Victory by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church

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

Victory

Introduction: Words can have multiple meanings. Think about words like “bark” (on a tree or a dog’s bark) or Bolt (metal fastener or lightning bolt). Then, there are words that have derived from one or the other and they have different meanings: Express—Newspaper print but then extended to refer to the train that carried it. So also, Bureau—it was a special desk then it went to Bureau as an agency or a Bureaucrat. Last weekend, we began a 4-week series leading into the Easter season called “HOSANNA.” The word HOSANNA has more than one meaning. In our first message, we learned that it means “God Save Us.” But, there is another meaning that developed for Hosanna and that is “Victory.” In fact, that’s the title of our message today. Here’s the gist of the message: There is no victory without sacrifice. First the cross and then the crown. It’s the crucified life that is the victorious life. Please turn to Psalm 118, the psalm the crowd cheered when Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

Psalm 118     21 “I will praise You, For You have answered me, and have become my salvation. 22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23This was the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! we have blessed you from the house of the LORD.”

Question: Are you calling on God to save you through some trial? Do you understand that you may have to endure before you can be victorious? Are you carrying your cross daily? Have you come to the cross to be saved?

Context: Next weekend is Palm Sunday. If you grew up in church, you know that it’s the Sunday before Easter when Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and began what we know as the Passion Week. We’ll look at all that in detail next weekend. Today our focus is on the cheers of the crowd when they saw Jesus riding on the donkey. All the gospel writers record their cheer but for time’s sake, listen to just Matthew 21:9 “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” Where did the crowd come up with that cheer? They were chanting from Psalm 118. The question is—Why did they pick this psalm?

To start with, you may not know it but Psalm 118 is the most quoted psalm and maybe even the most quoted and alluded to Old Testament chapter in the New Testament. We have no superscription on why it was written but we do have information on how it was used through the centuries. Basically, 2 major reasons and they are connected. First, according to the Talmud (Jewish writings), Psalm 118 was sung at the Feast of the Tabernacles. Second, it became a Messianic psalm. Let’s look at both these uses closely:

First, this psalm was sung at the Autumn Festival of the Jewish people known as the Feast of the Tabernacles/Booths. Keep in mind that the Jewish people had many feasts but only 3 of them were the pilgrimage feasts (one had to go to Jerusalem to keep it): Feast of the Passover/Unleavened Bread, Feast of the Weeks/Pentecost/First Fruits, and the Feast of the Tabernacles/Booths/Sukkot. This last one was a seven-day feast starting on the 15th day to the 21st day of the seventh month (our September-October). According to God’s command to his people in Leviticus 23, they were to make simple tents out of leaves and branches, and live in them for 7 days. This was to remind them of their time in the wilderness when they lived in booths and made their way through the dangerous desert. It was not a safe or comfortable time but God had protected them from the constant threats of natural hazards, wild animals, and enemy tribes from every side and He had brought them safely to the land that he had promised them. In other words, God had been faithful to them, and he wanted every generation to remember that each year and be grateful. Not only that but it was also a time to give thanks for the harvest.

Principle: In some ways, God is making us live in booths these days. All our security and comforts have been stripped away. Could it be that God wants us to give him thanks for where he has brought us from as a nation and as individuals?

Now, where would Psalm 118 fit in all of this? This was the psalm they would sing at the feast of the Tabernacles. They would start singing it outside the gates of the temple. Listen to the opening lines of the psalm: 1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 2 Let Israel now say, “His mercy endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron now say, “His mercy endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the LORD now say, “His mercy endures forever.” 5 I called on the LORD in distress; The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? God understands our fears but he rejects our doubts. 14 The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. 15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly…17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. God’s people need to claim this promise in these days. 18 The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Now looking towards the Eastern Gate of the temple they would say—19 Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD. These gates were the Eastern Gate of the temple because they were a double gate with two sections. By the way, according to Ezekiel 44 and 46, the prince has a special access to this east gate. Now they would march into the temple singing the psalm—20 This is the gate of the LORD, through which the righteous shall enter. 21 I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. Then, seeing the temple before them, they would say—22“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This was the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” So much is packed in here that we don’t have time to get into. This was a reference to King David being rejected as the shepherd boy typifying the rejection of the Messiah one day in the future.

Now comes the verse that the crowd used in cheering Jesus as he entered Jerusalem from the Eastern Gate. 25 Save now (Hosanna), I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” What were they waving in their hands? Palm branches. On the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles, the seventh day, also known as Hoshana Rabba (Day of the Great Hosanna), the priests blew the trumpets and the Levites and the people waved the lulavs (palm branches).

Question: What Feast was coming up that week? Not the feast of the Tabernacles or Booths but the Feast of the Passover/Unleavened Bread. The Feast of the Tabernacles was still 6 months away! Why in the world were the people cheering Psalm 118 and waving palm branches when it was not time for the Feast of the Tabernacles? By the time of Jesus, shouting Hosanna and waving palm branches had become symbolic of the coming of the Messiah. The crowd had decided that Jesus fit the bill of the Messiah. Their Messiah was going to free them from the Romans. When they were shouting “Hosanna,” they didn’t mean “Save us.” They meant “Victory” over the Romans and maybe even the corrupt priesthood and temple leaders. How do we know they didn’t understand? Matthew 21    10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” The crowd should have read the rest of Psalm 118. Listen to verse 27 “God is the LORD, and He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” Jesus still had to give his life as a sacrifice for our sins.

Please listen carefully: There is no crown without the cross. There is no victory without sacrifice. If we lose sight of the cross, it’s nothing but self-will and human effort. It’s his sacrifice on the cross that gives me the power and the courage to live. The Cross gives me the victory. Amazingly, Jesus did not condemn the crowd. He accepted their praise and even defended them against the temple authorities but he did not commit himself to them. They were not ready for him. They had to first receive him as the Passover Lamb. Once they did that, then they could celebrate victory with him.

How are we going to get through these tough days? Keep your eyes on the cross. First it saves us and then it gives us the victory to live in this life.

Colossians 2    14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

How about the empty tomb? The tomb will give you power to live but the cross gives you the perspective to live. First the cross and then the tomb.

Next, pick up your cross and follow Christ.

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. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Invitation: Are you just the crowd? Do you understand that the cross gives us the victory to face whatever comes our way? Do you know Jesus as your Savior and King? Are you trusting him through this crisis? What will people say about you when all this is over? Are you giving the cross to those around you?

Abundance by Dr. Shah

Abundance.jpg

ABUNDANCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you parents have ever given your kids money for lunch or a field trip and said, “Make sure you bring back the change”? Did you get your change back? If you did, please let me know your secret! In today’s message, we’re going to learn that our heavenly father also gives us all the money that we have in this life. But, unlike earthly parents, he doesn’t want just the change back. He wants us to make profit with it in building his kingdom. In fact, Jesus has promised that he is returning soon and when he does, he will require an account of what we did with his money. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we now come to the Parable of the Talents and the message is titled “ABUNDANCE.”

Matthew 25      14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, whocalled his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them… [the 1st & the 2nd received the commendation] 21 His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord…24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant…”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the first two servants who doubled what their Master had given to them or are you the one who hid what was given? When Jesus returns, will he say to you “Well done, good and faithful servant” or will he call you a “Wicked and Lazy Servant?” Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Talents is the 2nd of the 3 parables that Jesus gave in his famous Olivet Discourse. In these two chapters, Matthew 24 & 25, he explained to his disciples how things will be at the end of the age when he returns. Last weekend, we looked at the 1st parable, the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, five were wise and five were foolish. The wise were ready to meet the groom but the foolish didn’t have enough oil for their lamps when he came. At the last minute, they went looking for oil and the door was closed behind them and they couldn’t get back in. They begged to be let in but he answered, “I do not know you.” The message of the parable is that Christ is the bridegroom and we who believe in him are the wedding party. The groom has promised that he is coming but he hasn’t given us the exact time. We have to be prepared and watching. We cannot catch up at the last minute. Matthew 25:13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

Question: Do you believe that Jesus is coming again? We’re not talking about a vision or a dream or an allegory. Jesus is returning in a real physical body. Are you ready to meet him? Will you try to play catch up spiritually at the last minute? Will he know you?

Right after this parable of the Bridesmaids, Jesus gave the parable of the Talents. While the message of the 1st parable was “Be prepared. Jesus is coming back at a time when you’re least expecting,” the message of the 2nd parable was “Don’t just stand there. Use the money I have given you to build my kingdom and make profit.” So, Jesus told the story of a businessman entrepreneur who goes to a far country. But, before he leaves, he gives his three workers some money—5, 2, & 1 talents. Sometimes we just read that casually and don’t think about the vast amount of money that he gave each of them. A talent was about 60-90 pounds, depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). A talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. It would take him 16 years to earn one talent. So, how much for the one with 2 talents? It would be equivalent to what an average day worker in those days would earn over 32 years. And, how much for 5 talents? 32+32+16 = 80 years. In today’s economy, if someone was getting minimum wage of $7.25 per 40 hours for 52 weeks, it’s about $15,000. Now add that over 16 years and it’s about $240,000. Then, for 32 years for someone on minimum wage, it would be $480,000. Finally, for someone with minimum wage over 80 years, it would be close to $1.2M. The point is that this businessman gave away a lot of money!

What did his servants do? The first one doubled it to approximately $2.5M and the second also doubled it to about $1M. The Master was very happy and said to both—21Well done,good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” How about the third guy who got $240,000? Listen to his statement—24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’” Let’s think about his statement for a little bit. To start with, its not a wise thing to label your boss, especially calling him a “hard man”!The Greek word “skleros” can mean harsh, cruel, and merciless. He even came up with an analogy to describe him! Next, he blamed his own fear! He was trying to make himself look weak and oppressed! Poor me!

What was the boss’ response? He saw through it—26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant…” It’s the boss’ turn to label him. The Greek word for lazy is “okneros,” which is more than just “lazy.” It also implies hesitant and reluctant. But, let’s keep reading—“you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, (“trapezites”—Greek word for banker, money changer) and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.” Just when you would think that the boss would’ve said—“No harm done. I have my money back. At least you didn’t lose it. I guess I’ll have to invest it myself,” listen to verse 28 “So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”

What is the message? Jesus is the businessman entrepreneur who has to go away. This is his ascension. But before he goes, he gives all of us an incredible amount of money and resources that He wants us to use to build his kingdom.

Question: Did you know that the money you get paid and earn is given to you by God? You may say, “I go to work and put in my time. I built this business from nothing and made profit.” Who gave you the strength, the wisdom, the connections and the success? God did. You may ask, “How about people who don’t believe in Jesus?” Same answer. God is the one who helps them too but they don’t acknowledge him. They will also have to give an account one day. The question still remains: “What are you doing with God’s money?” Yes, you should work hard and work smart but your goal should be more than just being rich or comfortable or have the good life. Your goal should be to build his kingdom and spread his gospel.

Also, don’t just do the best you can. Make profit! Use the money God has given to you to expand his kingdom. Find creative ways to double the spread of the gospel. At Clearview, we are constantly looking for ways to double our outreach. Everything we do is to reach more than we did before. That’s why we did the #Iamtheneighbor project.

Well, I just don’t have the time or energy. I have too many bills to pay. Matthew 6     31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” When you start making him profit, he has a special eye towards you. Proverbs 10:22 “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” Psalm 127     1 “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It isvain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”

Well, I’m just not going to do any of this. Let’s go back to the parable one more time—28 “So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. In other words, if you don’t use God’s money for the purpose he is giving it to you, he will pass it on to someone else who will! But, wait, there’s more—30 “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

I don’t understand how it works but somehow your eternity is depended on how you spend your money down here.

Let’s get to the point—

  • What are you doing with the resources God has given to you? Are you using them to build God’s kingdom?
  • Are you using your money only on self-preservation and self-indulgence?
  • What will Jesus say to you when he returns? Are you making profit for his kingdom? Are you winning more and more souls for his kingdom?
  • Are you saved?

 

Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sustenance by Pastor Abidan Shah

SUSTENANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: One of my favorite commercials on TV is the Snickers ad. They show people acting like celebrities when they are hungry and the tagline is “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” That’s so true. We feel sluggish and cranky, anxious and nauseous, when we’re hungry. So also, you’re not you when you are spirituallyhungry. Just as we need physical food to give us physical sustenance, we also need spiritual food to give us spiritual sustenance. Spiritual food is feeding upon Christ and it is not optional but essential for the Christian life.We will be taking part in the Lord’s Table today and this message is to remind us of the importance of daily feeding on Christ.

John 6     53Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

Question: How is your spiritual nutrition coming? Are you daily feeding upon Christ and his word? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Is he your king?

Context: Typically, when we observe the Lord’s Supper or the Communion (in some traditions known as the Eucharist or the Holy Sacrament or even the Mass), we turn to either the end of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:26-28Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:19-20) where the last hours of Jesus with his disciples are narrated or to I Corinthians 11:23-25 where Paul gives instructions on how to observe the Lord’s Table. In these passages we encounter Jesus having his final meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. During this meal, Jesus gave a very familiar tradition, the Passover Meal, a whole new meaning. Sometime back I preached a message on this subject from I Corinthians 11 in which I explained how the bread was the unleavened Passover Bread that Jesus relabeled as his own body that would be broken for them. Then, there were 4 cups at the Passover Meal and Jesus rebaled the third cup, the Cup of Blessing, as the Cup of the New Covenant in his blood. I’m not sure how much the disciples understood what Jesus meant at the time but they obediently ate the bread and drank from the cup that he passed to them. You can only imagine how difficult this must have been for the disciples! Imagine if I were to show up at your Thanksgiving Meal and pick up a turkey leg and say, “this is me!” Their old customs and biblical traditions were radically altered by their Master but by faith they obeyed him and received it. Only later on, they understood the true meaning of what Jesus meant.

Why did Jesus do this replacement of the Unleavened Bread with his body and the Cup of the Blessing with his blood at the Last Supper? Jesus was telling his disciples that by eating the bread and drinking the cup they were going to share with him in his substitutionary existence. In other words, they were now going to be connected with him in his suffering and death. This does not mean that they were physically going to suffer, bleed, and die along with him. They were going to be spiritually connected with him as he would suffer, bleed, and die for them. You may think – “Man, this spiritual connection stuff must have been too deep for them!” Not really. This was not a problem for the Jewish people. This is how they saw the Passover Meal through the ages. When a Jewish person participated in the Passover Meal, he/she had to view himself/herself as if he/she was personally leaving Egypt on the night when the final plague was struck. They had to visualize themselves as if they were there on that night, even if that was a hundred, thousand, or several thousand years later. They had to sense the fear and by faith receive the Meal. The difficult part was that Jesus told them that he was the bread and he was the Passover Lamb. He wanted the disciples to understand their spiritual connection with him as he suffered, bled, died, and was buried. This is the heart of the Christian life.Listen to what Paul says in Colossians 3:3“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

By the way, this spiritual connection was not just meant for the first disciples but for all disciples through the ages, including you and me.Listen to what Paul told the members of the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11     23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same mannerHealsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drinkit,in remembrance of Me.” By the way, this is also true about baptism. While Communion is our corporate connection with Jesus, baptism is our individual connection with Jesus. Listen to Romans 6      3Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4Therefore 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.

Listen carefully: There is no other religion like Christianity where the founder is connected beyond time to every person who has received him and every person who has received him is connected to each other. This changes the way I treat saved and lost people. With both, I have to remember that Christ is in me.

I know some of ya’ll are thinking – “I don’t know about all this connection stuff.” Let’s go back to the passage we read at the opening of this message. John 6:53Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Why did Jesus say that?Back up to verse 52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”If that wasn’t clear enough, he said it again in verses54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last dayJesus will not leave any part of him behind. We’re not God and will never be but we are part of the family of God.55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” We’re connected! 57As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. What’s their reaction to all this?60Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Whatthen if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, andtheyare life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.Judas may not have been the only one. 66From thattimemany of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

WOW! Which group do you belong to? Are you feeding daily on Jesus and his words? Are you saved? Are you connected with him and others who are in Christ? Are you seeking to bring others to be connected with Christ?

Vicious Cycle (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

VICIOUS CYCLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the Newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 9, 2019)

“The Bible will come alive for you! It will be a life-changing trip!” I could tell that my mentor really wanted me to go on a tour of Israel. Few years later, we took him up on it. Since then, my wife and I have visited the Holy Land several times and it is truly everything and more than you can imagine! In our last tour in January, along with the usual sites (Galilee, Jordan River, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, etc.), we visited six Middle Bronze Canaanite cities in Israel (Megiddo, Hazor, Tel Dan, Beth Shan, Jericho, and Jerusalem). In the chronology of the Levant, the Middle Bronze period is between 1800BC-1550BC. Although scholars disagree over the precise terminology, this is the time period when the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was occupied by the Canaanites and the Amorites. These were the cities that God told Moses to lead the people of Israel to go in and possess. 

Typically, we think that the reason God wanted to drive the Canaanites out of the land is because they were primitive savages. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s what we found:

1. They were master builders. In order to protect their cities, they first built massive free-standing walls (some places 50 ft tall) around the city. This was followed by a massive embankment with crowning walls. All this was psychological warfare to discourage an invading army from wasting their time.

2. They understood hydraulics and built massive water storage facilities, underground drainage, and irrigation lines.

3. They were very good farmers, pottery makers, and metal workers. They learned how to make bronze by alloying copper with tin. Now they had weapons that could be shaped and sharpened. They even had an export business with Egypt.

4. They created the ancestor of our English alphabet. Unlike the Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Mesopotamian cuneiform, their descendants (the Phoenicians) standardized the 22 signs for each sound that we use to this today.

Nonetheless, as advanced and prosperous as these people were, something was not right with them. Deuteronomy 12:29-31“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them…for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”In other words, they practiced every kind of perversion imaginable but worst of all, they sacrificed their babies to their god Molech! Although literary evidence from Canaan is scant, there is plenty regarding the Phoenicians, the Canaanites who established a colony in North Africa. Siculus, a Greek historian, wrote – “There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.”Plutarch, another Greek writer, added that “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.” Historians and archaeologists would deny these accounts claiming that it wasn’t possible for such an advanced culture to do something so heinous. In 2014, Dr. Josephine Quinn of Oxford University along with a team of scholars confirmed these accounts as absolutely true based on further research.

Here’s the point: God wiped out the Canaanites because they chose to kill their children. What do you think God thinks of America today? Over 638,000 are being killed each year. Will we repeat the vicious cycle and face God’s wrath or will we speak out for the innocent and the voiceless? It is much more than a political issue. Jesus said “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

In Remembrance by Pastor Abidan Shah

IN REMEMBRANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

In RemembranceIntroduction: How many of you would agree that smells can trigger a memory from the past? You’re at a hotel swimming pool and the smell of chlorine reminds you of playing in the pool as a kid. You smell apple pie and it takes you back to grandma’s house. Every fall when Nicole smells leaves burning, it takes her back to when she would help her dad in the yard as a little girl. For me, it’s the smell of leather that takes me back to when I would polish my dad’s shoes as a little boy. For each of these flashbacks to work, you have to be there in the past. In today’s message, we’re going to have a flashback to a meal 2000 years ago. I’m talking about the final meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before going to the cross! You’re thinking, how can I remember a meal from 2000 years ago when I wasn’t there! If you have received Christ as your Savior and King, you were there. Let the word jog your memory. Let the scriptures override your senses.

1 Corinthians 11    23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same mannerHealsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drinkit,in remembrance of Me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Question: Do you remember what happened 2000 years ago? Can you see Jesus passing the bread and the cup to you? Has there been a time in your life when you asked him to be your Savior and your King? Are you saved?

Context: If there’s one subject that Christians disagree over more than any other, it’s probably the Communion. It’s right up there with Baptism. Just think of the many names we have for it, just in English: Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, The Lord’s Table, The Eucharist, The Mass, The Sacrament of the Altar, The Blessed Sacrament, The Breaking of the Bread, The Bread and the Wine, and so on and on. One major reason for these disagreements is that through the centuries people have taken Paul’s words in I Corinthians 11out of its Jewish setting.This was not just any ordinary meal. It was a Passover Meal. Even though John tells us in his gospel that the Passover was the next day, I believe that Jesus knew that he was going to die on that Friday as God’s Passover Lamb and so he chose to celebrate Passover on Thursday evening with his disciples. We mistakenly think that all the lambs had to be butchered at the temple. By the time of Jesus, there were so many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the Passover that it was impossible to do that. So, people slaughtered their own Paschal lambs.

When we examine this meal carefully, it has all the markings of the Passover Meal.In verse 25 it says,“In the same manner He also took the cup after supper. . .” What is the cup after supper? There were 4 cups at the Passover Meal: 1. The first cup was poured as the Father recited his blessing over the wine and over the day. 2. The second cup was poured and the son asked questions about the special food of the meal. 3. The third cup was poured after the supper as the Father recited grace after the meal. 4 The fourth cup was poured and the Father recited the Hallel and the blessing over the song. Guess which cup is being referred to in I Corinthians 11:25? The third cup. This was the Cup of Blessing, which Jesus recast as the Cup of the New Covenant in his blood. Can you imagine how this must have puzzled the disciples?

By the way, let me say very quickly – Jesus did not drink the final fourth cup with them. Listen toMatthew 26    29“ ‘But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’ 30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Why did he not drink the 4thcup?Two reasons: First, he still had to shed his blood as the Passover Lamb; Second, he wanted all of us to join him around the table in his Father’s Kingdom.

Application:Are you looking forward to that banquet table? Many of us grew up in homes and families where people did not get along. You wish you could have one of those Norman Rockwell family get togethers with everyone around the dinner table. People in your family are at odds with each other over things that happened 30 years ago or 3 days ago. There is coming a day when all disagreements will be put aside and it will be the banquet of eternity! Will you be there? Only if you know Christ as your Savior.

There’s something more. Go back to verse 23“. . . the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you. . .” This bread was the unleavened Passover Bread. It commemorated the night of the Passover in Egypt when God told them not to waste any time to let the dough rise. Deuteronomy 16:3refers to it as “the bread of affliction.”Jesus did not give the typically explanation of the meaning of the bread but he changed its representation to himself and told them to eat it saying in verse 24 “. . . do this in remembrance of Me.” Why did he do this? Jesus was pointing back to Exodus 12:14 “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.” The memorial was not just for the first generation but for all generations. The Mishnah (Oral Torah) tells us how they understood the word “memorial” – “In each and every generation a person must view himself as though he personally left Egypt. . .” By the way, the name of the Rabbi who said that was Gamaliel, the mentor of Paul.

When Jesus told them to eat the bread and the bread was him and drink the cup and it was his blood, he was telling his disciples that they were sharing with him in his substitutionary existence. This does not mean that they were going to suffer and physically die along with him for their sins. They were only spiritually connected with him as he was dying for them. But, in the process, they were also dying. Same thing with the cup. By drinking, they were also sharing with him in his substitutionary existence. This does not mean that their physical blood was going to be shed for their sins. They were only spiritual connected with him as he was dying for them. But, in the process, they were also dying and being buried.

How does this apply to us? When Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me,” he wasn’t talking to just the first disciples. He was also speaking to us in every generation. Just like the Jewish Passover, where every person was to view himself/herself as if he/she personally left Egypt, when we partake of the Communion, we are to see ourselves sitting in the room 2000 years ago on the night before Jesus went to the cross. Listen to I Corinthians 10    16“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17For we, thoughmany, are one breadandone body; for we all partake of that one bread.”All this is to be done by faith.

Closing: There is no other religion like Christianity where the founder is connected beyond time to every person who has received him and every person who has received him is connected to each other. Baptism also does the same thing but it’s our individual identification with Christ and Communion is our corporate identification with Christ. Do you know Christ as your Savior and King? Are you connected with him right now?

Have You Received God’s Eternal Love?

HAVE YOU RECEIVED GOD’S ETERNAL LOVE? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

haveyoureceivedgod'seternalloveIntroduction: This morning is part 2 in our series – BEFORE THE MANGER: HOW CAN A BABY CHANGE MY LIFE? Today’s message is titled – “HAVE YOU RECEIVED GOD’S ETERNAL LOVE?”

Revelation 13   1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name…6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Overall Background: If there’s one book in the Bible that’s the most challenging to understand, it’s the Book of Revelation. There are as many views on this book as there are people reading it! I have studied this book for years and preached on it but I confess that there’s so much I still don’t know. But, in my opinion, the one theme that stands out over everything else in this book is this – “for every truth that God has given to us, Satan has tried to offer a counterfeit, especially when it comes to Jesus Christ.” In verse 8 we just read, people are worshiping the beast/Antichrist instead of the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” My purpose today is not to preach prophecy, maybe another time. My purpose is to tell you that Jesus Christ alone is the true Lamb of God. He is not some afterthought. He is not some last-ditch effort to rescue humanity. He is not some contingency plan drafted at the last minute to help us. Jesus was not brought in at the last moment as the ship was sinking. “Would you please be our lifeboat, our life jacket and save us?” Jesus was the “Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.”

Question: Who is Jesus to you? Is He just one of many ways to God or is He the Lamb of God? Is He just a good thing to have along with many other things or is He your only hope of salvation? Do you understand the eternal love of God for you and me even before time began? Are you saved?

Today we will try to understand the eternal love of God for us in Jesus Christ. First, we will see what a counterfeit looks like and then, we will see the true savior.

I. THE COUNTERFEIT SAVIOR 

Listen again to verse 1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. What exactly is going on here? First, what is this sea? Revelation 17:15 clarifies that “The waters which you saw, . . . are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” The sea is the “sea of humanity.” Out of the millions of faces in the sea of humanity there will rise the beast who will grow in prominence and power. Some think that this beast will be a religious organization. Others think it’ll be a king or a kingdom. Either way, the source of this beast will be this world. By the way, the source of Jesus is not this world. He made this world but He is from above.

Verse 2 “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” The Dragon of course is Satan who will offer the beast all this. Do you remember the last time Satan offered someone all the kingdoms of the world and authority and glory? It was to Jesus when He was fasting in the wilderness. Jesus refused but the beast will receive it. Verse 3 “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Do you see what’s happening here? Satan is creating a counterfeit savior! The beast will die and then he or it will be resurrected just like Jesus died on the cross but rose again on the third day. Verse 4 “So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” Just as God the Father receives the worship through God the Son, the devil will receive worship through the beast. Then he will blaspheme God and use charming words to draw people away from Christ and even war against God’s people and overcome them.

Verse 7 “And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” Who does that remind you of? Jesus! As He was taken up into heaven He said in Matthew 28 18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Now Satan is trying to counterfeit the glorified and ascended Christ. Will all this counterfeiting work? Verse 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him.” The world would rather worship the beast, the Antichrist, or the false Christ instead of Jesus Christ. But listen to the words following – “whose names have not been written in the Book of Life.”

Throughout the history of this world, Satan has been trying to counterfeit the true Savior. He tried with Cain by getting him to bring an offering of fruits and vegetables. He tried it with children of Israel by getting them to worship the golden calf. Satan is not interested in take us away from worship. He just wants us to worship some false substitute.

Application: Whom are you worshipping? Is it the counterfeit or is it the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world? The counterfeit doesn’t have to be a scary beast or Antichrist. It can be self. It can be religion. It can be a false idea or view of God. If it’s anything or anyone other than Christ, then you are lost?

II. THE TRUE SAVIOR 

Let’s go back to verse 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life.” Meaning: The names of true believers are in the Book of Life. Who does this book belong to? “the Book of Life of the Lamb.” Meaning: The rightful owner of this book is Jesus Christ. Why is He the rightful owner? “the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Because Jesus resolved to give His life for us even before He created this world. Yes – 2000 years ago Jesus died on a hill called Calvary outside a city called Jerusalem. But before there was a hill or a city or this earth or this universe, even before a single atom or molecule was even created, the work of redemption was as good as done. This is why in Ephesians Paul calls the salvation of God His “eternal purpose.” (Ephesians 3:11)

Since the beginning of time the world has been waiting for this Lamb to come. In the Old Testament the big question was “Where is the Lamb?”

  • Remember when Abraham was told in Genesis 22:2 “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” On the way there, Isaac asked his father in verse 7 “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” 9 “…And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.”…13Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The–LORD–Will–Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Jehovah Jireh literally means “Jehovah will see.” This was a foreshadow of the Lamb of God.
  • Remember in the Book of Exodus the Hebrews where in slavery in Egypt. In Exodus 2:24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. He sent Moses to redeem His people. Pharaoh kept hardening his heart and God sent one plague after another. Then came the final plague – death of every male firstborn. God told Moses in Exodus 12 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel… “…every man shall take for himself a lamb…5 Your lamb shall be without blemish…6…Then…kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses…” 23 For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike Just as God had told them, it happened. This was a foreshadow of the Lamb of God. In I Corinthians 5:7 Paul says, “…For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” So also Peter in I Peter 1 says 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…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.
  • In Isaiah 53 it says 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,

While the question in the Old Testament was “Where is the Lamb?” the answer in the New Testament was “Behold the Lamb.” John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Again in John 1:36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Everywhere Jesus went and everything He did He was allowing the people to examine Him and to see that He was indeed the spotless Lamb of God.

While the question in the Old Testament was “Where is the Lamb?” and the answer in the New Testament was “Behold the Lamb,” the focus in the rest of eternity will be “Worthy is the Lamb!” In the Book of Revelation 29 times Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God.

Revelation 5   11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

Will you part of those who praise Him? Do you know the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world? Are you saved

SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK

SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Sacrifice The Missing Link

This morning we are in the gospel of Matthew chapter 1 for our series on the life of Christ from all four Gospels. Today’s message is titled “SACRIFICE: THE MISSING LINK.” If there is one thing lacking in our culture today, it is sacrifice. We do what is expected of us and maybe a tad bit more but that’s it. Sadly, this is also true of many Christians. In today’s message we will see from the life of Joseph what true sacrifice looks like.

Matt. 1   18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

Overall Background: The passage we just read has been rejected and ridiculed by some people. They ask – “How can a virgin give birth? It is physically impossible. Miracles don’t happen.” Richard Dawkins, a self-proclaimed atheist, said, “The Virgin birth, the resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.” In other words, miracles like the virgin birth are for the naïve and uninformed. A German NT scholar Gerd Lüdemann, who does not believe in miracles, put it in a witty and terse statement: “The tomb was full and the manger empty.”

How do you convince people like them that miracles are possible? The place to begin is by asking, “Do you believe in God?” If you can believe that there is a God who created nature, then you can also believe that nature is subjected to Him. Miracles are simply nature being subjected to its Creator. He can do whatever He wants to. Not only did God perform the miracle of the virgin birth but He is still in the miracle working business. Do you believe that? He is still healing the sick, answering prayers, making the impossible possible, and the greatest miracle of all – changing a sinner’s heart.

According to the Pew Research in 2013, 73% of Americans believe in the Virgin Birth.

But there is another issue in this passage that often gets overlooked – it is sacrifice. In this passage we come across Joseph – an unsuspecting spectator who became part of the greatest drama in history. Like Mary, he too had to sacrifice his reputation, comfort, and goals in life for the coming of Jesus. Sadly, we’re living in a time when people cut corners, do the minimum, play it safe, and bailout early. More sadly, it is even among Christians.

Application: Would you describe yourself as a selfish or as a sacrificial person? Even better, would others describe you? How will people describe you when you’re gone? “He always got his way.” “She always got what she wanted.” If someone compels you to go a mile, do you go two? If someone tried to take away your tunic, do you also let them have your cloak? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ? Are you willing to lay down your life so that someone else may find Jesus Christ? By the way, have you truly understood the sacrifice that Jesus made for you on the cross? Until you do, your standards of sacrifice will be too low.

This morning as we look at the example of Joseph, let the Holy Spirit challenge you to sacrifice your life for others. If you do not know Jesus Christ, receive His sacrifice for your sins today.

1. HE SHOWED MERCY WHEN HE DIDN’T HAVE TO.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

Background: Mary was pregnant and Joseph her fiancé was not the father. This was not good. The penalty for adultery according to the Old Testament was death by stoning but the Romans had abolished all Jewish capital punishments. The worst they could do was divorce, public humiliation, and shunning. Mary would probably never marry again. She could live in the community but as a pariah. Also keep in mind that she was Nazareth, a tiny community of 150-200 people at the time, mostly of priestly lineage, the holier than thou. Do you remember Nathaniel’s remark to Philip – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Even Jesus felt their hate when He came to teach in their synagogue. In Matthew 13 they said, 55 “Is this not the carpenter’s son? (They did not even deem it worthy to use Joseph’s name.) Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. Mark 6:6 even adds, “And He (Jesus) marveled because of their unbelief.” Even God was shocked at their hateful and unbelieving spirit.

So you can only imagine what Mary was up against in Nazareth. They would have looked down on her, shunned her, called her names, and Joseph - a just mandone every evil behavior imaginable to her. Joseph could give her a public divorce and cleared his name but he decided to put her away quietly. I can imagine his family and his friends telling him, “Joseph, she isn’t worth it. Why are you staking your reputation over her? People will think – you did it. Make it public. Let her suffer. Let her be an example.”

Application: If you were Joseph, what would you have done? Would you have listened to the crowd? Would you have publicly humiliated Mary? Or, would you have compassion on her? It is natural to look down on others and judge them. The first step to a life of sacrifice is to do what doesn’t come naturally. That’s what God did for us.

2. HE BELIEVED WHEN IT WAS HARD TO.

20 “But while he thought about these things…” What is Joseph thinking? I know I can leave this girl and move on with my life. No one is going to blame me but what will this do to her? How does God want me to handle this? Will He be pleased by my decision?

Application: Do you think about what God wants you to do? Do you think about the decisions you make? Do you think about how your decisions impact the lives of others?

NativityAs he was thinking – 20 “…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Now, let me clarify – by Virgin birth, we’re not talking about the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity or the Assumption:

  • Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This idea was an invention of the medieval church and even the Catholic Church did not recognize it until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. It is not a biblical doctrine.
  • Perpetual Virginity or “aieparthenos” teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. This idea has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century. It is not a biblical doctrine either.
  • Assumption of Mary teaches that Mary was taken up into heaven before she died. It is also not a biblical doctrine. Neither is the Dormition of Mary that teaches that Mary died and after three days she rose again.

By Virgin birth, we are referring to the virginal conception. It simply means that Mary became pregnant with the baby Jesus without any relationship with any man. It was a miracle of the Holy Spirit. Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? To prove that He was sinless, to prove that He was both fully God and fully man, to prove that He came through the Holy Spirit, to be a sign as prophesied by Isaiah. Someone asked me – “Do you have to understand the virgin birth to be saved?” No – the thief didn’t know it. But if someone were to explain it to you as a Christian, you better believe it.

What was Joseph’s reaction? 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, Joseph could have dismissed the dream and gone about his life but he submitted himself to God’s plan. Many times we cannot understand God’s plan. We want to take the easy way out but there’s so much peace in trusting God’s plan. It is a sacrifice that is worth it.

Illustration: Dad refusing to go to the big church in order to take the small church in an obscure part of the country. Why? Because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Application: How would you have responded to that vision? Would have taken God at His Word? Would you have taken the narrow road? There’s so much joy in saying – “not my will but Your’s be done.” The buck stops with the Word of God.

3. HE STAYED WHEN HE COULD HAVE BAILED OUT.

25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Background: We read that verse so quickly without thinking of it. The angel had commanded Joseph in verse 21 And she will bring forth aJoseph naming baby Son, and you (Joseph) shall call His name JESUS (Yahweh is salvation)…” Joseph could have hung out until Mary had the baby and then slipped out. It’s too much. It’s not what I signed up for. He had to stick around and give this baby who was not His own, the birthright of being the first-born.

People like to say – “I’m just not going to promise anything. That way, if I don’t show up, you can’t blame me for it.”

Application: Do you sacrifice for your family, church family, lost, and others?

We can never sacrifice too much. Jesus did that!

Do you know Him? Have you received His sacrifice for your sins?

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