slavery.

  • Redemption – setting the slave free
  • Justification – complete freedom slave received
  • Reconciliation – a slave becoming an equal member of a free society

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

You can come to him – Because everyone knows who a slave was.Every society and culture had them.Because you could get no lower than a slave. No one can say that they couldn’t come to Jesus. 

Royal – Our Humble King by Pastor Shah

OUR HUMBLE KING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Our Humble KingIntroduction: Any Jungle Book fans here? Who was King Louie? He was the self-proclaimed king of all the monkeys in Jungle Book. What was his greatest wish? He wanted to be a man and stroll right into town. What did he need to make that happen? He needed the secret to man’s red fire. Did he ever get it? No. King Louie was trying to climb up the ladder of power and status but he couldn’t. So also, the kings of the earth have always tried to climb up the ladder of power and status. To the contrary, the king of the universe, King Jesus, did not have to climb up. He was already up in power and status. Instead, he climbed down the ladder of power and status. In fact, when he came, he did not come riding a steed, a war horse, but a donkey, the common man’s beast of burden. In other words, King Jesus did not come to subdue but to serve. He did not come to terrify but to bring joy. He is truly “Our Humble King.”

Zechariah 9      9“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He isjust and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. 10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominionshall be“from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’ 11“As for you also, Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.”

Question: The first time King Jesus came, he came in humility to win us over. The second time when he comes, he will come to execute judgment. Have you received him the first time? If you claim to know him, are you humble like your king?

Context: We’re in our Christmas series called “ROYAL.” As I mentioned in our previous two messages, it’s hard for us to appreciate the regal language the Bible ascribes to Jesus because we grew up in a democracy or a republic where people elect their leaders. Kings are not elected by the people. They rule by virtue of family origin, land ownership, or military power. Don’t confuse the British royalty with typical kings in history. The British monarchy is a constitutional monarchy where the King or Queen is a symbol of unity, stability, and pride but the ability to make and pass laws is in the hands of the elected Parliament. Jesus is not a figurehead. He is truly the all-powerful and in-control King of Kings but he is a humble king. What does that mean? 3 things:

I. HUMILITY IS NOT WEAKNESS

Background:I’m sure you’ve heard the statement – “Meekness is not Weakness.” Unfortunately, it’s become a cliché but it’s really true, especially in the verses leading up to Zechariah 9:9. They are words of judgment on the nations that had rebelled against God and had threatened God’s people. They are back in the land from exile for about 20 years but things are far from peaceful. Their neighbors don’t want them back or rebuild their temple. Listen to Zechariah 9      1The burden of the word of the LORD against the land of Hadrach, (This was a city to the south of Aleppo and north of Damascus. It was against God’s people.) and Damascus (Capital of Syria today. It too was against God’s people) its resting place (For the eyes of men and all the tribes of Israel are on the LORD); (Here is a prophecy that one day in the end of times, Israel and her lost tribes, along with her godless neighbors will look to God)2Also againstHamath, whichborders on it, (City in Syria, north of Lebanon. It was part of the Promised Land and one day it will be again.)and againstTyre and Sidon, (Tyre is in Lebanon today and Sidon is to the north of Tyre. Tyre was very proud over its strength.)though they are very wise. 3For Tyre built herself a tower, heaped up silver like the dust, and gold like the mire of the streets. 4Behold, the LORD will cast her out; he will destroy her power in the sea, and she will be devoured by fire. (150 years later, Alexander the Great fulfilled this prophecy) 5Ashkelon shall seeitand fear; Gaza also shall be very sorrowful; and Ekron, for He dried up her expectation. (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod were four of the five capital cities of the Philistines.)The king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. (Again, Alexander the Great fulfilled this prophecy when he destroyed Gaza and dragged King Batis of Gaza behind a chariot through the city until he died.) 6“A mixed race shall settle in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. (No one of the Philistines were left and foreigners had to settle these cities to this day.)

What is the point of all this? When we read the history of the world, we think that it’s just the strong conquering the weak or the wise overpowering the foolish. We falsely think that it is Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.” This is not true. There is an unseen hand that is guiding the rise and fall of kings and kingdoms. Listen to Daniel’s prayer to God in Daniel 2    20“. . . Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. 21And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” Jesus is controlling history. Zechariah 9 is just a glimpse of that fact.

Application:How do you see Jesus? Is he the helpless baby in the manger? Is he the helpless Son of God nailed to the cross? Is he the one standing outside the door and knocking, waiting for you to open the door? Is he the one in charge of everything?

II. HUMILITY IS MERCIFUL

Background: Just when we think that King Jesus will mercilessly decimate all his enemies and the enemies of his people, listen to Zechariah 9     7“I will take away the blood from his mouth, and the abominations from between his teeth. . .” Blood from his mouth is referring to the pagan sacrifices that involved drinking blood and abominations from between his teeth is referring to eating forbidden food. That statement is a description of paganism.What is God saying? Even in the midst of his judgment there is mercy. Somehow God will save individuals even while he is judging peoples and nations. Keep reading 7“. . . But he who remains, even he shall befor our God, and shall be like a leader in Judah, and Ekron like a Jebusite.(Just like David had spared the Jebusites and they became part of the people of Judah, so also God would spare these enemies of God’s people and they would become part of God’s people.) Did this ever happen? Acts 8    26Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet  . . .”  You know the rest. Philip explained the gospel to him, baptized him, and then listen to Acts 8    39“Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.” Azotus is the Roman name for Ashdod.

8I will camp around My house because of the army, because of him who passes by and him who returns. No more shall an oppressor pass through them, for now I have seen with My eyes.”What is God saying? In the days ahead, he will save all people, Jews and Gentiles through Jesus Christ

Application:How do you understand humility? True humility is merciful. When you are totally justified in finishing someone, you still show mercy. It is “Power under Control.”

III. HUMILITY IS JESUS

Zechariah 9      9“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Background:On one hand, King Jesus was working his purposes in the world. On the other hand, he was bringing salvation to his people. While he allowed and even directed earthly kings to carry out his purposes, he was about to fulfil the prophecies regarding the eternal king.3 things we find fulfilled:

  1. He is Righteous:

“Behold, your King is coming to you; He isjust. . .”

Promise to David – 2 Samuel 7:12“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. Isaiah 11     1There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. . . 5Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.

  1. He will bring salvation

and having salvation,

1 Pet. 3:18  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

  1. Humble

Lowly – Same word used to describe Moses inNumbers 12:3. He is approachable.

  1. Riding a donkey

and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

Genesis 49    10The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall bethe obedience of the people. 11 Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes.

Horse was an animal of war but a donkey was not.

10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominionshall be“from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’ 11“As for you also, Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.”

In other words, Christ was coming to bring peace. He brought peace in our hearts now and then peace in our world one day.

Thankful for Salvation by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR SALVATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Thankful for Salvation

Introduction: How many of ya’ll love dad jokes? Here are some Thanksgiving dad jokes:

  • “What is a turkey’s favorite dessert? Peach gobbler!”
  • “What did the turkey say to the computer? Google, google, google.”
  • “Why did the cranberries turn red? Because they saw the turkey dressing!”
  • “What do you call a turkey on the day after Thanksgiving? Lucky.”
  • “What music did the Pilgrims listen to at the first Thanksgiving? Plymouth Rock!”
  • “Why can’t you take a turkey to church? Because they use fowl language.”

We’re in our series called “Thankful,” to prepare us for the Holiday Season, and this is the final message titled “Thankful for Salvation.” What I have discovered is that the more we grow in the Christian life, the more grateful we become for our salvation. In other words, the longer we are Christians, the more we’re amazed at why God would save someone like us. Today we’ll meet someone who towards the end of his life, in spite of his circumstances, was truly amazed and grateful for being saved.

1 Timothy 1     12“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting meinto the ministry, 13although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I diditignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15This isa faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

Question: How thankful are you for your salvation? How do you see yourself in comparison to others? Are you saved?

Context: If there’s one word that is constantly found in Paul’s letters, it’s the word “charis.” Many of you may have heard it before. It is translated “grace.” Paul constantly used it in his letters, especially in his opening and closing: Opening – Graceto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”; Closing – “The graceof our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”That word was much more than just a polite greeting. For Paul, that word was a reference to the saving act of God in Christ Jesus.But, that word “charis” in certain forms also had the meaning of “thankfulness.”Paul used it often to express thankfulness to God for his salvation.In this message we are going to learn from Paul how to be thankful for our salvation:

I. ACKNOWLEDGE OUR WEAKNESS.

12“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting meinto the ministry.”

Background:That word “enabled” means “to be strengthened.” Paul was thanking God for giving him the strengthen but also continually strengthening him. Now, there is a mistranslation here. It should not be “because” but “that.” Here’s a better translation: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled/strengthened me, that He counted me faithful/trustworthy, putting meinto the ministry.” What he is saying is that in his own self he could not have served God. He is giving God all the credit.

Illustration:Parents have to help a toddler walk. Then they try to pull away.

Application:Do you understand how weak you are? Do you see how much you need Christ to enable you? Do you give him thanks?

II. REMEMBER YOUR FALLENNESS.

13“although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy…”

Few weeks ago, I preached a sermon titled “The Witness Stand” in which we looked at Paul’s conversion and transformation from a Spectator to an Accomplice, from an Accomplice to a Criminal, from a Criminal to a Master Mind, and, finally, from a Master Mind to the Most Wanted. What do you do when you have a Most Wanted on the loose? You have to bring in the big guns. Jesus himself had to come and capture Paul. He made a raid on him on the road to Damascus, tackled him to the ground, blinded him, and took him into custody. What was the result? The Chief Suspect became a Chief Witness to the gospel. I don’t want to repeat that sermon.

“…but I obtained mercy because I diditignorantly in unbelief.” Mercy came to Paul but he could have resisted it. There are 2 kinds of unbeliefs:Ignorant Unbelief and Deliberate Unbelief. Jesus encountered a lot of deliberate unbelief. John 8    22So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” 23And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I amHe,you will die in your sins.” 25Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” Paul asked the same question. And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. 26I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” 27They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.”

Illustration: There’s a man who is constantly rejecting the gospel when I have witnessed to him.

14“And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”

God had to show me graceand give me faithand even reach out to me in loveto save me. Paul uses the Greek word “huperpleonazo.” Huper is the word that gives us “hyper.” The cross is hypergrace, faith, and love.

Application:Do you remember where God found you? Are you still lost? Is it ignorant unbelief or is it deliberate? Listen again to Jesus in John 9    39And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” 40Thensomeof the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.”

III. WORSHIP WITH GRATEFULNESS.

15This isa faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Background:Paul is so overwhelmed by what he is sharing with Timothy that he launches into praise God for his salvation.

16However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

Application:Do you see your life and circumstances as a tool to bring others to Christ?

 17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, behonor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Background:Most scholars believe that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy in the last 2-3 years of his life before he was martyred. The point is that what we read earlier is not from Paul who just got saved but from Paul who had been saved for a while. We also should become more and more grateful for our salvation as we grow in our Christian life.

Do you express your gratefulness to God for your salvation? Are you saved?

So, what is the gospel?

  1. Declaration:
  • Jesus brought God’s kingdom into the world.
  • He is Christ, God’s Anointed King.
  • He died on the cross for our sins, according to Scriptures.
  • He was buried but rose again on the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by many.
  1. Decision:
  • Repent – change of thinking about sin, self, and Savior.
  • Believe – trust that Jesus is God’s Son who has paid the penalty of our sins and he can remove the guilt of sin and give eternal life.
  • Follow – as our King, we are to obey and follow him no matter the cost. Without this element, the gospel is not the true gospel. First, the decision and then, one day, the test.

Invitation: Are you ready to follow Jesus your King?

Unlike Us by Pastor Abidan Shah

UNLIKE US by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Unlike UsIntroduction:  Do you remember that old joke? A teacher asked her kindergarteners to draw a picture of someone very important. All the kids began drawing a picture of mom, dad, or some famous person in history. After 15-20 minutes, the teacher noticed that all the kids were done except this one boy who was still working very intently in the back. Curious, she asked him, “Who are you drawing?” Without even looking up, he replied, “God!” The teacher was startled. She went up to him and asked, “How can you draw God? No one knows what he looks like.” He replied, “They will when I get through!” All of us are guilty of doing that. We try to draw God after our own image and understanding. Today’s message will teach us that “God is unlike us. Instead of trying to make him like us, we are to become like him.” The message is titled “UNLIKE US.”

Psalm 50    15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? 18 When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. 19 You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.”

Question: “You thought that I was altogether like you.” Is that what you’re doing? Have you created God in your own image? What sin are you justifying by claiming that God does it too? Are you saved? Have you conformed to image of his Son?

Context: In my devotion time I’ve been reading through the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. As you know, the Book of Psalms was the song book of the children of Israel, later known as the Jewish people. It played a very important role in their worship and daily life. It reminded them of something very important that many Christians fail to understand – It’s not enough to know the truth, affirm the truth, clarify the truth, defend the truth, and share the truth. You also have to take the time to delight in the truth. The Psalms are meant to help us delight in the truth. C.S. Lewis in his book titled Reflections on the Psalms wrote, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” That’s beautiful!

The psalm we are looking at today (Psalm 50) begins with the heading “The Song of Asaph.” Who was Asaph? I Chronicles 6 tells us that he was a worship leader of one of the groups of temple singers established by King David. He was the worship leader when the ark was brought back to Jerusalem. He was again in charge of the music when the ark was brought to the temple built by Solomon. Later there was a musical school named after him that continued centuries after his death. What I am trying to say is that Asaph was no ordinary one hit wonder. He was a worship leader with great depth and legacy. Something else that needs to be mentioned before we look at this psalm in depth – The placement of this psalm at this place in the Book of Psalms is not by chance. It has been strategically placed here to prepare us to read Psalm 51 which is a prayer of repentance by David when Nathan the prophet confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah.

With that in mind, let’s begin – 1 “The Mighty One, God the Lord, has spoken…” If you rush past the opening words, you will miss the significance of the titles for God. In Hebrew it reads “El Elohim Yahweh.” Three different names for God are mentioned here. El – the Mighty God in whom are all the attributes and power of godhead. Elohim – the Creator God who made everything. Yahweh – the Merciful God who reveals himself to us and sets us free. He redeemed the people in Exodus and met them at Sinai.

Application: Is this the God you pray to? Is this the God you worship and sing to? The All-Powerful Creator God Who Alone is Our Redeemer.

One more important description needs to be included here – 1 “…and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. 3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: 5 “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6 Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge. Selah (Lift up/exalt) The All-Powerful Creator God Who Alone is Our Redeemer is also the Great Judge of all the earth.

Application: Are you ready to meet this God? Are you going to lift up and exalt his right to judge or are you going to argue and defend your case?

What does this God have to say? First, he will speak to the righteous among his people – 7 “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God! 8 I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, Which are continually before Me. 9 I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. 13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats? 14 Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. In other words, I don’t need you to go out there and get me meat so I won’t be hungry. The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.”

Application: We are easily swayed by favors people do for us. You cannot sway God. Remember what I said earlier that this psalm has been placed here for a reason. Listen to what David says in Psalm 51   16 “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.” And what’s the reward for those who offer to the sacrifices from a clean heart? 15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Here’s the privilege of obeying God.

But now listen to what God says to the Wicked Righteous – 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? In other words, how do you receive God’s truth when you encounter it in your devotion time, in a message, in a Sunday School lesson, on the radio, or in a Christian literature? How do you receive the Word when it is given to you by a godly friend? Do you hate it and cast it aside? How did David receive God’s Word through Nathan? 2 Samuel 12:13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” In other words, he repented.

What happens when you don’t repent? God goes into detail – 18 “When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. 19 You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. How many sins are mentioned here? Stealing, Adultery, Accomplice/Association, Evil Speaking, Lying, Gossip, Smear, Slander. What did God do about it? 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent…” Just because God does not immediately deal with your sin does not mean that he approves it. Silence is not approval. When we are silent, we are approving. When God is silent, he is extending mercy. But here comes the worst one – 21 “…You thought that I was altogether like you…” This is the sin of misrepresenting God because it suits your purpose and your love for your pet sin.

Application: Do you twist the Bible to justify your behavior, your sin? The worst thing you can do to any person is misrepresent him/her. Yet, people do that to God to justify their sinful action and lives.

What is the consequence? 21 “…But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.” If you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit will not let you off easily. He will convict you and expose to you the error of your ways. What if you still don’t change? 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:” Now it’s no longer private but public exposure. The old principle is true – “You cover your sin and God will uncover it. You uncover your sin and God will cover it.”

Here’s the solution – 23 “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” What will you do? True praise cannot come from a contaminated, sin-filled heart. Furthermore, it’s not enough to say with David Psalm 51    3 “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,” you also have to say with him 7 “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. 9            Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Are you ready to repent? Are you saved?

Skeletons in the Family Closet by Pastor Abidan Shah

SKELETONS IN THE FAMILY CLOSET by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Skeletons in the Family ClosetIntroduction: Several years ago Nicole was really into doing her family history. She scoured the libraries, checked the Internet, and visited all the graveyards she could. She would stay up late at night, have all her notes scattered over the dining room table, and try to connect the genealogical dots. She made a lot of progress but then she hit a dead-end. It seemed as if after a certain point, some of the people just disappeared into thin air. She took all her notes down to her grandmother in South Georgia at Christmas. She told her about the problem she was running into. Her grandmother, who is still living, said with a smirk, “Have you ever thought that maybe the reason you cannot find them is because they didn’t want to be found!” By the way, her name is Granny Outlaw. I tell people that I have outlaws for in-laws! The point is “Everyone has some Skeletons in their Family Closet.” In this message we will learn how to deal with those embarrassing moments and situations in our family’s past.

Genesis 12   10   Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, “This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”

There are no perfect families. We all have some skeletons in our family closet. To use the metaphor of a family tree, we all have some rotten fruits hanging on our family tree. In this message we will learn how to deal with those skeletons and those rotten fruits.

Question: Do you have some family secrets? How are you handling them? Do you try to embellish them to make yourself look better? Do you blame all your failures on those shameful memories? Do you wear them as a badge of honor? Here’s a deeper question: If you are saved, do you realize that you are part of a whole new family? John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Does your life demonstrate your new family traits? Or are you still living with the old family habits and tendencies? Are you saved?

As you know, we are studying the family of Abraham and Sarah. They had some skeletons in their closet. Let’s start looking at them:

Skeleton #1 – Genesis 12:10-20 (We just read this passage.) There was a famine in the land of Canaan and so Abraham took Sarah his wife and headed down to Egypt. But before he entered Egypt, he had a talk with her. It began with “You are such a pretty woman!” Sound familiar, ladies? Translated: “I need a favor.” Here it comes. Hold on to your hats! “When the Egyptians notice you, they will say: ‘She is his wife.’ They will kill me but spare you. So, please say that you are my sister and it will be okay for me because of you and they won’t kill me.” Really?! Just in case you are wondering – This is the same Abraham who stepped out on faith to follow God to a land that he had never seen. By the way, they’re not some newly married couple. He’s 75 and she’s 65 years old!

Principle: Age does not equal maturity. You’re never too old to do something stupid. If I may add, God is not looking for perfect people, just those willing to be used by him.

Skeleton #2 – Genesis 20 It’s been 25 years since the Egypt incident. Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90 years old. You’d think that they have matured. 2 Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. God warned Abimelech in a dream that Sarah was Abraham’s wife and he’s a dead man. 10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What possessed you to do this?” Translated: What’s wrong with you? 11 And Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. 12 But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.” This just gets better and better! 13 “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your agreement that you should make with me: in every place, wherever we go, say about me, ‘He is my brother.’” So, you decided this 50 years ago and you haven’t revised it?!

Principle: Be careful of agreements that have been made out of fear and selfishness instead of prayer and faith. If I may add, a half-truth is still a full lie in the sight of God.

Skeleton #3 – Genesis 26 This time the spotlight shifts from Abraham to his son Isaac. Listen to verse 7 And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” because he thought, “lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.” Like father, like son! In a moment of fear and weakness, he resorts to his dad’s tactic of claiming that his wife is his sister. One little problem here, while Abraham and Sarah were half-brother and sister, Isaac and Rebecca were not. Isaac told an out and out lie.

Principle: Whatever you do in moderation, your children will do in excess.

Application: Do you have such an unflattering past in your family history? Are there some scandalous moments in your parents and grandparents life? Take hope. Even those as prominent as Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Rebekah messed up. If God can use them, he can use you too.

Now let’s go a little deeper. Why did Abraham and later Isaac really do what they did? We’ll have to play the detective here and look for the real motive behind the crime. I have a possible theory – Abraham did not lie just to save his skin. I believe that he misunderstood what God had told him in Genesis 12   1 “…Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” I wonder if Abraham mistakenly thought that God intended to bring his blessing into the world only through him. I wonder if he mistakenly thought that God’s plan only involved him and not Sarah. Hence, his plan was to protect himself, not because he was a coward but because he thought that he alone was crucial in God’s plan of redemption. He was trying to stay alive so that God’s plan would not fail.

Some of ya’ll are thinking that is too much. Have you read these 3 incidents carefully? God never condemned Abraham or Isaac for their actions. For e.g. When Cain killed his brother, God cursed him from the earth. (Genesis 4:10-11) When David committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband murdered, it says, “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” (II Samuel 11:27) I can give many more examples. The point is that in each of these incidents, God actually cursed and even punished the Egyptians and the Canaanites! In the first incident, Genesis 12:17 “the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” In the second incident, Genesis 20:18 “…the LORD had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” In the third incident, listen to Abimelech’s reaction in Genesis 26   10 “…What is this you have done to us? One of the people might soon have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us.” 11 So Abimelech charged all his people, saying, “He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” What’s more is that after each of these incidents, God blessed Abraham and Sarah and then Isaac and Rebecca with more than they had before they made their poor choices!

Principle: God sees the heart and he is far more gracious than we are. So should we.

Let me add: What neither Abraham nor Isaac realized until later is that in God’s sovereign plan, Sarah was just as crucial as him. This is why he kept rescuing her. By the way, Sarah misunderstood this as well. What did she do when she couldn’t provide a child for Abraham? She offered her own maidservant Hagar to her husband. We often look down on Sarah when in reality it was a tremendous sacrifice on her part. How many women would be willing to make that sacrifice for God’s plan of redemption?

Principle: In God’s plan none of us are expendable. We all have a part to play. Husbands – don’t underestimate what God has for your wife. Wives – Don’t underestimate what God can do through your husband. Parents – Your kids are not beyond hope. Kids – God is not through with your parents.

One more thing: Don’t use this as a justification for making more bad decisions. Think about the Egyptians and the Canaanites. God had called Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Because of what they did, they became a curse instead.

Principle: The ends don’t justify the means. Obedience is the only way to life.

Let me close by giving you the following suggestions in how to deal with the skeletons in your family closet:

  • Be honest. Be humble. Don’t forget where you came from. Stop bragging.
  • Don’t copy the wrong actions but accept the humanity of your parents and grandparents.
  • Don’t be too quick to judge. Only God sees the heart. Offer grace. Give them a break. You never know what they had to endure.
  • When you follow God, know that he will always work all things together for good.

I think about the genealogy of Christ in Matthew. 4 women are mentioned by name: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. The first one deceived her father-in-law into sleeping with her, the second was a Canaanite prostitute, the third was a Moabite (descendant of the incestual relationship between Lot and his daughter), and Bathsheba, married to a Hittite and then committed adultery with King David. If God can use that to bring his Son into this world, he can bring something good through any of our family.

Are you saved? Have you received God’s grace into your life?

Comfort and Joy by Pastor Abidan Shah

COMFORT AND JOY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

comfort-and-joyIntroduction: We’re in our final message in our Christmas series – BELIEVING IS SEEING. If you want to see Jesus, you have to believe in Him first and then you begin to see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and personal life. Jesus gave us a clue to find Him in Scripture when He said, “Moses wrote about Me.” We’ve examined two such passages already. Today we’ll look at a third one and the message is titled – COMFORT AND JOY.

Deuteronomy 18   15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Bridge: Everyone has a favorite Christmas carol. The one I like is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Unfortunately, many people don’t know what it means. To start with, it’s not about some merry gentlemen taking the time to rest. The comma should come after “merry” – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” What do those words mean? The word “rest” means keep/stay, like “rest assured.” The word “merry” means “joyful” and the word “gentlemen” does not refer to some Victorian gentlemen in top hats. It’s a generic reference to “people.” So the first line should read “God Keep You Joyful, People.” Why? “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay, Remember, Christ, our Saviour was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.” That is beautiful! We can have comfort and joy because Christ our Savior has come but I want to suggest a correction – “It’s not to save us from Satan’s power but from God’s power.” In today’s message we’ll learn about the real reason to have comfort and joy at Christmas.

Question: Before we go any further, what emotions come to your mind when you think about the coming of Jesus? Does His coming bring comfort and joy to your heart? Do you understand why Jesus really came into this world? Do you know that He has come to be the mediator between God and us? Do you realize that you cannot come to God on your own? Have you ever asked Jesus to be your mediator? Are you saved?

Today we’ll learn the biblical reason to have comfort and joy. 3 things to understand:

I. THE DREADFUL AND AGGRESSIVE HOLINESS OF GOD

Background: In the passage we just read from Deuteronomy 18 Moses is making a solemn promise to the people of Israel that after his own death God would raise up a prophet for them who would just like him be a Mediator between God and them. Why did they need a Mediator? Because of an incident that took place at Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb. To learn about this incident we have to turn to Exodus 19. The people had just left Egypt and they had made it to the foot of Mount Sinai or Horeb. It was time for them to come face-to-face with the God who had set them free. God spoke to Moses from the mountain and said, 4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” In other words, being set free from slavery is just the first step in where God wanted to take them as a people. He wanted them to be His special people. 6 “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Meaning: You are to represent me before the world just as a priest represents the people before God. But here was the key requirement – Holiness. Why? Because God’s holiness is His first and most distinctive attribute. If you’re going to be His special people and represent Him, you have to be holy as He is holy. Don’t misunderstand – holiness is not some puffy clouds or the sound of organ music or the smell of incense. Negatively, it is a “complete absence of sin” and positively, it is a “passionate desire for righteousness.”

God instructed Moses that before He would come down, the people had to consecrate and purify themselves. Furthermore, no one could approach the mountain except Moses. Then it happened on the third day – 16 “…there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. 20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Meaning: This was not some Hollywood theatrics. This was God the Holy Creator entering into His sinful creation. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Meaning: Not sure exactly what happened right then but there must’ve been some thrill seeking types who wanted to get as close to the fire without getting singed. God warned them that this was not some pull out your lawn chairs and enjoy the show time. They will die from this. 22 “Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” Meaning: Even the priests better be careful. This was the kind of holiness that would come after anyone who was unholy in its sight. How did the people perceive all this? Listen to Exodus 24:17 “The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Needless to say, the people of Israel were terrified of God. He was not someone to play with. Not even the priests could get near Him. His holiness was unbearable.

Application: What do you think about the holiness of God? Is it to you long dresses, three-piece suits, and hard straight back pews? Is it to you a long list of do’s and don’ts? Do you understand that God’s holiness is negatively a “complete absence of sin” and positively a “passionate desire for righteousness”? Do you understand that being saved means being saved from God’s holy wrath against your sin?

II. THE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING MERCY OF GOD

Exodus 20   18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. They were terrified and petrified of God. They were scared for themselves, their families, and their children. They stood far away. By the way, who told them to stay far away? God. As we just read, God had to send Moses down from the mountain to warn the people to stay away. If I were God, I would’ve let a couple of them turn extra crispy and that would’ve taken care of the rest! But God is so merciful, isn’t He? 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The people told Moses something that sounded like an affront to God. They told Moses that they would rather talk to him than to God. Again, if I were God, I would’ve said, “You don’t get to decide the terms of our communication.” By the way, these were the same people who later worshipped the golden calf at the foot of the mountain. I would’ve said – “Nope. People like you don’t deserve any breaks. You need to live under constant fear and an iron fist, that’s it.” 20 “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Meaning: God in His patient and understanding mercy allowed Moses to be the Mediator between Him and the people.

Application: Do you realize how merciful God is towards His people? Do you realize how without His mercy we would be consumed by His holiness? Do you realize how much He is willing to work with us even when we don’t deserve it? Do you realize how many chances He keeps giving to us?

III. THE FUTURE AND ULTIMATE PROMISE OF GOD

17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’”

Background: When God gave this promise, He intended a double fulfilment. On one hand, after Moses’s death, God sent many prophets through the centuries to His people to mediate for them. Some of them we know by their books – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and others. But there was another fulfillment that God intended – a much deeper, longer lasting, and ultimate fulfillment. One day God would send the Prophet who would have all the words of God in His mouth and He would be their Ultimate Mediator before God forever. God’s people were waiting for this prophet:

  • When John the Baptist came, the Jewish religious leaders questioned him – John 1   19 “…Who are you?” 20 He confessed…“I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “…Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
  • After Jesus fed the 5000, his own disciples said in John 6:14 “…This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
  • After seeing his numerous miracles, many in the crowd said in John 7:40 “…Truly this is the Prophet.”
  • When people were offended at him, Jesus himself said in Matthew 13:57 “…A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

Not only that but Jesus also repeatedly talked about having God’s Words in His mouth:

  • John 7:16 “…My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
  • John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”
  • John 17:8 “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”

I don’t have time to talk about how He prophesied about the future. The point is this – When Jesus said, “Moses wrote about Me,” He also had Deuteronomy 18 in mind where Moses promised the people that God would send them the Ultimate Prophet one day.

  • Just as Moses was a symbol of comfort and joy to the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate symbol of comfort and joy for us.
  • Just as Moses was a temporary mediator for the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate mediator for all who believe in His name.

But there’s something Jesus did for us that Moses could never do. Hebrews 10   19 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Whereas Moses told the people to stay away from the mountain of God, Jesus has invited us to boldly enter the Holiest by His blood.

Invitation: Does the coming of Jesus truly bring comfort and joy to your heart? Has he saved you from God’s holy power? Is He your Mediator?

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