Righteous Conduct by Dr. Abidan Shah

RIGHTEOUS CONDUCT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Many of us tend to idealize or remake our past. Parents do that with their kids. It usually begins with “When I was your age…” or “When I was growing up, we had to walk 10 miles to school. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways. With my fat kid brother on my back.” Couples do that too when they argue. One will try to make his/her upbringing far better than the other. This does not mean that we need to disown our past or all our past was horrible. But, by glorifying our past, we tend to make it look better than it really was. Sometimes, we even return to our old ways, which leads to bad conduct. As we return to our series in 1 Peter, we are going to learn how to have RIGHTEOUS CONDUCT from our new story in Christ. Main point: Righteous conduct requires discarding our old and false narratives and embracing our new and true narrative as found in the Scriptures. In other words, in order to live holy lives, we have to embrace who we are in God’s narrative of redemption through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:17 “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”

Context: In this verse, Peter was calling his readers to conduct themselves in the here and now in light of God’s judgment to come. If you remember, Peter was writing this letter to the pilgrims of the Dispersion (Jewish and Gentile background believers in Asia Minor) who were facing rejection by their own and societal discrimination by their neighbors. Peter was calling them to holy living by discarding their old family values and embracing their new family values. Listen to verse 14 “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Here “former lusts” refers to the old family values and old behaviors. In contrast, they were to choose holiness as their new calling. If that’s not enough, listen again to verse 17, “And if you call on the Father…” Here “the Father” is our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. 17 “…who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.” Now, notice carefully verse 18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers.” Here “your fathers” are the earthly fathers representing our past life and values. Peter was clearly drawing a distinction between the readers old family and the new family.

Principle: During trials, if we’re not careful, we will return to our default setting. Trials can cause us to revert back to our old ways, the old family values we grew up with.

Application: How did you face your trials in 2020? Were you more Christlike or more Devillike? Did you grow in holiness or did you slide towards sinfulness? Did you revert to the old lifestyle or the new life in Christ?

How do you stay in the new lifestyle? You have to embrace your new narrative of redemption through Jesus Christ. Peter gives us a new timeline between verses 13-21, that is past, present, and future (Joel Green):

  1. Before Time:

20 “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”

Before the foundation of the world: Jesus talked about this time in John 17:24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” Again, Paul talked about in Ephesians 1:4 “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Also, John said in Revelation 13:8 “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

In a world of nostalgia where the old is glorified, it doesn’t get any more glorified than this. The plan of salvation was not hatched after sin came into the world. It was already part of God’s plan before time began. It is much more than foresight. It implies the sovereign plan of God. The key here is “for you.” You may not have felt wanted or appreciated under the old plan, but you are wanted and appreciated under the new plan.

Application: Did you realize that you were in the heart of God before the foundation of the world?

  1. Time of Ignorance and Emptiness:

14 “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.”

Ignorance = not as much about lack of knowledge but about failure to grasp the character and purpose of God. It is a failure to align our lives with the purposes of God. This period was marked by “lusts” = epithumea, which refers to self-indulgence and evil cravings.

18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers.”

“Aimless” = “mataios” refers to worthless, useless, empty, vain life. Of course, we appreciate scientific, medical, and technological progress, there is not much gain that is left from the past. By the way, without Christianity and Judeo-Christian foundation, Western Civilization is nothing.

Application: How much do you value your past? Have you manufactured a fake past?

  1. End of the Ages/Last Times:

20 “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

“Last Times” = “eschaton ton chronon” refers to the end times. Hebrews 1     1 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” Acts 2:17 “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.”

Application: Did you know that we are living in the last days?

  1. Rescued and Restored Times:

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.

“Redeem” = “lutruo” meaning rescued and restored. The image is of slaves set free. It is taking us back to the Exodus event to the Passover. By participating in the Passover, the people were not only memorializing what took place on that night of the Exodus but they were also “actualizing identification with Israel’s salvation history.” Now, it is the precious blood of Christ that rescues and restores us. More importantly: we are not redeemed just from sin but also from our old behavior.

Application: Have you been rescued and restored?

  1. Exile/Temporary life:

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;

Time of your stay = “paroikias humon chronon,” which means “your exile life,” “temporary life,” or “foreigner life.” In every aspect of life – family, church, finances, work, social compassion, justice, integrity, neighborliness, etc. – we are to live in a way that demonstrates that we are different. Remember, that you have to give an account to your Heavenly Father who is also your judge. Before you talk about praying, examine your life to make sure that it is approved unto God. Make sure your fear is directed in the right direction – towards God.

Application: How are you living in every aspect of life? Are you aware that God will judge you for your daily actions? Do you examine before you pray? Is your fear directed in the right direction – towards God?

  1. Revelation of Jesus Christ:

13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“Revelation” = “apocalypses,” which refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion: What is your narrative? Where do you stand in God’s redemption story? Are you living in a way that he will be pleased when he returns? Trials are not an exemption to holy living. God demands holiness, especially in the midst of trials.

Are you saved?

Faithfulness by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: If there is one refrain or chorus that we have all said or heard again and again, it is “what a crazy year 2020 has been!” None of us ever imagined in our wildest dreams or nightmares that this year would turn out this way. Although, this year was quite serious and sad in many ways, people found humor in it as well. Check out some of the memes that people sent me – “T-shirt with the year in review stars – ‘Very bad, would not recommend,’” “picture of a knight in his armor with the caption ‘me being prepared for 2020’ and the next picture with an arrow through the eye slit,” “a bunch of porta potties on fire with the caption ‘if 2020 was a scented candle,’” and this one with “Sorry folks, the world is closed.” As I was praying about what is it that God would want us to remember at the close of this crazy year, he directed my attention to Psalm 66. Here’s the main point: If we look at our trials only through the lens of our personal story, we will become fearful and hopeless. Instead, we have to look at our trials through the lens of our collective story; then we see that we have faced worse situations before and God has been faithful. The foundation of our faith is not our own experiences but the collective experience of God’s people in the Scriptures. If he was faithful then, he will be faithful now and in the future. I can pray to him in confidence and know that he will answer the prayer of the clean heart.

Psalm 66       1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 2 Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.”

Context: Many of us treat the psalms as second-class literature compared to the narratives, prophecies, gospels and epistles. This is false. The psalms are equally Scripture. They are theology that sings. Once we decode the symbolism and the literary structure, they have some deep theology that is not found anywhere else in Scripture.

To start with, the psalm we just read (Psalm 66) can be divided into 2 halves: Verses 1-12 and verses 13-20. The first half is focused on corporate worship and the second half is focused on personal worship. In other words, first, we hear the chorus of the whole community singing and then we hear the voice of the individual worshipper. The first half lays the foundation for the second half. Without the corporate worship, there would be no individual worship.

First half – The choir calls all believers to praise God for his wonderful works. Listen again – 1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!” In the context, I would say that “all the earth” is referring only to the “God-fearing Israelites” or only to “all the believers of the earth.” After all, how can the lost world shout joyfully to the living God? Also, 2 “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.” Again, how can the lost world sing out the honor of God’s name and how can they make his praise glorious? Romans 3:23 is clear, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moving on to verse 3 “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power your enemies shall submit themselves to You.’” Every human being is an enemy of God until he/she meets Jesus Christ.Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Also,Colossians 1      21 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” Once we receive Christ as our Savior, we can join the throng of those who sing praises to God’s name. 4 “All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah

Application: Have you been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? Are you singing praises to God?

Now the choir invites all believers to take a trip down memory lane – 5 “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. 6 He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot…” Here the choir of God’s people are singing about the exodus from Egypt of their ancestors, particularly the time when the people of Israel found themselves hemmed between the Red Sea before them and the chariots of Pharaoh behind them. Remember, after the final plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh allowed the people to leave Egypt. As this massive crowd of 3 million began their journey, the land of Egypt was a wreck and the Egyptians were scared. The people of Israel had to walk right past the fortresses on Egypt’s eastern borders. There were soldiers and chariots in these fortresses with plenty of hatred and anger towards the people of Israel. Even though they were large in number, these former slaves (less than 24 hours) were no match for trained angry soldiers in chariots. God led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. Just then Pharaoh changed his mind and decided to pursue the people of Israel with a couple of thousand chariots with soldiers. What a horrible tactical decision!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses – Exodus 14     10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Listen to Moses’s response in Exodus 14     13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then, God commanded Moses to stretch his rod over the Red Sea to divide so the people could go on dry land. God sent a strong east wind that divided the sea and made dry land for them. Now, listen carefully to what happened next – Exodus 14    19 “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” As the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground, listen to what the Angel of the Lord did 24 “Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians.” This Angel of the Lord and pillar of the cloud was the pre-incarnate Christ who guarded God’s people until they were safely on the other side. Then God gave the command and the sea came back and drowned the entire Egyptian army.

Let’s return again to Psalm 66:6 “He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.There is a shift in the “person” from third to second. There is something very subtle here which is very substantial for our faith. The singers/congregation were not there at the Red Sea. Their ancestors were there. Nonetheless, they were there in the sense of the confessional statements (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). In theological terms, this is known as the “actualizing identification with Israel’s salvation history.” It means that by faith we are part of the whole story of God’s people. In other words, even though I wasn’t there physically, I was there spiritually and I saw the faithfulness of God in my life. We do that as Christians through the Communion – 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

The choir/congregation continues – 7 “He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah 8 Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, 9 Who keeps our soul among the living, And does not allow our feet to be moved.” This is the key verse of this psalm. God has preserved our feet from slipping into the netherworld. This does not mean that people have not died in 2020 of various causes, but God has our times in his hands and none have left this world outside of his time. 10 For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. 11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. 12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Everything from the exodus experience is now personal.

Application: What is your faith story? The Bible is our faith story. We have been through worse. If God brought us through fire and water, he will bring us through 2020. Can you sing that? Can you shout that? Do you understand now why we need community? We understand those who cannot be with us because of health concerns. That’s why we go above and beyond to make sure that we have the best online experience possible for those who cannot attend in person. To stop assembling is to take away our faith story. We have to remind each other of it.

Second Half – The individual proclaims his personal thanksgiving to God and promises to keep his vows. Listen – 13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows.” There is a shift in the “person” from second to first. The choir goes silent now and all eyes are turned towards the individual as he makes remembers the promises that he had made to God through the trials. 14 Which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah Many different kinds of sacrifices are in view here.

Applications: What promises did you make to God in 2020? You say, “I didn’t make any promises.” So, you just asked God to get you through? Get you through for what? Why should God give you another year? If were truly honest, many of us got through but our faith disintegrated. Many have destroyed the faith of others.

Listen to the conclusion of the psalm – 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. 19 Butcertainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” There is confidence in our prayers when our heart is clean before God.

Application: Is your heart clean before God?

Conclusion:

  • We need both descriptive praise and declarative praise.
  • We need to go back and then we can talk about the now.
  • We need both the community and the individual.
  • We need both worship and thanksgiving.
  • We need hearts that are clean if we want our prayers to be heard.

Can you see God’s faithfulness in the past and the present? Are you saved?

Greater than Religion by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER THAN RELIGION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Throughout the world, people have all kinds of traditions when it comes to Christmas. In Norway, they hide their brooms on Christmas Eve, because, according to tradition, witches are out on Christmas eve. In South Africa, children look forward to fried caterpillars or Christmas caterpillars on Christmas day. In India, where I grew up, we sang Christmas carols all night from door to door of every church member. To miss someone’s home was a big insult. They would wait for us with food, sweets, coffee, and tea. By the way, the same morning was Christmas day and we had church service at 9 am. It was tough because some of us were half asleep. All these traditions are good but sometimes traditions can overshadow the truth and we end up with religion and religious leaders. In our Christmas series titled GREATER, we’ve seen how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. In this message, we will see that Jesus was even greater than all the religious power brokers of the world. Find John 1:19. Main point: Jesus did not come to fit into our religious traditions. He came to bring us into a relationship with God. Jesus came to tear down the curtain in the Holy of Holies from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

Matthew 2      1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

Context: If you remember, last week, this was the same passage we used for the message, but our focus was on King Herod. We are using it again because it gives us the third power broker of the ancient world – the Religious Authorities. Next to Rome and Herod, they were in charge. Just like Herod was connected and subjected to Rome and Augustus Caesar, the Religious Authorities were also connected and subjected to Herod. In fact, they were also connected and subjected to Rome, as we will see later on.

In the passage, the Religious Authorities appear to be at Herod’s beck and call4“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” They knew better than to reject his summons. After all, he was the king. He controlled the appointment of the high priests. He expanded and built the temple in Jerusalem. He maintained peace in the region. He kept a buffer between them and the Romans. Of course, they lined up on the double. Were they aware of the answer? 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Amazingly, they even gave the right answer. What was Herod’s response? 7 “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.” Why didn’t Herod order the chief priests and scribes to go with the wise men? Why didn’t they go on their own initiative? One of 2 reasons:

  • They didn’t believe this was going to happen. It was just a myth to them.
  • They didn’t want it to happen. It was too costly and risky for them.

By their refusal to act, they were going to cancel the first Christmas! They would rather stay with their traditions and rituals than to go after the real thing.

Application: I find it very interesting how people are willing to shut down Christmas or redefine Christmas or see Christmas differently this year. What annoys me the most is when people try to use spiritual lingo to cover up their fear. How many of you have heard of the term “cancel culture”? It is when a person does or says something controversial and they are immediately cancelled. This happens on social media a lot. People turn against someone and they cancel them. 2000 years ago, people tried to cancel Christmas. They failed. They are trying it again and, unfortunately, believers are going along.

Who were these Religious authorities? In the passage it says “chief priests and the scribes of the people,” but altogether there were 4 major groups with some subgroups: Priests and Levites, Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes:

  1. Who were the Priests and Levites? As you know from the Old Testament, priests belonged to the tribe of Levi and had to be descendants of Aaron. Along with the Levites, they were the “ritual specialists and mediators between God and people” (Kugler). While the priests were responsible for running the temple and carrying out the sacrifices, the Levites handled the music and the supervision and management of the temple activities. Under Moses’ supervision and Aaron’s leadership, the standards were extremely high regarding holiness. Exodus 28 36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE Lord. 37 And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban. 38 So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.” Unfortunately, through the centuries, the priesthood in Israel had continued a downward spiral. In 174 BC, a man by the name of Jason had bribed Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, to become the high priest. Three years later, a man by the name of Menelaus, who was not even a Levite, also bribed his way to the position. After that, the Hasmoneans family of priests controlled the position. The Levites were no different. Does this mean that every priest and Levite was corrupt? There were a few like Zechariah and Elizabeth who were truly righteous, but, it seems that those from Jerusalem proper were corrupt. Remember, the parable of the Good Samaritan. The antagonists in the story were the priests and the Levites.
  2. Who were the Sadducees? The first time we hear about the Sadducees is under John Hyrcanus (135-104 BC). The Sadducees claimed to be the “righteous ones,” going all the way back to Zadok, the righteous high priest. In reality, the Sadducees were mostly from the aristocracy and despised by the common people. Under Alexander Jannaeus (103-76BC), 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Sadducees. Then in 37 BC, with the coming of Herod the great, the high priesthood became a political appointment under Rome’s supervision with the Sadducees in charge of all the temple activities. They were not necessarily all priests or attached to the temple. The chief priests and the high priests came from the Sadducees. This was the reason why some Jewish people actually built a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt and some left to form the Dead Sea community at Qumran. In short, the people went to the temple but inside they knew it was in corrupt hands. What did the Sadducees believe?No resurrection, angel, or spirit. They did not accept the oral law or the law of the sages, as the Pharisees. They had their own traditions regarding the Torah. They placed more emphasis on the books that focused on the temple. The came testing him with the question about the resurrection of the 7 brothers married to the same woman. Matthew 32:22 “…God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” They didn’t want Jesus. He was a threat to the establishment.
  3. Who were the Pharisees? They 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.

Unfortunately, they constantly butted heads with Jesus. They were frustrated that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. They were frustrated that Jesus did not keep all their trivial Sabbath laws. They wanted Jesus to give them a sign. They accused him of being demon possessed. Jesus did not let up on them. He told his disciples in Matthew 5:20 “…unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He called them “Blind Guides,” “Hypocrites,” and “White-washed tombs.”

Attached to the Pharisees was a subgroup known as the scribes. Jesus often addressed them together.

  1. Who were the Scribes? They 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. They considered themselves to be experts in the law/Old Testament. Listen to how Jesus dealt with them in Mark 12 38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” He pronounced woes upon them along with the Pharisees – Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. The Priests and the Levites were corrupt.
  2. The Sadducees were protecting the status quo.
  3. The Pharisees were about self-righteousness.
  4. The Scribes were busy showing off their knowledge.

In this world Jesus came not to fit into the religious categories and traditions but to tear down the curtain from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

1 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. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Invitation: Do you have religion or do you have a relationship with Christ? He came not to fit into our traditions. He came to clean it up. Are you saved?

Resolve by Pastor Abidan Shah

RESOLVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

ResolveIntroduction:  How many of ya’ll remember these slangs from back in the day? “Made in the shade,” “Greaser,” “Far out,” “Psyche,” “Cool Beans,” “Chill Pill,” “That’s Bad,” “Duh,” “Word,” “Bounce,” “Talk to the hand,” “Booyah,” “Not!” “Whatever,” “Sup,” “On fleek,” “Lit,” “Fam,” “Salty,” etc. Question: How did you feel when I read some of those slangs in the beginning? Did some of them take you back to your younger days? How many of ya’ll didn’t have a clue what the last 4 meant? Did you feel out of touch? Every generation has their own slangs. It’s their handprint on the timeline of history. But just because your handprint has passed, it does not mean that your time has passed. In fact, for a believer, your best time is right now. All it takes is your resolve to obey God and walk in his promises. That’s the title of our first message in 2019: RESOLVE.

Joshua 14      6Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him … 10… behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11As yet I am asstrong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strengthwasthen, so nowismy strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day;…”

Question: Can you hear the resolve in the words of this 85-year-old man? Can you see the determination in his eyes? Can you feel the confidence in his spirit? How is your resolve? Have you laid down your weapons? Have you become content to sit back and coast your way in your remaining years? This message is not just for those who are older but for all of us. Are you resolved to walk in the promises of God? Are you saved?

Context: In this message we will learn from Caleb how to stay strong and press on even though the odds might be against us. To do this, we will first go back 45 years, when Caleb was 40 years old. Then we will fast forward to the present when he is 85 years old.

FIRST, BACK UP 45 YEARS:Last weekend we learned how the Children of Israel wandered 38 years in the wilderness because they chose to disobey God’s command to move forward and possess the Promised Land. Twelve spies went into the land but 10 returned with a negative report: the people are bigger than us, the cities are fortified up to the heavens, and there are giants in the land. Only 2 returned with a positive report – Joshua and Caleb. Listen to Caleb’s words in Numbers 13:30Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” Was he being over confident? Was he being impulsive? Of course not. God had repeatedly proved that he was with them – the 10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the water, the Manna, the meat for 2.5 million people, the victory over the Amalekites, the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. How much more proof do you need!

Application: Are you still living in doubts? What is holding you back from following God?

What was the response of the people? “They’re like giants and we’re like grasshoppers.” Then they cried and complained against Moses and Aaron saying “If only we had died in Egypt! If only we had died in the wilderness! God has brought us here to kill us.” But here’s the worst part in Numbers 14:4So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.” How hateful! How ungrateful! How unfaithful!What’s worse is that the 10 spies brought down to 2.5 million people! By your words and actions, you can either encourage people to trust God or discourage them.

What is the response of the 2 faithful spies? Numbers 14:6“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who wereamong those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes.” They launched into repentance because they knew what was about to happen and they begged the people to trust the Lord and obey him. Listen to verse9“Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they areour bread; (eating bread = our problems will only make us stronger) their protection has departed from them, and the LORDiswith us. Do not fear them.” What’s the people’s response? 10“And all the congregation said to stone them with stones.”

Question: Where would you have stood? Keep in mind that these people were simply reenacting the drama of God’s people. Remember what Paul said in1 Corinthians 10:11“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition.…”This is how we act. One moment we are praising God for his blessings and the next we are blaming him for our choices.Are you easily moved by your circumstances? Whose report do you believe? God or unfaithful people? Are you a fear monger or a faith builder? Do you help people to step out and trust God or do you cause people to step back and doubt God?

You know what happened next – God cursed that generation (20 years old and above) to die in the wilderness. But not so for the 2 spies. Listen specifically to what God said about Caleb? Numbers 14:24 “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” I loved that phrase – “A different spirit.”

Question:  What kind of spirit do you have in you?

NOW, FAST FORWARD 45 YEARS:  Caleb was waiting for the last one to kick the bucket!  He comes to Joshua and says in Joshua 14:10“And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old.”Quick Point: Sometimes we are where we are because of someone else’s bad behavior. Unfortunately, that happens a lot. Nevertheless, we have a choice in how we respond and live our lives.

Application: You can either live in resentment and regret or you can remember and reflect upon the promises of God. What path have you taken? Have you allowed circumstances and failures of others make you bitter or better? Sometimes, people even join the crowd. “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

3 things we need to learn from Caleb:

  1. You are never too old to follow God’s promises.

11“As yet I am asstrong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strengthwasthen, so nowismy strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.”

Background: Sometimes people wrongly assume that people back then lived hundreds of years or their 80 is our 40. Not true. In the antediluvian age (before the deluge/flood), people did live hundreds of years (Adam – 930, Methuselah – 969). But after the flood, the age kept dropping. Listen to Moses’ psalm – Psalm 90:10“The days of our livesareseventy years; and if by reason of strengththey areeighty years, yet their boastisonly labor and sorrow; or it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” One ofDavid’s loyal friends was Barzillai the Gileadite. He was 80 and the Bible calls him a very aged man! David tries to persuade him to come and live with him in Jerusalem. Listen to his answer – 2 Samuel 19  34But Barzillai said to the king, “How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? 35I amtoday eighty years old. Can I discern between the good and bad? Can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any longer the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be a further burden to my lord the king?”David himselfis called the “aged king” at 70. All this to say that Caleb was not a spring chicken!

Application: Do you talk and act old? Why? What dream does God want you to revive?

  1. You are never too late to prove God’s power.

12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakimwerethere, and thatthe citiesweregreatandfortified. It may be that the LORDwill bewith me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.”

Background: Caleb could have asked for some fertile valley or the coast or some other sweet spot. Instead, he asks for the place where the giants lived, the cities were great and fortified. Several reasons: One, this was Hebron. Joshua 14:13“And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb….” After Lot chose the fertile land of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham chose to settle by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron. Somehow Caleb must have felt that this was a special ground. Second, this place was the reason that the hearts of the people had melted. Forty-five years later, Caleb wanted to prove that if God is with us, nothing is too difficult! He had a score to settle but he was not playing for self. He was playing for God.

Application: If today you resolve to prove yourself to your enemies, your family, and even yourself, you are playing the wrong game. Resolve to prove God and he will help you win!

  1. You are never too far to find God’s grace.

14“Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel.”

Background:Who are the Kenizzite? That’s not a Hebrew or even a West Semitic name. We find it mentioned in Genesis 15  18“ … the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19the Kenites, the Kenezzites,the Kadmonites,…” Somehow his family was grafted into God’s people! Isn’t God’s grace amazing? Are you saved?

Unstuck (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

UNSTUCK (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the Newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 29, 2018)

“The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey. . .’” (Deuteronomy 1:6-7a)

 “So you remained in Kadesh many days. . .”(Deuteronomy 1:46)

“. . . and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward . . .’”(Deuteronomy 2:1-3)

Human beings are prone to getting stuck in a rut. Sometimes, it’s because we’re afraid of facing the challenges waiting ahead. Other times, it’s because we get comfortable in our misery. Either way, we fail to move forward in life and we miss out on the many blessings that God has for us. It’s easier to blame or feel self-pity than to accept responsibility for our inactions. We would rather complain and compare than confront our complacency.

This is nothing new. The people of Israel were stuck for 40 years in the wilderness. First, it was at Mount Sinai for eleven months. Here they encountered God, received the gift of the law, saw the holiness of God, and built the Tabernacle. This was not a waste of time. But, instead of moving forward with renewed faith, they decided to camp there indefinitely. God had to push them out. They made their way to Kadesh Barnea from where they could see the Promised Land. God helped them to organize themselves through Moses. They had seen enough wonders to know that God was with them. Again, instead of moving forward in faith, they refused God’s command to take the land. God condemned that generation to die in the wilderness over the next 38 years. Only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb survived because they believed God. As if all this was not enough warning to the next generation, they too decided to skirt Mount Seir for many days! God had to tell them what he had told their parents and grandparents 40 years earlier – “Enough going in circles! Move forward!”

Here are some questions to consider: Are you stuck? Are you wasting time going in circles? What is it that’s keeping you from moving forward? Would you rather skirt the mountain in your life than step out in faith? Do you blame others for your indecisions? Is crying and complaining easier than climbing and conquering? These are tough questions but unless you answer them honestly, there will be no progress in your life.

The place to begin is not by self-determination and self-will or even clarifying your goals or your strategy. Begin by clarifying who God is and whether you know him. Many times, our lack of movement is directly proportional to the size of our God. People who serve a big God attempt big things in life. But, it’s not enough to believe in a big God. You also have to know his heart for you. The only way to come to him is by first coming to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.(John 14:6). If you don’t know Jesus, receive him today as Savior and King. If you do know him, it’s time to get unstuck from the rut and move forward!

Forward by Pastor Abidan Shah

FORWARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Forward

Introduction: Have any of y’all ever been lost and realized that you were going in circles? About 26 years ago, my parents were visiting and I was driving them from Georgia to Florida. This is back in the pre-GPS days. I remember coming to this little town that had a business and a bypass highway. I decided to take the bypass. But, for some reason, I kept going in circles. After the third time of coming to the same stop sign, my mom, who had never been here before, didn’t know our traffic signs or driving system, said to me, “I might be wrong but I think I’ve seen that building before.” I realized that I kept missing the last sign. What happens if you keep making all right turns or all left turns? You’ll end up at the same spot. Imagine doing that for over a year! The children of Israel did that! Many people do the same thing. For one reason or another, they keep making all right or all left turns in life and they wonder why they keep going in circles!In today’s message we will learn how to move forward in 2019.

Deut 1    46“So you remained in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you spentthere.”2    1“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. 2“And the LORD spoke to me, saying: 3“You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.”

Question: Are you moving forward in life or are you going in circles? How was 2018 for you? What are you hoping to accomplish in 2019? Are you saved? Without Christ in your life, you will keep skirting the mountain in 2019.

Context: One of the most amazing historical accounts in the Old Testament is the deliverance of the Children of Israel from Egypt and their journey to the Promised Land. It says in Exodus 2    23“. . . Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God. . . 24So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledgedthem.” They cried out to God and he remembered them and his covenant with them. God is a God who remembers his people. You may think that God has forgotten you but that’s not true. What did God do?He sent Mosesto set his people free. If you read the Book of Exodus, he used 10 plagues to break Pharaoh’s choke hold on the people and he reluctantly let them go.

But God was not all business.He knew the plight of his people.They had been slaves for many years. They were not hard-core, well-trained warriors. They were just brick layers who had been broken down under Pharaoh’s whip. He knew that they were not ready to fight against the Canaanites and possess the land. So, listen to Exodus 13    17Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them byway of the land of the Philistines, although that wasnear; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18So God led the people aroundbyway of the wilderness of the Red Sea. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He understands how much we can handle. Even if he puts more on you than you can handle, it is only to come alongside and help you handle what you can’t on your own. He wants to go along with you in the journey.

God made a way for them through the Red Sea and brought them down to Mount Sinai in the desert. On the way, they complained about being thirsty and God provided water for them, even out of a rock. They complained about not having bread and God provided manna from heaven for them. They fussed about not having meat and God sent them quail to eat. The Amalekites attacked them and God helped Joshua defeat them. Finally, they made it to Mount Sinai where the people encountered God. Moses was called up to the mountain where he met God to receive his commandments for the people. By the way, this is also the place where the people made the golden calf and God had to punish those who were responsible. Then, the people built the Tabernacle according to the plans that God had given to them.Here’s the point: God is so patient with us. He could destroy us forever but he is still willing to work with us even when we are undeserving.

What’s next? Instead of moving out and heading towards the Promised Land, the people decided to camp around Mount Sinai indefinitely! Deut 1      6“The LORD our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. 7Turn and take your journey, and go . . . 8See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’” Numbers 10 tells us that the cloud was taken up from the Tabernacle. You would think that they would beeager to move forward. Not true. Why? THEY STILL HAD THE SLAVE MINDSET TO CORRECT.

Application: God can save you but if you don’t allow the Holy Spirit to correct your slave mindset to sin through his Word, you will still live in bondage to old habits and old sins. Jesus said in John 10:36“if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

So the people finally moved after sitting around a mountain for almost 11 months and they came to Kadesh Barnea. Now they could see the Promised Land.Listen to Deut 1    20And I (Moses)said to you, “You have come to the mountains of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. 21Look, the LORD your God has set the land before you; go upandpossessit . . .do not fear or be discouraged.” What was their response? Instead of trusting God and moving forward they begged Moses to send spies first. God agreed but ten of the twelve spies brought back a negative report. They told them how the people were greater and taller and how the cities were fortified up to the heaven. Plus, there were giants in the land. Moses reminded them that God had carried them so far “as a man carries his son” but nothing mattered. The people had made up their minds. God was angry. He cursed them to die in the wilderness (20 years and above), except Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. He told them to go back into the dessert and he

What was their response? Okay, okay, we’re so sorry. We’ll do it. Listen to what happened next – Deut 1    42“And the LORD said to me, “Tell them, ‘Do not go up nor fight, for I amnot among you. . . 43So I spoke to you; yet you would not listen, but rebelled against the command of the LORD, and presumptuously went up into the mountain. 44And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah. 45Then you returned and wept before the LORD, but the LORD would not listen to your voice nor give ear to you. There’s a play on words here. This was supposed to be “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) To have honey, you need bees. God was going to take the stingers out of the bees for you but since you took God out, the bees still have their stingers. In other words, the blessing is still there but each time you get near, you get stung. What’s the result? Deut. 1:46“So you remained in Kadesh many days. . .” I did the math and that’s 13,880 days (38 years). Daniel Block called it a “classic understatement. A whole generation had to die in the wilderness. Why? THEY STILL HAD SINS TO CONFESS.Someone might say – “What does this have to do with me?” 1 Corinthians 10:11“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition. . .”

Application:If there is the sin of disobedience and disbelief in your life, you need to confess and repent. Repentance is more than just turn and return. It is a change of mind regarding sin. The Children of Israel were not truly sorry for their sins. They were only sorry that they got caught. Unless you truly confess your sin, you cannot move forward.

As if all this was not enough warning to the next generation, they too made the same mistake as their parents and grandparents. Listen to Deut 2:1“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days.”Mount Seir is in the land of Edom (modern day Jordan). Instead of moving forward, they circled that mountain for a while. WHY? THEY STILL HAD FEARS TO CONQUER.After all these years of wandering, they still had the fear that God was not with them. Listen to Deut 2    2“And the LORD spoke to me, saying: 3“You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.”God had to tell them what he had told their parents and grandparents 40 years earlier – “Enough going in circles! Move forward!”

Why do we go in circles instead of moving forward?Sometimes, we are still living with a slave mindset.It’s easier to blame or feel self-pity than to accept responsibility for our inactions. Sometimes, we still have sins that need to be confessed.It’s easier to sweep things under the rug than to face our sins and repent. Sometimes, we still have fears that need to be conquered. We’re afraid of facing the challenges waiting ahead. We would rather complain and compare than confront our doubts and complacency.

Here are some questions to consider: Are you stuck? Are you wasting time going in circles? What is it that’s keeping you from moving forward? Would you rather skirt the mountain in your life than step out in faith? Do you blame others for your indecisions? Is crying and complaining easier than climbing and conquering? These are tough questions but unless you answer them honestly, there will be no progress in your life.

The place to begin is not by self-determination and self-will or even clarifying your goals or your strategy. Begin by clarifying who God is and whether you know him.Many times, our lack of movement is directly proportional to the size of our God. People who serve a big God attempt big things in life. But, it’s not enough to believe in a big God. You also have to know his heart for you. The only way to come to him is by first coming to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.(John 14:6). If you don’t know Jesus, receive him today as Savior and King. If you do know him, it’s time to move forward!

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 7, 2017)

bef00a78-d76b-461a-be58-7037520c4569This is the time of the year when many people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to some surveys, about 70% are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions like growing in Christ, reading the Bible, praying, serving in church, etc. Another year comes and goes and there’s zero progress. In Luke 9 Jesus met three such individuals who were buried in the graveyard of excuses. Let’s see if we can learn something from their encounters:

  1. Grave of Comfort – Verse 57 “…Someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple willing to follow Jesus anywhere. In actuality, he was a young man looking to tag along Rabbi Jesus for a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices. Jesus knew his heart and bluntly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not calling him to give up his Sleep Number bed or his Tempur-Pedic pillow and wander around and live under some tree like a hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble. Instead, Jesus was telling him – “To follow me, you have to choose the uncomfortable life. Previously, it was comfortable to tolerate some old sin, habit, grudge, behavior, or desire in your life but following me will require giving them up. How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
  2. Grave of Obligations – Verse 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” What a strange request! Was the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! No. What the man was really saying was “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I will follow you.” He was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s heart too and responded trenchantly – 60 “…Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How could Jesus be so harsh?! Was he actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Again, don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. But in this situation, the man was using his obligations to keep him from obeying God. Jesus was telling him – “Life will never settle down. There will always be another obligation. Follow me now or never.”
  3. Grave of One Last Glance – Verse 61 “…Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’” This sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? – “At least my loved ones deserve to know that I’m leaving.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s real intention. He wanted to take that one last look to make sure that this was a right decision. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who took that fatal glance and like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What do they see? Some see pain and feel they can’t leave until they’ve healed; some see regrets and feel they can’t leave until they’ve fixed things; some see failures and feel their past would repeat again; and some even see the disappointed faces of their loved ones and feel they can’t let them down. Jesus warned him – 62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church told me that when he used to plow with a mule, he would find a fixed point in front and keep his eyes on it. When he looked straight ahead, he had straight rows behind him but if he turned back, he was all over the place. If your spiritual life is all over the place, it’s time to look ahead to Jesus.

By the way, before you can leave your grave of excuses to follow Jesus, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death by asking him to be your Savior. Happy Resurrection!

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