Greater Than Rome

As we head toward the Christmas season, it is more important than ever to remember who Jesus is and what He has done for us. This is year that has kept all of us guessing at times, but the thing that can help us all stay focused through any difficult season is remember that Christ was born to save us from our sins.

This weekend, we are beginning a brand new series focused on Christmas, titled “GREATER.” Through this series, we will focus on the society and political structure during the time of Jesus’ birth. Even though times change, people, situations, and politics remain the same. In this first message, we will take a look at the Roman Empire and how it was affected by Jesus’ birth. The title of this weekend’s message is “GREATER THAN ROME.”

How do you see Jesus? Is He the greatest in your life? What does Christmas mean to you? Are you saved? Don’t miss this very special message. Invite your friends and family to worship with us this Christmas season!

Firm Resolve by Dr. Abidan Shah

FIRM RESOLVE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  How many of you know of the “Loser’s Limp?” Zig Ziglar (in his classic book “See you at the top”) described it like this – “Characteristically, when a person falls victim to Garbage-Dump Thinking, he develops an assortment of ‘Loser’s Limps.’ You know what the Loser’s Limp is if you’ve ever attended a football game or watched one on television…The offensive player slips behind the defensive player, reaches up, pulls in a pass and heads for the end zone. The defensive man quickly recovers and takes out in hot pursuit. When the offensive player gets about 20 yards from the end zone, the defensive player realizes he’s not going to catch the man with the ball. Everybody in the stands knows it too. So, the defensive player frequently pulls up limping and the people in the stands say, ‘Well, no wonder the poor guy couldn’t catch him. Look, he’s crippled.’ Now that is his Loser’s Limp.” As we move forward in this series on 1 Peter, we’re going to learn how to avoid the Loser’s Limp during trials; and instead, make a FIRM RESOLVE (title) to press forward in the Christian life. Please find 1 Peter 1:13. Main point: When going through trials, it’s easy to become irrational, hopeless, and even revert back to our old ways. In such times, it is imperative that we make a firm resolve to be sober and look to Jesus, our source of hope. Ultimately, hopeful lives are holy lives.

1 Peter 1:13 “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.”

Background: This verse marks a shift in the focus of the letter. It begins with the Greek word “dio,” which means “therefore.” If you’re a Bible student or a Sunday School teacher, I’m sure you’ve told your students that “when you see a ‘therefore’ in the Bible, ask yourself ‘what is it there for’ or ‘what is its purpose?’” “Therefore” is a call to action based on what has been said thus far. What has been said thus far? After the opening greeting in the first two verses, Peter gave a long doxology from verses 3-12. In this long Greek sentence, he reminded 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) that even though—

1. Their own had rejected them and their neighbors had ostracized them. 1. God had chosen them and rebirthed them into his family.
2. They were feeling hopeless. 2. They had a living hope which was based on God himself.
3. They had lost their inheritance. 3. God had an inheritance – incorruptible, undefiled, andunfading – waiting for them.
4. Their trials were causing them grief. 4. Trials were opportunities for God to test and purify their faith so that they will receive praise, honor, glory when Christ comes.
5. They felt like mourning. 5. They were to rejoice with an exultant joy, the shouting joy that opens the pressure valve through trials.
6. They hadn’t seen Christ and still couldn’t see him. 6. They had a special love and trust relationship with Jesus Christ.
7. Christ was invisible. 7. Christ become visible to them and filled their hearts with joy inexpressible and full of glory.
8. They felt unsure as to where life was headed. 8. Christ had given them the assurance of their salvation.
9. They were people with no past and no future. 9. They were part of God’s greater plan of salvation, which the prophetshad tried to search it out and the angelsstill try to figure it out.
10. They could only see suffering. 10. The salvation plan included the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. If they suffered with Christ, they will also share with him in glory. No sufferings, no glory.

 Here’s the point: God gives us plenty of reasons to overcome and press forward through our trials.

Application: What reasons do you have to overcome the trials in your life? Can you see the purpose of trials in your life? Have you been born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do you have a love and trust relationship with him? Is your life tethered to God’s greater plan of salvation? Do you know that there is no glory without suffering?

Listen again: 13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…” “Gird up the loins” is a Semitic idiom that means “tuck your long robe into your belt so you can move freely, rapidly, and without hindrance.” We would say, “roll up your sleeves.” Peter went a step further – 13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…” In his characteristic style, Peter mixed metaphors here. He was telling the pilgrims of the Dispersion not to let the trials and circumstances of their lives cause them to lose their mind, their focus.

Application: Are you guarding your mind? What do you allow to go into your mind? Who has the key to your mind? Here are some scriptures to remember:

  • Romans 12: 2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5 “…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
  • Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Instead, “nephontes” (be sober), which was the opposite of being drunk and losing self-control.

Application: Are you sober enough to properly process information and be judicious and prudent? Do you make rash decisions?

Instead of losing your mind and indulging, 13 “…and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” “Rest your hope fully” is the first imperative (command) of 1 Peter. Keep in mind that in verse 3 Peter had told them that God had begotten them to a living hope, but now he told them to hope fully in the grace that is coming when Jesus comes. Also, in verse 10, Peter had told them that the prophets had prophesied of the grace that would come to them, but now he told them that grace is still on the way. The point is this: the work has begun but more is on the way; this glimpse of the fuller reality should help you live confidently today. The fact that we have lost confidence in the present is because we cannot see what lies in the future. As you see the heavenly city, it should help you live even more confidently now. This should make you fight even harder! For example: VE-Day was May 8, 1945, the war was already over on D-Day, June 6, 1944 when in “Operation Overlord” 1000 ships carrying 200,000 soldiers sailed across the English Chanel to France and landed on the shores of Normandy.

Application: Can you see what is coming for believers? Do you know that we win? As the adage goes, “we don’t fight to victory, but we fight from victory.” “If your faith cannot get you through one year, what makes you think it will get you through eternity!”

There’s more – 14 “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.” Because they had been born again by the Father through the resurrection of the Son, they were to be “obedient children.” They are not to be obedient slaves but obedient children. There is a sense of dignity and choice implied. God doesn’t want us to obey out of fear but out of a willing heart. We are living in a culture where people will obey every mandate of human beings but disobey the commandments of God, even Christians. Peter warned them not to revert back to their former lusts in their time of ignorance. The word for lust “epithumia” is not just about the worst sins like gluttony, lust, greed, and pride, this is about the kind of life that lives to please self and reject God. It is about self-glory, self-preservation, and self-promotion. This is from the time of “ignorance.” This does not mean “lack of knowledge” but a life that doesn’t understand the need for God and his salvation in our lives. Some of the smartest people are ignorant because they haven’t realized that they need to be saved through Jesus Christ.

Application: Are you still in your time of ignorance? Are you still living by your fleshly lusts? Do you recognize your need to be saved?

Finally, what should be our standard through trials? 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Peter points back to the Holiness Code between Leviticus 11-20 (11:44; 19:2). Nothing has changed with regards to what God expects from his people. Keep in mind that Holiness is separation from the profane.

Application: Are you taking the time to be holy, to be separate? Are you set apart for God’s purpose? Are you sober minded? Are you resting your hope fully in what is coming through Christ? Are you obedient? Are you saved?

Greater Plan by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER PLAN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: When the kids were young, sometimes they would enjoy helping me in the yard, some more than others. It would start out with a lot of excitement until they got tired, bored, or hot. Then, they would go back in the house to get a snack or a drink, and I wouldn’t see them after that. Although they would genuinely help me, I always knew that the bulk of the work was going to be on me. In the evening, we would get ice-cream to celebrate, it was not just for “my” work but “our” work. As you know, we’re in our series on 1 Peter and we now come to verse 10. Main point: When the trials of life become too distressing, you have to remember that you are simply a small part of God’s greater plan. In other words, when doubts arise as to where life is headed and what God is doing, tether yourself to God’s eternal plan of salvation through Christ. It began before you and it will continue to those after you. Here’s the best part – If you suffer with Christ, you will also share with him in glory. The title is “GREATER PLAN.”

1 Peter 1:10 “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.”

Context: Here Peter was talking about the salvation of the pilgrims of the dispersion in Asia Minor. These were Jewish background and Gentile background believers in the Anatolian peninsula, modern day Turkey, who were facing persecution in the form of ostracization and rejection by their own families and community. This was all because they had received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Peter encouraged them to rejoice (aggalion = exultant joy, shouting joy) knowing that God was testing their faith and purifying them through their trials. He also reminded them to keep their eyes on Jesus Christ, whom they had not seen historically but they loved him and whom they could not see presently but they trusted him. As they loved and trusted Jesus through their trials, his invisible presence became visible and filled their hearts with joy inexpressible and full of glory. Not only that, but they also received the assurance that they would receive the end of their faith—the salvation of their souls.

Application: As you’re going through your trials, how is your love for Jesus? Do you take the time to think on his earthly ministry? Does your heart overflow with love for him? Are you trusting him every day? Do you take the time to reflect on his heavenly ministry right now? Does your heart take on new courage and strength knowing that he is with you? Do you have the assurance of your salvation? Are you saved?

Peter was not through. Since he brought up the subject of their salvation, he wanted them to understand how privileged they were in the whole course of salvation history, God’s greater plan. Listen again to 1 Peter 1:10 “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.” Which prophets was Peter talking about? The Old Testament prophets. They inquired (ekzeitein) and searched carefully (eraunein). When those words are used in the context of discovering divine will, they have a very deliberate and meditative meaning. In other words, this was not just some side hobby or idle pursuit. They were very intense and intentional in their search:

  • We could start with Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people. In Genesis 20:7, God called him a prophet. Did he inquire and search carefully? Jesus said in John 8:56“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
  • How about Moses? He said in 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.” When Jesus began his ministry, people began to make the connection with what Moses had said – John 6:14 “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’”

By the way, their search was not about the nature of his coming but about the timing of his coming. Listen to 1 Peter 1:11 “searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” The phrase “searching what, or what manner of time” should be read as “what time or what sort of time.” They knew what the Christ would do when he came; their question was “when?”:

  • Listen to David in Psalm 22 15 “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. 16 For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet…18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” No confusion there about how the Christ would suffer!
  • Also, listen to Isaiah 53     5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6 All 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.” Again, no confusion here regarding how the Christ would suffer.
  • I don’t have time to bring up the rest of the prophets. Listen to Peter in his sermon from Solomon’s porch in the temple in Acts 3:24 “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.” The point is that the suffering of Christ was no afterthought. It was well understood. Their question was “when?”

Who was prompting this questioning? The “Spirit of Christ” = The Holy Spirit. By the way, this timing question became even more intense as it got closer to his coming:

  • Isaiah 6:11 “Then I said, ‘Lord, how long?’”
  • Daniel 12 8 “…Then I said, ‘My lord, what shall be the end of these things?’ 9 And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.’” Illustration: Like kids asking “Are we there yet?”
  • Habakkuk 1:2 “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear?” Habakkuk 2 2“Then the LORD answered me and said…3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.’”

By the way, this was not just about Christ’s suffering but as verse 11 adds, “the glories that would follow.” What are these glories? 1. Resurrection – 1 Peter 1:21 “who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory…” 2. Ascension and Authority – 1 Peter 3:22 “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”

What is the point of all this? 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven…” Throughout their existence, the people of old, especially the Old Testament prophets lived in the light of Christ’s coming suffering and glory. They faced their trials in the shadow of this greater plan of suffering and glory. More importantly, they did all this for us:

  • When Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah, he had this greater plan in mind.
  • When Joseph lay dying, he spoke to his brethren about this greater plan.
  • When Rahab the prostitute hid the spies in her house, she had this greater plan in mind.
  • When David was fleeing for his life from Saul, he wrote about this greater plan in his psalms.
  • When Jeremiah wrote to encourage the people in exile, he had this greater plan in mind.
  • When Esther resolved to stand up for her people saying “if I perish, I perish,” she had the greater plan in mind.

I can go on and on, the point is this – Those Old Testament people faced their trials with the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow with us in mind. In a way, they were partaking in Christ’s suffering that would come in the future, along with the glories that would follow. By the way, a side note here – 12 “…things which angels desire to look into.” Meaning: The angels watch in awe this entire drama throughout human history!

What is the application for us? Some people live in the microcosm of their own trials, griefs, pains, and uncertainties. They feel defeated, disillusioned, or distressed. They want God to get them through or bless them with something or teach them some great truth or principle. What if life was never meant to be lived in some personal bubble. What if my suffering or yours were part of a divine Master plan? What if our trials were meant for us to connect with the sufferings of Christ and the glories that are to follow? What if what we’re going through is not for us but for those coming after us? What if we are to rejoice and not reject the sufferings of life? Listen to 1 Peter 4:13 “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

Here’s the principle: If you don’t tether yourself to God’s greater plan of salvation through Christ, the storms of life will carry you away or tear you to pieces or leave you bruised and wounded. And, when you get through, that’s it. There’re no glories to follow.

Invitation: Are you bogged down with the immediate? Can you see what God is doing through your storm? Can you see what God is doing through the storm of 2020? What are doing for those who are coming behind you? Are you saved?

Genuine Faith by Dr. Abidan Shah

 

GENUINE FAITH by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  When I was a school teacher and then a principal, I would go along with the students on their field trips. The ones I especially remember where the ones to New York city. They were a lot of fun, but they were also very stressful. Some of you teachers know what I am talking about. Trying to lead 40-50 middle school or high school students through Times Square and China Town was like herding cats. Then, the boys would find a bargain on a Foakley! “Do you think anyone would know?” Or, the girls would find a bargain on a genuine imitation leather jacket! “Can you tell the difference?” My answer would always be – “I can’t tell.” This was of course a lie. But, I didn’t have to tell them anything. Sometimes, those glasses would start breaking and those jackets would start flaking even before the bus ride was over. Why? They were not real. So also, some people’s faith looks real until they go through the bus rides of life and they start breaking and flaking even before the ride is over. We are in our series through 1 Peter and today we come to 1 Peter 1:6 for our message titled GENUINE FAITH. Main point: How we respond to the trials of life reveals the content and the quantity of our faith. Genuine faith makes the invisible Christ visible and fills our hearts with joy. It even reveals our true destination.

1 Peter 1:6 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.”

Context: After saying a good word about God, “eulogetos,” Peter immediately addressed the tough situation that the believers of Asia Minor were going through because of their faith in Christ. Peter assured them that he understood that they were grieved. The Greek word is “lupeo,” which can be translated “distressed,” “sorrowful,” “deeply grieved,” and “burdened down.” Why did they feel this way? As we learned in the last message, their own family and community had ostracized them and taken away their inheritance. Some people think that they were being persecuted by the Roman government. I don’t believe that was really the case because in the next chapter, Peter instructed them to honor the king and submit to those in authority. What did happen under Nero was that he got the people to hate the Christians. Here’s the point: Societal discrimination was often the method by which Christians were persecuted. Not much has changed. If we don’t step up and take a leading role in where our nation is headed, we too will face societal discrimination as Christians and the church. In the time of the governor Pliny, the name “Christian” was criminalized. We are headed down the same path in America today where being a Christian and holding church is being criminalized.

Application: Are you being grieved by what is happening in our nation? Are you standing up for truth and integrity? What trials are grieving you? Do you realize that trials have a timeline – a beginning, middle, and end. It is for a little while.

Listen again to 1 Peter 1:6 “In this you greatly rejoice…” Was Peter stating how the believers were responding or was he telling them to rejoice? In other words, was he saying, “You are greatly rejoicing in the face of trials” or was he saying “you should greatly rejoice in the face of trials”? I believe that it was both. In some ways, Peter was complementing them for their response. At the same time, Peter was also encouraging them to rejoice in the face of trials. How can we apply that in our lives? Should we pretend to laugh through our tears? Should be pretend to stay calm in the midst of chaos? Should we pretend that nothing is wrong? To understand the proper way to rejoice, we need to understand the various words and meanings of “rejoice” and “joy” (from William Morrice):

  1. euthumein, euthumos = optimism
  2. euphrainein, euphrosune = gladness
  3. hedone, hedus, hedeos = pleasure
  4. tharsein, tharrein, tharsos = courage
  5. hilaros, hilarotes = hilarity
  6. kauchasthai, kauchema, kauchesis = boasting
  7. makarios = happy
  8. skirtan = leaping for joy
  9. chara = inward joy
  10. sunchairein = shared joy
  11. agallian, agalliasis = exultant joy

That word “agallian” comes from the Septuagint. It means to be carried away in sacred joy. It’s the kind of joy that comes through worship. The psalmists loved that word!

  • Psalm 5:11 “But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them.”
  • Psalm 92:4 “For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands.”
  • Psalm 95:1 “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.”

That word is used again and again to praise God for his goodness and for his promises waiting for those who are in Christ.

How can these believers who were going through trials rejoice with this exultant joy? Listen again to the end of verse 6 “if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” The word for trial is “peirasmos.” Sometimes that word can mean “temptation” and sometimes it can mean “test.” The grief and sorrow that was coming from ostracization and societal discrimination could become a source of temptation. They can see that Satan was behind all temptations and he was trying to make God’s people doubt God and go back to their old ways. Or, they can see that it was a test from God.

Application: What are you doing with your trials? Are you struggling with temptations? It’s time to move over to testing.

To take it a step further, this test is not to destroy them but to make them shine even brighter. Listen to verse 7 “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Gold is tested by fire to remove the dross and impurity. It proves its genuineness. So also, when we go through trials, God is bringing all our impurities out. His purpose is not to destroy us but to purify us. Malachi 3       2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness.” Instead of running from trials and dreading them, we learn to welcome them and even rejoice in them. James 1      2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” In my personal trials, God grew me into the person I am today. This is not just a sermon for me. I believe this stuff! David understood the value of trials and he said in Psalm 139:23“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties.” Ultimately, we shall receive praise, honor, and glory when Jesus returns!

Application: How do you respond to times of testing? Do you remind yourself that God is not trying to destroy you? Instead, he is trying to purify you. Do you welcome it like David? Are you looking forward to the reward that is waiting for you when Jesus returns?

Finally, listen to 8 “whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” These believers were from Asia Minor. They never got the opportunity to see Jesus when he was doing his earthly ministry. Unlike Peter, the rest of the disciples, and the multitudes, they never saw him heal the sick, feed the hungry, preach the word, teach the disciples, and then die on the cross, buried, and rise again. Nonetheless, they loved Jesus. But, there’s more. They still didn’t see him. They didn’t see him as the resurrected Messiah. They didn’t see him as seated at the righthand of God. They didn’t see him as interceding for them to the Father. They didn’t see him as present where 2 or 3 are gathered. They didn’t see him as the coming King. Nonetheless, they believed in Jesus. Without historical encounter and present interaction, these believers had a relationship with Jesus through love and faith. This spiritual relationship with Jesus filled their hearts with exultant joy because they knew that he was with them! Hence, suffering and trials do more than just prove our faith. They make the Invisible Christ visible and bring exultant joy in our hearts. That is the motto of our church – “Making Christ Visible.” Bengel – “Christ in the heart; heaven in the heart; the heart in heaven.”

9 “receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

Where is all this headed? It is headed towards the salvation of your souls. Where is your faith headed? Trials reveal where you are headed.

Application: How is your joy level this morning? Are you facing temptations or trials? Can you see Christ? Have you ever seen Christ? Are you saved? Do you love and trust him?

Identity by Dr. Abidan Shah

IDENTITY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Everybody wants an identity. We want to belong to a group that will include and affirm us. We see this early in life at school – the popular kids, who have the latest clothes and styles, the jocks who live for sports, the brains/nerds, who are more concerned about their grades than they needed to be, the goths, who always wear dark clothes and crazy hair; the country kids with trucks high enough to walk under; then there are the loners, the different ethnic group kids, the floaters, and the potheads, who are usually very friendly. This doesn’t change as we grow up. We still want an identity, a sense of belonging. As we begin our series on the actual text of 1 Peter, we will learn what should be the ultimate identity of every believer. Please find 1 Peter 1:1. Main point: Our identity should be ultimately rooted in God and his salvation in our lives through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:1 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…”

Context: For the past 3 weeks, we have been focused on Peter’s character. The reason for this is because the more we understand Peter, the better we will understand his letter. Of course, the Holy Spirit was behind the letter, but he used the personality, the experiences, and the gifts of Peter. Peter begins his letter by identifying himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ,” which means a “representative” of Jesus. This did not happen overnight! Jesus had to do a deep, painstaking, and unrelenting work in Peter’s life:

  • Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, from being religious to rock-solid.
  • Jesus took him from being a fisherman to becoming a fisher of men.
  • Jesus took him from being the impulsive one to becoming a pillar of the church.

Is it any wonder that he stood up on the Day of Pentecost full of the Holy Spirit and preached his first message and 3000 men, not counting women and children were saved, altogether 10-15,000! Is it any wonder that even his shadow could heal people! Is it any wonder that he could go toe-to-toe with the religious leaders and chief priests and not back down! By the way, Peter was not perfect. If you remember from last weekend, Paul admonished him openly when he messed up. But, Peter was spiritually mature enough to receive the admonishment and not become bitter. Now, he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Here’s an interesting point: The higher you climb in your spiritual life, the more concise your identity becomes. You don’t have to list your entire resume of accolades and accomplishments. For e.g. Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.

Application: What has God done in your life? How will you identify yourself at the end of your life? The first step towards that journey is to move from a sinner to a sinner saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. Are you saved?

Let’s go further. Peter now identifies the recipients of his letter. 1 Peter 1:1 “…To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Where are these places in the world? All of them are located in modern day Turkey, a vast area of approximately 129,000 square miles. That’s as big as California or North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia combined. The history of this region goes back to thousands of years to the Hittites, the Phrygians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, the Goths, the Celts, the Byzantines, etc. This was a very diverse part of the world with regards to land, ethnicity, cultures, religions, and languages. There were big cities and small towns. There were Roman colonies to the South and more Celtic people to the North, generally speaking. I can go on and on.

Who were the pilgrims of the Dispersion? The word for “pilgrims” is “parepidemos,” which means someone who does not hold citizenship where he lives. They may have been born and raised there. They may dress like their neighbors. They may eat like their neighbors. They may even look like their neighbors. But, they are outsiders. Peter even qualifies their identity with “foreigners of the Dispersion.” The word “dispersion” is coming from the LXX and Jewish literature. It referred to the people of Israel who had been scattered away from their homeland of Israel. This dispersion goes back to the time of Solomon when some moved there because of trade. A major dispersion came with the Assyrian exile when the Northern kingdom of Israel was forcibly relocated by the Assyrians. Couple centuries later came the Babylonian exile when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was also temporarily exiled but some came back but many didn’t. They were foreigners and outsiders wherever they went. Even though many generations were born and raised there, dressed like their neighbors, and ate like their neighbors, they were never totally accepted. Hence, they would return to Jerusalem for their Jewish festivals. Maybe some of them were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2     5 “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia…” Peter was now writing to encourage them as they were not only Jewish people scattered abroad, but they were now Christians, which means they were also being ostracized by their own Jewish community. Peter understood how it felt since he grew up in Bethsaida, a minority Jewish town. He even understood how it felt when his own people rejected him because he was now a disciple of Jesus. I believe all this may be true, but I also believe that Peter was referring to all Christians (Jewish background and Gentile background) who were scattered as a minority all over that region. Even Gentile background believers were now like the Dispersed Jewish people. Even though they were citizens, they were now being treated as foreigners. We will see that as we go further in this letter.

Application: Have you been ostracized because you are going to church? Has your own family and friends left you out because your priorities have shifted? I think of my own dad. His own family kicked him out because he followed Jesus Christ. In fact, we were all cut off from the family tree.

How do you encourage people like that? So, Peter gave them a new identity—2 “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” There are 3 prepositional phrases here that connect to each member of the Trinity. This is deep!

  1. “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” – “Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” The culture around them may have rejected them but God had chosen them through his “prognosis” to include them in his family. That’s the first person of the Trinity.
  2. “in sanctification of the Spirit” – “Chosen by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.” Yes, they had a choice to receive Christ as their Savior, but the Holy Spirit was stirring their hearts, opening their understanding, and drawing them to salvation. He actively does that for everyone who is open to Christ. That’s the third person of the Trinity.
  3. “for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” – “Chosen for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” This was not some election to walk around flaunting your new religion. This was an election unto obedience. What is the “sprinkling of the blood” mean? This is referring back to Exodus 24  7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”Even though they said the words, they couldn’t follow through. But, we can through the blood of Jesus Christ. We have been set free from the power of sin. Sin is still present but through Christ, we can conquer. By the way, that’s the third person of the Trinity.

These people really got the message. These people reached their culture and that entire region became the cradle of Christianity. This is where we find Constantinople, Nicaea, and Chalcedon. Here were held the famous councils were the deity of Christ and the Triunity of the Godhead was affirmed! Unfortunately, these parts have been lost because Christians failed to reach the next generation and prepare them to stand strong. Just this year, the Hagia Sophia was once again declared a mosque after 90 some years of being a museum. It was one of our flagship churches!

In some ways, that’s where we are as Christians in America. We need to wake up and reach the culture around us. If we don’t, we will ultimately find ourselves driven out. That’s why how we vote in this election matters! We need to vote for that party and candidate that will make this nation pleasing to Jesus Christ.

Application: What are you doing to make sure that our nation continues to stand strong? Are you aware of what is at stake? Do you understand your new identity? You are not an accident. You are not an outsider. You have been drawn by the Holy Spirit. You have been chosen to obey.

Finally, Peter ended with “Grace to you and peace be multiplied.”

Invitation: Do you have God’s grace and peace? Are you saved? Through Christ you can have grace and peace.

Abound by Dr. Abidan Shah

Abound

ABOUND by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction: One sign that a baby is becoming a toddler is that he/she will say, “I do it” when it comes to feeding, putting on their shoes, or other activities that they previously relied on the parents. It’s a good thing because it’s an indication that the child is growing up and becoming independent. It can also be a sad time for some young parents, but I tell them, “Don’t worry. It reverses when they become teenagers!” In our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we come to the often-quoted passage from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” People claim that as a life-verse. They wear T-shirts with that verse. Athletes even tattoo it on their arms. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that they are talking it out of context. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that when it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” it’s not talking about overcoming incredible odds or reaching ambitious goals. It’s a declaration of the Christian’s ability to thrive whether one is down or abound. Turn in your Bibles to Philippians 4:10 and our message is titled “ABOUND.”

Philippians 4:10 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.” What exactly was Paul saying here? To correctly understand this, we need to keep in mind the context of the Philippian church. Externally, they were facing persecution. Internally, they were at odds with each other. Fears without and fightings within. In the midst of all this mess, they had stopped supporting Paul’s ministry. How was he faring? Listen to his description of a similar situation in I Corinthians 4     11 “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands…” By the way, since he was incarcerated, he couldn’t even work! If he ran out of food, maybe a soldier had pity on him and gave him some scraps. If he was freezing, maybe he found some old rags that he used to keep himself warm. Only eternity will reveal how much Paul suffered for the gospel. Then, there was a knock on the door and there stood a man by the name of Epaphroditus from the church in Philippi. Listen to Philippians 4:18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” As Paul said in Philippians 4:10 “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly,” he began celebrating on receiving the help from the Philippians.

Was Paul desperate for help from the Philippians? 11 “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” The word for learned is “manthano.” Here, it has the idea of a disciple learning how to follow the master. He has learned how to come to the place of being “content” = “autarkeia.” Content is not about be satisfied with you have and don’t get a better phone or an upgraded boat. The way this word is used implies complete readiness to accept whatever God has in store.

What does this kind of life look like? Verse 12 “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” Abase = “tapeinos,” which implies having a lowly mind like that of Jesus. Abound = “perisseuo,” which meant to be full, beyond, exceed. “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” This time the word for learned is “myeo” which has the idea of learning how to grow spiritually. Now he says in verse 13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The secret to his contentment is that “he has the strength to deal with all situations through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” This is not about being 5 foot 3 and being able to dunk, unless you are Muggsy Bogues with a 44-inch vertical jump!

So, yes, Paul rejoiced greatly that the money had come, but, no, he wasn’t desperate.

Now, listen to Paul’s clarification: 14 “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” Did Paul depend on the Philippians for money? To answer that, we need to turn again to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians because here he gave us information on how ministries were to be supported. Listen to I Corinthians 9      7 “Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?9 For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain’…10…For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?…13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” In Judaism, every Jewish male was obligated to pay a half-shekel temple tax, along with the sacrifices. All this was used to support the priests, the Levites, and their families. 14 “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” In other words, those who work in the church are supported by the tithes and offerings of those who are benefitted by the church, just like in the Old Testament temple. Now, Paul did not take any money from the Corinthians because of their bad attitude towards him. Listen to 2 Corinthians 11     7“Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.” Nonetheless, Paul did not shortchange them. Listen to 2 Corinthians 12    14 Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you…15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls…” The only place Paul did not ease up with the Corinthians was the collection for the poor in Jerusalem. 2 Corinthians 9:7“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Some of you may be wondering, “Why is Pastor Shah talking about all this?” Sometimes, people wonder why we take up tithes and offerings. We are following the pattern set for us by Paul in God’s word. We take up money to support the operation of the church, pay the staff of the church, provide help for those who are struggling near and far, and help missionaries and church planters all over the world to share the gospel and help the needy. We are an exceptional church where people give generously and wholeheartedly. Having said that, not everyone gives and not everyone gives as much as they should. How about you?

Did Paul benefit from his relationship with the Philippians? 17 “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” Paul was saying that even though he needed the help and he was grateful for the gift, he was not depended on them for survival, nor was he trying to look for the gift. But, by sending their gift, the Philippians have pleased God and now have a share in Paul’s ministry. 18 “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” Paul described their gifts with the same words that he used to describe the sacrifice of Christ in Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Finally, verse 19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” In fact, Paul added, God will meet your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

What was Paul really trying to say here? Even though he was depended on them, he was not obligated to them. Even if they supported him financially, he was under God’s control not theirs. So also, people coming from a different church tradition think that since we pay the pastor or staff, he/they does/do what we tell him/them to do. Maybe even, he better do as we tell him to do. Sorry friend. You need to give because it is the right thing for you to do and it is good for you to do. You cannot control God’s ministers with money. If that happens, we will tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear.

Have you learned how to abound in Christ? It’s not about having things or not having things. It’s about being content in Christ. Is Christ enough for you?

Are you saved? Do you have Christ?

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

hosannaIntroduction:  This past Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. Due to the coronavirus situation, parades all across the country were cancelled. Needless to say, a lot of people were disappointed. I don’t think they were disappointed because they couldn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s life, but it was because they couldn’t get out and have a good time with their family and friends. 2000 years ago, there was also a parade and some people tried to cancel it but they couldn’t. It was the parade for Jesus as he came into Jerusalem. Instead of clover leaves, the people held palm branches in their hands. Instead of Irish drinking songs, the people were singing Hosanna to the Son of David. As we draw closer to that time of the year, I want to preach a 4-week series titled “HOSANNA.” Here’s the message in this series: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

John 12    12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” 14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” 16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

Question: Did you know that God desires to save you? I’m talking to believers. He wants to rescue you from your predicament, whatever trials you are facing. Are you saved? I’m talking to unbelievers now. Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Context: When people first come to Clearview, they are somewhat amazed at how much I talk about being saved. Some have even come to me and asked if that was a Baptist thing. I try to explain to them that it is not a Baptist thing but a Bible thing. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about being saved, being delivered, and being rescued by God. In fact, that word Hosanna is literally the combination of “hosiah” and “anna,” where “hosiah” means “save us” and “anna” means “now” or “please.” It’s referring back to Psalm 118 where the psalmist says in verse25 “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.” This was usually prayed after the harvest season celebration. They would even wave and beat the ground with branches of willow and palm trees. Later on, this was also done during times of great needs and burden. In the weeks ahead, we will focus on all that. In this message I want to focus simply on the idea of being saved or rescued by God. It is all over the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus’ name in Hebrew is “Yeshua,” which is Savior! With that said, let’s look at it quickly in the short time we have:

  1. Let’s begin by going to what is considered the oldest book in the Bible, Job:

Job 5:11 “He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”

Job 40:14 “Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.” Here God is speaking sarcastically to Job. He asks Job if he can do all the mighty things that God does. “If so, then you can save yourself Job.”

  1. When God’s people were in slavery in Egypt, he sent Moses to rescue them:

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.”

  1. After they settled into the Promised Land, God sent judges to save his people:

Judges 7:2 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’”

Keep in mind that Gideon’s army was 32,000 men and they were outnumbered. Then 22,000 left when given the choice. Only 10,000 left and only those who drank like dogs were allowed to stay and that was only 300! God said, “Now that’s perfect!”

  1. After the judges came the kings but the formula didn’t change:

1 Samuel 17    45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give you into our hands.”

When the kings trusted in the Lord to deliver, they won. When they trusted in themselves, they fell.

  1. In the wisdom books, it is not cunning and strategy that saves but the Lord:

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I will recompense evil”; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.

Proverbs 28:18 Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, but he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.

  1. Over a hundred times, the prophets call upon the people to look to the Lord to save:

Isaiah 45    21 “Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. 22“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!”

Jeremiah 15:20 “And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you and deliveryou,” says the LORD.

Hosea 14     1 “O Israel, return to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; 2 Take words with you, and return to the LORD. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us…”

Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

  1. Finally, in the psalms, it is everywhere that God is our Savior:

Psalm 28     8 The LORD is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed. 9Save Your people, And bless Your inheritance;

Psalm 44     6 For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. 7 But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. 8 In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever.

Psalm 80:3 “Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”

Psalm 119:94 “I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts.”

Psalm 144     9 “I will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, 10 the One who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David His servant from the deadly sword.”

Let me repeat again what I said in the opening: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Are you saved?

The Blessing of Standing Up for What’s Right

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THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

standingupforwhatsright

This is our eighth and final message in our series on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount and today’s message is titled, “THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT.” Keep in mind the series called SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount is far from over.

Matthew 5 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This final beatitude is very different from the rest. It deals with a subject that is very painful and has brought great sorrow to the people of God through the centuries. It has tested the reality of their faith and the firmness of their convictions. In fact, I don’t like to talk about it much because I had to experience it growing up. The subject is Persecution. Simply defined, it means – “any form of harassment and aggression against you because of your faith in Jesus Christ.” I’m sure we’ve all heard of the persecution of the early church and through the Middle Ages, and even now in Russia, China, and the Middle East. Unfortunately, persecution is not that far away anymore. It’s already on your doorstep. Ask Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the Oregon-based Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and were fined $135,000. Eventually, they were forced to close their business.

Aaron and Melissa Klein

Aaron and Melissa Klein

Sweet Cakes by Melissa

Sweet Cakes by Melissa

Klein Family

Klein Family

Application: What would you have done? Would you have stood up for righteousness or would you have given in? How would you handle persecution? Here’s a deeper question – Is there enough evidence in your life for the world persecute you? Are you saved?

Many of you have told me how much you have enjoyed this series. If you ask me, this is the most important message in this entire series on the Beatitudes. It is important for us individually, for our children, for our grandchildren, for our church, and for our nation’s future. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you like never before. 3 questions again:

I. WHY DOES PERSECUTION COME? 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…”

Background: Jesus makes it clear that persecution comes for righteousness sake. Now, what is righteousness? Remember, the fourth beatitude – Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” In this context, righteousness is not just the imputed righteousness of Christ – the righteousness that is accounted to us as Paul talks about it in Romans 4, the forensic righteousness – but it is the daily practical righteousness. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that brings about an external change. Because we are saved we begin to live a life that day-by-day pleases God, that step-by-step obeys His word, and that moment-by-moment looks more and more like Jesus Christ. There’s a difference in the way we walk, talk, see, and hear. There is a difference in the way we work, play, shop, and live in this world. There is a difference in the way we treat our friends and families. There is also a difference in the way we treat our enemies and our opponents. In short, it’s not the righteousness that saves but the righteousness that shows that I’m saved.

How does the world react to this kind of righteousness in us? Some people admire us. Some people aspire to be like us. But, there are others who avoid us and even attack us. This is persecution for righteousness sake. Jesus was actually quoting the Old Testament when He gave this beatitude. Psalm 37:12 The wicked plots against the just (righteous), And gnashes at him with his teeth. Psalm 119 157 Many are my persecutors and my enemies, Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies…161 Princes persecute me without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word. But Jesus gave a deeper reason for this hatred. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, if you are persecuted for being godly, it’s because you have the kingdom of heaven. What is the kingdom of heaven? Do you remember the first beatitude? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who have received Jesus as their Savior. Remember what Paul said in Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Persecution is the assurance that the Holy Spirit is in your life. Listen carefully – “The real reason the world hates you is not you but the one who is in you.”

For e.g. I used to work at a job laying Cat 5’s all over the state. The guys I worked with knew what I was doing. Some of them were fine with me but others hated me and I never understood that. Maybe its because I wanted to go home rather than drink and go to the doll house.

Application: The question is not “Are you facing persecution?” The real question is “Are you godly?” 2 Tim. 3:12 “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Here’s a different way of asking that question: “Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life?” If you’re not saved, then you don’t have the Holy Spirit and there’s no reason for the world to hate you.

II. HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE PERSECUTION? 

Background: Unfortunately, most messages end with – “Persecution proves that America is not a Christian nation anymore.” “It’s just gonna get worse and worse.” “It’s just the signs of the times.” The problem with these statements is that it is contrary to what the Bible says. Thank goodness Jesus told us what to do! Listen to verse 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Who are the prophets before you? We don’t have time to recount each of them but here are just a few:

Moses – Exodus 17:3   And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”

Jeremiah – Jeremiah 20 1 Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. 2 Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.

Daniel – Daniel 6  4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”…16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions.

Application: This is a hard one to apply because many of us haven’t faced hard-core persecution. Let me ask in a different way – how do you respond when you get slighted, mistreated, and neglected? Do you rejoice? Are you exceedingly glad? Do you consider your great reward in heaven? Or do you pitch a fit? Do you pay back ten fold? Our response to our trials is just a precursor of our response to persecution.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

13 “You are the salt of the earth;

Background: Keep in mind that this is all one message. Just when you think that the message is over, the most important point is about to come. We use just a pinch of salt in our food. That’s all we typically need. What’s the point? Persecution has a way of thinning out the crowd down to a pinch. What’s happening in America is that God is weeding out the imposters from the real deals. The problem in America is too many people are pretending to be something they’re not which is hindering those who are really searching for God from coming to Him. That’s why I believe that the greatest revival and awakening is coming very soon to America.

Now the crowd is down to a pinch but the pinch becomes indispensable. Just like salt – it’s a very small in proportion to the whole meal but it changes the flavour and the taste of the meal. “but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” What happens to those who have lost the flavour of Christianity?It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Churches are closing all over America but that’s not a bad thing. Too many sincere people are stuck because of some obligation and some loyalty but it’s killing the cause of Christ. But a new day is coming!

What will happen in this new day? 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Have you ever driven towards a big city at night? You can see the glow towards the sky. Those who’s truly have the light will shine brightly in this dark world and people near and far will come to them. By the way, I love it when people refer to our church as “the church on the hill.” This is not the time to hide your light but to shine it even more. Our job is not to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. But listen to verse 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Personal Illustration: As a 9-10 year old, I remember coming back home from school and trying to turn on the lights and the fan and nothing happened. Imagine 115° temperatures in the hot summer and not having any electricity to turn on the fan, forget about any air condition. I went to the kitchen and asked my grandmother if the power was out and she told me that our electrical connection has been cut. “Why?” “Because we’re on the same line as the church. They cut the power to the church and so our power is out as well.” I remember that night my mom crying as she went around the house lighting candles and oil lamps. We ate in the dark by candlelight, not something unusual because when power would go out, we would do that. But this time it was different. There was no estimated time when services would be restored. We went to bed early that night obviously, hoping against hope that somewhere in the middle of the night the fan would start blowing but it never did. The next morning, no hot showers. This was for real. Later that week, my dad was able to talk to a so-called “Christian” neighbor who was kind enough to run a single line to our house, just enough to turn on a light bulb. At least, we could have light. Unfortunately, some time later he got upset with us for some reason and cut the line. I think that hurt much more than the first time. But that experience and many more shaped me into the person I am today.

Home church in India (1)

Home church in India (1)

Home church in India (2)

Home church in India (2)

Home church in India (3)

Home church in India (3)

Home church in India (4)

Home church in India (4)

People have a lot of false ideas about persecution in America. Some think that it’s going to get worse and worse and it’s time to fly out. Others think that it automatically grows the church. Neither is true when you study the Bible carefully. First, God thins out the numbers to those who are truly godly. But He doesn’t stop there. Then, He holds them up like the pinch of salt and a little oil lamp to change the world for the better.

Listen to verse 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Imagine once again people in America praising your Father in heaven!

Persecution is not what God is doing to Christians in America but what God is doing through Christians for America.

Are you saved? Are you living a godly life?

TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS

TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUSWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all 4 gospels and this morning we are in Matthew chapter 2 for our message titled – “TORTURED FOR THE NAME OF JESUS.” Each year, the first couple of Sundays in November are designated as a day of prayer for the persecuted church all over the world. We in America take so much for granted but there are people all over the world who cannot do what you are doing right now – hold your Bible, pray, and meet as a church.

Matthew 2 19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Arabic N 1Context – Back on July 19 of this year when people in America were deciding whether to go to the beach or to the mountains, something quite different was happening in the city of Mosul, Iraq and the surrounding areas near Nineveh. Christians were being given an ultimatum – leave the city or pay the tax (Jizya) or die by the sword. The very next day ISIS terrorists went around the city of Mosul and spray-painted the Arabic Arabic N 2letter N – looks like a smiley face with one eye – on the homes of every Assyrian Christian. It was just like when the Nazis marked the homes and businesses of the Jewish people with the Star of David. Why did they do that? The Arabic word for Christian is Nasrani and this was their way of marking the Christians. What did these Assyrian Christians do next? They began to change their profile pictures to the Arabic letter N. They began to make T-shirts with the Arabic letter N. They began to protest all over the world. Very soon even Arabic N 3Christians who were not Assyrians began changing their profile pictures to the Arabic N. I’m sure you saw that but probably didn’t know what was going on. Sadly, it did not stop the ISIS terrorists from killing Christians in northern Iraq and northern Syria. Men, women, and even children were brutally beheaded.

What does all this have to do with the passage we just read? Go back to verse 23 “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” In his earthly ministry, Jesus was called a Nazarene and His disciples were known as the followers of the Assyrian Christians Arabic N protestNazarene. When Paul was being accused before Governor Felix in Acts 24, listen to what they said in verse 5 “For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” In fact, through the centuries Nazarene became the designation for Christians, especially in the Middle East. Nasrani is just the Arabic form of Nazarene. When the terrorists spray-painted N on the doors, they were declaring war against all the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

Christians in America have blinders on. We think – “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s tragic but it’s not my problem. After all, what can I do? It’s for the politicians and the armed forces. In the process more and more of our brothers and sisters are being killed everyday. In the process we are losing the battle on the home front. In the process we are failing in the mission God has given us.

Application: Do we care about what’s happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world? What are we doing to ensure that what is happening in Mosul and Iraq and Syria and for that matter in Iran, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Kazakhstan won’t happen again? There’s a greater question – what are we doing to make sure that it will not happen in our own country? Are you a Christian? Then you are a Nazarene, follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Is there enough evidence for those terrorists to spray paint your house with an N? Do you know the cost for following Jesus of Nazareth?

This morning we will look at this passage and we will also look at what we need to do as followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

 I. GENERATIONAL HATE

19 Now when Herod was dead…

Background: Herod tried to kill the baby Jesus and in the process massacred every male child in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts 2 years old and younger. He died with hate in his heart. As you heard previously, he killed his own son just 5 days before his death. If I can make an important statement – “How you live is how you die.” If you don’t live a righteous life, don’t expect a righteous death. If you don’t live a Christ honoring life, don’t expect a Christ honoring death.

For e.g. Nicole’s dad was a caring pastor. I learned a lot from him. The last time I saw him, he said to me – “Call so and so (a very famous pastor). He is my good friend. Tell him I told you to. He’ll take care of you. I’m sorry I may not be able to help.” I never had to. God had other plans.

For e.g. I was on a hospital visitation one time and people were crying, this man was hooked up to all these machines but still alive enough to talk to his family. He was cursing, didn’t care I was there. His main concern – “get the lawnmower out of the rain.”

After Herod’s death, when Joseph thought that it was safe to head back, listen to verse 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.

Background: What’s the deal with Archelaus? After Herod died, his kingdom was divided between three of his sons – Judea/Samaria went to Archelaus; Galilee and Perea (east of the Jordan) went to Antipas; and the northern part of Herod’s kingdom went to Philip. Archelaus was just as unpopular as his father plus he didn’t have any political savvy and the people hated him. In fact, he began his reign by killing 3000 people who had gathered to celebrate Passover. Even Herod didn’t do something that drastic!

Let me make another statement – “what you as parents do in moderation, your children will do in excess.” If you have been mean, bitter, cantankerous, envious, angry, and busybody, your children will supersede you and every one of them. If you have denied Christ, your children will persecute others for claiming Christ. What’s happening in the Middle East is a product of generational disobedience.

Let me add another statement – “you don’t have to follow in the bad footsteps of your parents.” By the grace of God, you can break the chain. By the help of the Holy Spirit, you can chart a different course. There is no such thing as a generational curse.

For e.g. My father was a Muslim who became a Christian. He lost it all but he paid the price and today I’m serving Jesus Christ. He broke the generational cycle.

Application: Are you walking with Christ? Do your children and grandchildren see you walking with God? Are you breaking the cycle of generational hate for God. My job as a pastor is to help train you and especially your children and your grandchildren to make sure that Christians don’t become a minority in America. My desire is to see them capture politics and every important position that will chart the course of our nation. When Christianity leads, every person regardless of color and religion, has freedom. Are we doing enough? Are you doing enough?

 II. GENTLE KING

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth…

Background: Instead of going to Judea in the South, Joseph took Mary and the infant Jesus to Galilee in the north, to the town of Nazareth. It was a very small village with a population of 150 – 200 people. Like we would say today – “if you blink, you’ll miss it.”

But Matthew adds something else in verse 23 “…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” We have a problem – you can read the entire Old Testament and you will never find the prophecy “he shall be called a Nazarene.” Do you remember when Philip invited Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus? John 1 45 …“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Meaning: That worthless place?!! If it was in the Old Testament, Nathaniel would’ve said, “Oh really.”

Even though the prophets never used the name “Nazarene,” there was always the understanding that the Messiah would be GENTLE NOT FORCEFUL. Hence, He would be unrecognized, ridiculed, and rejected.

Zechariah 9:9 “…Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Psalm 22 6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me…”

Psalm 69 4 Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, Being my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it… 20 “…I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none…”

Isaiah 53 2 “…He has no form or comeliness; (from Old English ‘cymlic’ that means lovely or beautiful) And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

For e.g. When my father told his father that he was following Jesus Christ, he reminded him of the great family heritage we had – generation of rulers and kings and conquerors. Then he told him – “This Jesus was just a beggar. If you follow Him, you will end up a beggar and it will be up to me to receive you back or not.”

The world is offended at the Gentle King. Why did He not come with all the pomp and show? He came as the gentle Lamb of God to give His life for us. Hence some people have hated Him.

Application: What is your response to this Gentle King? Pride, Ridicule, Anger, or Humble submission.

III. GENUINE POWER

In the Book of Acts, the name “Jesus of Nazareth” was name of power.

In Preaching – Acts 2:22   “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—

In Miracles – Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

In Saving Souls – Acts 22 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 So I answered, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’

This is the name that will save our world and our nation and our community today.

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