Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit Of Happiness by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Introduction: Elections are serious business but some time back I came across a bizarre and funny story. Back in 1967, Ecuador was holding its elections when a foot powder company ran an ad saying “Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies.” To make their ad more appealing, the company passed out flyers listing all the things Pulvapies would do if elected as Mayor. By the way, the flyer looked very much like the official ballot. Guess what happened on election day in the small town of Picoazà, Ecuador? People turned in their flyers at the election booths instead of their ballots! The foot powder won! Thank goodness they didn’t make it the Mayor! Election day is Tuesday and it’s no laughing matter. It’s important for all Christians to vote. Why?Not because the government can solve all our problems or bring God’s kingdom on earth but because the right government can protect our rights as Christians to live out our convictions and share our faith. If you know your history, the wrong government has always tried to silence and stamp out our faith. The lost world is never neutral or fair towards god’s people. Something else: Without Judeo-Christian values, governments will have no clear moral compass. My goal is not to get you to vote a certain party but to get you to vote your biblical convictions.

Daniel 6     3Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spiritwasin him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4So the governors and satraps sought to findsomecharge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he wasfaithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we finditagainst him concerning the law of his God.”

Question: Daniel was persecuted for his faith. Is your faith strong enough to be persecuted? Are you saved?

Context: We began a new series last weekend called “Thankful” and today’s message is about being thankful for our nation, thankful for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I chose the passage from Daniel because it teaches us the importance of standing up for our convictions. The Jewish people were living in exile in Babylon and Daniel was a high ranking official in the Medo-Persian empire. How high up was he? Daniel 6    1It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; What is a satrap? Darius I of Persia came up with the organization of satrapies or provinces for control and tax purposes. Each satrapy was to be ruled by satraps, which is the Old Persian word for “protector of the kingdom.” Usually, the satrap was a close relative of the king, someone he could trust. Darius appointed 120 satraps but Daniel was more than just a satrap.2and over these, three governors, of whom Danielwasone, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. So, three governors over the 120 satraps but Daniel was even more. 3Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spiritwasin him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. He was going to be in charge of the whole Persian empire! Wow!

Some people say that god’s people have no part in politics.

  • Some of the people who say that actually do mix politics and church but only when it suits their agenda and political party. But, if you say anything for your views, they immediately say, “Just preach the gospel. Don’t do politics.” Some even try to claim that you are violating the law. That’s not true. Since 1954, IRS has regulations that prohibit explicitly supporting a particular candidate by name but it allows us to teach on moral issues. That’s not illegal.
  • Some people claim that the gospel has nothing to do with politics. Such people fail to understand that the gospel is more than “I am saved and on my way to heaven.” It involves “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” The gospel is a change in lifestyle. What happens when two or more people begin to change their lifestyles, it begins to change the society in which they live.I John 3:8“…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Throughout the history of the world, god’s people have made their societies better by influencing the government (See Alvin Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World):

  • In the Roman Empire, Christians outlawed infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion (AD 374).
  • They outlawed the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators died (AD 404).
  • They instituted prison reforms by separating male and female prisoners (AD 361).
  • They abolished human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, the Lithuanians, and others.
  • They outlawed pedophilia.
  • They banned polygamy.
  • They outlawed the practice of burning alive widows in India (1829)
  • They began compulsory education for all children in European countries.
  • In the Roman Empire, Christians fought to abolish slavery.
  • In England, William Wilberforce helped abolish the slave trade and slavery itself in the British empire by 1840.
  • In our United States, there were Christians who supported slavery and that was wrong. But, a vast majority fought to abolish it. Two-thirds were Christian pastors.
  • I can go on and on but the point is that god’s people have made their societies better by influencing their governments. One such person was Daniel.

Time is short – the governors and satraps are threatened by Daniel and they decide to take him out. They asked Darius to sign a decree, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians that does not alter, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except King Darius shall be cast into the den of lions. What was Daniel’s response?Daniel 6:10“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” What an amazing political move! Daniel did not hide, apologize, or compromise. Instead, he openly challenged the decree.

Sadly, when Christians are confronted, they hide, apologize, or compromise. This confrontation is not necessarily about praying. It comes in other more sinister ways. At one time it was Christians have always been against Science. They would always bring up Galileo and how the church persecuted him. I don’t have time to go over the whole story. Many scientists were actually Christians. Then it was Christians have always been intolerant. I already gave you the list of things that Christians have fought for throughout history. Now there’s a new one – Christians need to learn the true history of the United States. This is a new one. It says that history has been created by the dominant group from the past and it needs to be straightened out. America was never founded on Christian values and that it was just greed and selfishness. How do you answer this?It all goes back to a German Philosopher by the name of Hegel who came up with the idea of the “historical dialectic.” He believed that history was always in a state of development. You can pick any time in history and see a group that is dominant and they agree on what they consider to be the truth. He called it “thesis.” This is usually challenged by a contradictory idea that is “antithesis.” This leads to a “synthesis.” Now this “synthesis” becomes the new “thesis.” There is no such thing as objective truth. Truth is relative. Hence, what you have learned is wrong and it’s time to set the record straight. We are living in the postmodern era. In the modern era, it was question everything. Now, it is “make history whatever you want it to be. If it’s real to you, then it doesn’t matter what I say.” But if you look at our history carefully, the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States are all based on the Bible. 52 out of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Christians. 34% of all citations in the Constitution came from the Bible.

Personal Illustration: Having come from a nation not founded on Judeo-Christian values, I can tell you that this nation was built on biblical values and it can stand only as long as it stands on biblical values.

Back to Daniel – The governors and satraps caught Daniel praying and ran to the king and accused him. The king tried to free Daniel but the ungodly men were not going to let him off that easily and finally he had to give the command to cast him into the lion’s den. All night he couldn’t sleep or eat and very early he ran to the den of lions crying loudly “Daniel, has your God saved you?” You know the rest of the account. The King had those men who accused Daniel and their families thrown into the den and they were destroyed.

Now listen to Daniel 6     25Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.26I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdommen musttremble and fear before the God of Daniel.For He isthe living God,And steadfast forever;His kingdomis the onewhich shall not be destroyed,And His dominionshall endureto the end.27         He delivers and rescues,And He works signs and wondersIn heaven and on earth,Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” What a revival!

Invitation: Are you praying for our nation? Will you cast your vote according to your biblical convictions? Are you saved?

Trust and Obey

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TRUST AND OBEY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

trustandobey This weekend we’re back in our series on the Sermon on the Mount titled “Salt and Light.” So many of you enjoyed the Beatitudes! But it’s about to get better! Jesus is about to raise the bar of discipleship. Please turn to Matthew 5:17 for our message titled – “Trust and Obey.”

Matthew 5 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mount of Beatitudes 1

Mount of Beatitudes (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Mount of Beatitudes

Mount of Beatitudes (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: Verse 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Back in January of this year Nicole and I stood around the very spot where Jesus spoke those words. It was everything and more than we had ever imagined. The atmosphere was just heavenly – the Sea of Galilee in the background, the sun shining on the beautiful green hillside, and the natural amphitheater carrying His voice far away. We could almost hear Him say – “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” You can almost visualize the multitudes and the disciples listening with rapt attention. But just when you think everyone was positive and supportive, Jesus says – “Stop thinking that I’m tearing down the Law or the Prophets.” Who was thinking that? Not the multitudes or the disciples but there was another group in that crowd, whose intentions were not that pure. They were there not to hear the truth but to find some fault. They were there to trap Jesus and accuse him of inciting the people to break the Law. These were the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus knew that and so He affirmed the authority of the Law but then also added in verse 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” You can almost picture Him pointing towards the scribes and the Pharisees and saying, “I’m not here to destroy the Law but fulfill it. And guess what – If you think their standards are high, mine are much higher.”

This message is very critical for our personal life and for our culture today. First, for the believer – we’re living in a generation where some Christians almost find a sense of thrill in crossing previously established boundaries. They act giddy like a teenager first time away from home, staying up past their bedtime of 9 o’clock, no one to tell them to go to bed, they’re all grown up, and can do whatever they want. “No rules for me cause I’m free in Jesus! If you tell me I’m wrong, then you are so legalistic. And just cause you say I can’t, I’ll show you I can.” Yes – Jesus did come to set you free but not from holiness. I’m not talking about being old-fashioned. I’m talking about being holy.

Then for the unbeliever this message is important – Couple of weeks ago, when the Supreme Court gave their decision legalizing same-sex marriage, people were on the Internet expressing their views and opinions and Nicole posted an article on how this decision does make a difference in our lives. By the way, it’s naïve to think it won’t. But someone she knew in High School came by and began to challenge her and one thing that really got me was, he asked, “What does Jesus say about homosexuality?” He was implying that we’re no longer obligated to the Old Testament Laws, just to Jesus. I came by and typed – Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law…”

Listen carefully – Trusting Jesus does not absolve you from obeying God’s commandments. If anything, you will see in this message that Jesus made them even harder. Here are several questions: Are you an obedient Christian? Are you obedient to God’s Law or Manmade Rules (Legalism)? Are you saved? 3 questions in this passage:

I. WHAT IS THE LAW? 

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. Several questions here:

Question #1 – Who came up with the Law? Exodus 24:12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” God gave His Law to His people Israel through His servant Moses. God is the author of the Law. Before we abrogate or abolish the law we need to make sure that God is okay with it!

Question #2 – What did it contain? First and foremost, it contained the moral Law of God. It was reflected in the life of people like Enoch, Noah, and Abraham who walked blamelessly before God. Keep in mind that the Law does not begin at the 10 Commandments but in Genesis 1:1. The books of the Law are actually the Torah, the first five books of the Pentateuch. The 10 Commandments are a summary of the moral Law of God by which people were already living. But later God expanded that moral Law and intertwined it with civil laws, penal code, and ceremonial laws and gave it to Moses.

Question #3 – Was the Law given to save the people? Absolutely not! It was given to teach people the character of God. Leviticus 20 7 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you. What else? Deuteronomy 4 5 “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ Meaning: Keeping these laws would set them apart as a distinct people before the watching world.

Our message is far from over. There’s much to be clarified. But let’s get one thing straight – God’s Law reflects God’s character. Any person or society that begins to trash the Law of God will find himself/herself/itself on the trash heap of history.

Application: How do you see the law of God?

II. IS IT ENOUGH TO KEEP THE LAW?

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

Background: Although Jesus did not come to destroy the law of God; He did come to fulfill it. What did Jesus fulfill? He fulfilled all the ceremonial aspects of the law. He was the original of which all the laws, rituals, and sacrifices were just a pattern. This is not a new interpretation. God had clearly told Moses that all that He was telling Him to do and make for the tabernacle and then later for the temple was according to a pattern. Listen to Exodus 25:40 “And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” The civic and ceremonial laws were simply a prototype or a model. Jesus came and fulfilled the pattern.

I’m tempted to run to the New Testament – to Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews – to prove this even more but I’m holding back because some people believe that Paul and others have changed the way the people of Israel looked at the Law. God’s people understood that their civic and ceremonial laws were simply a picture of what was to come in Christ.

When they lost sight of that, the prophets got on to them:

1Samuel 15:22 So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.

Isaiah 1 11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats…13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting…18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

Psalm 51 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.

I don’t have the time to go through all the prophecies about the coming of Jesus. He was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The people of Israel had to look to Him to be saved. Jesus said something else here – 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (There is more that God has promised to His people that still remains to be fulfilled.)

Application: What are you trusting in to be saved? Are you trusting in the 10 Commandments? Are you trusting in your own personal 10 Commandments? Your good works, traditions, and good intentions will still send you straight to hell.

III. SHOULD WE OBEY THE LAW OF GOD TODAY?

19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Background: Even though the ceremonial and the civic laws are no longer applicable, the moral law stands just as valid today as it ever did. That’s why homosexuality is a sin. We don’t go around stoning people but God’s character comes through His laws and if He called it a sin back then, it’s still sin.

But Jesus has taken the standard much higher. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Just when you’d think that Jesus would laugh over sin, He raises the bar. Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Regarding Enemies – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

How can we live up to such high standards? We can’t without the help of the Holy Spirit. Are you saved?

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