Brightness by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: It was on July 20, 1969, when two American astronauts Neill Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. This was part of the Space Race between the United States and USSR. After several attempts and setbacks, Apollo 11 took off from the Kennedy Space Center and travelled 240,000 miles in 76 hours as hundreds of millions of people were watching. Anybody remembers the words of Armstrong – “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The whole Apollo program cost about $24 billion dollars (That’s about $100 billion in today’s money) and incredible manpower. Even recently, the Solar Dynamics Observatory has been launching semi-autonomous spacecrafts into space to capture solar variability and its impact on the earth. It takes pictures and studies Sun’s magnetic field and energy. Then there is the Solar Orbiter, the joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA. Its goal is to figure out how the sun creates and controls the heliosphere, the outermost atmospheric layer of the sun. Finally, how many of you have heard of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Just yesterday, 4 non-astronauts returned to earth after 3 days in space. Wow! I can go on and on. Here’s the point: Ever since the beginning of time, human beings have been fascinated by space, especially the sun, the moon, and the stars. God has made them to give us light, signs, and seasons, and time. They testify to his benevolence and mercy, even towards those who reject him. They even remind us of the glorious resurrection coming for each of us.

Genesis 1       14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.

Context: We now come to Day 4 of Creation week. So far, God has created the earth from the watery matrix followed by space (atmosphere and outer space) and light. Then, he created land and separated the seas. After this, he created the plant life. Now, he turned his attention to the expanse above. He started by making two great lights (one is greater than the other) and the stars. Let’s focus on each of these for a moment (Sarfati):

  1. Greater Light to Rule the Day – SUN

Typically, those who don’t believe in creation, they like to say that the Sun is nothing special. It is just a star in the spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. Not true.

  • It is big. Its volume is over 1 million times that of the earth, which means over 1 million earths can fit inside the sun. (Compare it to the earth and then other stars.)
  • It is not too big or else it would swallow all the inner planets. By the way, it is a single star compared to the mostly multiple star systems.
  • It is bright. Its surface temperature is 10,000°F and its core temperature is 28,000,000°F. But, if it stopped shining, everything would start freezing in a few hours. The atmosphere would “condense, liquify, and freeze to entomb the entire Earth with a thirty-foot casing of solid air at the temperature of deep space, about 400 degrees Fahrenheit below zero” (Unruh).
  • It is not too bright like the blue-white supergiant Rigel which is about 120,000 brighter than the sun.
  • It is powerful. It is like a gigantic hydrogen bomb, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second.
  • It is an exceptionally stable star, despite the periodic flares. Some stars fluctuate between 10% to 150,000%. Also, the sunspot activity may be responsible for the climate change, if any, rather than the greenhouse gases. We will see this later.
  • It is in the right position in the Galaxy. If it were too near the inner galaxy, it would be exposed to supernovae (star explosion).
  • It is only about 6000 years old. If the earth was 4.5 billion years old, then the sun would be 25% brighter today than back then. Also, the earth would have been –3° C at that time. That was not the case.
  • It is white in color. It is all colors mixed but can be separated into a rainbow. “When the sun is low in the sky, at sunrise or sunset, it may appear red, orange, or yellow, because its outer (shorter wavelength) colors are scattered by the earth’s atmosphere and only the red, orange, or yellow get through the atmosphere for us to see” (Sarfati).
  1. Lesser Light to Rule the Night – Moon

Again, some people try to minimize the special nature of the moon by addressing the satellites of other planets as moons. That is not true. It refers to the earth’s natural satellite:

  • It has no light of its own. It is mostly because it is covered in basalt. This also helps it shine brightly.
  • Its diameter is 1/4th that of the earth. It is the perfect night light.
  • It orbits the earth once a month. Hence, we have the regular cycle of phases (new moon, first quarter, full moon, last/third quarter).
  • It keeps the oceans If you’ve been to the ocean, you know that the levels fall and rise twice a day. As the moon orbits the earth and the earth orbits the moon, the earth pulls on the moon and so does the moon pull on the earth. This is called differential force. It stretches both the earth and the moon along the imaginary line connecting the center of the two bodies. This results in high tides on both sides of the earth. It is not the moon’s gravity that is pulling the water. If that were the case, all our ponds, lakes, and bathtubs would also have water rising. Instead, the force is parallel to the surface and not very strong. But, when you multiply the force over a large body of water like the ocean, it is noticeable. The sun also causes tides but since it is far away, it is only half as powerful. Overall, tides keep the oceans shorelines clean and circulate oxygen and nutrients in shallow seas.

It is often claimed that the moon was formed by a chunk breaking off from the earth or it was captured by the earth’s gravitational pull as it was floating through the solar system or it came out of a dust cloud or it was the result of an impact on the earth. How foolish!

  1. STARS

We will go over this later in another message. Here, it will suffice to note that the estimate for the number of stars is somewhere about 1022. According to Sarfati, “the number is so vast that even using a computer that could count a trillion of these every second, it would take over 300 years to count this high.” The nearest one is 26 trillion miles away. If we go by light years, it is 4.3 light years away. Each one is unique.

Is it any wonder that human beings have been fascinated by the Sun, Moon, and Stars! Every ancient culture had some form of solar worship. The Egyptians referred to the sun as the god Khepri, Re, Atum, Aton, and Amon-Re. He was looked upon as the creator and judge who could see everything and knew everything. Among the Mesopotamians, the sun was the god Shamash, the god of justice. Similar worship is also found in the Ugaritic and Canaanite pantheons. In Sanskrit (Ancient Indian language), the Sun is referred to as “Mitra” or “Friend” to represent the warmth, the sustenance, and optimism its light brings to mankind. So also, the Aztecs, Chinese, Japanese, Persians, and Romans worshipped the sun. In fact, the Romans named each day of the week after their gods and matched them with the sun, moon, and five planets. This system was adapted by the Germanic people who substituted the Roman gods with their own. The Europeans worshipped Sól (Old Norse), which was known as Sun or Sunna in Old High German. Hence, the first day of the week is “Sunday,” literally “sun’s day.”

The Hebrews, the Children of Israel, and the Jewish people knew better. Right from Genesis, God had told his people that the sun, moon, and stars were his creation. He even did signs to prove that he was the Creator – Joshua ordered the sun and the moon to stay in the battle against the Amorites, and King Hezekiah got a sign of the sun going back ten degrees as a promise that God would heal him. Nonetheless, God’s people fell into the same trap as the pagan world. 2 Kings 23:5 Then he (Hilkiah the high priest on King Josiah’s command) removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the places all around Jerusalem, and those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven.” Because of worshipping these heavenly bodies, God’s judgment came upon them, and they were exiled. Later in the Gospels, Jesus (the Creator of the Trinity) also prophesied the future of his creation: Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

Bottom Line: Each of these heavenly bodies are not only unique, but they have their unique purpose and function.

1 Corinthians 15      12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?…In the early church, there were some who were beginning to doubt whether there was going to be a resurrection. Paul wrote to encourage and reason with them why this was a must. Let’s drop down to verse 38 where something very interesting and pertinent to our message is mentioned – 38But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. For starters, the giving of a new resurrected body is because of God’s goodness. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. It is appropriate and natural to us. There is nothing odd and weird here. 40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. It is a glorious body that cannot be compared with anything down here. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. Paul appeals to the analogy from creation. Even though the sun, moon, and stars are all celestial bodies, their glory (specialty, purpose, luster) is different. So also, our glory will be different now. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. If you want to see a pattern of what is coming for us, look to Jesus.

Malachi 4       1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.

Matthew 17      1 “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”

Revelation 1       14 “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”

Every time we step out and see the Sun in the daytime or the moon and the stars in the nighttime, they should remind us of the glory that is coming for us through Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we feel so worthless and pale considering our struggles and weaknesses. Look to the stars and remind yourself of the glory that is coming for you.

C. S. Lewis – “Each day we are becoming a creature of splendid glory or one of unthinkable horror” (Mere Christianity). “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our deal- ings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours” (The Weight of Glory)

Invitation: How do you see the creation in the sky? How do you see yourself? How do you see others? How do you see Jesus?

The Good Life by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE GOOD LIFE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Do you know people who can’t win for losing? No matter how hard they try, they seem to get bested by their circumstances. I read about a man who was working on his motorcycle on his patio and his wife was in the kitchen. The man was racing the engine on the motorcycle when it accidentally slipped into gear. The man, still holding onto the handlebars, was dragged through the glass patio door along with the motorcycle—which got dumped onto the floor inside the house. The wife, hearing the crash, ran into the dining room and found her husband lying on the floor, cut and bleeding, the motorcycle lay next to him with the patio door shattered. The wife ran to the phone and called the ambulance. Because they lived on a fairly large hill, the wife had to go down several flights of long steps to the street, to direct the paramedics to her husband. After the ambulance arrived, they transported the husband to the hospital. The wife up righted the motorcycle and pushed it outside. Seeing that quite a bit of gas had been spilled on the floor, the wife got some paper towels, blotted up the gasoline, and threw the towels into the toilet. The husband was treated at the hospital and was released to come home. After arriving home, he looked at the shattered patio door and the damage done to his motorcycle, he became despondent. He went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and smoked a cigarette. Can you see the train coming? After finishing the cigarette—you guessed it—he flipped it between his legs into the toilet bowl. The wife, who was in the kitchen, heard a loud explosion followed by her husband’s screams. When she ran to the bathroom, she found her husband lying on the floor. His trousers had been blown away. He was suffering burns on the buttocks, the back of his legs and his groin. The wife again ran to the phone and called for an ambulance. The same ambulance crew was dispatched, and his wife went down to the street to meet them. The paramedics loaded the husband on the stretcher and began carrying him to the street. While they’re going down the stairs to the street, accompanied by the wife, one of the paramedics asked the wife, how the husband had burned himself. She told them, and the paramedics started laughing so hard that one of them tipped the stretcher and dumped the husband out. He fell down the remaining steps and broke his ankle. Some people can’t win for losing, can they! In our series on Psalm 34, we are going to focus on the second half of the psalm where David talked about “THE GOOD LIFE.” Here’s the main point: The Good Life is attainable for God’s people. In fact, God desires all his people to live the good life. He has given us the proper steps to having the good life, but it begins with the fear of the Lord and leads to the redemption of the soul.

11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 Who is the manwho desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?

Context: If you remember from last weekend, as David sat at the cave of Adullam, after escaping from Gath, God sent him his family, but he also sent him people who were distressed, indebted, and discontented. In that setting, David wrote Psalm 34, an acrostic psalm, where each verse begins with a Hebrew alphabet in order. What was so special about writing acrostically? Why would he go to such lengths to write something so intricate and challenging? If you remember what I quoted from the South African scholar (Gous) —”if they look beyond the immediate, there is an underlying order, namely God’s care. This order gives structure to their existence, like the alphabet gives structure to the poem.” In other words, David wanted the distressed, indebted, and discontented people to know that, on the surface, life may appear ho-hum and chaotic, but, below the surface, there was a divine order and structure to their existence. God was doing some deep work and there was a plan to everything that was happening.

Application: Is there a divine order and structure to your existence? Can you see life below the surface? Are you rooted and grounded in the solid truth of God’s Word?

Psalm 34 can be divided into 2 halves: First half, verses 1-10; Second half, verses 11-22. The first half is thanksgiving to God for his salvation, for his rescue. We focused on that last week. The second half is wisdom poetry on how to have the good life. By the way, first, we need to be rescued, then comes the good life.

Application: Have you been rescued? That’s why Jesus came. He is the great rescuer?

The second half of the “Good Life” is very important for us because that is the section that Peter quoted in his letter. If you remember, it was in the context of “being of one mind, having compassion for one another, loving as brothers, being tenderhearted, being courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but blessing, so you can inherit blessing.” Then, he quoted from the psalm we have been studying—“For ‘he who would love life and see good days…” Here’s the principle: The life of unity proceeds from the good life. In other words, people who get along have learned the secret of the good life. Show me people who have a bad life and usually contention and division are all around them. You cannot have the good life and still be at odds with people.

Application: Is there contention and division in your life? Are you living the good life?

Once again, verse 11 “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Keep in mind to whom David was writing this psalm – the distressed, indebted, and discontented people. A major reason they were in the situation they were in was because they lacked wisdom. He calls them “baniim,” which is not children but pupils or students. He was telling them that they had a lot to learn about wisdom. Why does he begin with the “fear of the Lord?” In fact, twice already, he has brought up the “fear of the Lord”—7 “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them…9Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.” The fear of the Lord was the basis upon which wisdom was built (Craigie and Tate). It was the proper attitude for the development of godly wisdom in a person’s life. Listen to how the Book of Proverbs talks about the fear of the Lord:

  • Proverbs 1:7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
  • Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
  • Proverbs 10:27 “The fear of the LORD prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.
  • Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”
  • Proverbs 19:23 “The fear of the LORD leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.”
  • Proverbs 22:4 “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.”

Here’s what David was telling the motley crew that gathered to him – “Fear God and you will have wisdom.” In other words, Put God first in your life and obey him and wisdom will come to you.

Application: Do you fear God? Is he first in your life? Do you obey him?

But, then he gave them practical steps to this wisdom in order to have the good life – 12 “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? In other words, do you want “the good life?”

13 “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”

  1. Watch your mouth.

The word for “keep” is “netzer.” One of its meaning is to watch or guard a vineyard. James 1:26 “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.” James even called it a fire from hell and a deadly poison.

14 “Depart from evil…”

  1. Avoid evil.

The word for “depart” is “sur,” which means to turn aside, turn away, go away, desert. Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

“…and do good…”

  1. Practice doing good. Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High…”Hebrews 13:16 “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” James 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

“…seek peace and pursue it.”

  1. Be a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Hebrews 12:14Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

  1. Be ready for the bad days. God has not promised that we won’t have any trouble in this life. Job 14:1 “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” 2 Timothy 3:12“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. 20 He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken. 21 Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. 22 The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

In other words, when bad days come, remember God’s faithfulness to the righteous and judgment on the wicked.

Invitation: Are you living the good life? Are you prepared for the bad days? Are contentions and divisions a constant part of your life? Have you been rescued? Are you saved?

Greater than Religion by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a quick summary:

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

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

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

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

Crucified and Risen by Pastor Abidan Shah

CRUCIFIED AND RISEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Crucified and Risen

Introduction: When kids are little, they love to copy their parents. Little girls will pretend to be like their moms. They will try to do makeup, carry a purse, or pretend to cook in their toy kitchen. Little boys will pretend to be like their dads. They will shave, carry their little tool box around or pretend to cut grass with their toy lawnmowers. Nowadays, there are parents who are pretending to be like their kids but that’s a whole different problem. The point is that we copy those whom we look up to. It’s no different when we get saved. When we place our faith in the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, not only are we saved but we also deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow after Jesus. In fact, true gospel demands that we daily consider ourselves dead to sin and daily live in the power of his resurrection.

Mark 8    34 When He had called the people to Himself,with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the lifewhich I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Question: Do you understand what it means to “pick up your cross” and follow after Jesus? Have you been “crucified with Christ?” Are you saved?

Context:  As you know, we’re in our series on the meaning of the true gospel. Last weekend, we learned that salvation is much more than our free ticket to heaven. It’s also our allegiance to follow and obey King Jesus. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that the gospel is much more than just believing that Jesus died and rose again 2000 years ago. It’s also a call to live daily the crucified and the resurrected life. In other words, salvation begins by trusting in the historical facts of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus but it leads to a daily commitment to die to self and to live the resurrected life.

I. HISTORICAL FACTS

To begin with, listen to Paul’s definition 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,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 2 essential elements in the gospel:

  1. The Cross:It was the most visible and shameful form of punishment in ancient world. It was probably invented by the Assyrians and the Babylonians and later perfected by the Persians, Greeks and Romans. God in his sovereignty and foreknowledge chose this form of punishment instead of hanging or stoning or decapitation or immolation because it simultaneously displayed his love for us and his wrath on sin.Paul captures this in Romans 5  8“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” The early church was very careful about mentioning the actual physical death of Jesus on the cross in proclaiming the gospel.Listen to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2    22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” In other words, the crucifixion of Jesus was not some spiritual or mythological event. Jesus actually died on the cross. To be saved, you have to believe in the historical fact of the cross.
  2. The Resurrection: God in his immense wisdom included resurrection as part of the plan of salvation.Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:17“if Christ is not risen, your faithisfutile; you are still in your sins!”In other words, if Jesus had stayed dead, he was just a human. No human can die for the sins of others. There is no proof that God’s plan worked. By coming back to life, Jesus proved that he was god. Humans don’t come back to life. He also proved that he was sinless. Also, 1 Corinthians 15:20“But now Christ is risen from the dead, andhas become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In other words, by rising from the dead, Jesus also set the precedent for all of us who believe in him. One day we too will rise from the dead. Again, the early church was very careful about mentioning the actual physical resurrection of Jesus on the third day.Again, listen to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:24“whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”Paul in I Corinthians 15gives a list of the witnesses – 5“and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”Someone might say, “that’s not that many.” He had to be lifted up high so all could see but he had to be verified by a few so that faith would be the key.Bottom line: The resurrection of Jesus was not some spiritual or mythological event. It also happened. To be saved, you have to believe in the historical fact of the resurrection.

Application: Do you believe in the historical death of Jesus on the cross? Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus on the third day?

II. PRESENT REALITY

Once you believe in Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, we go on to believe in another cross and another empty tomb. This is our cross and our resurrection.

  1. The Cross: Let’s read the passage we read in the opening again – Mark 8 34When He had called the people to Himself,with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” What was Jesus saying here? He was not offering salvation by self-crucifixion but salvation that is willing to live the crucified life. He was calling them to count the cost. If you follow me, it will require you to die to self. Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that you have to build a wooden cross and nail yourself to it. Some people may have to die physically because of persecution. Here, it was simply being willing to see yourself as dead to sin and your selfish desires. Listen to the other verse we just read in the opening from Galatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live . . .” Also, Romans 6:11“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Meaning: Accept your old self as done. Don’t indulge sin. Don’t go back to the old life. It’s buried. Leave it buried.
  2. The Resurrection: If you just stop with the self-crucified life, you will only live the morbid, musty, and miserable life. But, just as Jesus rose from the grave, you also rise from the old life to the new life. Listen to Romans 6:4“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”It’s a call to be alive as Jesus came alive. Again, listen to Paul inGalatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the lifewhich I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”Also, Romans 6:11“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s a choice to live in his resurrection power.

How is all this possible? Through the Holy Spirit – Romans 8:11“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” As you daily submit to the Holy Spirit, he gives you the power to live the victorious life. You don’t have to live in the bondage to sin. Yes, there will be times when you will fail but repentance and renewal is the answer.

Invitation: True Gospel is both Historical Facts and Present Reality. The Cross and Resurrection not only save us but they also set the precedent on how to live the saved life. Are you saved? Are you living the crucified and resurrected life? Are you daily submitting to the Holy Spirit?

Fearless Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

FEARLESS LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fearless Love

Introduction:  How do little kids react when they see their parents? They come running when they see you. They jump into your arms and hug you. They’re not afraid to show you and the world that they love you. What happens when they get a little older. They may still be glad to see you but there’s no more running and jumping. Then they become teenagers. There’s definitely no more running and jumping. Sometimes they don’t even acknowledge you in public. They’re too cool for that. In this message we will see how the disciples of Jesus ran towards him when they found out that his body was missing. They were FEARLESS in their LOVE for him.

John 20   1 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

Question: Mary Magdalene ran. Peter ran. The other disciple ran. Just like little kids, they didn’t care what anyone thought of them. They ran because their loved one was missing. Would you have done that? Have you received his love in your life? Are you saved?

Context: John’s description of the resurrection is a little unique compared to Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s description. In fact, if you try to set the resurrection account of all 4 gospels side-by-side there seem to be several contradictions. They don’t always appear to synch very well. You can go home and try it out – how many women went to the grave, who were the women who went to the grave, what time did they go to the grave, how many angels were at the grave, were they inside the grave or outside the grave, were they standing or sitting, what exactly did they say to the women, where did Mary Magdalene see Jesus, what exactly did he say to her, and there’s more. Some people have taken these contradictions as proofs that the Bible has errors. Others have taken these contradictions and tried to fit them in a timeline to prove that the Bible has no errors. Although I believe that the Bible has no errors, I also believe that it is not helpful to force a timeline. The question we need to ask is “What is the purpose for which John recorded the resurrection?” John’s purpose in recording the resurrection was to put a literary spotlight on 3 individuals who followed Jesus and their reactions on resurrection morning. All of us who follow Jesus fall in one of these 3 reactions.

Spotlight #1 – Mary Magdalene: Popular culture has created an image of her that is nothing like how the Bible describes her. Both Mark and Luke tell us in their gospels that Jesus had cast out 7 demons from her. Growing up in India I have seen people who were demon possessed and it’s a very scary and a sad sight. If they are poor, they are left to wander the streets. They are treated like animals. People even throw rocks at them to keep them from coming into their neighborhood. They are abused by other people on the streets. Sometimes they are even abused for religious reasons. I personally believe that she came from a well-to-do situation because Luke tells us in 8:3 that she belonged to a group of women who followed behind Jesus and his disciples and “provided for Him from their substance.” Somehow, she got caught up in demonic activity. Maybe they had to lock her away. But, Jesus came and set her free. All she wanted to do now was follow Jesus. When he hung on the cross, listen to John 19:25 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” What happened after they put Jesus in the tomb? Matthew 27   60 “…he (Joseph of Arimathea) rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.” What if you were to tell her, “Mary, it’s over. Jesus was all wonderful but they killed him.” She would say, “I don’t care. I still love him. I know what he did for me. I’m not leaving.” She had an adoring love for Jesus. This may be hard for our culture to understand where everything is seen as creepy and lustful.

Now listen again to what happens on the day Jesus rose from the grave – 1 “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early while it was still dark.” How many of y’all would like to go to a graveyard early in the morning while it is still dark? Creepy. It’s not just Mary Magdalene but a few other women as well. But that’s not the only thing to be scared about. Just 2 days earlier, their Master had been false accused, brutally beaten, and unjustly crucified by the Romans. They had even put a guard outside the tomb. Matthew tells us that there was a great earthquake. But, none of this mattered to Mary Magdalene. Mark even tells us in his gospel 16:3 they (the women) said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” Meaning: They didn’t even try to consider who would roll away the stone. What happened when she and the other women saw the stone rolled away 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Do you have this kind of adoring love for Jesus that defies reason and logic?

Spotlight #2 – Peter: He doesn’t need much of an introduction. He’s always the first one to jump up and follow Jesus. He’s also the one who says things without thinking. In fact, leading up to the cross, he has made a lot of poor choices – He didn’t understand the purpose for the foot washing. He had chopped off the high priest’s servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also promised to lay down his life for Jesus but then just as Jesus forewarned, he denied him 3 times with cursing before the rooster crowed. It had gone from bad to worse for Peter. He was guilt ridden. But what happened when Mary Magdalene told him about Jesus? 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.” What slowed Peter down? Maybe the guilt. Do you have this kind of love that runs but is slowed down by guilt and shame?

Spotlight #3 – Beloved Disciple: he is usually referred to as “the one whom Jesus loved.” He was the one leaning on Jesus at the Supper Table and who asked Jesus who would betray him. Jesus clearly explained but he didn’t get it. Then he was in the courtyard of the High Priest watching what was happening to their Master but he failed to do anything. Then he was at the cross with the Mother of Jesus when Jesus turned her over to him. You can only imagine how helpless he might have felt. He was helpless but when he heard the news, he ran too.  4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. What kept him from going in? Was it fear? Was it doubt? Do you have this kind of love that stops at critical moments?

Now the spotlight comes back around on each of them:

#1 Peter – 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

#2 Beloved Disciple – 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

#3 Mary Magdalene – 11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

Which one are you? Are you the love that runs in the face of reason and logic? Are you love that slows down by guilt and shame but goes all out? Are you love that stops at critical moments but is the first to believe? Each is fearless.

Do you love Jesus at all? Are you saved?

The Soul-Winner’s Prize by Abidan Paul Shah

THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul-Winner's PrizeIntroduction: Imagine if sports had no goals and no finish lines. Imagine a basketball game without any baskets. You just dribble and pass the ball around but there’s no hoop and no scoreboard. Imagine a soccer game without any goals. You just do all kinds of tricks with the ball and run around on the field but there’s no goal and no scoreboard. Imagine a 100 meters dash without a finish line. You just run at any speed, anywhere, for any length of time but there’s no end. How many of you would love to play basketball or soccer or run? It would be meaningless. Now let’s go a step further. Let’s say you did have goals and finish lines but there were no medals, trophies, and rewards. It was totally unprofitable. How motivated would you be to practice and train for the game? Even if you did play for the love of the game, you’ll give your time and energy to those things that actually bring you some benefit. Today’s message will help us understand the goal and the prize of every Christian. It is titled, “THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE.” This is the third message in our series “Alive: What Jesus’ Resurrection Means For Us.” As we go further it’ll become clear how the Soul-Winner’s Prize is connected to the Resurrection.

Daniel 12   1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Context: If you ask people “What is the goal of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To get to know God, to study the Bible more, to pray more…” If you ask people “What is the prize of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To be more like Jesus, to be a better person, to use my spiritual gifts…” In today’s message we will learn that the goal for every Christian is to be a soul-winner and our prize is the glory waiting for us at the resurrection.

Question: What do you think is the goal and the prize of every Christian? What are you aiming for? What are you running towards? What are you looking forward on the other side? If you’re not saved, you’re not even in the game. To get in the game, you have to receive Christ as your Savior.

First, the goal and then the prize of every Christian:

I. THE GOAL OF EVERY CHRISTIAN 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: In this passage God is giving a prophecy and a promise to those who are wise and to those who turn many to righteousness. In fact, the Hebrew construction there really means that the wise and those who turn many to righteousness are one and the same. Listen carefully – In God’s judgment, wisdom is turning people to righteousness. In other words, a truly wise person is a soul winner. Now we do know that Daniel was a wise person. If you remember, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken in exile young men from Judah who were without blemish, good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.” Daniel was one of those wise young men.

But did you know that Daniel was also a soul winner? To me, in some ways, what Paul is to the New Testament, Daniel is to the Old Testament. I’m talking with regards to soul-winning. If you remember, in the New Testament, Paul was the ultimate soul-winner. He first went to his own people, the Jewish people, but when they rejected him, he didn’t get discouraged but moved on to the Gentiles. He went on three missionary journeys and planted several churches. He suffered terrible persecution because of his passion to take the gospel even to those who would harm him. He became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. So also Daniel, maybe not quite to the same extent and same manner as Paul, was also a soul-winner. He was away from his people in a foreign land. He tried to live a life that was pure and holy in a culture that wasn’t. God gave him the insight to interpret dreams and visions and when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, Daniel interpreted it for him. As a result, this pagan king confessed the Living God as the true god. Daniel prayed in the midst of persecution and was thrown in the lions’ den. God protected him and the next day the Mede King Darius was so moved by Daniel’s faith that he also confessed the Living God and sent a decree to the whole empire that Daniel’s God is the true god. Both under the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians, Daniel was a soul winner.

Here’s a principle: “Wise people are soul winners. Wise people make it their goal to save souls.”

Think again about the Apostle Paul for a moment – he was one of the smartest men who ever lived. What was the goal of his life? To win souls. Listen to what he said in several passages in the Bible: I Corinthians 9:22 “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Romans 10:1 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” 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.”

Don’t misunderstand: You don’t need a high IQ in order to be a soul winner.

Application: Are you a wise person? Are you a soul winner? What is the goal of your life?

II. THE PRIZE OF EVERY SOUL-WINNER 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: Before we look at what the “brightness of the firmament” and “shining like the stars” means,” let’s see when this will happen. To understand this, we have to back up to the previous verses. 1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people…” Which time are we referring to? We are referring to the end of time. Now I don’t want to get into a big discussion over the timetable of the end-times but this will be sometime after the Great Tribulation. “And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.” Here we are referring to the Book of the Life. Revelation 20 12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. …15 “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Paul talks about this Book of Life in Philippians 4:3. The point is this – To get the benefit coming to soul winners, your soul has to be won first. You cannot save souls if your soul is lost!

Now verse 2 “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Now comes the Resurrection of the Dead. Again, this is not a time to create a timeline of how things will turn out. This is simply a reminder that every human being will be resurrected one day but not everyone will have the same resurrection. Now there’s a special prize for those who win souls – 3 “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.” This does not mean that we will become stars in the sky like some myths and superstitions talk about. Daniel 8:10 gives us a clue – “And it (little horn) grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.” The hosts of heaven are the angels and they are sometimes referred to as stars. What Daniel is saying here is “Those who are soul winners will at the Resurrection shine with the same glory like the angels.”

Many times I’ve heard people say – “We need to win souls because that’s what Jesus has commanded us to do.” That is true but there’s a reason people are not motivated is because they are not looking forward to anything coming up in their future. What motivated Paul? Philippians 3:14 “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Let’s look at the whole context for a moment. Philippians 3   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 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; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead…” Then in verse 17 he contrasts his ministry of soul winning with those who are in for an earthly benefit and then listen to verse 20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

Don’t think that this means that Billy Graham will be as bright as an exploding star and all of us will be like a tiny candle.

For e.g. The poor street preacher who baptized my dad. My dad was far more educated than him but this ignorant man was wiser. With every soul I win, he has a part!

Application: Are you looking forward to the prize coming on the other side to soul-winners?

Invitation: Are you saved? What is your goal? Is it soul-winning? Are you looking to the prize of a glorified body like Christ one day

Alive: What Jesus’ Resurrection Means for Us

ALIVE – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

aliveIntroduction: Have you ever had a bad day? I mean, a really really bad day! There are so many funny pictures on the web of people having a bad day. Sometimes you have to be careful because they can be raunchy and some are even photo shopped. But there’s only one man I know who had the worst day of anybody in the entire history of our world and it was definitely not funny…One morning, a gang of thieves raided his farm, killed all his workers, and stole all his farm equipment. On the same day, a fire burned up his dairy farm and killed all his employees. On the same day, a rival business stole all his vehicles and killed all his drivers. On the same day, his children and their spouses were having a party at the older brother’s house and a big tornado tore through the house, destroyed it, killing his entre family. If that wasn’t enough, a couple of days later, he was struck with horrible sores all over his body like poison ivy and poison oak on steroids. He was so miserable that he went outside, sat on the ground, and scratched himself with a piece of dried pottery just to get some relief. To make matters worse, his wife told him that the only way out of his misery was to commit suicide. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I am referring to Job in the Old Testament. In this message we will learn that in the midst of his trials Job found hope in the resurrection of his Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Job 19   23 “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! 24 That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, 27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Trials have a way of clarifying what we really believe about God, life, and the future. Difficult seasons of life have a way of giving us a deeper understanding of God’s plan, grace, and hope in our lives.

Question: How do you see the trials in your life? Do you lose heart? Do you get angry? Do you become cynical? Do you run out on your marriage and your family? Some people start playing the blame game when trials come into their lives. They blame themselves. They blame their past. They blame someone in their lives. They even blame God. Do you see the Resurrected Christ in your trials like Job did? Do you see hope in Christ at all? If not then you need to be saved?

2 things you need to do:

I. REJECT FALSE VIEWS 

Job 2:11 “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.”

Background: Word began to travel about what had happened to Job. His friends connected with each other and decided to visit Job in order to comfort him. Thank God for true friends who come to us when we are down. But in this situation each one of them came with their opinion about why Job was going through all these trials. Unfortunately, their opinions hurt Job more than help him. Let’s look at them briefly:

  1. Eliphaz the Temanite: He was the oldest one of the bunch and seemed to have more sense than the others. Even though he showed Job respect, he didn’t have much compassion on him. In his wise view, his friend Job was a good man who had lost his way and that’s why bad things were happening to him.
  2. Bildad the Shuhite: In his view, Job was committing blasphemy by questioning the justice of God against him. He told Job that his family got what they deserved and if he keeps running his mouth, then he will also get what he deserves from God, which is more pain and suffering.
  3. Zophar the Naamathite: Out of all three of Job’s friends, he was the most caustic, abrasive, and hateful in his tone. In his view, Job should either repent or die because that’s what happens to wicked people. In others words, Job was a wicked man who was getting his due from God and needed to repent immediately.

Question: Which kind of friends are you listening to in your life? Do they bring only pain, shame, fear, and guilt to you? Sometimes they are not friends but family members. It is time to cover your ears from such false counselors. By the way, such people don’t have to be currently present in your lives. Sometimes they can be people from your past who have since moved on or even died but you are still listening to them. Sometimes they can be people on a TV program or in a book who are giving you wrong advice. It is time to purge your board of advisors. They are not bad people just bad counselors.

II. REDIRECT YOUR FOCUS

How does Job respond to his false advisors? After trying to defend his integrity and innocence in vain, Job redirects his focus. Let’s carefully examine his words in Job 19   23 “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! 24 That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever!” Two things here: First, Job wants people to remember forever what he is about to say because it is very important. Second, Job knows that what he is about to say might not happen in his lifetime. He may be 6-feet under the ground before it finally happens. In other words, Job is saying – “Put this on my tombstone.”

Principle: Some of you want justice in this life. Like the woman who was abused told me, “I feel like he’s going to get away with it.” She felt that death would end all hope of vindication. Don’t forget: Death is only a temporary interruption of your physical existence but your story is not yet complete. The final chapter is still to be written for those who know God.

What is the final chapter? 25 “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” Now begins one of the most disputed sections in Job or even the whole Bible. Job is saying here that even though he will die before he gets justice, vindication, and defense of his character, someone will speak for him. Job tried but his friends told him that he was biased. Job argued but his friends out argued him. Now Job’s only hope is to look to someone who would be willing to stand for him, who would be capable of speaking for him. Someone who would declare with authority, “Job is innocent. I have rock solid proof.”

Who is this someone? Job calls him “my Redeemer.” The word in Hebrew is “goel.” It had 2 meanings in the Old Testament. First, it had a criminal meaning. If someone were to kill a person, the nearest family member was responsible for bringing justice (not revenge) to that person. Second, it had a civil meaning. If a person died and lost their inheritance, the nearest family member was responsible for buying back and retrieving the property. If you remember, how Boaz married Ruth to save the family of Naomi because Elimelech her husband and their two sons had died. This “goel” had taken on a very special meaning for the people of Israel throughout history. God had become their Redeemer, the nearest family member who would bring justice to them and retrieve what was lost for them, even if they were not there to see it. Listen to these verses: Exodus 6:6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: “I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” Proverbs 23   10 “Do not remove the ancient landmark, Nor enter the fields of the fatherless; 11 For their Redeemer is mighty; He will plead their cause against you.” Psalm 103   2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction…” Isaiah 43:1 But now, thus says the LORD…O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” Jeremiah 50:34 “Their Redeemer is strong; The LORD of hosts is His name. He will thoroughly plead their case…”

Listen again to that line – “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” “Lives” here is much more than being alive. It has the idea of permanent existence. In other words, death cannot stop this Redeemer. There’s only one Redeemer who has conquered death. His name is Jesus. Listen to Peter in Acts 2   22 “…Jesus of Nazareth…24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Listen to Paul in 2 Timothy 1   8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling…10…who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”

But Job is not through yet – 25 “…And He shall stand at last on the earth…” Literally, it can be read as “in the end he will stand on the dust.” Which dust? The very dust that covers the grave of Job. What right does Jesus have to stand at my grave? Acts 20:28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock…to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood.” Ephesians 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” I Peter 1   18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…19 but with the precious blood of Christ…” Revelation 5:9 “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…”

Now comes the climax 26 “And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God…” Meaning: Job will be present at his vindication! He will be there at his final trial and the first face he will see is that of his Redeemer God. How awesome to think that Jesus will be present at the resurrection of every one of his children! Isn’t it awesome that on the day of resurrection he is personally going to call each one out of the grave! When life comes back into our decayed decomposed body, the first face we will see is the face of his Redeemer God Jesus! Finally – 27 “Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job is eagerly anticipating this day!

Folks, we have moved past the need of vindication that Job had. Now we have a great commission given to us. 2 Corinthians 5   14 “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again…17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we are no longer looking for vindication but reconciliation. We are no longer victims of our circumstances but ambassadors for Christ.

Are you saved? If you are the victim, have hope. If you are the perpetrator, seek forgiveness. Instead of anger, bitterness, and defeat, have hope, confidence, and ministry.

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

Heaven Here and Now Part Three

HEAVEN HERE AND NOW – 3 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

heavenhereandnow3Introduction: This morning we are in part 3 of our series titled “Heaven Here and Now.” The goal of these messages is to understand that heaven is not someday in the future in some distant land beyond the blue but it begins the moment we are saved. By the way, this is the final message and maybe next year during Easter we can go further.

1 Corinthians 15   22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power…58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Overall Background: So far in this series we learned that when we receive Jesus as our Savior, we receive a spiritual resurrection. Our soul comes alive and we are made to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In other words, when we get saved, spiritually, we’re already in heaven. But that’s just the beginning because one day Jesus is coming again and He’s bringing the rest of heaven with Him. He will not only transform this creation into the New Heavens and the New Earth but He will also transform our physical body into a glorious body like His. What all this means is that we’re not waiting to go to heaven when we die but heaven is coming here to us. What if you die before Christ comes? Then you will also come alive at His appearing with a glorious transformed body. This morning we will go one step further – if you want to know what our future and the future of this world looks like, look to Jesus. He is not only our sample but He is also our source of heaven. He is not only our model but He is also our means to heaven. He is not only our pattern but He is also our pathway to heaven. Jesus is everything.

Question: How important is Jesus to you? Do you look to Him with hope and anticipation? Is He just your fire insurance or is He also your future hope? Are you pressing towards Him? Here is another question: Are you saved? Is Jesus your Savior?

There’s a lot packed into 1 Corinthians 15. We don’t have time to look at every detail. We’re only going to see 2 things about Heaven Here and Now:

I. JESUS IS OUR FUTURE SAMPLE.

1Corinthians 15   20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Background: What are “Firstfruits?” = That word comes from the Old Testament. God had commanded His people Israel that each year before they harvested the crops, they were to bring a sample of their crop or their flock to the priest as an offering to the Lord. In fact, the full harvest could not be made until the firstfruits had been offered. It was a promise that more just like it was coming.

For e.g. For our culture, a better term would be “sample.” When you go by the food court at the mall, they offer samples. It means there’s a lot more of what you just tasted. If you liked it, there’s much more behind the counter.

So also Jesus is our firstfruit, our sample. 22 For as in Adam all die…” So far, Adam was our sample. He fell under the curse of sin and all of us have fallen with him. “…even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. There’s something more here regarding “firstfruits” than just being a sample. There’s also a divine order of things. When I go to the food court, I don’t have to eat the sample in order to buy the meal. In fact, many times I just get in line because I know exactly what I am getting. That’s not allowed here. You have to get the sample before you can get the meal.

Let me say it as clearly as possible – Unless you have received Christ as your Savior, there’s nothing waiting for you on the other side but judgment and hell. There’s a divine sovereign order to things – first Christ and then you.

So what does this sample taste like:

  1. It will be an ever-improving body.

42 “…The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.” All translations fail to capture the true meaning of these words. It’s not just that we won’t die. The idea here is decay. Daily our bodies are going down hill and one day we die and immediately we begin to decay. The new body will anti decay, go backwards. It will get better and better – “ethically, aesthetically, and psychosocially.”

  1. It will be a sin free, shame free, Christ like body.

43 “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory…” Again, “dishonor” should be translated “humiliation,” which has the idea of weakness, grief, sinful struggles, and old burdensome habits. “Glory” here means without the burden of sin, guilt and Christ like.

For e.g. Spring is here and soon we will see caterpillars. Ever seen one crawling – puts down his front end, lifts up his back end to his front end, makes a big arch in his back and then he straightens out by pushing his front end forward. Starts all over again. Looks quite painful and tiresome. There he is – a tiny little creature, crawling in the dust and we run over them with our vehicles or walk over them. I imagine he often looks to the sky and says to himself “Oh I wish I could fly. If only I had wings, I would catch the wind and go from garden to garden, plant to plant, and flower to flower. But that is not for me. I am just a caterpillar – crawling around.” One day he realizes that his days on earth are done – his instincts take over and he realizes that his days on earth as a caterpillar are coming to a close. He begins to build himself a coffin. He crawls inside and pulls down the lid. Now it dies to the only life it had known. There it hangs to a branch. Then all of a sudden something begins to happen – he hears a voice and feels a strange movement in his body. Again, impulse (after years of evolution! Not really.) tells him it is time. He went in a caterpillar but he comes out a butterfly.

  1. It will be an ever-energizing body.

43 “…It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” “Weakness” represents the lack of ability to do things the way you want to or the way you were used to. It represents the growing frustration throughout life. Recently we met someone who was struggling with a sickness. In his younger days he was very strong and virile. Even though his mind now was just as sharp as back then his body was no longer cooperating and it was very frustrating for him. The new body will be powerful, which actually has the idea of every increasing in power and capacity and competency. We will have more and more energy.

  1. It will be a Holy Spirit indwelt body.

44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. This is probably the most misunderstood of all the descriptions. Typically, people translate this as physical versus non-physical. That’s where people are misguided into thinking that we will be like spirits in long robes, sitting on puffy clouds, and playing the harps. The correct translation implies that in the coming body we won’t have to pray – “Holy Spirit – please fill me today and control my life.” It will be completely filled by the Holy Spirit and always in His control.

Application: Is Jesus your sample? Have you ever received Him as your Savior? Are you looking to Him? Are you looking for His return? Are you looking forward to the new you to come?

II. JESUS IS OUR VICTORIOUS KING.

24 Then comes the end…

Background: There’s so much we still don’t understand about the end of the world. I preached a series for about a 1 ½ year through Daniel and Revelation but there’s so much I still don’t understand and I am still learning. Here it is enough to say that our world is under the control of a structured system of sin and evil, both demonic and human. Just like us, the world is also under decay, shame, weakness, and ordinary existence. Jesus will fight and defeat this organized anti-god system. He will do for the world what His Father did for Him and what He will do for our lowly bodies. The result will be a new creation. This world is beautiful but you can only imagine what it will be like once Jesus sets it free and remakes it! Then 2 things will happen 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. In other words, He will free this world, remake it, and turn it over to the rightful owner, His Father.

What else? 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. Martin Luther explained this the best for me (I’m paraphrasing) – We are living in the kingdom of faith where Jesus is ruling through His Word. He is invisible. It’s like seeing the sun through the clouds. The light rays tell us that the sun is there but you really can’t see the sun. But, there’s a day coming when the clouds will part and both light and sun will shine together. In this phase 2 Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled – Psalm 110:1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” And Psalm 8:6 “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Now here comes verse 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. The actual translation should be “The last enemy is being annihilated, which is death.” Every time we drive past a funeral home or cemetery it reminds us that death is still claiming its victims. This verse promises us that Jesus already began the process of killing death 2000 years ago but there’s coming a day when he will finally destroy death forever. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. Meaning: Here’s the doctrine of the eternal functional subordination of the Son. Now, God will be the source and goal of everything and everyone.

When will this final end be? Jump over to verse 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… Nicole’s dad had this verse framed and put by the nursery door!52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you know Jesus? If not, you are still under the grip of death.

Knowing that Jesus is our future sample and Jesus is our victorious King, how should we live here and now? Paul tells us 3 things:

  1. Stand firm and do not shift – 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable…” It’s the same thing that he told the Colossians and Philippians. Don’t let your circumstances shake you.
  2. Keep working more and more for God. “…always abounding in the work of the Lord…” Ask yourself – “Is what you are doing counting for God?” Then do more.
  3. Remember, you are building the kingdom to come – “…knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” In other words, there is continuity between this life and the life to come. What you do matters. Everything is ministry. Minister where you are.

Are you saved? Are you living here and now with your eyes on the future? Are you doing all things for the glory of God? Do you know people who are lost? Are you reaching them?

Heaven Here and Now Part Two

HEAVEN HERE AND NOW – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

heavenhereandnow_2Introduction: This morning we are in part 2 of our series titled “Heaven Here and Now.” We are trying to understand what the resurrection of Jesus does for us now and not just some day in the distant future.

Philippians 3 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Overall Background: Last week we learned that we are already resurrected in Christ. We died with Him, we were buried with Him and we rose to walk in the newness of life with Him. All that is left for us to do is to start living the resurrected life, the life from above. This morning we will go one step further – We’re not waiting to go to heaven someday when we die. Heaven has already begun in us here and now. We are waiting for Jesus to come and not only transform this place into the new heavens and the new earth but also transform our body into the glorious body fit for the new world. Listen to verse 20 again – “For our citizenship is in heaven…” What is the tense? Present tense. It’s not our citizenship “will be” in heaven but it “is” in heaven. But listen carefully – “from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus is coming here to meet His citizens. And what will He do when He comes? 21 (He) will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” Some of us may die before He comes but then we are coming back down here with Him and also getting our transformed bodies.

Let me ask you: What do you believe about heaven? Is it just some place you’ll go some day when you die? Or, has heaven already begun for you? What you believe about heaven will change how you live on earth. Are you looking forward to the coming of Jesus? Are you looking forward to the transformation of your body? Are you saved? Are you a citizen of earth or citizen of heaven? Have you been resurrected?

3 questions we will ask in this message about Heaven Here and Now:

 I. ARE YOU GROWING IN CHRIST AND HIS RESURRECTION?

20 For our citizenship is in heaven…

Background: To understand what Paul is talking about here we need to understand the context in which he wrote those words. Let’s back up to Philippians 3 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Once again, just like in Colossians, false teachers had infiltrated the Philippian church. They were compelling them to go back under the Old Testament dietary laws, Sabbath rules, purification rituals, and circumcision. Paul calls them dogs, which is one of the worst things you could ever say to a Jewish person. He also calls them “evil workers,” not just “poor misguided folks.” Then Paul tells them 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Meaning: In Christ, all the requirements have been fulfilled. Look to Jesus and don’t return to old rules and traditions. Paul even lists his old credentials – 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews…a Pharisee; and a persecutor of the church. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. The word “loss” is a mistranslation. The word is “zemia” in Greek, which should be translated “damaging” or “disadvantageous.”

Question: What is damaging your spiritual growth? Man-made traditions? Old rituals? Listen – they are keeping you from worshipping God in the Spirit? They are killing your spiritual growth. They are keeping you from growing up.

Illustration: Until I was 4 ½ years old, I was still drinking from my milk bottle. We had many nurses in our church through the local Railway hospital. One of them saw me with my bottle and immediately got on to my mom and told her to take it away from me. It made me so mad! I glared at her throughout the service. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is trying to pry that milk bottle from some of your hands and it’s a fight!

Then Paul declares in 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss (disadvantageous, damaging,) for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. 9 “and be found in Him…” Having the “knowledge of Christ” is not information about Christ. It is another way of saying “I am one with Christ.” I died with Christ; I was buried with Christ; and I have risen to walk in the newness of life with Christ. If you look for me, guess where you’ll find me? In Christ! And, what do I look like in 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.” Meaning: My life is now in Christ where I am covered in His righteousness. How do I know that? By faith. But Paul’s not done – 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” Meaning: I am not satisfied yet. I want to know what else the resurrection of Christ can do for me. Oh yes – there’s one more thing it will do. 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Meaning: I know the resurrection has brought me the invisible spiritual resurrection but I also want the visible physical resurrection.

I can hear some of y’all saying – “But that’s too deep! Take us back to the shallow end.” You need to go in the deep to learn how to swim. The reason many of y’all can’t swim is because for years you’ve been playing in ankle deep water. You come to the swimming pool every day and head straight to the kiddie section. It’s time you stepped into big pool. What if I drown? The Holy Spirit is the Lifeguard and the Bible is the floatation device. You’ll be all right.

Application: What is damaging your spiritual growth? Would Paul put you in the category with dogs and evil workers? Are you growing in the knowledge of Christ? Are you found in Christ? Are you looking forward to the resurrection to come?

II. ARE YOU PRESSING TOWARDS THE TOTAL TRANSFORMATION TO COME? 

11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

Background: Typically, these verses are quoted as an encouragement to keep moving forward in life. I have preached on it as well, especially on New Year’s Sunday – 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Although we can apply these verses in the context of leaving our past behind and moving forward to greener pastures ahead, there’s much more implied here. Paul is referring here to pressing forward to the resurrection from the dead, which is the physical transformation of the body. The upward call is the total resurrection of the body as well. What about those who have no interest in this transformation? Listen to Paul in 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. “Earthly things” here does not materialism. In the context, it means people who get stuck in man-made traditions, old rituals, dietary rules, circumcision, etc. To the contrary – 20 For our citizenship is in heaven…” Again, Paul does not say – “I can’t wait to get to heaven” or “Wonder, how will it be in heaven?” Instead, for all practical purposes, he is already a citizen of heaven, at least spiritually speaking. But something is missing – “…from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…” Paul reminds the Philippians that we are to look forward to the day when Jesus comes to complete the rest of the resurrection. In other words, Paul has his letter of heavenly citizenship but he wants to go through the swearing in ceremony too and become a full-fledged citizen of heaven.

Let me illustrate: When I began the process of my citizenship, I had to go through a lengthy process of paperwork and test on US History/Politics/Geography and then there was an interview. Finally, I received the document certifying that I had become a US citizen and they gave me a date for the swearing in ceremony. For all practical purposes I had all the rights and privileges of being an American citizen but I was still not declared an American citizen until I went to the swearing in ceremony. It was a very special day for me when I became a full-fledged citizen of these United States. Nicole was there. I remember walking out of the building with a little spring in my step.

Application: There are 3 kinds of people here today: First, are people who are content with playing with rituals and traditions. These are the evil workers. If that’s you, then you are lost. You need to get saved. Second, are people who are saved but they are simply satisfied with their spiritual resurrection? I love Jesus and I’m looking forward to going to heaven someday. Its time you realize there’s more. Third, are people who are spiritually resurrected in Christ but they are not satisfied. They are looking forward to the physical resurrection to come. Heaven is not some place far away. It has already begun. We are just waiting for our new clothes to arrive. Which one are you?

III. HOW ARE YOU LIVING NOW IN LIGHT OF THE FUTURE? 

So far all this is wonderful. I am spiritually resurrected in Christ and one day I will be physically resurrected as well. How awesome is our future! But here’s a deeper question – Does your future transformation transform how you live in the present?

  1. Stand firm in the truth. Phil 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
  2. Be a peacemaker and not a pot-stirrer. 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…”
  3. Rejoice in every situation. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
  4. Be gentle when people fail you. 4:5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
  5. Don’t panic, just pray. 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
  6. Focus on the good. 4   8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
  7. Be content. 4 11 “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Are you looking forward to the transformation coming? Has your future transformation transformed your present life? Are you a citizen of heaven? Are you saved?

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