Abundant by Dr. Abidan Shah

ABUNDANT – 1 by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  How many of ya’ll were up at 12 midnight to welcome the new year? How many were up past 1, 2, 3, 4, 5? I was up in body but sleep in spirit. Someone said, “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up for New Year’s. Middle age is when you’re forced to!” At the close of each year, we pray that God will show us his direction in the upcoming year. As we were praying and seeking God’s direction in 2022, the word “Abundant” came to us – abundant in our church; abundant in our family; abundant in our marriage; abundant in our children and grandchildren’s lives; abundant in our work; abundant in our community; and abundant in our personal life. Don’t misunderstand. By abundant, we don’t mean more money, success, and happiness. Although all that is wonderful and we want that, but here we’re talking about being abundant in bearing fruits for God’s kingdom. Main point: As we embark upon this theme of “Abundant” in the new year, it is vital that we know that “Abiding is the key to Abundance.” It is only when we remain in Christ by loving and obeying him that we bear much fruit.

John 15       1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Context: The passage we just read comes in the middle of what’s known as the “Farewell Discourse” in the Gospel of John. Keep in mind: All four gospels talk about the final night of Jesus with his disciples before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, taken to be tried before the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and then unjustly crucified; but only two of them have a “Farewell Discourse” on the night before he was taken when he gave them his final instructions. They are Luke and John. Our focus is of course on John’s Farwell Discourse, which is 15% of the Gospel. By the way, Farewell Discourse is a special genre or literary form that is found in some ancient writings and even the Old Testament. They are the final words of a famous or important person. In secular works, examples are the final words of Socrates (Plato) and Pericles (Plutarch). In the Old Testament, examples are the final words of Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and David. They have a certain pattern to them: reference to their coming death; review of their life; encouragement to press on; predictions or prophecies about the future; final warnings; and final blessings or prayer. Amazingly, the same pattern is found in the Farewell Discourse of Jesus in Luke and John but with some very important differences. Unlike secular works where many of the deaths in the pagan literature were suicide, Jesus was not headed to commit suicide. He was headed to fulfill God’s plan of redemption by giving his life on the cross for the sins of every human being. Unlike the Old Testament works, the focus was not on God’s faithfulness in the past but on Jesus himself. Jesus was much more than just some beloved guru who was about to be killed. He was the Son of God about to change the destiny of countless with his sacrifice on the cross. His Farwell Discourse tops all the rest. There is a reason why I spent this time giving you an overview of Farewell Discourses – They are very important. They must be read with extra care and detail.

Although, our focus will be on John 15 for the next couple of weeks, I want to spend some time today showing how it fits in the Farewell Discourse in John and then lead into the communion. There are 5 key words to remember:

  1. Service

Unlike the other gospels, John did not give the words of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Instead, he described something else.

John 13      3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

This is not something that the other famous people ever did. When asked why, he responded in John 13      12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Before we can talk about bearing abundant fruit, we must learn to serve like Jesus. It is in service that we find fruits.

Application: Do you understand what it means to serve others, especially in the family?

  1. Glory

At this point Jesus began to warn them that there was a betrayer among them. Immediately, Matthew wrote in his gospel that they began to question – “Is it I?” Then Jesus identified Judas as being the one and Satan entered him and John 13:30 “…he then went out immediately. And it was night.” Then technically begins the Farewell Discourse – 31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, “Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Instead of being obedient, Peter wanted to be part of the glory, but this was not his task. He got into trouble not for denying Jesus but for disobeying him. John 13      36Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38 Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.”

True glory is in obedience.

Application: Do you see the danger of envy and self-glory? Do you know when you are trying to run ahead of God?

  1. Promises

John 14      2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

John 14     15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Application: Do you believe that you are never left an orphan? Do you recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Now Jesus told them that it was time to go from the upper room, possibly on Mount Zion towards the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. John 14:31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here. Here comes John 15. In other words, John 15 was spoken around 10-11pm as they were walking by moonlight. Three possibilities have been suggested by commentators:

  • They still talked for a while before they left because John 18:1 tells us again that they went out.
  • They walked past the Jerusalem temple. According to the Middot, “A golden vine stood over the entrance to the sanctuary, trained over posts; and whosoever gave a leaf, or a berry, or a cluster as a freewill-offering, he brought it and the priests hung it thereon.” Maybe they stopped by there and talked about John 15.
  • They walked down the hillside of Jerusalem and there were probably vineyards that they had to walk past before they crossed the Kidron, and Jesus must have stopped by there and spoken those words.

We will see this entire section in the weeks ahead.

Main thing to remember is that “Abiding is the key to Abundance.”

Application: Do you understand that in order to bear fruit, you have to remain in him? To remain means to love and obey him. Do you love and obey him?

  1. Persecution

John 16     1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Application: Do you know that the life of abundance will have tribulations?

  1. Intercession

John 17      1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 17        9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

John 17:20   “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

If you think about it, the disciples probably ran past some of these stops in the Kidron Valley and on the hill towards Jerusalem after Jesus was betrayed.

Application: Did you know that Jesus prayed for you on the night before he was betrayed in his Farwell Discourse? Do you know him? Are you saved?

Proclaim by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Growing up, we did not have all the Christmas shopping and gift giving as we do in America. At the most, we would get a new set of clothes, a new shirt and a new pair of pants. That’s it. Imagine my shock when I was invited to a friend’s house for Christmas. They had boxes and boxes of gifts all around the tree and a couple of them had my name on it. Just when I thought that it was all done, the mom said, “Ok, now y’all can open your stockings!” Wait! There’s more?” They took down the socks from the fireplace, and they had more gifts in them! So also, when it comes to the gospel, just when you think this is it, there’s more. For the next 2 weekends, in light of Christmas, I want to PROCLAIM the “more” that came to us through Jesus Christ. Main point: The good news of salvation is that Jesus not only came to take the penalty of our sins, but he also came to free us from the repercussions of sin. Shame and blame, anger and fear, stubbornness and bitterness, little white lies and big fat lies, selfishness and self-worship are all coming from the Garden. The gospel also helps us overcome them.

Luke 4      17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Context: It was not coincidental that Jesus stood up to read the Old Testament in the synagogue in Nazareth and this passage from Isaiah was handed to him. It was quite intentional. This was an ancient prophecy regarding the mission of the Messiah. There is so much packed in there that we don’t have the time to get into this morning. For our message, I want to focus only on the statement – “to proclaim liberty to the captives.” The word for liberty in Hebrew is “derur.” It hints back to the book of Leviticus where slaves and debtors were to be set free every six years, the Year of Jubilee. The use of the same word here was about more than just physical slavery or financial debt. The idea was also about social, emotional, mental, and spiritual enslavement. In other words, the Messiah was coming to set people free from the bondage of sin. Listen to Paul in Titus 2     11 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” The Greek word for “redeem” is “lutrow,” which refers to the payment for the release of slaves. Same idea here as in Isaiah. But, what were we slaves to? Titus 3       3 “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Jesus came to take us from the life of a “doulos” (slave) to the life of a “kleronomos” (heir).

Principle: There are 2 kinds of lives. The life of slavery to sin and the heir life. The first is marked by foolishness, disobedience, deception, lust, self-serving, malice, envy, hateful and hating one another. The heir life comes from the cross, and it is lived face-to-face with Christ so that one becomes more like him emotionally, mentally, attitudinally, behaviorally, and relationally. It is possible to be saved and still live the life of slavery.

Application: Which life are you living? Are you still a slave to sin? Are you an heir/beneficiary according to the hope of eternal life?

To make the shift, you cannot do it the world’s way. Typically, the world’s answer to the sins is in 3 popular approaches (Ernie Baker):

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (Change your thinking, change your behavior)
  • Biomedical (Pharmacological treatment)
  • Maslow’s Need Theory (Basic needs are not being met – Physiological, Safety, Love and Belonging, Esteem, Self-Actualization)

Ultimately, they blame either our Nature or Nurture for our bad behavior. Nature (Physiology) is our Body, our Brain Chemistry, our Neurotransmitters, and our Chemical Levels. Nurture (Environment) is our Family Upbringing, our Social Situation, and our Past Experiences. There is a lot of truth here, but there is still so much that they fail to answer. The true answer is found in the Garden of Eden. It all began there. Prior to the coming of sin, everything was “very good.” The relationship of human beings with each other, the relationship of human beings with nature, and the relationship of human beings with God was beautiful, pleasant, orderly, efficient, and morally good. By choosing to listen to the serpent/Satan, they chose to disobey God. They thought that God was holding out on them. They thought that he was keeping them from becoming all they could be. Suddenly, a false god had come in that promised more than the Living True God had promised. Ultimately, it was a problem with their worship. Ernie Baker, professor of biblical counselling, said, “Humans do not just have personality disorders, they have worship disorders.” Because of that all the other problems followed: Desire problems; Food Problem; Social Pressure Problem; Pain and suffering Problem; Relationship Problem; Sexual Temptation Problem; Blame Problem; Anger Problem; Unforgiveness Problem; Materialism problem; Selfishness Problem; etc.

How can we overcome these repercussions of sins? We must return to a life of true worship. This is why Jesus came. As we return our worship to where it belongs, then we will see a reversal of the repercussions of sin. Here are the 3 steps:

  1. Reorient your life towards the gospel.
  2. Seek to magnify God and obey his Word in everything.
  3. Surround yourself with those who seek the same.

Here are some passages that give the assurance of the new worship that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings:

Titus 3       4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

1 John 3:8 “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Colossians 1      13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Colossians 3         8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,

Romans 15       4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Invitation: Are you still struggling with the repercussions of the sins in the Garden? How is your worship? Do you know the Gospel? Have you received the Gospel? Are you surrounding yourself with those who seek to worship God?

First Gospel: The Cure by Dr. Abidan Shah

FIRST GOSPEL – THE CURE by Dr. Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, Duke and UNC, Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, Steffi Graf and Gabriella Sabatini, Lebron James and Kevin Durant. What do all of these have in common? They are old rivals in their sport. They hate losing to each other. They talk junk about each other. Sometimes, many of these bitter rivals are actually best friends in private life. It is a publicity stunt. In today’s final message in our series called “First Gospel,” we are going to meet the oldest rivals in the history of the world. There is no publicity stunt here. This is as real as it gets. I am referring to Jesus and Satan. Main point: The ultimate rivalry is between Jesus and Satan. Unlike earthly rivalries, Satan is no match for Jesus. While Satan is just a fallen created being, Jesus is God’s Son, the King of kings, and he has already won the victory.

Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Context: In the past two messages, we learned that Adam and Eve had a choice. Either they could trust and obey God, or they could fall for the Enemy’s lies. Obviously, they chose what was wrong. Consequently, there were damages. There was a damage in the relationship between Adam and Eve. Then, there was a damage in the animal world, but it didn’t stop there. There was also a damage in the woman’s life, especially with regards to childbearing, and in the man’s life, especially with regards to work and harvest. In the midst of all these damages, God also had the cure to Adam and Eve’s predicament. Listen again to Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” There are 3 important things that that were part of the cure:

  1. Enmity between the Serpent and the Woman
  2. Enmity between the descendants of the Serpent and the descendants of the Woman
  3. Enmity between the Serpent and the Messiah

Let’s look at each of them carefully:

  1. Enmity between the Serpent and the Woman

Although, we looked at the actual dislike of snakes by women in the last sermon, as I mentioned last week, there is more involved here. Since Satan tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, there is now a natural dislike of Satan for women, and the women for Satan. Ladies – be careful. Satan still wants to deceive you. He will constantly try to get you to doubt your self-worth. Are you pretty enough? Are you smart enough? Are you successful enough? On the flip side, God has also given women the sense of discernment. Nicole can warn me about people even when I am gullible.

But there’s more: Revelation 12      1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. 2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. 5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. 6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days. 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” 13 Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. 14 But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Who is this woman? This is Israel in the Tribulation being harassed by Satan. All throughout history, Satan has gone after God’s people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hence, it is vital for us to stand with Israel. Right from the beginning God has warned us about this enmity.

  1. Enmity between the descendants of the Serpent and the descendants of the Woman

According to the curse on the Serpent, there will two groups of people in humanity: descendants of the Serpent and descendants of the Woman. The descendants of Satan are those who despise God and want to deceive others into disobeying God. These descendants are not biological but ideological. On the other hand, there are the descendants of the Woman. They are not perfect, but they seek to be like God. There will be hostility between these two groups. In the very next chapter, we meet the first brothers, Cain and Abel. Cain is warned – Genesis 4:7 “…And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Unfortunately, he chose to kill his brother. Then, we meet Esau and Jacob. Genesis 25      31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” 33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. After Jacob rightfully got Isaac to bless him, listen to Genesis 27:41 So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Then, Joseph’s brothers tried to kill him, but ended up selling him into slavery. Finally, the children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt. Have you ever noticed what’s on Pharaoh’s miter/crown? Snake known as Uraeus. It was a symbol of power, authority, and even deity. Down through the ages, the hatred has continued, even at the time of Christ. John 8      39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

When you reject Christ as your Savior and King, you opt out of the family of the woman and opt into the family of Satan. How about you? Right from the beginning God has warned us about this enmity.

  1. Enmity between the Serpent and the Messiah

Not only does the seed (zera) have a collective meaning, but it also has a singular meaning. The noun can be both collective and individual. After the collective meaning earlier, this is now a singular meaning. In other words, this is about one coming to bring judgment over the Enemy for what he did. Something very important to understand: Satan does not know which woman. Neither does Eve know which son. Therefore, he has been going after the young ever since. So also, Eve thought that Cain was the one. Genesis 4:1 “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “‘I have acquired a man from the LORD.’” She was mistaken again in Genesis 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” Every woman had to raise every child as if he could be the one to break the curse. That’s why Paul said in 1 Timothy 2      14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

However, God was making it more and more specific – Genesis 12:7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants (seed) I will give this land.” Genesis 13      15 “for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.”

How will the seed of the woman break the curse? “…He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The Hebrew word “suph” means crush, bruise, or strike. One will be a lethal blow and the other just an injury. This is exactly what happened at the cross. Satan tried to strike his heel, thinking that he had killed Jesus. What he didn’t realize is that this was all part of God’s predetermined plan. As he was striking one heel, the other heel was being lifted and positioned bull’s eye over his skull. When Jesus rose from the grave, he crushed Satan’s head. He still has some life in him to harass believers and mislead the lost but not for long. His time is coming. In the meantime, Jesus has destroyed death and grave, powers and principalities, Even before the coming of Jesus, the Jewish Talmud talked about the “heels of the Messiah.”

Which seed do you belong to? Are you saved? Are you helping reaching others with the gospel? Are you taking the cure to others?

First Gospel: The Damage

FIRST GOSPEL – THE DAMAGE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  For the past few years, we have been blessed to take a trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Some of you have been there. It’s such a beautiful laidback place. We really enjoy going there. Last year, we went by a shopping center that had a boot store. I went in and asked for a size 11. The man brought it, and I put on the right leg. No trouble. Then, I tried to put on the left one and trouble began. It was impossible! I struggled and struggled. I finally got my foot in, and it loosened a little but not much. I even called a young man from church who had bought the same shoe sometime back, and I asked him if it was tight when he first got it. He said that it was actually loose, and he had to drop down a size. Now, I was really confused. The salesman tried to give me some pointers on how to break the boot in, but I didn’t think that was the problem. So, I asked him for a size 11 ½, and I began the process of removing the boot. The right was no problem, but the left was not going to come off. I thought it would be easier to chop my foot off! Finally, I got it off with the help of my boys. As I was putting it back in the box, I noticed on the bottom – size 9. Sure enough, right boot was 11, but left boot was 9. No wonder! Apparently, it was shipped that way by mistake. No amount of pushing and shoving would have solved that problem. So also, life in this world has been shipped this way since the Garden of Eden. It’s not that all of life is horrible, but there is a problem. All around us we can see and feel the impact of the Fall. We are in a series from Genesis 3 titled “First Gospel,” and today we come to the second message titled: THE DAMAGE. Main point: Life is wonderful, but it has been damaged by the fall. We try to enjoy life with the right foot, but repeatedly we are reminded by the left foot that not all of life is wonderful. Therefore, Jesus came – to fix what was damaged in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursedis the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”

Last weekend, we learned how the choice of Adam and Eve to take the forbidden fruit brought original sin into the world. In this message, we will survey the damage that came into this world because of that choice. Of course, we know the fundamental damages: break in the relationship between God and man; and break in the relationship between man and woman; physical and spiritual death; but there’s much more. Before we start listing all the damages because of the Fall, let me clear up a common misunderstanding from Genesis 1:31 “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” It is often assumed that “good” means “perfect,” but that’s not true. The Hebrew word for good is “tov.” The word has the idea of being beautiful, pleasant, orderly, efficient, and morally good. It was not some static and rigid state. Some people assume that there was no entropy before the Fall. Entropy has to do with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Sometimes it is called the “Law of Disorder” or the “Law of Decay.” Keep in mind that God made matter and energy in the first week of creation. According to the First Law of Thermodynamics, “The total amount of mass-energy in the universe is constant.” In other words, “Energy is merely transformed from one form to another. It is neither created nor destroyed.” According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, “While energy is conserved, it becomes less useful over time.” In other words, “The amount of energy available for work is running out.”

Example: When you make your coffee in the morning, you add cold creamer to your hot coffee. Does your coffee get hotter or a little colder? It gets a little colder. The hot coffee loses some energy, but the creamer gains some energy. Energy is conserved. That’s the First Law of Thermodynamics. Here’s a question: When you pour the hot coffee into the cold mug, do you ever feel that the mug gets colder, or the coffee gets hotter? Heat is only transferred from hot to cold, and not vice versa. Energy is lost. That’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Important point: These laws did not begin after the Fall. They were there from the first day of creation, even the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Without the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the heat from the sun would not be transferred to the earth; Adam and Eve would be slipping as they walked in the Garden of Eden (friction helps us to remain stable); also breathing (movement of gas from high to a low pressure) and digestion (breaking down of complex food molecules) are all the results of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Lee Anderson, Danny Faulkner). It is often claimed that Bible believers don’t understand scientific principles or that science contradicts the biblical account of creation. This is just not true. We believe that both the First and the Second Law of Thermodynamics line up with the biblical account of creation. Even in the sky, as good as things were before the fall, there were still craters on the moon, and supernovas and shooting stars occasionally. Someone may ask: If we believe that things were already running downhill or decaying before the Fall, doesn’t that mean that there was a “fall” before the Fall? It could be that God balanced out the energy until the Fall to keep diseases, suffering, and death away.

By the way, he has done that time to time for his people. Deuteronomy 8:4 “Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.” Deuteronomy 29:5 “And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.” Joel 2:25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust…” Psalm 103      2 “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases…5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Application: Has the Lord done that for you? Can you see how the Lord has turned back time in your life?

So, what were the real damages due to the Fall? In the last couple of messages, we have seen what the Fall did to the relationship between the husband and the wife.

  1. Animal World

Genesis 3      14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Next week, we will focus on the real culprit behind the Serpent and the enmity between his seed and her seed. Here, I want us to see that God first cursed the serpent and then also all the animals. Why? Animals were supposed to be under the dominion of the man and the woman. They were created for the benefit of Adam and Eve. When they chose to harm them, led by the serpent, they were harmed in return. First, the serpent – more than likely, he walked upright initially, but God changed his DNA. Now he would slither on the ground, sign of an unclean animal. He was “arum” (subtle), but now he was “arur” (banned). I know some people have pet snakes, and that’s fine; but typically, people all over the world are terrified of snakes and want to kill them. Also, they do literally eat dust with their forked tongue. At the roof of the snake’s mouth is an organ called the “vomeronasal organ,” that detects chemicals, and the tongue carries samples from the dirt to the organ (Sarfati).

Also, the animal world turned against each other in the form of predator and prey. Many went from being herbivores to carnivores. In the end, this will be reversed. Isaiah 11      6 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

Isn’t that a beautiful world!

  1. Woman

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.”

We’ve seen the second half of the verse, but how about the first? It refers to the entire process from pregnancy to childbirth. It is painful. This pain is not coming through some form of fear, but it is physically discomforting. The potential of pain may have been there before the Fall, but God balanced it out as we mentioned earlier. Now, things had changed, but it was not evil. Even Jesus talked about this: John 16     21 “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” Paul adds: 1 Timothy 2     14 “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” We’ll see that next week.

  1. Man

Genesis 3       17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.

A thorn is simply a leaf that is “tightly curled upon itself.” This was a product of the Fall.

 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

Now, the fruit trees would not be enough, he will have to become a farmer and sweat. Then, he will go into the same ground!

Romans 8      19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

There’s so much here! So much was damaged! This is why Jesus came, to undo the damage. Do you know him? Have you been saved from the damage? More damage is coming when you reject him.

Ascent by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Geico, the auto insurance company, is known for its funny ads. How many of ya’ll remember their cavemen ads back in 2004? They featured these Neanderthal-like cavemen who were trying to make it in a modern setting. The premise of their ad was that their website was “so easy, a caveman could do it.” This offended the cavemen who happen to be standing nearby. All joking aside, it is commonly assumed that human beings evolved from cavemen like the Neanderthals, Australopithecine, or Homo Erectus, or that we are similar to animals, especially apes. In our series on apologetics called “Contend,” we will answer some of the questions that were raised: Do humans and chimps share a common ancestor? Are human and chimp DNA very similar? Where do the Neanderthals fit in the Genesis account? Who were the cavemen? Here’s the main point: God has made us in his image. The image was never lost at the Fall, just marred. Through Jesus, we are restored and made new creations in the likeness of God. Evolution from ape-like creatures or “cavemen” is not only false, but it also devalues the image of God in us and seriously undermines the gospel.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Context: As you know, this was Day 6 of the creation week. God was about to create the final act of his creation. It would be unlike anything that he had made thus far. It would be the crown of his creation. Unlike the previous acts of creation, this was not just a “let there be…” Instead, listen again to verse 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Several important things here:

  • First, unlike the previous creations of matter, light, plants, celestial bodies, and animals, this one involved the entire godhead. Yes, all were involved so far, but this one was going to be special. In fact, this is also where we first meet the plurality of the godhead. Later, we will learn that God is “trinity” – Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Again, this implies that human beings are a special creation.
  • Second, unlike the previous creations, this one will be in the “image” and “likeness” of God himself. The Hebrew word for “image” is “tselem” and “likeness” is “demut.” Both imply that human beings will be similar but not identical to the original, that is God. Similar in that we will share the communicable attributes of God – love, justice, creativity, reason, grace, mercy, truth, relationality, and even holiness. Even these, we will not perfectly share with God. Nonetheless, not identical in the sense that we will not be like him – omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, sovereign, transcendent, unchanging, and self-existent. These and more attributes make God who he is.

Being “image bearers” brings some very important benefits:

  1. It makes us God’s representatives in the world, called to rule over his creation. 26“…let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
  2. It gives us special dignity above all other living creatures. Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God he made man.” Also, James 3 8 “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.”
  3. It allows us to have a special relationship with him, unlike anything the living creatures can ever experience. Of course, God is spirit, but when he appeared on earth, it was always in a human form and not any animal. So also, his angels appeared as humans. Ultimately, the plan of salvation was for us. Jesus is God becoming man.

I can go on and on, but I want to stop here and make a point that will help us answer the questions that were raised – Ever since the beginning of time, human beings have been either trying to exalt themselves to the level of God or devalue themselves to the animal world. For some reason, we cannot seem to accept the gift of “image bearers.” In the past couple of hundred years, this has expressed itself by either claiming that we have evolved from ape-like creatures or from “cavemen” over millions or hundreds of thousands of years. Let’s look at each of them:

  1. Evolution from Ape-like Creatures:

Although Charles Darwin did not talk about human evolution in the Origin of the Species, he talked about it 12 years later in his other book The Descent of Man. His arguments were based on anatomical, embryological, and behavioral evidence, not fossils. Until his death in 1882, no fossils for non-human or pre-human ancestors of human beings had been found. He blamed it on the lack of fossil research. Bottom line: Human and primate fossils are extremely rare (See David Menton and Marvin Lubenow). About 95% of all known fossils are marine invertebrates (don’t have a backbone/spine). About 4.7 % are algae and plants and 0.2 % are insects and other invertebrates. Finally, 0.1% are vertebrates and out of this a small fraction are primates (humans, apes, monkeys, and lemurs). Maybe about 6000 human individuals if counting single teeth and bones. Much more apes and monkeys in the fossils than humans.

Differences between Human and Ape skulls (Menton):

  • Small vs Large (1400cm3 vs 500cm3)
  • Sloped vs Vertical Face
  • Flat vs Curved Forehead
  • Flat vs Protruding Nasal Bones
  • Jaws and Teeth (humans have thick enamel)
  • Pelvis and legs (the gait is different to walk on two legs)
  • Carrying angle of the knee
  • Locking Knee
  • Foot Bones
  • Hand Bones (the thumb is the most distinguishable feature, longer in humans)

What about ape-men fossils? From combining bones of apes and humans (Piltdown Man in Natural History Museum in London with the skull of a human and jaw of an orangutan, with the teeth filed down. It was left there for 50 years.), claims that ape skeleton is human, and vice versa. Unfortunately, lots of pictures drawn by artists also misrepresent the facts. Now there’s a new category called “hominin,” which includes Ardipithecus, Australopithecus(Lucy), Paranthropus, and the genera Homo. Ardipithecus = Afar Ethiopian word “ardi” meaning “ground” and “pithekos” = Greek for “ape.” Australopithecus = Latin “australis” means “southern” and pithekos. Paranthropus = “par” beside and “Anthropos” man. They seem quite official sounding on the surface, but they are not. The Homo group leads us into the next category.

  1. Evolution from Cavemen:
  • Homo Habilis (Homo = Latin for man, “handyman,” 1.4-2.4 million years ago)
  • Homo Rudolfensis (1.9 million years)
  • Homo Erectus (Java Man and Peking Man, 1.9 million – 144,000 years ago)
  • Homo Heidelbergensis (found in 1908 near Heidelberg, Germany, 700,000-200,000)
  • Homo Neanderthalensis (from Neander Valley in Germany in 1856. Since then, about 500 are found in central and western Europe, the Carpathians, Balkans, Ukraine, Western Russia, and northern Asia, 400,000-40,000)
  • Homo Floresiensis (Flores, Indonesia, “hobbits,” maybe deformity)
  • Homo Sapiens (us about 200,000 years ago)

Basic differences: large brows in adults and wide nasal cavities.

3 contradictory evidences:

  • the DNA evidence shows that we are the same. Through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology, in 1993 onwards, they were able to study mitochondrial DNA. Savante Paabo, a Swedish biologist, has been able to map the genome of Neanderthals and has found that we are not only similar, but also, we have mixed. (Some are gone but many may still be around, but they are not inferior (Papua, New Guinea, Australian Aborigines, and Mamanwa, Philippines).
  • Fossil records shows close association and integration with modern humans.
  • Archaeological evidence shows that their behavior and thoughts are human.

How does evolution from apes or cavemen undermine the gospel?

  1. It undermines the Problem

Rom. 5:12   Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many…18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

  1. It undermines the Prescription

Ephesians 4      20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

  1. It undermines the Promise

1 Corinthians 15       45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

Invitation: Are you still part of Adam’s family? Jesus has come to bring you into the family of God. Are you saved?

Distinct by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Hugh Lofting was an English author and a soldier in the British Army during World War 1. Instead of writing to his children about the horrors of the war, he decided to write to them imaginative letters which later became the inspiration of the children’s novels “Doctor Dolittle. I doubt many here have read the books, but I am sure you may have seen the movies. In fact, just last year another one came out. As you know, the interesting thing about Dr. Dolittle is that he can talk to animals, which takes him into all kinds of adventures. If only animals could talk, they could tell us so much about how they got here and how God takes care of them! In today’s message we will learn a little but about how God designed the animals – on the land, in the air, and in the waters. Questions: “Is there a pattern to life?” Is natural selection unbiblical?” “Aren’t similarities in forms evidence of common origin?” “What is Baraminology?” Main point: The Biblical account of the creation of animals testifies to the creative genius and power of God. The animals are a reminder of the providential care of God, the effects of sin, and the coming glorious redemption through Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1      24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Context: Now we come to the sixth day of creation when God created the land creatures and then the first man and woman. In this message, we will not focus on Adam and Eve, just the animals – those created to be in the water and in the air on day four and those created to be on the land on day five. There is a special phrase that is attached at the end of each of these creative acts, even to the plants. It is found about 10 times between Genesis 1:11-25 – “laminah”

  • 11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind,
  • 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind.
  • 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind.

The Hebrew word “min” means “kind.” “Kind” is not “species,” as we use the term today. We need to back up and understand where the current taxonomy comes from. It comes from a Swedish creationist named Carl Linnaeus in 1700s (Bodie Hodge). He gave the following classification:

Kingdom > Phylum > Class > Order > Family > Genus > Species.

He did not use the Bible but simply the available knowledge and observation. Now, secular scientists have added a couple of more categories in this classification:

Domain > Kingdom > Phylum > Subphylum > Class > Cohort Order > Suborder > Infraorder > Superfamily > Family > Genus > Species.

Again, the Bible does not mean “species” only when it used the word “min.” It can also include “genus,” “family,” and “order.” The point is this – when the Bible uses the word “min” or “kind,” it is referring to the “original” created kinds.

How do we determine which animals belong to which kind? This is where the discipline of “Baraminology” comes in. The word “baramin” was coined by a biologist named Frank Marsh. It’s a combination of 2 Hebrew words: “bara” means “created” and “min” means “kind.” Hence, “baramin” = “created according to its kind.” Instead of focusing only on “similarities in appearance, behavior and distribution and the ability to interbreed and produce fertile offspring” (Garner and Todd Wise), Marsh considered many different species to be in the same species. According to modern science wolves, coyotes, jackals, dingoes, and house dogs would be different species. Marsh said that they were all one baramin. He placed special emphasis on the ability of the species to make hybrid offspring. For example: the group of birds under Anatidae that include ducks, geese, and swans. Altogether, “there are about 146 species and 126 of them are connected directly or indirectly through hybridization” (Garner). This is not always the best test. How do we classify extinct animals just based on fossil records? How about bacteria, that don’t reproduce sexually? Sometimes, some animals may have lost the ability to interbreed, but they still belong to the same “kind.” This is where scientists Kurt Wise has proposed “baraminology” to argue that it’s not just similarities but also differences that decide on the proper “original kind.”

When all this is properly classified, how does the “tree of life” look? The tree of life is an evolutionary concept, where everything is connected. It is assumed that young earth creationists believe in the lawn of life with the fixity of species. To the contrary, we believe that it is more like the “orchard of life,” where every group is distinct (Kurt Wise). They had tremendous potential to bring forth many new species and varieties. This took place after the flood. People often wonder how all those millions of species got inside the ark. There were not millions of species but good number of kinds with the capacity to diversify. For example (Garner): There was one cat family that gave us lions, tigers, leopards, pumas, lynxes, and regular cats. There was one camel family that gave rise to the Old-World camels (dromedary and Bactrian) and the new world camels (llama, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuna). So also, horses. It is after the flood that a rapid development of the various kinds of species took place. The animals headed to Noah’s ark probably looked similar to our present animals but different.

In God’s providence, they had all the necessary DNA to reproduce and adapt to their new surroundings. Todd Wood, creation biologist, calls it “the AGEing process.” It has been known for some time that some parts of the DNA are able to make copies and move around. They can be harmful, almost like parasites. Wood thinks that they were not harmful originally – “Altruistic Genetic Elements” = they were good genes designed by God to produce diversity. Unfortunately, they don’t serve that purpose today. Ultimately, all these kinds went through the process of adaptation, natural selection, and biological change quickly into all kinds of species that we know today. Here’s a simplistic example: Maybe the first dog kind had medium length fur with one gene of long hair and one short. When two of these interbreed, there will be short fur dogs, medium fur dogs, and long fur dogs. If the climate is cold, the long will survive. If hot, the short will survive.  Doesn’t this sound like modern evolution? No (Garner).

  • Unlike evolutionary theory which goes back to a single ancestor, God made everything according to its kind.
  • Unlike evolutionary theory which trusts natural processes, God designed the organisms to change.
  • Unlike evolutionary theory which looks to random mutations, God placed in the organisms the potential for variety.
  • Unlike evolutionary theory which gives rise to new kinds, God allows speciation to work only within its kind.

People often mistakenly think that Charles Darwin came up with the idea of Natural Selection. That’s not true. It was actually a creationist named Edward Blyth. He wrote about it 22 years before Darwin published his Origin of the Species in 1859.

Why are there so many similarities? There may be similarities between the duck, duckbill dinosaur, and the platypus, but this does not mean that they came from the same ancestor. It tells us 3 things (Garner):

  1. Necessary for creation to function
  2. Perfect design for multiple uses
  3. Same Designer

Still some questions: What about Embryonic similarity? What about Vestigial Organs? What about Defense and Attack Structures? Same designer, but not necessary the same ancestor. Many uses that we don’t know yet.

It goes back to the Fall

Genesis 3.     14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field…” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…”

God cares about the animals and has been providentially guiding them.

Psalm 104      10 He sends the springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. 14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle… 16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap, The cedars of Lebanon which He planted, 17 Where the birds make their nests; The stork has her home in the fir trees. 18 The high hills are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers…21 The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God…25 This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great. 26 There the ships sail about; There is that Leviathan Which You have made to play there. 27 These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season. 28 What You give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good. 29 You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 10     29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will…31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God will bring redemption even to them in our coming glory.

Romans 8.     20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Invitation: Do you understand what the Fall has done to us? Do you understand the providential grace of God? Do you understand the redemptive grace of God? Are you saved?

Landscape by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  How many of you have been to Grandfather Mountain? Our family has been there a number of times, and also our youth group and college and career group. It is almost 6000 feet high, the highest peak this side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It also has the mile high swinging bridge, the highest in America. You can see for miles from there. North Carolina is really blessed in that it has 4 geological regions: Outer coastal plain, Inner coastal plain, the Piedmont, and the Blue Ridge. Each region has its own landforms, soil, plants, and animals. We are in the Piedmont (foot of the mountains). Grandfather Mountain falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian chain. In today’s message, we will see how our landscape is connected to the Genesis account of creation in our series on apologetics titled “Contend.” The big questions are “how did these mountains and various landforms come to be?” “how’s all this connected to the Genesis account of creation?” Main point: The whole creation testifies to the handiwork of God. Even the earth, the mountains and the valleys, the plains and the plateaus, give testimony to God’s power and majesty. No wonder that when the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke his disciples for crying “Hosanna,” he replied, “if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

Genesis 1       9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Context: Last week, we briefly touched on this passage, and I brought up what is referred to as the transformation-from-water-model for the origin of the earth. According to this theory, much of the watery matrix remained water as we know today, and God caused the others “to be transformed into the basic elements and compounds such as silicon and carbon” and “separated these elements from the rest of the waters which resulted in the appearance of the dry land” (Kulikovsky). But, there’s more in that verse that we need to focus on. Listen again to verse 9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” Also, verse 10 “And God called the dryland Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas.” Remember: the details do matter. Both the words for “gather” (kawah) and for “appear” (raah) imply action. In other words, there may have been great movements that would have caused mountains to appear and the basins to open for the waters to go into. It may very well be that there was one supercontinent that was later broken apart. By the way, one year before Darwin came out with his “Origin of the Species,” a creation scientist by the name of Snider-Pellegrini proposed in 1858 that there was one land mass originally, and it was broken up into separate continents during Noah’s Flood. Later, Alfred Wegener (1880-1930) proposed a slow continental drift by showing how the continents fit together as a jigsaw puzzle and other evidence from rock formation and fossil records. Initially, it was not accepted, but, since then, it is proposed that plate tectonics may have caused this supercontinent Rodinia to break apart. I’m okay with plate tectonics, if were talking about Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, not Uniformitarian Plate Tectonics. We will see what that means later when we come to Noah’s Flood. Nevertheless, there are passages in the Bible that support some kind of movement on that third day when water was gathered and land appeared:

  • Job 38. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; 9 When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; 10 When I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; 11 When I said, “This far you may come, but no farther, And here your proud waves must stop!’
  • Psalm 104 5 You who laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever, 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At Your rebuke they fled; at the voice of Your thunder they hastened away. 8 They went up over the mountains; they went down into the valleys, to the place which You founded for them. 9 You have set a boundary that they may not pass over, that they may not return to cover the earth. 10 He sends the springs into the valleys; they flow among the hills. By the way, this was creation week, becausePsalm 104 goes on 11 “They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home; they sing among the branches. 13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works. 14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth.”

Keep in mind that all this is happened in one day. From the uniformitarian geological calculation millions of years of earth’s history is being compressed in one day or maybe even 6 days. In other words, the mountains and the valleys, the oceans and the rivers are being formed at infinitely rapid speed. It was all catastrophic! There was erosion, sedimentation, and deposition starting from creation week. There is no comparison to our time because this was such a unique period in earth’s history. That world is gone since the Flood – 2 Peter 3       5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.

We began with a glimpse of the Grandfather Mountain. How does all this tie in? (from Michael Oard and Andrew Snelling) The Appalachian Mountains go all the way from central Alabama to northeastward to Newfoundland, southeast Canada. The whole chain is about 1500 miles long and between 100 to 310 miles wide in places. If you go by the museum, it will tell you that the mountains are millions of years old because they have been eroded and smoothed out with time. Also, the Appalachian are mostly Paleozoic sedimentary rock. It is claimed that the Rocky Mountains are younger because they rise so high and are still jagged. But, as you saw in the video, the Appalachian Mountains, especially at Grandfather Mountain, are very jagged in places. Secular geologists attribute this to an uplift 8.5 million years ago. There are slow uplifts, known as epeirogeny and fast ones called orogeny. Christian geologists who are just as qualified also look at the data and they see that much of the erosion came after the Flood. They also believe, as I mentioned earlier, that there was a supercontinent that split apart at the Flood due to plate tectonics. These large chunks “moved around rapidly, smashing into each other before slowing down to a crawl in their current location” (Snelling). We’ll see all that when we come to Great Flood. The Appalachian is made from mostly sandstone, a sedimentary rock. This was changed under intense pressure when the continents collided. Some places this was more intense than others. You can see the impact from the continents colliding in the ridges all around. The lower level of rocks (bedrock) was metamorphosed because of the molten material from below that came up and hardened. This was during Creation Week. These were pushed up when the continents collided. This was during the Flood. You can see the lower level also because of this. Starting in Cherokee area, you can see the basement rocks, but further up, you can see the sandstone

From Dr. Snelling’s trip to the Smoky Mountains:

  1. Cades Cove

Cades Cove, the most popular destination in the park, is a beautiful valley with historic log cabins and barns. The valley floor consists of limestone formed during the Flood (which is now deeply weathered), one of the few locations Flood deposits are exposed. The surrounding hills are made of pre-Flood rocks (look for gray, coarse sandstone), pushed up when Africa rammed into North America during the Flood.

  1. Newfound Gap

Newfound Gap is the lowest opening through the Smoky Mountain chain. The open view offers the most spectacular mountain vistas in the park. Like most of the rocks in the park, the sandstones near the overlook belong to the Ocoee Supergroup, which existed before the Flood but got crumpled when continents collided.

  1. Clingman’s Dome

The highest point on the Appalachian Trail is 6,643 feet elevation. An observation tower provides 360-degree views of the rolling, forest-covered mountains formed during the Flood when continents collided. Look for gray rocks with coarse white grains around the parking lot and along the hiking path. They’re pre-Flood Thunderhead Sandstone, metamorphosed by the continental collision.

  1. Chimney Tops

Chimney Tops is named for its unique dual-humped peak, one of the few bare summits in the Smokies. These pre-Flood rocks were pushed up and metamorphosed during the Flood. As these rocks weathered over the centuries, this harder capstone (made of slate, not sandstone) remained.

Job 12       7 “But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 8 Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this.”

God’s handiwork is all around. He is present and he is not silent. Can you see him? Can you see his handiwork? Are you saved? He cares for you.

Groundwork by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: It was 4 years ago on August 21, 2017, when some of us drove all the way to Toccoa, Georgia, where Nicole and I went to college to witness the Total Solar Eclipse. As you witnessed in the video, it was amazing that we all began to shout spontaneously. Same thing was reported everywhere that people were gathered to watch this celestial event. What makes this so unique because the sun is 400 times larger than the moon and 400 times further away. If this wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have the same effect. The point is that human beings are fascinated with space. We want to know what’s out there and how it is connected to us. In our series on apologetics titled “CONTEND,” we come to the section that deals with space and its connection to earth. Some of the questions that lead me to deal with space were “Is the universe infinite?” “What about the canopy theory?” “Is there life in outer space?” Main point: The complexity and the immensity of the universe brings us to our knees and causes us to raise our hands in worship. It reminds us of how small we are and how big God is. No wonder the psalmist sings, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse shows His handiwork.”

Genesis 1       6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.

Context: There are 2 ways that some people have read the Genesis account of creation. Some think that it is simply a polemic against pagan gods surrounding the people of Israel. On the surface, this sounds good and even helps with some of the exegetical difficulties. Unfortunately, it also undermines the authority of God’s Word. People who believe this also claim that we shouldn’t get hung up on details. Instead, we should get the bigger picture that our God is superior to the other gods and not worry about things that are difficult to understand. Here’s the problem – if what we believe is not the truth and just a mythology, what right do we have to condemn someone else’s mythology? Others think that the creation account in Genesis is simply a reflection of the creation accounts of the ancient near eastern peoples. According to this view, no one knows what really happened and we shouldn’t press the point. Again, the problem here is that if we are unsure of what the Bible says, then what’s the use of believing anything. Here’s what we believe: The Bible gives us a clear and cogent account of how the world came to be. We must go above and beyond in trying to understand what it means. It is the only truth about our past, present, and future.

So, what does it mean? 6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” To start with, there is a translational issue here (from Sarfati and Danny Faulkner). The Hebrew word for “firmament” is “raqia,” and it is found 8 more times in the OT. What does “firmament” mean? The translators of the LXX used the Greek word “stereoma” to translate the Hebrew word “raqia.” The word “stereoma” means a crystalline structure, something hard and transparent. According to ancient Greeks, the earth was surrounded by a hard, crystalline, and transparent sphere with stars attached to it. When the Latin translator Jerome came to that passage, he chose to translate the Greek “stereoma” instead of the Hebrew “raqia” because he didn’t understand how to translate the latter. So, he called it “firmamentum.” Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the King James Version translators didn’t know what to do with “raqia” either and they simply transliterated Jerome’s firmamentum into the English “firmament.” What a mess!

Here’s the correct meaning: Expanse. It has the idea of something that has been expanded or stretched out. Sometimes, it even refers to beating or stamping out. So, contrary to what people think, “raqia” is not a cosmic dome but cosmic space that has been stretched out. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about this and sometimes uses the word “raqia” and other times the word “natah,” and even the words “matach” and “tapach.”

  • Job 9:8 “He alone spreads (natah) out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • Job 37:18 “With Him, have you spread (raqa) out the skies, strong as a cast metal mirror?
  • Psalm 104:2 “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch (natah) out the heavens like a curtain.
  • Isaiah 44:24 “I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches (natah) out the heavens all alone, who spreads (raqa) abroad the earth by Myself.”
  • Isaiah 48:13 “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out (taphach) the heavens.”

So, “raqia” has the idea of space or expansion. This makes sense in verse 7 “Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.” In other words, God made this “raqia” to separate the waters below from the waters above. One more thing – 8 “And God called the firmament Heaven.” In the OT, the word for heaven is “samayim,” which is found over 400 times. It shows up again in verse 9, 14, 15, and 17. This word refers to the space where God placed the luminaries (sun, moon, and stars) on Day 4 and the place where the birds fly “across the face of the expanse of the heavens” on Day 5. Here’s the point: The atmosphere and the outer space are both part of the “raqia.”

So, what happened on Day 2? God created a massive space between the watery matrix that will become earth and the remaining waters. Where did that water go? At one time, people proposed that there was a water canopy above the atmosphere, but it is no longer held to because of several problems (Robert Whitelaw and Walter Brown):

  • The Heat Problem – roast all life
  • The Light Problem – no sunlight or starlight for plants and seasons
  • The Pressure Problem – temp over 220 degrees F at the base
  • The Support Problem – if it collapsed at the Great Flood, that would be a long time
  • The Ultraviolet Problem – ultraviolet light would have destroyed the canopy

Better solution is that the “raqia” has separated the water which is now in some form at the edge of the universe. Psalm 148     1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! 2 Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! 3 Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! 4 Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 2 things that stand out: 1. There is an order – heavens, sun and moon, stars, and highest heavens. 2. This psalm was written after Noah’s flood. I’m not dogmatic about it, but this is where much scholarship is leaning – the expansion of the universe at a set time in the past. If this is true, this explains the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), which is that the universe appears to be bathed in a radiation field (Faulkner). This is a uniform coldness which is 3 K above absolute zero (– 459.67 F). It’s described to be like the heat from a rock lying in the sun all day. It comes towards the earth from all directions like a faint light. It is proposed that the water at the edge of the universe could be the cause of this radiation. The evolutionists talk about a big bang. According to the big bang theory, the universe started at a tiny, very very hot and dense point called singularity. It is claimed that after this rapid expansion, the heat has finally cooled down after 380,000 years after the big bang and dropped below 3000 K to form neutral atoms from electron and protons. This is how they account for the CMB. But their calculations don’t add up, especially with regards to the speed of light. We’ll come to this later. But, if God did this expansion faster than light (superluminally), it makes all the sense.

Let’s return to the text in verse 8 “…So the evening and the morning were the second day.” Notice: God does not declare this day to be good because good hasn’t come yet. 9Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. This is more than just water receding and earth coming in sight. This is known as transformation-from-water-model for the origin of the earth. How did that happen? Don’t think of this as your drinking water flowing from your tap! One scholar (Kulikovsky) has proposed,

Therefore, it may be that God (1) caused the earth’s watery foundation to be transformed into the basic elements and compounds such as silicon and carbon, and (2) separated these elements from the rest of the waters which resulted in the appearance of the dry land. In other words, the primeval earth comprised of the waters below the expanse—a large ball of water with similar dimensions as the earth today. Some of the waters were transformed into other compounds and were separated from the rest of the waters, which resulted in the formation of the dry land.

We have so much to understand! Nonetheless, 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Now God says, “it was good.”

If this were all there is to it, we would say that this is crazy and wacko. Turn to 2 Peter 3       4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

This is God’s world. He made it in his way, and he will destroy it in his way. The past is connected to the future. What matters is are you living in his world his way? Are you saved? Do you realize how infinitesimal you and I are? Does this lead you to worship?

The Anatomy of Salvation by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE ANATOMY OF SALVATION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  This past week, our Clearview staff was on our annual retreat in Arizona. We do this every year as a time to plan for the summer and the upcoming year. It is much more than just a time to get away. Although, in light of how extremely busy this past year and a half was, it was great to see everyone spending time with their families. Those who are close to the team and are helping out in some ministry at Clearview, you know what I mean. While there, our team produced an 8-week bible study through Nehemiah on rebuilding lives and ministry, and also filmed at some incredible locations that you will see in the CONTEND series. In today’s message, we will answer a question that was asked in various forms: “Why do some people reject the gospel?” “Can someone believe even if they have some questions?” “Recently, I have heard of many big names that have renounced their faith. Why is that?” Main point: Salvation is God’s miraculous work of grace through Jesus Christ in the life of person. Nonetheless, there are certain observable factors that lead to the decision to receive Christ and remain in him. Our upbringing and the evidences we encounter in life determine our degree of belief in Christianity.

Acts 26     12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Context: This is the conversion account of the Apostle Paul before King Agrippa. It is found 2 other times in the book of Acts (Acts 9 and 22). It is such a radical testimony! One moment, Paul was persecuting Christians, and the next moment, he was one. Listen to his own description of his pre-conversion life – Acts 26      9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” Paul was a killer! Paul had a license to kill from the religious authorities. As he was on one of his evil missions, God knocked him to the ground with a bright light from heaven and a question, not in Greek or Aramaic, but Hebrew – “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Paul’s response was – “Who are You, Lord?” What would cause such a quick and radical change in him? It was much more than just a bright light and a mysterious voice. Those were simply to bring him to his senses. Paul gave us the clue in verse 4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” In other words, all the necessary ingredients for his salvation were there, Paul was going in the wrong direction. God simply had to turn his around.

The real question before us is – “What makes a person decide if they want to receive the gospel?” Often, it is believed that salvation is a mystery. God draws people by his grace and opens their eyes to the truth. It is truly a miracle. All that is absolutely true, but it is only one-sided. Lately, there has been more research in this field, especially from probability and decision theory. If you are a student of mathematics, you know what I am referring to. This is a very technical area. Although, I was a math and science teacher, I am not going to get into too much detail here. If you would like to know more, there are several important works that have been published lately that utilize Pascal’s Wager in calling people to believe in God. Pascal was scientist, mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and Catholic theologian who lived in 17th century France. He was brilliant. He was of frail health and died at the age of 39. Here’s my re-statement of the Wager, “We cannot come to the knowledge of God’s existence through reason alone. It’s wise to live as if God does exist because such a life has everything to gain and nothing to lose. If we live as if God exists, and He does indeed exist, we have gained heaven. If He doesn’t exist, we have lost nothing. To the contrary, if we live as though God does not exist and He really does exist, we have gained hell and punishment and have lost heaven. A rational person should live as though the Christian God exists and seek to believe in him.” Bottom line: it is rational to believe in God even with incomplete evidence. Although, some have criticized this wager through the centuries, several scholars (Jeff Jordan, Michael Rota, Thomas Morris, etc.) have attempted this approach, especially a Swedish mathematician, Ola Hössjer, professor at the Stockholm University, Sweden. He takes the Wager model and extends it so that the decision to become a Christian has 3 main ingredients: prior belief (a priori), evidence (a posteriori), and will. He uses Bayes’ Rule or Bayes Theorem to understand the probability of decisions. In other words, “our degree of belief in Christianity is the result of an inborn tendency to relate to God and the evidence we encounter in life.” By the way, Thomas Bayes (18th century statistician, philosopher, and non-conformist Presbyterian minister) who came up with his theorem to counter David Hume (English philosopher and skeptic) who claimed that the probability of people inaccurately claiming that they’d seen Jesus’ resurrection far outweighed the probability that the event had occurred in the first place. Jordana Cepelewicz summarizes Bayes’ simple explanation, “Consider a ball thrown onto a flat table behind your back. You can make a guess as to where it landed, but there’s no way to know for certain how accurate you were, at least not without looking. Then, he says, have a colleague throw another ball onto the table and tell you whether it landed to the right or left of the first ball. If it landed to the right, for example, the first ball is more likely to be on the left side of the table (such an assumption leaves more space to the ball’s right for the second ball to land). With each new ball your colleague throws, you can update your guess to better model the location of the original ball. In a similar fashion, Bayes thought, the various testimonials to Christ’s resurrection suggested the event couldn’t be discounted the way Hume asserted. By the way, according to Cepelewicz, Bayes theorem has been used to decode the German Enigma cipher, helped the United States Navy locate Soviet subs, enabled statisticians to determine the authorship of the Federalist Papers, and even unlock the secrets of the brain.

We don’t have time to look at all this in detail. Let’s just briefly look at the 3 main ingredients: prior belief, evidence, and will.

Prior Belief (a priori = before experience): Inborn conception of God (the desire to call on God and worship someone or something), inborn conception of first cause (the understanding that everything has a beginning/cause), inborn desire for meaning (the desire to do or be something), and inborn desire for love (we all want to love). Each of these can be encouraged or discouraged in a person, especially during the early years. That’s why we place such emphasis on children’s and youth ministries.

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Augustine – “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

Evidence (a posterior = after experience): Historical/Cultural (creativity and culture, misconduct of Christians, church history, religion and wars, other religions), Moral/Ethical (moral law, presence of evil), Scientific (design, bible and natural science, cause) Theological/Philosophical (fall of man, judgment and hell, truthfulness of the Bible, theodicy, Israel) and Personal (pain, suffering, miracles, personal testimony). When we hear about people renouncing their faith, one of these evidences is weak or faulty.

The combination of Prior Belief and Evidence leads to Rational Belief. Based on the individual, it depends on which one will be more important than others.

Will: Some need just a little rational belief; some only need some rational belief; and for some, strong rational belief is not enough.

Why was the response of the Paul immediate and heartfelt? He had plenty of prior belief and evidence. For him, the major evidence was not the light and the voice from heaven. It was the tremendous background he has in the scripture. The light and the voice simply stopped him in his tracks and turned him around.

Difference between my dad’s conversion and mine. It matters how you raise children. Current crisis is permanently marking them. How do you talk about church to them or sermons? Do you discipline and guide your kids?

Pascal said, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”

Invitation: What is holding you back? Do you know people who are lost? What do you think is holding them back? Have you prayed for the Holy Spirit would open their eyes and yours?

Greater than Religion by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a quick summary:

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

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

1 Peter 1     18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

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