Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

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PRAYER – DOCTRINE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Kids have some very interesting prayers! I found a few online:

  • Dear God, If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set. Raphael
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Larry
  • Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. Joyce
  • Dear God, Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. Peter
  • God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. Love, Chris.
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. Sam

Unlike kids, who pray with a childlike faith and innocence, adults have a complex and sometimes even an unbelieving attitude towards prayer. Today we begin a 2-part series on prayer: first, we will focus on doctrine, and then, on practice. Here’s the main point of the first message on the doctrine of prayer: Our prayers reflect our understanding of God’s providence. In other words, our understanding of how much God is in control and how much free will we have will directly impact how and how much we pray.

1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Background: The Greek word for confidence is “parresia,” which can be translated as openness, confidence, boldness, and frankness. This is the kind of spirit we should have when we come to God in prayer.

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for my dad. We were not a perfect family, but we were a praying family. From an early age, I remember watching my mom, my dad, and my grandma pray. In church, I remember listening to adults pray, just like we do here. We even had home prayer meetings twice a week. We had 2 different language services (still do) and we would meet at different people’s homes each week to pray; Wednesday evening was people of the Hindi language service and Thursday would be of the English language service. As a little boy, I remember praying all the time—for a baby sister, for a new bike, for new shoes, for good grades in school, for being able to win a race with the other boys. I believed in prayer. But then, it happened. When, I can’t pinpoint the time, but I began to become more “realistic” and “grownup” about what I asked in my prayers. I began to lose the childlike faith and innocence in my prayers. I still prayed, but it wasn’t the same. I believe I have just described the prayer life of most of you here.

Why do we experience such a shift in our prayer life? Short answer: We grow up and face real life. We go through suffering and loss. Our hopes get dashed. Our prayers remain unanswered. We even come face-to-face with evil. Now, there is a change in our view of God and our prayers. It’s like the child who has a toy doctor kit and one day he gets a little cut. Instead of using the instruments (thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure kit) in the box, mom and dad take him/her to a real doctor or nurse who have real instruments. That’s when the child realizes that the instruments are simply toys. They are just pretend. Now, the child does play with the kit but it’s only pretend.

Long answer: Real life jars our view of God’s providence, and, with that, our prayers change as well. Let’s begin with defining the word “Providence.” For starters, that word is not found in the Bible but the concept is everywhere. Basically, it is the answer to how much is God in control of the world he has created and how much can we influence him. When we begin to seriously deal with the matter of God’s providence, a lot of complex and deep questions rise up. I don’t have time to deal with all of them here. There are some wonderful books out there like “Providence and Prayer” by Terrance Tiessen. Here, I just want to bring out a few of the major ones (they are interconnected): Is God timeless or is he bound by time just as we are? Because if he is in the same boat as we are, then, how can he really be prepared for what is coming around the corner? Does God know the future? How much does he know? If he does know the future, why doesn’t he do something about bad things? Does God allow evil to exist? Is he helpless to combat evil? Is he allowing evil to bring about something good? How about when it brings a lot of pain? Do I have any free will? Can people interfere with the plan of God? Does God change his mind? Bottom line: Does prayer change things?

If such questions about God’s providence are not answered, our prayer life will suffer.

Here’s how the proper view of the providence of God can help our prayer life:

  1. God’s providential control is comprehensive, detailed, capable, loving, and best.

There is much about the providence of God in creation in the Book of Psalms and Job. But, here is a classic passage from 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? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 10     29 “…And not one of them (sparrows) falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Miracles are also part of his equation, but they are rare.When they don’t happen, we have to trust his perfect plan.

  1. People act freely within God’s overall will.

The best way to understand that is to imagine a road trip growing up. Mom and dad will get to the destination but it’s up to us as to how we will enjoy the trip. When it comes to humans, his sovereign will is always done, even if his moral will may be rejected. God’s purpose was to bring the people into the Promised Land. This was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah one day. Nonetheless, they all had a choice in how they would live in the land.Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Even evil has been allowed to exist temporarily but the boundary is set, as in Job. In his divine wisdom and care, he allows it. Through his foreknowledge, God already knows what we or evil will do, but everything is always within his reach and control. Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

  1. God works in us to bring us in partnership with his will and he uses prayers as a major means.

This happens through scripture, prayer, (personal and corporate) and fellowship with other believers. 1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Moses prayed for God’s people and miracles happened. The early church prayed and circumstances changed. Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Jesus wanted his disciples to participate in prayer. John 16      23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This applies to our personal lives as well because we are connected to his comprehensive plan. James 4:2 “…Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” Can we change the mind of God? In his perfect wisdom and plan, he has even allowed for that. His overall plan is always intact, but it does impact the immediate plan of God.

  1. Providence, Prayer, and everything else are ultimately connected to our salvation through Jesus Christ.

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: What do you believe about prayer? Does God answer? Can he answer? Have you prayed to invite Jesus into your life to be your Savior and King?

Under God – Part Two by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God Part Two

UNDER GOD (2) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction:  This past week our family made a quick trip to the Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a very relaxing time. In some ways, it was like travelling back in time with horse drawn plows, horse buggies, and farm life. The best part for our children was playing with the farm animals at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. I think Nicole had just as much fun! On the way back, we stopped at the Gettysburg Battlefield, a place I had always wanted to visit. This was the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. In just 3 days (July 1-3, 1863), as many as 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers either died, were wounded, or went missing. The little town of Gettysburg had no idea that a chance encounter between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would forever change their lives. In a matter of just days, their peaceful farmland was turned into a bloody battlefield. Bodies were lying everywhere. Every home, church, and public building was turned into a hospital. The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves. Four months later, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. As I stood on that battlefield, I thought to myself how the people at the time must have felt when they saw the devastation of lives and land. They may have felt like the United States of America was history. They may have felt like our glory days were over. What many people don’t know is that 75 years later in 1938, about 1800 veterans of that same battle came together on that same battlefield. Some were now 90 years old. They shook hands and pledged allegiance to the same American flag. Here’s my point: No matter what is happening in our nation today, don’t lose heart. We are still “One Nation Under God” and our best days are ahead. We need to look to the sovereign God for healing and hope. This is the focus of the second part of our message titled “UNDER GOD.”

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”

Context: If you remember from last week, Psalm 33 is connected to Psalm 32. This connection indicates that before we can talk about “Blessed is the nation,” we need to talk about “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In other words, before we can talk about how much we need God’s blessing as nation, we need to talk about how much we need God’s forgiveness as individual believers. Keep in mind that this is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. He did not write some cheap poetry, but he gave us what God desires from us. Once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, then we can see that God is our hiding place and we don’t have to live in fear. Instead, we are to look to him and follow his guiding eye. We can see that he loves righteousness and justice. Listen once again to Psalm 33    4 “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice…” In our nation today, people are calling for justice, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, we are not calling for righteousness, which is just as important. In fact, we want justice without righteousness. God demands both.

We need a change in perspective on God. For starters, we need to remember that God is not subject to us. He is a sovereign God. First, he is sovereign over his creation. 5 “…The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. (Land, Plants, and Animals) 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. (Sun, Moon, Stars, and Universe) 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. (Waters, Fish, Sea Creatures) 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. It’s one thing to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, but how about his sovereignty over nations and people? 10 “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.” First, the word for nation is “goy,” which has more of a political meaning. Second, the word for peoples is “am,” which has more of an ethnic meaning. In other words, whether it is an organized nation or an organized group, if they God against God’s sovereign will, he will “pur,” frustrate their plans, and he will “nu,” hinder and prevent them.

Question: Are we seeking to achieve our goals and our plans in this world? God will bring them to nothing. Instead, we have to accept verse 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

Now comes our focal verse—12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” There are 2 different decisions here: First, a nation has chosen God. Second, God has chosen the nation. You’ve heard me say this time and again. Our nation was built to be under God. Our Founding Fathers were not perfect people but they definitely believed that God was the source of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence begins with this preamble – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Our Constitution does not directly mention God but he is assumed and implied. The 2 documents had different goals but they both chose God as the source of blessing for our nation.

But, God also has to choose us as a nation. In my view, America has been a source of good throughout her brief history. Has everything been perfect? Of course not. Nonetheless, God has been guiding us with his eye. 13 “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.” We have to choose to see that? Have you heard of the “All-seeing eye” or the “Eye of Providence?” You can see it on the back of a $1 bill. It is on the top of a pyramid with 13 layers, representing the 13 original colonies. Over the capstone are the words “Annuit Coeptis,” which means “Favors Undertakings” or “God has favored our undertakings.”

God is not only omnipresent and omniscient, but he also actively shapes us. 15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. This is not just in a personal context but in a national context as well. 16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army. A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” God shaped the hearts of our Founding Fathers so they could design a nation like no other. God gave them the wisdom to design a nation that would not be under the tyranny of a monarch. We all know that the Revolutionary War was fought against the strong and coercive measures by King George of England against the colonies. Neither did the Founding Fathers want a nation under the tyranny of the multitude. They didn’t want to set up a democracy like the ancient Greeks. That was just majority rule. They didn’t want that. Can you imagine what it would be like if the majority in a society made decisions only for themselves and not for the minority? What if the majority wanted to enslave the minority? What could we do to make sure that the majority could be kept in check? The Founding Fathers were not only trying to prevent the tyranny of a king, but they were also trying to prevent the tyranny of the majority. They came up with 8 block and tackle measures to keep the majority in check (I’m getting most of this from Dinesh D’Souza’s recent book “The United States of Socialism”):

  1. A Written Constitution: Unlike England’s common law, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution, a supreme charter that would override the will of the majority. This would keep the government in check. This could be amended but the process is very difficult.
  2. The Bill of Rights: This was added to put a series of limitations on the government that begin with “Congress shall make no law”—
  • no law restricting speech, or the press, or the free exercise of religion
  • Citizens have the right to assemble, to bear arms, and enjoy the due process of the law, and to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure
  1. The Supreme Court: They can strike down those federal laws that go against the Constitution and protect the rights of the citizens against the majority.
  2. Representative Government: People elect leaders who represent them. If you don’t like your leaders, then elect others at the next term.
  3. Separation of Powers: Power is divided between 3 branches—
  • Legislative with elected officials in the House of Representatives and Senate, together forming the Congress. Their job is to make the laws;
  • Executive with the President of the United States who acts as the head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He implements and enforces the law by appointing heads of federal agencies and Cabinet;
  • Judiciary with power to arbitrate and resolve legal disputes. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  1. Federalism: Power is divided between the national government and state government.
  2. Checks and Balances: Congress makes laws but the President can veto them. To overturn a veto, it requires congressional supermajority. The President can enforce the laws but the congress and the judiciary branches provide oversight. The judges interpret the Constitution, but they are appointed by the President and confirmed the Senate.
  3. The Electoral College and the 2 branches of the legislature – the House and the Senate: The President, members of the Congress, and senators are elected by the people. However, the Electoral College makes sure that the bigger states with more people do not decide the presidency. Each state has 2 senators a piece but the smaller ones have fewer congressional representatives.

The point is that our Founding Fathers wanted to create a nation that would be fair to everyone. By God’s hand, they came up with an amazing system of checks and balances. They wanted to make sure that “might will not make right.” Our nation fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery. But, in each generation, our leaders knew that this would happen but the nation would go on because it was built on the right foundation. Lincoln acknowledged this in the Gettysburg Address (Video):

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

How much clearer can we get!

Let’s read the final words of the psalm—18 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. (In God We Trust.)22 Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

Are you praying for our nation? Are you hoping in his mercy on our nation? Are you saved?

True Gains by Dr. Abidan Shah

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TRUE GAINS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Before the COVID-19 shutdown, our Clearview staff would meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at our local Y to workout. One of our codewords was “It’s time for some gains.” By that we meant, “It’s time for us to gain some muscles.” Some days, it was tough to get up early on a cold morning and drive to the gym. It was such a good feeling to sleep in, but, compared to the good feeling of working out, it was loss. By the way, one of us did a lot of looking in the mirror and admiring his gains but we’re not going to talk about that! So also, in the Christian life, we have to decide what really matters. What are the true gains in the Christian life? True Gains for a believer are knowing Christ and being found in him. Unfortunately, we substitute these gains for things that only lead to self-righteous pride and disunity. Our message today is titled “TRUE GAINS” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

Question: What things do you consider as gains in your life? What would you be willing to give up in order to gain Christ? Before you can gain Christ, you have to find Christ. Have you found Christ? Are you saved?

Context: So far, in this series on Philippians, we have learned that the Christians in Philippi were struggling with both internal and external problems. Internally, they were struggling with disunity in the body. Externally, they were facing persecution from their neighbors. This was very detrimental to their existence. Paul wrote this letter both to settle their disputes and to strengthen them. His answer to their situation was “have the mind of Christ.” Philippians 2:5, “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” In other words, if they were going to get along and survive the persecution, they needed a mind-renewal to match the mind of Christ. Developing a mind like the mind of Christ was another way of saying, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13). So, how should they behave if they’ve had this mind transformation, this working out of salvation? Here’s a checklist in Philippians 2    14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, (Do you do all things without complaining and disputing?) 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, (Have you become blameless and harmless?) children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Are you a child of God without fault, shining as lights in the world?) 16 holding fast the word of life, (Are you holding fast the word of life?) so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Are you giving others opportunity to rejoice in the day of Christ?)

But, Paul didn’t stop here. He went on to address the source of their conflicts. If there is a crack in the wall, we can keep patching it or we can find the problem and do some real fixing so the crack doesn’t come back. Paul wants to fix the problem under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not just for the Philippians but for all of us. Let’s look at how he does that, one verse at a time:

3     1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. It seems that Paul is about to end his letter, but wait! 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Between verses 1 and 2, there is a radical shift in tone. Scholars have debated this section to no end. Some have even said that there must be some other letter by Paul that got inserted here. I believe that this is one and the same letter. You have to read it in its rhetorical context. Remember, Paul was trained by the best of both Jewish and Greek worlds. What is the purpose for the shift in tone? Paul wants to deal with root problem of disunity among the Philippian Christians—Pride through self-righteousness. Paul doesn’t just come out and accuse them of pride and arrogance. That would be too much in your face or misjudging the wrong person, which we often do.

Instead, Paul lays out the example of those who demonstrate pride through self-righteousness: the Judaizers. These were people who were claiming to be Christians but still wanted to practice the Old Testament practices like circumcision. They contradicted and opposed Paul’s ministry, and they must have infiltrated the Philippian Church. Listen again to how he describes them in verse 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” The Greek word for dog “kuon” is the word from which we get our word “canine.” In Latin, it would be “Cave Canem” = “Beware/Watch for Dog.” Was Paul being hateful?Here Paul is using the word that was reserved for the Gentiles. Also, mutilation is the word “katatome.” Here again the word was used to describe those Gentiles who tried to practice circumcision (peritome) but they were only mutilating themselves. There was no covenant with God in their ritual. Unfortunately, the Judaizers had the same attitude even in the church towards those who were not circumcised. They would act uppity with them, as if they were privileged. What a sad thing to do? It could very well be that some of the people in the Philippian church had some Jewish background or they may have picked up some of these bad behaviors.

Principle: All pride is bad but spiritual pride is the most destructive. It is nauseating to the lost world; it demoralizes younger believers; and it angers God.

Listen to Paul’s response: 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

Application: Are you worshipping God in the Spirit? Are you rejoicing in Christ Jesus? Do you have confidence in the flesh? Is it about how long you’ve been in church? Is it about your spiritual pedigree? Is it about your Bible knowledge?

Paul now gives his own example: 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Instead of taking pride in any of this—7 But what things were gain (“kerdos”) to me, these I have counted loss (“zemia”) for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” The word for “rubbish” is “skubalon,” which refers to “unspeakable filth” or “dung.” Keep in mind: Paul did not say that these things are rubbish. But, compared to gaining Christ, they are rubbish.

What did Paul consider as his gains now? 3 things:

  1. His Justification (that event by which we are set or declared to be in right relation with God): 9 “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
  2. His Sanctification (that event that God is daily working in our lives to make us more like him): 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Grammatically, to know Christ is to experience the power of his resurrection and to join him in his sufferings.
  3. His Glorification (that event that God will one day welcome us into what he has prepared for us): 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Here are the true gains? Justification – saved from the penalty of sin; Sanctification – saved from the power of sin; and Glorification – saved from the presence of sin.

Invitation: How are your gains? What do you think of your justification, sanctification, and glorification? Are you saved?

 

 

Gospel-Centric by Dr. Abidan Shah

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GOSPEL-CENTRIC by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Do you know someone who is really into something like a hobby, sport, or some cause? They talk about it all the time. They want you to get excited about it just as much as they are. I knew someone like that when we lived back in Georgia about 25 years ago. Nicole and I were friends with this couple from her dad’s church. The man was an A-grade mechanic and was also big into Nascar. He would talk to me about it all the time about the size of the engines, the pistons, the tire pressure, and on and on. Even though I didn’t know a thing about Nascar, before long I was talking about Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Ernie Irwin, and Dale Earnhardt (No. 3). I was coming home after church and actually watching the races! Once we moved, I sort of stayed into it and then I lost interest. So also, with the gospel, there are people who are so consumed with the gospel that they can’t help but talk about it all the time. They love sharing the gospel. They are gospel-centric. When you are around such people, you become just like them. You also become gospel-centric. That’s the title of our message today in our new series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians titled “COMMUNITY.”

Philippians 1     3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…7 “… both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace…12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

Question: Paul’s ministry was gospel-centric. He wanted the Philippians to make their church gospel-centric as well. How much is your life gospel-centric? Do you think our church is gospel-centric enough? Do you know the gospel? Are you saved?

Context: If you grew up in church, you probably heard the word “gospel” at some point. How important is this word “gospel”? You may have heard it before or maybe from me that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell,” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good, of course, but “spell” means story or news. So, Gospel = Good News. But, in today’s message, we are going deeper and looking at the Greek word behind gospel—“euangelion.” It is found several hundred times in various forms in the New Testament, about 84 times in Paul’s letters, and about 9 times in his letter to the Philippians. For starters, it was not invented by Paul or by the other New Testament writers. Neither was it borrowed from the Greco-Roman world, even though it was used to refer to good news like the birth of the emperor and special decrees by him, and sacrifices were offered to the gods when the “euangelion” of victory came to them. This helps our understanding of the word but the New Testament writers had a different source for “euangelion.” It was the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 40-66, where it talks about the coming of the Messiah. Listen to Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings (Here, the Greek word for “good tidings” in the LXX is “euangelizo” from “euangelion”) to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” The gospel was rooted in the Scriptures as the promise of the coming Messiah. The world was in bad news but good news was in its way!

When Jesus came, he saw his ministry as a fulfillment of this prophecy. At the start of his ministry, he went into the synagogue and read Isaiah 61, and declared “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 6:21). Then, he went everywhere preaching the gospel of the kingdom and doing the things listed in Isaiah 61. When John the Baptizer doubted Jesus’ ministry, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 in Matthew 11     5 “The blind see and thelame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” When the gospel writers wrote about the ministry of Jesus, they also used the same word “euangelion” to refer to his coming— Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This continued in the early church where the book of Acts repeatedly used the word “euangelion” to refer to the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection. Both Peter and Paul referred to themselves as preachers/ministers of the gospel: Acts 15:7 “…And…Peter…said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe”; Acts 20:24 “…nor do I (Paul) count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

The point I am making here is that the Old Testament writers, Jesus, gospel writers, the early church, and the pillars of the church (Peter and Paul) were all gospel-centric. Their main focus was bringing the good news to the world that was under bad news.

Question: Are you gospel-centric? Is our church gospel-centric?

Let’s get back to Philippians: In what ways was Paul gospel-centric to the Philippians? He uses the word “euangelion” 9 times in this letter. Let’s quickly look at them:

Philippians 1    3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

  1. The gospel binds us in fellowship.

Philippians 1:7 “just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.”

  1. The gospel opens opportunities for God’s grace.

Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

  1. The gospel takes precedence over trials.

Philippians 1     15 “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

  1. The gospel neutralizes bitter envy.

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

  1. The gospel demands a certain conduct.

Philippians 2    21 “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.”

  1. The gospel proves selflessness.

Philippians 4     2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

  1. The gospel increases our value.

Phil. 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

  1. The gospel offers opportunities to partner.

Question: Is the gospel the glue that holds our fellowship together? Does the gospel take precedence over our personal trials? Are you living up to the conduct worthy of the gospel? Are you partnering with others in sharing the gospel?

Here’s the final question: What is the content of the gospel? Paul actually gives us the content of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15    1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved…3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (Meaning: Paul is not the manufacturer of the gospel) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (There’s the bad news) 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (There’s the good news) 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren…” (There’s the proof of the good news)

Question: Do you understand this gospel? Do you believe this gospel? Are you on the gospel of train? Or, have you lost your train of thought and are stranded with some poor substitutes?

Herald by Dr. Abidan Shah

Herald.jpg

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

Introduction: People everywhere are living in the grip of fear and hopelessness, even believers. It’s no different than how that small group of disciples must have felt after Jesus, their Master, had been unjustly tried and then brutally crucified right before their eyes. This was now the third day since he had been laid in a tomb. Little did they know that they were about to become the first heralds of the resurrected king. Here’s the gist of our message: Fear and hopelessness will keep you from becoming a herald of the resurrected king. Love is the only vaccine that will cure fear and faith is the only key that will unlock the door of hopelessness. This is our final message of our series titled HOSANNA and it’s called HERALD.

Luke 24     1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certainother women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowedtheir faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” 8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Question: Are you living in the grip of fear? Have you been plagued by hopelessness? Have you checked the level of God’s love in your heart lately? Are you plugged into his truth? Do you know Jesus? He loves you and he is the Truth. Are you saved?

Context: In order to truly understand how the disciples were feeling after the crucifixion of Jesus, we need to backup to Luke 23    44 “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” All this was so incredible, so bizarre, and so mind blowing, that people knew right away that something really bad had just been done. Luke tells us several things:

  • The Roman centurion said, “Certainly this was a righteous man!”
  • The whole crowd that was there began to beat their breasts and started leaving. It was a sign of mourning.
  • How about those who followed Jesus? Luke 23:49 “But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”
  • Some were probably shell-shocked – “I can’t believe it.”
  • Some were probably angry – “Those hypocrites killed him.”
  • Some were probably afraid – “I think they’ll come after us.”
  • Some were probably blaming each other – “Where’s the mighty Peter?”
  • Some were probably weeping. Those tears kept rolling down their face.

Now the question – “Who is going to get him down? We can’t just let him hang there. It’s Sabbath and that would make it 3 days before we can get his body. But, who’s going to do it?” No volunteers. They were afraid. The disciples and the followers were so gripped with fear that 2 men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had to come to their rescue. They were wealthy prominent men, members of the Sanhedrin who had a soft spot for Jesus. They had to pull some strings with Pilate to make it happen. Where were the big strong manly men? Luke 23     55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils…” The men were nowhere to be found.

Principle: Fear can be paralyzing. Fear is a choice weapon of the enemy and if I may add, “he’s using it very well in our nation.” Listen to what it says in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Application: With this crisis facing our nation and the world, we need to exercise caution, follow the guidelines, but we don’t need to live in fear. That’s what the world wants us to do. If we’re truly honest, that’s where many of us are. How about you?

Luke 24:1 “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certainother women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.” What made them leave the comfort of their homes and step outside? One word, LOVE. It was their love for their Master that enabled them to brave the authorities, the religious leaders, and any danger lurking in the early hours of the morning. How many ladies would agree to going into a graveyard in the early morning while it’s still dark? We’re not even talking about worrying about religious authorities who killed your leader.

Principle: Love will overcome fear. When you love someone, you’ll do anything for them. But there’s more, listen to 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”You ask, “I don’t get it. How can love drive out fear?” Keep in mind that this promise is given to us in the context of our relationship with God. God is the biggest source of fear. But, when his love is in our hearts, then we know that we don’t have to fear him. If we don’t have to fear him, there is no one or nothing else that’s worthy of our fear.

Application: Are you living in fear? It’s only the love of God in your heart and your love for God that will drive it from you. The reason we fear this, that, and the other is because we don’t fear God enough or love him enough.

Now, as we read in the opening, the women came to the tomb with spices in their hands. The first thing they noticed was that the stone had been rolled away and the body was missing. Then 2 angels stood by them in shining garments. Of course, they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth. Listen again to what the angels said to the women in Luke 24     5 “…Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” What was their response? 8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. What a change! They believed and went from being hopeless to becoming heralds of the resurrected king.

But, listen to their response? 11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. Fear was still gripping them but their real problem was unbelief.

Principle: If you have a faith problem, the words of the Bible will feel to you like an idle tale. You will live in hopelessness.

But one person’s response was different. 12 “But Peter…” In the past 24 hours, there were a lot of “But Peters!”

  • Luke 22:54   Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance.
  • Luke 22:58   And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”
  • Luke 22:56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.” 57 But he (Peter) denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”
  • Luke 22:58 And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”
  • Luke 22:59   Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” This one didn’t stop there. Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Back to Luke 24: 12 “But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” He was willing to believe and hope came in.

Invitation: Are you living in hopelessness? Let’s recap: Fear and hopelessness will keep you from becoming a herald of the resurrected king. Love is the only vaccine that will cure fear and faith is the only key that will unlock the door of hopelessness. Do you know the resurrected king? Are you his herald?

Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: “The best things in life are free.” True or false? True. How about “There’s no such thing as free lunch.” In other words, there’s nothing truly free in this life. Somebody has to pay for it. True or false? True. Which one is truer? Both are just as true. So also, when it comes to our salvation, it is a free gift. It doesn’t cost us a thing to be saved but it cost Jesus his life. No, you don’t have to pay anything for your salvation but salvation means that now you are a disciple of Jesus and everything you have belongs to your Master. Have you counted the cost of discipleship? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we will try to understand the cost of discipleship and that is the title of our message today–COST.

Luke 14     25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Question: Do you have an unfinished spiritual tower? Are you way over your head in a spiritual battle? Are you truly saved? Are you a disciple or just an uncommitted, wishy-washy fence-sitter?

Context:  How do you picture Jesus 2000 years ago when he came the first time? Do you see him as a solitary figure praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? Do you see him with his 12 disciples? Maybe walking through the fields or sailing on the Sea of Galilee? Maybe you see him sitting on a mountaintop with a small crowd seated on the side of the mountain preaching the beatitudes. Listen once again to verse 25 “Now great multitudes went with Him.” Can you picture that? Imagine walking with the huge crowds of people at the state fair. It’s overwhelming to say the least! Now imagine that ten times worse and everyone is trying to get to one person! Why were they following Jesus? Of course, some like the disciples were committed to him. They had accepted the call to discipleship but many had not. They were following him for Food (Walking/Talking Cafeteria), Miracles (Mobile E/R), and Preaching (New and Different). Jesus being God knew that and he stopped, turned around, and declared—26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Does it mean that we have to literally hate our family in order to follow Jesus? Of course not. In Greek, when influenced by Hebrew and the Old Testament, the words “love” and “hate” can mean “choose” and “not choose.” For example:  Malachi 1     2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” So also, Jesus wants us to pick him over any earthly relationship. By the way, this is not the first time that Jesus had made such a statement. In Luke 9 someone told him 57 “…Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air havenests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: My father’s testimony of leaving his family to follow Christ.

Application: How about you? Is some relationship getting in the way of discipleship? Why do you go to church? Will you sacrifice your spiritual life for friendship?

Something else in verse 27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” There is an immediacy to this call. It doesn’t mean that you follow flippantly. It means go now. Just like the passage from Luke 9 “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” and “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: Again, my father left that very night. If not, he would’ve stayed.

Application: What is keeping you from committing your life fully to Christ? Are you waiting for things to settle down? Are you waiting to have all your fun and then give what’s left over to God? Listen to what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12     1 “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: 2 While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain.”

Now Jesus gives 2 parables to show what lack of counting the cost and following fully looks like: 

1. Tower Builder: We’re not told why the individual decided to build this tower. Maybe it was for agricultural purposes to watch over the fields or maybe it was for military purposes to watch the enemy. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this awkward unfinished structure is standing now in the front yard that does nothing. Now it is a monument to shame. Listen to verse 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” They were probably saying things like “Are you going to hang clothes on it?” “Maybe you can tie your goats in it,” or “You should sell it. Oh wait, you can’t move it, can you?” Why did this happen? Because he didn’t count the cost of building—28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a tower going nowhere! Is that you? To give another analogy, they have these half-baked, soupy, uncooked, and unfinished Christian life.

2. King on a Warpath: Unlike the last parable, the consequence of failing to count the cost in this parable is deadly. This king thought that he was big and bad with his 10,000 soldiers only to find out that the other side had 20,000! You’re about to get a whooping! Again, why did this happen? 31 “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a defeated army. After all these years of playing Christians, the promises in the Bible still don’t work. Unfortunately, people blame God for those defeats. Is that you?

Question: Have you considered the cost of following Christ? Are you willing to follow him in order to be saved? Some people may ask at this point—“Isn’t this works salvation?” Don’t misunderstand. Following Jesus is always the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. Listen to Philippians 2     12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

We need to rethink what we have believed about getting saved. Listen to Ephesians 2     8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.Are you willing to lay aside your old ways and step into the good works that God has prepared beforehand for you?

Invitation:  Are you willing to get saved? Are you ready to be a disciple? Maybe you are already saved but you haven’t become a disciple, today is the day. Maybe you are lost, are you ready to do it the right way and be his disciple right from the start.

Debt: Part 2 by Pastor Shah

DEBT – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Kids have an interesting way of saying “I’m sorry.” I found some examples online—“Sorry because of nothing.” “Dear Brody, Miss P made me write you this note. All I want to say sorry for is not being sorry cause I tried to feel sorry but I don’t. Liam.” “I’m sorry I kicked you even know I didn’t but I am not writing this for in apology. I’m doing it to get out of time out. Sorry?” “Dear Aiden, I’m sorry for elbowing you in the mouth. But I did it for one reason you shoved me. First of all, you’re the one who shoved me. Second of all you shouldn’t push. Third of all you played a stupid game. I elbowing you in the mouth was your stupid prize. It was an accident. Love, Alyssa.” Unfortunately, we get more articulate and more defensive as we get older. Today’s message is the part 2 of our message titled “DEBT” in our series on the parables of Jesus. It’s about God’s forgiveness of our sin debt through Christ and our forgiveness of the sin debt of others towards us. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Through Christ, you can forgive anyone for anything but it’s a journey in which reconciliation may or may not be possible.

Matthew 18     23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and tookhimby the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Question: Is there unforgiveness in your heart towards anyone? Are you forgiven?

Context: Last weekend, we answered the first question on this parable—“Why is Sin described as a Debt?”If you remember, it was all connected to the land. God had repeatedly told them that the land was his. Leviticus 25:23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.In other words, the Promised Land was a gift from God and if they obeyed his commandments, they could live and flourish on his land. If they disobeyed, he would kick them out. That’s exactly what happened with the Babylonian Exile. But God, in his grace and compassion, allowed them to return after 50 years. Now they were back in the land but they were in a sin debt to God. But God the gracious landlord already knew that they could never pay that debt and so from eternity past he had created a plan under which his own Son Jesus would come to pay their sin debt with his own blood. All they would have to do was look to him and live. That’s exactly what Jesus did. By the way, this offer was not just for the Jewish people but for all people because all us are under a sin debt to God. It may not be connected to the land but it is just as real.As Paul tells us in Colossians 2:14“having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross…”

Application: Have you received God’s forgiveness of your sin debt through Jesus?

Question #2What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us? Again, we have to keep the land in mind. All of the Jewish people, the rich and the poor, the creditor and the debtor, were on God’s land. For one of them to take the other by the throat was ridiculous. That’s what some of them were doing. When Jesus gave the parable, he had much more than their land debt in mind.He was referring to unforgiveness among them.He was saying—If God has forgiven you, what right do you have to hold a grudge against your brothers and sisters? After all, both the offended and the offender are standing on the same forgiven ground! Then he made a very shocking remark—35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Meaning: “If you refuse to forgive others of the wrong they’ve done to you, God the father will also refuse to forgive you for the wrong you’ve done to him.”What do we do with that? If that’s true, you and I are going to hell if we refuse to forgive others.To understand this statement, we have to first understand how God forgives us our debt.

1. Forgiveness is not a joint agreement. It is a solo decision. Who did God consult regarding the plan of salvation? He consulted himself. It was decided in the secret and sacred counsel of the Trinity. The second person of the Godhead became the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8)Also,I Peter 1    18knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things,likesilver or gold, from your aimless conductreceivedby tradition from your fathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” Ephesians 1:4“just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Here’s the point: Just like God did not need our cooperation to initiate the plan of redemption, you don’t need your offender’s cooperation to cancel their debt. Think about it:Can you forgive someone who is dead? Yes. If not, you will be stuck. You can wipe their offense even if they are gone. 

2. Forgiveness is not forgetting.What do we do with the “Sea of forgetfulness?” That phrase is not in the Bible but it is based on certain passages in the Bible. Micah 7:19“He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Psalm 103:12“As far as the east is from the west, sofar has He removed our transgressions from us.” Jeremiah 31:34“…For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” These verses do not mean that God has amnesia. They simply mean that God no longer holds our sins against us because Jesus has paid our debt.You can forgive and still not forget. The scars are there to warn you of future dangers. Furthermore, God’s forgiveness does not mean condoning, dismissing, or legally pardoning.A murderer can get saved today and be on his way to heaven but still have to stand trial for the crime on earth. So also, when you forgive that does not mean that all consequences are gone.Now, instead of hating the person, you hate the sin. You let them off the way God has let you off but there may still be consequences.

3. Forgiveness is not reconciliation.From God’s perceptive, ransom has been paid and forgiveness has been offered. He is not sitting up there holding a grudge. He wants to reconcile the whole world to himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19“…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” But, the sinner has to take his offer of reconciliation for the transaction to be complete. This only happens when we get saved and receive his forgiveness and submit ourselves to his authority in our lives. So also, reconciliation can happen only if the offender is willing to go through the appropriate process with the offended.If not, there can only be forgiveness but no reconciliation. True reconciliation is a complex process that requires dialogue, time, admittance of guilt, and rebuilding of trust. There are times people have sent me a note saying “Please forgive me” but the way they said it they are really saying “You have hurt me” or “I’m angry at you” or “I am justified for my actions.”What do I do? I just leave them alone. I can tell that they want their pound of flesh.Sometimes people misapply 1 John 4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? Hate is not the same as irreconciliation. 

4. Finally, Forgiveness is not instantaneous. It is a journey. For God, it is not a journey. His forgiveness is immediate. But we’re not God. For us it requires a process.It requires 2 things in a believer: 

  • Change in perspective

2 Corinthians 4:18“while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seenaretemporary, but the things which are not seenareeternal.”

  • Power of the Holy Spirit

Romans 5     3And not onlythat,but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Are you unforgiving towards others? Do you need to seek the forgiveness of someone? Have you been forgiven through Christ?

Debt by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEBT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Someone said, “There are 3 kinds of people in this world: the have’s, the have-not’s, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-have’s.”I think most of us are in that last group. To be honest, debt is not all that bad. It’s debt collection that is bad. Having to payback what you owe is not that fun. I found some memes online that I thought were really funny: “Run for your life, the debt collectors are coming”; “I will find you and I will get my money”; and “I paid off all my debts and now no one calls me.” Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is not as much about debt as it’s about debt collection. Of course, by that we are referring to our sin debt and by cancellation of that debt we are referring to forgiveness of sin. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Unless you understand how God has cancelled your sin debt towards him through his son Jesus, you will never truly understand how to cancel the sin debt of others towards you.

Matthew 18     23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and tookhimby the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. Can you see yourself in this story? Are you the servant who was forgiven a big debt but went out and took his fellow servant by the throat for a small debt? Have you ever experienced the forgiveness of sins? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is very basic and clear on the surface but it’s very baffling and complicated when studied in depth. Think about it for a moment: 

  • Why is Sin described as a debt? Does God loan us a certain amount of holiness?
  • What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us?
  • Why is it so hard for us cancel the debt of others to us?
  • Is it really that we cannot cancel a single sin debt or is it more the fear that if we let this one go, more will follow, it will happen again?
  • Can I be saved if I refuse to pardon the sin debt of others towards me?

There is no way that we can answer all those questions in the next 20 minutes. That’s why this is will be a multi-part message. We will take on a couple of those questions today and the rest next time. (A word to the wise – “Don’t miss these messages. They have the potential to change your life and relationships.) So, let’s begin:

Question #1 Why is Sin described as a debt? The common mistake people make in studying this parable is that they quickly jump over the word “debt” and start talking about “sin.” Of course, this parable is about sin (our sin towards God and others sin towards us), but we cannot truly understand the force of this parable until we understand the significance of debt in that society. To understand this, let’s back up and look at the context of this parable in Matthew 18     21Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” We’ve all heard what that implies. Jesus was not saying 70 X 7 = 490. He was saying unlimitedtimes. All that is true but there’s a reason why Jesus used the number 7 and not 3, 5, or 10. Because 7 in the Old Testament is the number of fulfilment. It is the number of Sabbath. It is very significant when it comes to debt.Listen to Deuteronomy 15     1“At the end of everyseven years you shall grant a releaseof debts.2And this isthe form of the release: Every creditor who has lentanythingto his neighbor shall releaseit;he shall not requireitof his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’S release.” Not only that but even debt slaves were set free. Leviticus 25     8“And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenthdayof the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement…10And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout allthe land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 17Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for Iamthe LORD your God. 19Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety… So when Jesus said to Peter, “not just seven times but seventy times seven,” his listeners knew that he was hinting at the Year of Jubilees.But something else–23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.Not just the land of Israel. Exodus 19:5“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earthisMine.” In other words, it doesn’t matter who has the title, God owns it all.

To us, it doesn’t seem like a big deal but to those people it was nothing short of a revolution.Why? Because the Pharisees had created a system called “prozbul.” According to this system, the debt collector could give someone’s debt over to the court. This way it was no longer an “individual” holding the debt but a court and did not have to be forgiven in the seventh year. Now the creditors could lend in the sixth year and know that their money would be safe and the borrower could borrow money to do their work. On the surface, this seemed like a win-win, but can you imagine what this did to those in big debt. They could never get out of debt. The debt would keep mounting until it would be a foreclosure or slavery. Think about Jesus’ parable for a moment. How much did the servant owe the king? Ten thousand talents. A talent was about 60-90 pounds depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). So, 10,000 talents would be about 225 tons. Let’s say a talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. 10,000 talents would be 60 million denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. Herod’s annual salary was 900 talents. It would take Herod 10 years to pay back as long as he didn’t spend at all. How long will it take for the servant to pay back 60 million denarii? It’s impossible.

When Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he talked in terms that the average person could understand. In the Lord’s Prayer inMatthew 6:12“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Also, remember the parable of the Two Debtors, one owed 500 and the other only 50. Both were forgiven and Jesus asked “Which one would love more?” You can imagine how this must have impacted the people–“That person has been holding the lien on my property for the past 200 years. I wonder what he will do now.” Here’s a reminder:  Are you generous towards those who are less fortunate? I believe in Capitalism but Generous Capitalism. At Clearview we have many very generous people. How about you?

Now we understand the gravity of why Jesus talked in terms of debt but the question still remains – “How is sin a debt against God?” In the Bible, sin is defined by metaphors:

  • Sometimes it is a burden (bear your iniquities – Lev 20:20) and Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden.
  • Sometimes it is a stain (sin be like scarlet – Isaiah 1:18) and it has to be washed (Eph. 5:26).
  • Sometimes it is slavery (Egypt as house of bondage) and it has to be set free (Romans 6:18)
  • And some other metaphors

Sometimes it is also described as a debt. Lev. 5:1“If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and isa witness, whether he has seen or knownof the matter—if he does not tellit,he bears guilt.” It has the idea of assuming a debt. This idea became very prominent after the children went into Babylonian Exile. They had lost their land. Don’t misunderstand: They didn’t lose it to the Babylonians but to God.Remember, God had told them “the land is mine” and “the whole earth is mine.” They were in debt because of sin. They were in the land but it was God’s land. They still had a debt to pay which was impossible to pay. The prophets repeatedly talked in the language of earning your wages.Jeremiah 31:11For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.” Zechariah 9:12“Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare thatI will restore double to you.” Why did Jesus come? He came to pay a debt that we owe to God that we can never repay. Matthew 20:28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus went about offering forgiveness of sins to all those who came to him. He undermined the authority of the temple priests and messed up the nice system of financial security of the Pharisees and the religious leaders. No wonder they hated him. 

Listen to how Paul describes our salvation inColossians 2     13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Invitation: There are no bargain pardons. God himself had to pay our debt of sins by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins. Have you received his pardon? Do you understand how everything you have is his? Are you holding someone’s lien in your hand? Are you saved?

Obedient by Pastor Abidan Shah

OBEDIENT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many parents have ever said these words to their children – “Who is the parent here: me or you?” “Why? Because I said so, that’s why.” “As long as you live under my roof, you’ll do as I say.”My favorite: “When I was your age…” The goal of all these statements is to get our kids to obey us. So also, God repeatedly commands us in his word to obey him. He is our Heavenly Father who wants our total, immediate, and cheerful obedience. Partial, delayed, and disgruntled obedience is also disobedience. We’re in our series on the Parables of Jesus and today we come to the Parable of the Two Sons and our message is titled “OBEDIENT.”

Matthew 21    28“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘Igo,sir,’ but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of hisfather?” They said to Him, “The first.”

Question:  As you know, parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. Who are you in that story? Are you the son who said “yes” to his father but didn’t go or are you the son who said “no” but actually went? Is there disobedience in your life? Is God your Heavenly Father? Only through Christ you can be his child.

Context: The parables that we’ve looked at so far have been generic parables, applicable more or less to all the people who were listening to Jesus. The parable we just read is a specific parable, applicable especially to the religious leaders. There were 2 groups of people in Jesus’ audience: the religious crowd and the “out crowd.”Jesus gave this parable to confront the stubbornness of the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Sadducees in rejecting him. To understand this, we have to look at the context of the parable starting in Matthew 21:23Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”In essence, they were saying to Jesus, “We’re in charge. You have to prove to us who you are before you do anything around here.” Now, keep in mind, they had a legitimate reason to question Jesus. Just the day before he had cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. If their hearts had been truly open to him, they would’ve known that everything that Jesus did was fulfilling prophecies given about the Messiah and the temple. Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Malachi had talked about this. Listen to Malachi 3:1“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.” Can you get any clearer than that? But, since they were rejecting him and refusing to obey him, they couldn’t see that.

Listen carefully: Obedience brings Illumination. Disobedience breeds Incomprehension. F.B. Meyeronce said, “If a man refuses to obey the truth, so far as it is revealed to him, the glimmering light dies out from his soul, and his eyes become dimmed, so that he cannot see.”

Application:Is there some disobedience in your life? Is there some place in your life that God has shown you what to do and you are still refusing to obey him? Just know that disobedience will always breed incomprehension. Many people are stuck in their spiritual lives because they are refusing to obey God at some command in their life.

So how did Jesus answer the religious leaders when they questioned his authority? He didn’t pull out his list of endorsements. Instead, he asked them a question – 24“…I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” This was not some brain teaser or some riddle that Jesus used to dodge their question. He was making a very important point – Since the religious leaders had rejected John’s authority, there was no need to explain the source of his authority. Their disobedience to John had left them unable to understand what he was doing.

At this point Jesus gave the Parable of the Two Sons. It’s a very simple parable. A father had 2 sons. He commanded both to go and work in his vineyard. The first son said “no” but later regretted and went. The second said “yes” but did not go. The question is “Which of the two did the will of hisfather?” Of course, the answer is“The first.” Now Jesus gave the meaning of the parable –“Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you sawit,you did not afterward relent and believe him.”Tax collectors and Prostitutes were the lowest members of the society in that period. The Tax collectorshad sold themselves out by working for the Romans and fleecing their own people. They were considered to be unclean like the lepers. They made a house impure just by entering into it. They would even resort to beating the poor people for not paying their taxes. It was so bad at times that people fled their land, completing depopulating entire villages, because of this extortion. Eating with them was approving their actions. The Prostituteswere no better. The Bible forbade prostitution. Gentiles also looked down at prostitution as something shameful, foolish, and hurtful.  Now, John’s preaching was no feel good, positive, and ear tickling preaching.It was hard hitting, direct, and confrontational. Just when you would think that lost people (tax collectors and prostitutes) would have been offended by it, they actually obeyed from the heartwhat they heard from John. They repented. They changed their ways. What’s the result? Their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus for who he was. To the contrary, the religious crowd accepted John at first until his words began to expose their sins. Instead of confessing, repenting, and submitting to what God was saying, they began to oppose John and criticize him. They held on to their “Table Fellowship” and “dietary laws.” They were more into comparative religion, comparing how much better they were to the tax collectors and the prostitutes. What was the end result? Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”

In my time as a pastor, I have often noticed 2 kinds of people in church. There is the “in crowd” and then there is the “out crowd.” The “in crowd” are those who have grown up in church. They know the ropes. They know how to act and behave in church. They know the Christian lingo. They haven’t done anything “really bad.” The “out crowd” are those who haven’t grown up in church. They don’t know the ropes. They don’t know how things are done in church. They don’t know how to talk “Christianeese.” They have a long list of stupid things they have done in life. They have a lot of regrets. The “in crowd” has a tough time when the “out crowd” shows up. They try to tell the “out crowd” the house rules. The “out crowd” try the rules for a while and then slowly drift away because they see the hypocrisy in the “in crowd.” The “in crowd” continue in their behavior and always keep an eye out for any other “out crowd.” Which one are you?

Are you the “in crowd”? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • You love to hear great messages but you don’t do anything with them.
  • You say a word of prayer every morning but you don’t confess and repent for your sins.
  • You often complain about how terrible the world is getting and how good things used to be back in the day but you don’t take one step be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
  • You love discussing the Bible. You may even read it cover to cover but you just don’t do anything that God has commanded in the Bible. (Forgiveness, Evangelism, Giving, etc.)
  • You love going to Church but you never serve anywhere.

Are you saved? When you got saved, you made a promise to God. Are you keeping that promise? Have you created your own standard of righteousness?

Illustration: F.B. Meyer was rooming next to the great missionary C.T. Studd during some convention. His spiritual life was just up and down, nothing consistent. But then that morning he noticed that the light was on in Studd’s room at 7am. So, he remarked to him, “You have been up early.” “Yes,” said he, “I got up at four o’clock this morning. Christ always knows when I have had sleep enough, and He wakes me to have a good time with Him.” Meyer asked, “What have you been doing this morning?” And he replied, “You know that the Lord said, if you love Me, keep My commandments; and I was just looking through all the commandments that I could find and putting a tick against them if I have kept them, because I do love Him.”

Illustration: Father with the firewood story.

Are you lost?No amount of good works is going to save you. 

  • What do you have to do to be saved? You have to come to Christ to be saved. 
  • What do you have to do to be lost? Nothing. That’s Ultimate Disobedience.

Forgiven by Pastor Abidan Shah

FORGIVEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: There’s an old saying, “There are 2 things in life that you can take for granted: death and taxes.” I beg to differ. I think there are 3 things: death, taxes, and debt. Unfortunately, all of us are under one debt or another – credit card debt, medical debt, student loan debt, auto loan debt, home mortgage debt, and the list goes on and on. Someone said “If you don’t think anyone cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of loan payments and someone will find you!” Now imagine if someone were to come to you and say, “I’ve paid off all your debt. You don’t owe anything ever.” How would you feel? Ecstatic, relieved, grateful. That’s exactly what Jesus did for us! Sin is a debt that we owe to a holy God that we can never repay. Jesus came and paid the debt with his own life. Our response now should be gratefulness manifested in love and obedience to him. The title of our message today is FORGIVEN in our series on the Parables of Jesus.

Luke 7    41“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the onewhom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. In this parable, sin is a debt; God is the creditor; and you and I are debtors to a holy God. How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as the one who owed much or do you see yourself as the one who owed little? Do you see yourself as a “wretch” in need of God’s Amazing Grace or do you see yourself as the “not so bad after all”? Are you saved?

Context:The Parable of the Two Debtors is a short simple story but with a deep, profound, and life-changing truth. To get at this truth, you have to examine this parable in its original context. The context is the account of the woman who came to Jesus when he was having a meal at someone’s home and did something very odd. She began to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipe them with her hair, and then proceeded to anoint his feet with fragrant oil. (Again, just like the Parable of the Prodigal Son, this one has also been a favorite of painters throughout history.) At first encounter, we’re shocked by this bizarre incident! It appears so unbelievable! What woman in her right mind would do that to a man without being forced to? You may think that this may have been acceptable by ancient standards but that’s not so when you see the reaction of the onlookers. They are just as much repulsed! Not only that but why would Jesus allow something like this? Was he just a male chauvinist who believed that women were below men? Did he enjoy this woman groveling at his feet? Of course not. Then there is a bigger question – how do we handle a story like this in today’s cultural climate? It appears highly offensive in our time with Fourth-Wave Feminism, Women’s Empowerment, Me-Too Movement, and even Radical Feminism. It is unthinkable on so many levels! 

Listen carefully – If you believe that this book is the Word of God, then there is a reason why the Holy Spirit laid it on the hearts of the Gospel Writers to include it in their individual gospels. Also remember, the Bible has always elevated the status of women in society. Contrary to other teachers and leaders, Jesus always uplifted women. In this message, we will discover what the real reason is for this account.

Before we dive in, I need to clarify something: The Parable of the Two Debtors is only found here in Luke’s Gospel but all four gospels mention an incident of a woman anointing Jesus. Are they all referring to the same incident? There are similarities and then there are differences in the 4 accounts. I don’t have time to deal with all the issues here but this is what I believe – There were 2 different anointings of Jesus but one and the same woman who did them both. The woman is none other than Mary of Bethany, Lazarus and Martha’s sister. The first is the anointing of gratefulness for her salvation and the second is the anointing for Jesus’ burial. In Luke it is the first anointing of gratefulness for salvation. With that said, let’s look at it now:

Luke 7    36“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him…” Again, remember the “Table Fellowship” of the Pharisees. They believed that all Jewish people should live according to the priestly laws and every dinner table should be as the altar in the temple. So, repeatedly, the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine at their homes. (Luke 11:37; 14:1) It may be because they were moved by Jesus’ teachings and desired his holy presence at their homes. But, unfortunately, they ended up judging him for not washing his hands and associating with tax collectors and sinners. Same thing happened this time. 37And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner…” More than likely, this implies that she was a prostitute or a woman who lived for one affair after another. She may also have been a powerful woman. If not, the servants would’ve stopped her. “…when she knew thatJesussat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38and stood at His feet behindHimweeping…” During formal meals, the people would recline at the table, angling away from the food. Also, banquets were not as private as we have in the West. Houses were typically open and common people could come in, stand on the sidelines, and watch. Then something happened –“…and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wipedthemwith the hair of her head…” For a woman to let down her hair in that culture was seen as a seductive and shameful act (Snodgrass). The big difference is her tears.“…and she kissed His feet…” Kissing the feet was the ultimate way to show someone honor, gratitude, and submission.“…and anointedthemwith the fragrant oil.” Now, anointing with oil was not something unusual. Exodus 30:30 “And you (Moses) shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that theymay minister to Me as priests.” 1 Samuel 16:13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointedhim (David) in the midst of his brothers…”Psalm 23:5“…You anoint my head with oil…” But, anointing the feet would be very unusual. Even more so, anointing the feet with fragrant oil or perfume would be almost offensive. If she was a prostitute or a loose woman, then this was coming from her work!

What in the world is going on? The Gospel writers don’t tell us but more than likely Jesus had transformed her life. He had set her free from the debt of sin. She had come to realize what an awful life she was living. All her life she had used men and men had used her until she met Jesus. He was the only man who did not come to take from her but to give to her truth, love, joy, and peace. More than anything, he had given her something that no one else could – forgiveness. Earlier in Luke 5, Jesus had declared his power to forgive sins when he had saidto the paralyzed man, 20“…Man, your sins are forgiven you.”21And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”22But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? 24But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.” The religious leaders doubted Jesus’ power to forgive sins but not her. Her entire act of washing his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, and then anointing his feet with fragrant oil was to demonstrate her gratefulness for the forgiveness through Christ.

What is the reaction of the Pharisee? 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him sawthis,he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of womanthis iswho is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” Jesus was/is much more than a prophet. He saw what was in his heart. 40And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” Now Jesus gives the Parable of the Two Debtors. The first one owed the creditor 500 denarii (more than a year and a half’s wages) and the second owed only 50 denarii (barely two month’s wages).42And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the onewhom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Now listen to the powerful contrast drawn by Jesus – 44Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wipedthemwith the hair of her head. 45You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47Therefore I say to you, her sins, which aremany, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the sameloves little.” Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that the Pharisee sinned less than the woman or that his sins were forgiven too. The Pharisee invited Jesus into his home but he never invited Jesus into his heart. The point is “how do you see your sin?” “Do you see it as a debt against a holy God?” That’s how the Bible sees it. In the Old Testament, the Year of the Jubilee was the call for the cancelling of debts. Luke 11:4 “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Jesus came to fulfill Isaiah 61:1as quoted in Luke 4    18“…to heal the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captivesand recovery of sight to the blind,to set at liberty those who are oppressed;19To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” As a result of the forgiveness of the sin debt, love begins to flow towards the Forgiver. This woman was so overwhelmed by her forgiveness that she did what she did. We’re not done yet – 48Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” How does faith fit into all this? Faith and Love are 2 sides of the same coin. Love is faith in action and faith is love in belief.

Are you lost? How do you see yourself? Are you saved? How do you see yourself? 1 Timothy 1:15“This isa faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

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