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.

Glorious by Dr. Abidan Shah

GLORIOUS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  In less than a month, I have performed 3 wedding ceremonies. Every time I open Facebook or Instagram, I see a Happy Anniversary post. It is that time of the year. I remember like yesterday when Nicole and I got married. I did not sleep but an hour or two that night. I was so nervous. I remember repeating the vows but I have no idea what I said. In fact, I looked at Nicole’s dad the whole time! Bottom line: We had no clue what we were doing! To be very honest: most couples have no clue what they are doing. In our miniseries through Ephesians, we come to a very familiar passage where Paul talks about the marriage relationship. Main point: A marriage is much more than a man and a woman living together in a contractual and consensual relationship. It is a living illustration of the mystery that was conceived when Adam took Eve as his bride and it was revealed when Christ gave his life for his bride, the church. Marriage is the re-enactment of the relationship between Christ and the church. Ultimately, marriage is a display of the gospel of Christ. This message is called GLOROIOUS.

Ephesians 5    17 “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”

Context: Some of you are wondering, “Shouldn’t we be reading from verse 22?” The most surprising thing about the marriage passage in Ephesians that begins in verse 22 is that it lacks a finite verb. The verbs are actually found in verses 17 and 18 – do not be unwise,” “understand what the will of the Lord is,” and “be filled with the Spirit.” Important Principle: “If you’re not Spirit-filled, this message on marriage will be like fingernails on a chalkboard.”

Question: Are you wise? Are you willing to understand the will of the Lord? Are you Spirit-filled?

Having laid out the 3 basic requirements, Paul proceeds to deal with situations where wise and spirit-filled living can be very challenging – personal relationships, especially family relationships. Verse 19 “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I don’t have time to deal with each of these, but listen to verse 21 “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” The source of our conflicts is selfishness. We are born this way. Something happens the moment the Holy Spirit enters our life. There is a break in that selfish spirit. Life is no longer just about one’s own self. It is also about others. It’s no longer about just my feelings, my wants, my needs but also others. Important Point: Submission is a sign of a spirit-controlled life. The word “submission” literally means “To order oneself under a leader.” In the very next verse, Paul makes it specifically about the marriage and family – Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The translation should be – “and, specifically, by wives submitting to their husbands.” Here’s the fingernails on chalkboard part of the sermon. But, it doesn’t have to be if we understand the real reason behind it. To understand this, we have to go down to verse 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” If there’s going to be genuine Spirit-controlled marriage, it will require us to understand the meaning of this mystery.

What is this “mystery?” The answer is in verse 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Here, Paul was quoting from Genesis 2:24, the last verse before the temptation from the Serpent. What happened before that verse? Genesis 2:23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Adam was praising God’s work in creating Eve! Very interestingly, the next time he talked about Eve was after the temptation when God confronted him in Genesis 3:12 “Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’” In just 12 verses, Adam went from praising his wife to blaming her. By the way, the curse that followed over the relationship is in Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Gone was the perfect relationship of willing submission and servant leadership. Now, it was a desire and rule relationship. There was a mystery in that relationship that was supposed to reflect the future relationship between Christ and the Church. Now, it was distorted because of sin.

I don’t have time to go too deep into this. What is Paul’s point in Ephesians? Jesus came, died, buried, rose again, and is exalted on high. He did this not only to redeem us but to break the power of sin and evil. He defeated the cosmic powers that have caused every dissension in the world, especially marriage and family. Christ has inaugurated a new creation. He became the New Adam. Now, he wants to restore the pattern set in the first creation. The church is the mystery that brings Jewish believers and gentile believers in one community. But, Jesus also wants to do this for the marriage, which was the illustration of this mystery between Christ and the Church. This only happens when Spirit-filled believers understand that their marriage is much more than two people coming together in consent and contract. It reflects the mystery of Christ and the Church. By the way, God still has his covenant with his people Israel, which he will fulfill in the future.

Applications: How do you see your marriage? How do you see marriage in our culture?

What happens when Spirit filled believers allow the recreation to happen through Christ? Think about where Eve and Adam messed up. Eve was supposed to defer to Adam, her husband, to respond to the Serpent and Adam was supposed to take responsibility to protect Eve, his wife. Because of what Christ did, now there is a remaking by the Holy Spirit.Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” This does not mean that the wife is inferior or the man is superior. Again, the word “submission” literally means “To order oneself under a leader.” Now what does the word “head” mean? It means authority. Submission does not mean that a woman shuts off her brain and surrender her individuality. To the contrary, a wise husband will listen to his wife and her advice and her warnings. It means to “let the husband be the spiritual authority in the relationship.

Just when you think that Paul was biased against women, he only had 41 words for the women but 125 for the men. Ephesians 5:25 onwards: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…” In other words, a husband and wife relationship is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church.The spiritual reality is that Christ is the bridegroom and the collective body of believers are the bride. By the way, this is why any kind of sexual deviation from a biological man-woman marriage is so serious. Listen again: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word…” Individually, we are made clean when we receive Jesus as our Savior and King. His blood washes our sins away. But, collectively, we come together as the church but we still have our faults, weaknesses, and selfishness. We also need collective cleansing. This is where Christ our Bridegroom who loved us and gave himself for us is now committed to cleansing us “with the washing of water by the word.” Although the word for “word” is “rhema” (the spoken word), it still implies the Word of God. When he hear the Word regularly and allow the Holy Spirit to apply it our hearts, we are being cleansed collectively. Instead of being selfish and self-centered, proud and judgmental towards each other in the church, we learn to become selfless and self-giving, humble and encouraging towards one another. We begin to demonstrate mutual submission towards each other, mutual forgiveness for each other, and mutual encouragement to each other, and mutual caring for one another. This is the process of purification and it is all done under the leadership and authority of the Bridegroom, Christ.

Marriage is an earthly expression of a heavenly reality. In a marriage relationship, the husband and wife come together with their individual faults, weaknesses, and selfishness. Typically, we expect the other person to be perfect and we justify our imperfections. To the contrary, marriage is a relationship in which 2 imperfect people start on a journey together towards perfection. Don’t misunderstand: Perfection here does not mean faultlessness. It means learning to live daily by the grace of God and helping the other person to do the same. We are to help purify one another with the love of Christ, the truth of his Word, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is learning to apply the righteousness of Christ to each other.

What is the goal of this perfection in the Christ-Church relationship? “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Christ is cleansing the church to present her to himself before God the Father in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

What is the goal in the husband-wife relationship? We are to help one another come to perfection by the grace of God and present each other to God. That is deep!

What is the husband’s role in this purification process? Verse 28 onwards “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” The husband’s role is to lead this purification process the way Christ does for the church. Making Christ the priority of your home, going to church, obeying his Word, and serving Him as a family falls on your shoulders. In other words, the husband controls the thermostat of the marriage. By the way, unlike the Christ-church relationship where Christ is perfect, you are not. You need purification too. That’s why God has brought the wife into his life.

What is the wife’s role in this purification process? “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” The wife’s role is to encourage the husband to help lead this purification process. Help him to be the godly husband that he is called to be and, together, build your home to be a place of mutual purification by the grace of God, reflect the great mystery of Christ and the church.

Invitation: Husbands, how do you see our wife? Wives, how do you see your husbands? Believers, how do you see the mystery of the Christ-Church relationship? Do you belong to the Church? Are you saved?

Essential by Dr. Abidan Shah

ESSENTIAL by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: “If you could have only 3 things with you on a deserted island, what would they be?” They asked kids that question and some of their answers were: boat, helicopter, fridge full of food, water, matches, mall of America, my dog, my unicorn named Fluffy, my phone, a knife, my dad, my mom, my family, my best friend, etc. It’s amazing the things we consider essential in our lives. One thing that did not make the list, and I doubt it’s on anyone’s list here, is the Church. We definitely consider Christ, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel as essential, but we don’t think the Church is on the same level. Today, we’re starting a brand-new series titled ESSENTIAL from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here’s the main point: The Church is not second tier in the Christian life. It is top tier. The Church is the body of Christ. Can you imagine a person with just a head but no body? The Church is also the Bride of Christ. Can you imagine a wedding with just a groom but no bride? Everywhere Christ is, the Church is; and everywhere the Church is, Christ is. Christ and the Church are inseparable. The Church is essential. In fact, the Christ-Church relationship is the model and power for all our relationships.

Ephesians 1     15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you…:

Context: Paul is commending the Church in Ephesus for their faith in Christ and for their love for the saints. Those are 2 very positive things: Love for God and Love for the Church. Nonetheless, all may not have been so well among the Ephesians. Scholars have debated the reasons why Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesian church. Although, there are many suggestions, the most common one is unity. There are reasons for this: The Greek word for unity “henotes,” from which we get our English word “unity” is found twice, only in this letter. The term “one” (hen) is found about 14 times in the letter. So also, words that emphasize “being with” or “being together” are found a bunch of times in this book. All that to say, Paul wrote this letter to encourage unity in the Ephesian church. Maybe, they were drifting away. But, this unity could not be achieved by force. It could happen only when believers genuinely loved one another and understood why it was vital that they maintained their spirit of unity as a church. So, Paul told them what he was praying for. Listen to Ephesians 1     16 “…making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…” Paul was praying that the Ephesians would have deep wisdom and revelation, and their eyes of understanding would be opened. What should they see? 3 things to be exact:

  • 18 “…that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
  • what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
  • 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe…”

Here’s the translation:

  • Past: We need to have the solid assurance that God will bring to pass what he has promised. While we patiently wait on his plan, we need to look back and remember that he has called us.
  • Future: We need to remember that we are incredibly valuable to God. He will not allow his inheritance to be lost. He will claim us one day.
  • Present: We need to utilize the immense power that he has given to us. This power can withstand any attack of the Enemy and the world system around us.

Out of all 3, the most important is the present because we need power to live now as believers.

Application: Would you agree that ever since this crisis began, the church has lost its sense of power? We have become like cotton candy. We have nothing solid to offer. We are like a door stopper that the world has kicked out of the way and shut the door, leaving us sitting lifeless on the outside. By the way, let’s not blame the world too much. Much of it we have done it to ourselves! We have made ourselves dispensable by emptying out the salt shaker and snuffing out the lamp.

Paul spends some time explaining the source, the display, and the storehouse of this power that is available to believers in the present:

  1. Source: 19 “…according to the working of His mighty power…” God is the source of this mighty power.
  2. Display: 20 “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seatedHim at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” The Resurrection and Glorification of Christ is the display of this mighty power.
  3. Storehouse: 22 “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, Christ is the storehouses of this mighty power. This is manifested in 2 major places:

A. Creation: 22 “And He put all things under His feet” is a fulfillment of Psalm 8:6 “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Everything the first Adam had lost, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, gained back.

Are you worried about what’s happening in the world or in nature? You can stop. Jesus is in charge. Yes, not everything is right or okay, but he is still ultimately sovereign.

B. Church: “…and gave Him to be head over all things to the church.” A better translation: This same Christ is also the head of the church, both local and collective. If you still have any confusion regarding the relationship of Christ and the Church, the next verse solves any doubt. 23 “which is His body…”

Here’s what Paul is saying: Christ = head, Church = body, Christ = body and head. In other words, the church members are bound to each other and we are connected to our head Christ. This cannot be separated.

Application: In the beginning of the pandemic, I found it very interesting how the church was quickly deemed “nonessential.” And, when it was declared lawful to be open, how many were hesitant to open and still are! Don’t think that I don’t understand the health concerns. I do. I understand that some can’t safely return right now. But, how about those who can but choose not to or choose to minimize the importance of the church. Have you considered the ramifications what we are doing?

Final line of verse 23 “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” In other words, God’s fulness, which fills Christ, fills the Church. This is not a one-time filling but an ongoing constant filling. This power is alive and fresh. It is new every day for every challenge and opportunity that may come in our path. We need this power specially to combat the evil powers. We need this power in our daily lives, especially our relationships. What does this power look like? It is God’s moral excellence, his perfection, his truth, his protection, and his blessing.

Application: Do you now understand the emotional, mental, and spiritual health ramifications of not opening the church? In this series coming up we will learn how this impacts our daily relationships, starting with the husband-wife relationships.

Ephesians 5      25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Invitation: Is the Church essential to you? Is the Church essential to your family? Are you part of the Church? Are you saved?

Pathway by Dr. Abidan Shah

Many of our children and teens have either already started back to school or will be starting in the next few days. Parents often wonder about other influences their children will encounter and if they will follow God or the world. I want to remind you God is still in control and His promises are still true. That is a source of great hope for me as a parent!

This weekend, we will be focusing on Proverbs 22:6. This is a well-known verse, but when times are stressful or difficult, we are quick to forget God’s promise when our children are trained up under godly instruction. The title of this weekend’s message is “PATHWAY.”

What kind of instruction are you giving the children in your life? Are you sharing God’s Word with your own children and those in our church family? Are you saved? You cannot afford to miss this message. Invite your friends and family to come worship with us, too!

Impart by Dr. Abidan Shah

IMPART by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  There was a time when fathers would pass down their trade skills to their sons, like woodworking or smithing; and mothers would pass down their homemaking skills to their daughters, like knitting and craft-making. The world has changed so much in the past few hundred years. Now, we’re living in the technological and information age where our kids know far more than we do! Plus, everything is always evolving. It feels like we have nothing to pass on to our children, other than material wealth and some life hacks. Sometimes, the younger generation may even act like they don’t need anything from us, especially now where everyone in the past was wrong and outdated; but that’s not altogether true. Today’s Message: God has entrusted us with the tremendously responsibility to pass down godly values to the next generation, especially our children. They need much more from us than just material wealth and life hacks. They need us to impart to them godly principles and convictions that will help them live successfully. That’s the title of our message today – IMPART.

Joshua 24      1 “Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.”

Context: This was the second time that Joshua had gathered all the major representatives of the people of Israel. The first time was in the previous chapter in Joshua 23. There are some similarities between the first gathering and the second gathering, but there are also some distinctions. The major distinction was this—In the first gathering, Joshua talked to them as an old man, the veteran leader, giving his farewell address to his people; but, in the second gathering, Joshua talked to them as one of them, as a family man, as the head of his household. As important as the first address was, I want to focus on the second one in this message. There are 3 things he brought up in the second gathering:

  1. Don’t forget where God has brought you from.

2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.” The primogenitors of the people of Israel—Terah and his sons, Abraham, and Nahor—lived on the other side of the River. This is the area that is to the north and east of the Promised Land, across the Euphrates River. The cuneiform tablets found in this region show that the people were worshipping many gods, especially in places like Ur and Haran, which were centers of moon worship. Until God found Abraham, he and the other ancestors were just pagan people. The idea that Abraham himself was not born a Hebrew or an Israelite or a Jewish person is shocking to people! 3 “Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.” What’s the point? Joshua was reminding the people of Israel that they may be God’s special people today but their beginnings were not so illustrious.

Let’s not forget that we were no better but by the grace of God! I Corinthians 6     9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

Application: Do you take the time to remember what God has saved you from?

Now, from verse 4 to 8, God reminded them about what he did for Isaac and Jacob, and how he brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. 9 Then Balak…king of Moab, arose to make war against Israel, and sent and called Balaam…to curse you. 10But I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he continued to bless you. So I delivered you out of his hand.” In other words, God turned his cursings into blessings. Hasn’t God done that for you? What people meant for evil, God turned into good! In verses 11 and 12, God gave them victory over all the nations that attacked—Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Then, verse 13 “I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.” Don’t misunderstand: It doesn’t mean that they were freeloaders, eating the fruit of someone else’s labors. This was God’s land. He gave it to whomever he chose.

Here’s the point: The worst thing that can happen to us in the Christian life is to forget where God has brought us from. We are where we are by the grace of God.

Personal Illustration: I remember like it was yesterday, standing in that telephone booth on this one-gas-station exit, somewhere on this side of the Pennsylvania turnpike. I was all alone, waiting for a ride until 2-3am. I know where God has brought me from! I learnt that from my father who had an old tin box that he left his home with when his father kicked him out because he was a Christian.

Application: Do you take the time to remind your children how God saved you and where he has brought you from? If you don’t, they’ll never know.

  1. Don’t forget where God has brought you from.
  2. Don’t assume that God doesn’t know what you’ve been up to.

14 “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!” If you were here last weekend, you learned that the people of Israel were under the cloud by day and under the fire by night. It was the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ, who went with them from within Egypt to all the way into the Promised Land. He guarded them, guided them, and spoke to them. He provided manna from heaven, meat from quail, and water from the rock. He did not abandon them a single moment. Nonetheless, they kept their false gods secretly in their tents!

They had 3 sets of false gods with them from 3 different rivers. Why Rivers? This would have been a good time for them to lose their false gods but they didn’t.

  1. The Sumerian gods from the other side of the Euphrates River, brought by Rachel and others.
  2. The Egyptian gods from the other side of the Nile River, brought by the first generation of the slaves.
  3. The Amorite gods from this side of the Jordan River, picked up by them when they came into the Promised Land. 15 “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.”

Before you say, “I don’t have any false gods in my life,” just remember: Anything that begins to dominate your life, anything you treasure more than God, anything you refuse to let go is now a false god in your life, and anything you fear more than life itself. By the way, Abraham had been gone for 500 years. The last generation had been dead for about 40 years. The point is that the gods had been passed down from one generation to the next.

Application: What false god(s) are you passing down to your children? One more thing: it is possible to receive God’s blessing and still hide your gods. Are you assuming that your blessings are proof that God is okay with your false gods?

  1. Don’t forget where God has brought you from.
  2. Don’t assume that God doesn’t know what you’ve been up to.
  3. Don’t think that you can play neutral for long.

15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” The closer you get in your walk with God, the farther you will get from some people. This is a must if you want your household to last.

Their response was “Absolutely!” So, listen to verse 19 “But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.’ 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD!” 22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!” 23 “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.” Then Joshua made a covenant with the people at Shechem, wrote them in the Book of the Law of God, and then did something that was done about 8 other times in the book.  26 “…And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” There are so many stones in Israel. We have no idea where this stone is now. But, on that day of judgment, that stone will be brought up as exhibit A that they broke the covenant of God.

After you and I are gone, this church building may stand as a witness to your children and grandchildren that they have broken the covenant of God. What are you imparting to your children? Do you have a faith and a godly lifestyle to pass down to your kids? If you didn’t have a godly legacy, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

2 Corinthians 6:2 “For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Are you saved? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and King?

Guardian by Dr. Abidan Shah

 

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

Introduction: Until the coming of the internet, clouds were simply those puffy white things up in the sky. If they turned gray, then you better take an umbrella with you because it will rain. In the age of the internet, we now know of another cloud, but this one has to do with data storage, servers, networking, and backup. Everything is on the cloud now. God’s people knew of another cloud 3500 years ago. This was God’s guardian presence among his people – guarding, guiding, and speaking with them. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that God’s guardian presence is still with his people. It is not up in a cloud somewhere but in the heart of every believer through the Holy Spirit. It is the presence of Christ, guarding, guiding, and speaking to us. Christ is our true guardian through the journey of life. That’s the title of our message today – GUARDIAN. By the way, I love this cartoon – “Here’s the tablets I told you about Mo…there’s no upgrades planned, but they do come with cloud support!”

Exodus 12     37 “Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock.”

Context: After the tenth plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh conceded to let God’s people leave Egypt. This was no small group of people. According to some estimates, as many as 3 million people began the journey from a place called Rameses in Goshen and headed to Succoth, the final city before leaving Egypt’s eastern borders. From there, they came to place called Etham, which means fortress. There were a number of such fortresses that lined Egypt’s northeastern boundary. Think about it: Yes, Pharaoh had told them they could go. Yes, the land of Egypt was a wreck. Yes, the people of Egypt were scared. Yes, the children of Israel were big in number. But, they were still walking through the land of Egypt. They were still not out of harm’s way. In fact, they were walking right past these Egyptian fortresses with plenty of Egyptian soldiers and chariots who had plenty of hate and resentment in their hearts towards them! Less than 24 hours ago they were simply slaves! Who was leading them? What was protecting them? Why didn’t the Egyptians stop them? Listen to Exodus 13     21 “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.” WOW! Think about the most ominous stormy cloud you’ve ever seen. This was worse!

Any wonder that no one stopped them! The Egyptians believed in Set, the god of storm. The Canaanites believed in Baal, the storm god, who was also called the cloud-rider. But, God was just getting started. He led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. This would seem to be a horrible tactical decision to bring the people to a dead end, but God had a plan for Pharaoh. He knew the reach of Egypt and that Pharaoh would not give up. Just when the people would be entering the Promised Land, he would come after them. So, God hardened his heart. Listen to Exodus 14      5 Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him. 7 Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them. 8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel…” This was a massive force that came after God’s people! This was probably couple of thousand chariots with soldiers! Remember, he was trying to round up 3 million people!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses. 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. 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.”

First, who is the Angel of the Lord? Several times in the Old Testament, people encountered the Angel of the Lord: Jacob met him in a dream at Bethel. Moses saw him in the burning bush. In the book of Judges, a man named Manoah and his wife had a visit from him promising them a child who would later be Samson. Two things happened in that encounter: First, when Manoah asked the Angel of the Lord for his name, he replied in Judges 13:18 “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” This was the name given to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…” Second, Manoah offered a sacrifice to God and the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar! Then Manoah realized that this was no ordinary angel and said to his wife in Judges 13:22 “…We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” The Angel of the Lord was the second person of the godhead because no one has ever seen the Father and the Spirit. So, it was the pre-incarnate Christ in the pillar of cloud! Exodus 14    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.” This was much more than just some dust cloud in the field. It had to block about a couple of thousand chariots! 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.”

Application: How do you know Jesus? If you don’t receive him as a merciful Savior, you will meet him as a righteous Judge.

  1. The Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ, GUARDED the people of Israel through the pillar of fire and cloud.

Application: Do you believe that God is guarding you? Why are you so afraid?

What else did he do for his people?

  1. He GUIDED his people through the cloud and fire in their journey and sojourn in the wilderness.

Exodus 40.    36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

Application: Who is guiding you through your journey? Who is guiding you through this pandemic? It’s important to listen to the experts but don’t forget the Expert.

  1. He COMMUNICATED with his people through the cloud. Exodus 33 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door.

Application: As you journey through your wilderness, who are you allowing to speak into your life? 5 minutes with the Savior is worth far more than 5 hours of scrolling.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get it. Listen to how Moses described their rejection of the presence of God with them in Deuteronomy 1      31 “and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God, 33 who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.”

What does all this have to do with us? 1 Corinthians 10      1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Do you see the pillar of cloud? Do you see the pillar of fire? We live by faith. We live believing that these things are happening today even though we cannot see them with our naked eyes. Someone might say, “It would help if we had a pillar of cloud and fire.” If they didn’t believe seeing the things they saw, hearing the things they heard, and feeling the things they felt, we won’t either.

So, where do we stand now? Someone might say, “I guess it is a faith battle for us.” Not really. It was just as much a faith battle for them. In fact, it was worse because they were still in the middle of it. The final act hadn’t happened – Jesus coming, dying, and rising again, as promised in the Scriptures. They didn’t have a complete picture. They sort of understood where they were headed. We have the complete picture! What more do we need! We have to believe looking back that all this happened.

By the way, just know that when you start living by faith, there will be people who will come and wave their hands before your face and ask, “Are you okay?” When you tell them about the cloud, they will say something like “I believe too! But, I’m also a realist!”

Can you see Jesus? Can you sense his guarding and guiding presence? Can you hear his voice? Only through the Holy Spirit you can. He only comes into our lives when we receive Jesus as our Savior and King. Are you saved?

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