Love is Liberating by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS LIBERATING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Love is LiberatingIntroduction:  If you keep up with politics, I’m sure you’ve heard of Congressman Sam Johnson from Plano, Texas. He has served in the House since 1991 and will be retiring next year. He is an Air Force Veteran and a POW in Vietnam for 7 years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” also known as “Hell’s Hole.” In recalling his experience, he said, “Starvation, isolation and torture were constant companions. There was no news from home, and the enemy worked hard to make us feel alone and forgotten.” He describes one of the torture treatments – “I could recall nothing from military survival training that explained the use of a meat hook suspended from the ceiling…During a routine torture session…the Vietnamese tied a prisoner’s hands and feet, then bound his hands to his ankles—sometimes behind the back, sometimes in front. The ropes were tightened to the point that you couldn’t breathe. Then, bowed or bent in half, the prisoner was hoisted up onto the hook to hang by ropes. Guards would return at intervals to tighten them until all feeling was gone, and the prisoner’s limbs turned purple and swelled to twice their normal size. This would go on for hours, sometimes even days on end.” The torture and malnutrition made Johnson stoop-shouldered and mangled his right arm, besides a cracked back and broken arm when his plane went down. After 42 months in a dark solitary cell with rats and filth, he was finally released and he remembers the sweet embrace of his wife Shirley and their three kids. He said, “I got through those hellish years by the grace and mercy of God.” Our final message in this series on love is titled, “LOVE IS LIBERATING.” There’s no true love in hate-filled, torture like environments. True love flourishes where there is true freedom.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: At the heart of all the problems in the Corinthian Church was the problem of love. They didn’t know how to love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to teach them how to love each other the way Christ loves us. In today’s message, you will see that Christ never exposes, never suspects, never discourages, and never threatens.

Question: How do you love people? Do you at times expose the weaknesses and failures of the ones you love? Do you constantly suspect and doubt the ones you love? Do you discourage and steal hope from the ones you love? Do you give up on or threaten the ones you love? Are you saved? Have you truly experienced the love of God in Christ?

Let’s look at the words in Greek: The first is “love bears all things.” The Greek word for bears is “stegei.” It comes from the noun “stegei,” which means “roof.” I’m sure the Corinthians knew what this word meant. Archaeologists have found evidence that by the 7th century BC the temples and houses in Corinth had started replacing thatched roofs with fired tiles. Why? Because thatched roofs were a huge fire hazard, especially in a growing city like Corinth. These tiles were heavy, weighing about 60 plus pounds but they were durable, long-lasting, and protective from the rain, sun, heat, snow, and cold. The word “stegei” took on the idea of covering, sheltering, protecting, keeping out, and keeping in. When Paul says, “love bears all,” he is really saying, “love always covers and never exposes.” Meaning: Love does not find pleasure in exposing others to harshness. Love does not get joy in watching the other person squirm in fear or shame. In the Corinthian culture, it might have been okay to expose your enemy but not in Christianity.

Application: Do you cover people or do you expose people? In the Greco-Roman world, sometimes when the renters would not pay on time, the landlords would remove the front door or even strip off the tiles from the roof. Does that sound familiar? Someone is bound to say, “Are you suggesting we hide someone’s sin?” No. I’m simply saying what Peter also said in I Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Even though Peter uses a different word for “cover” than roof, the idea is the same. Love does not get pleasure out of exposing the other person but wants to help them in their moment of weakness and shame.

The second statement: “Love believes all things.” The Greek word for “believes” is “pisteuei,” which has the idea of trust in others. Again, the Corinthian culture was very competitive and status seeking. They were constantly striving to get ahead of one another by whatever means necessary. You always had to watch your back. Unfortunately, this mindset of distrust and suspicion had also entered the church. Even Christians didn’t trust each other. When Paul tells them “loves believes all things,” he was really saying, “love does not live in the zone of perpetual suspicion but is willing to trust others. It is the foundation of all relationships.”

Illustration: When God called me into the ministry, I went to Nicole’s dad and he helped me with my decision. I asked him if he would also help me find a good seminary. He took me to one. On the way, he told me that one of his good friends was a pastor nearby and he wanted to come visit with us. That sounded fine to me. This man came and after they caught up, he turned to me and began telling me how terrible people were and how they would stab me in the back and how they could not be trusted. He spent the next hour or two emotionally vomiting. I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t naïve about church ministry. My dad was a pastor and still is. But I didn’t know how to take what he had just told me. After he left, Nicole’s dad said to me, “Don’t pay attention to anything he said. He must be going through some mess. Without trust, you cannot minister to people.”

Here’s the point: If you constantly operate as some kind of a KGB agent, always frisking people, always looking over your shoulder, always questioning their motives, you will never be able to love people. Your relationships will always be sporadic, seasonal, and short lived. By the way, get used to the idea that people will fail you. They will break your trust. If I may add, many times, people will rise or fall to the level of your expectations. If you keeping suspecting them, they will become suspicious. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, there’s no true love.

The third statement: “love hopes all things.” The Greek word for “hopes” is “elpidzei,” which has the idea of expectation and wish. People often confuse faith with hope. They are related but they are not the same. They are related in the sense that they are both looking to something that is invisible and unprovable. But they are different because just a few verses later Paul says in verse 13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” What is the difference between faith and hope? Faith is what you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is what you can’t see but you are looking for. If faith is the foundation that you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is the window through which you are looking for what you can’t see yet.

Illustration: In the past few years, the Robertson family from West Munroe, Louisiana has become a household name. You’ve heard of their show – “Duck Commander.” They came from very humble background through some very difficult times. In the book “Duck Commander Family,” Willie Robertson writes this in the prolog: “The dinner table is where I learned to follow my dreams. This is where Dad told us he was going to start Duck Commander, and where I told my family I was getting married and heading off to college. Our hopes and aspirations were never shot down, never debated, only encouraged. We might have been eating fried bologna at the time because that was all we could afford, but there was hope that one day we would be feasting on a big fat rib-eye steak.” Would you agree that they are loving family? Would you agree that their hope has become more than a reality?

Here’s the point: You can have all the covering and all the trust but if you don’t have hope, you will shrivel and die. When a marriage loses hope, when a friendship loses hope, when a church loses hope, when a community loses hope, when a nation loses hope, it is the beginning of the end of love.

Application: Are you a hope giver or are you a hope stealer? Do you open the windows to your loved ones’ dreams and goals or do you lock them up like Congressman Sam Johnson in a dark, hopeless prison cell?

The fourth and final statement: “love endures all things.” The Greek word for “endures” is “hupomenei,” which carries the idea of being patient, remaining, and enduring. In other words, “love does not give up, doesn’t run out when things get tough.” In a transient culture like the Corinthians, when things didn’t work out with one person, move on to the next. If it doesn’t work out again, move on to the next. You don’t have to take anyone’s mess. How do we know this? Think about the different groups in the Corinthian church. I Corinthians 1   12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? The Corinthians had moved from one group to another when things didn’t work out with one.

Let me clarify: There are times when you may have to cut relationships because of physical or mental/emotional abuse. Having said, we need to learn to bear with others and their faults and failures. Listen carefully: When you love somebody, be prepared to be hurt. Hurting people will hurt people. But if you drop them, they will never get the chance to heal. In your marriage, family, church family, community, neighborhood, and workplace, you will come across people that you have to be patient with.

Application: Are you willing to endure? Are you willing to look over their failures and hang-ups? Are you willing to cut others some slack?

How can you have this kind of love? First, understand how God loves you. Remember, you can substitute Christ for every time love is mentioned in this verse – “Christ bears all things, Christ believes all things, Christ hopes all things, Christ endures all things. Christ never fails.” Second, understand how to love people. Begin today by setting people free. Think of yourself as a prison warden with keys to 4 cells:

  • Cell #1 Exposure (Remember, love covers all. Let the inmates know that you will always cover them.)
  • Cell #2 Suspicion (Remember, love trusts others. Let the inmates know that you will never doubt them.)
  • Cell #3 Pessimism (Remember, love gives hope. Let the inmates know that you see a bright day in the future.)
  • Cell #4 Threats (Remember, love endures all. Let the inmates know that you will never give up on them.)

True love will being to flow when you set the captives free.

Are you free? Are people in your life free? Are you saved

The Battle of the Christian Life

THE BATTLE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

thebattleofthechristianlifeIn honor of Veteran’s Day, I’m preaching a message titled “The Battle of the Christian Life.” 4 passages we will read from 1st and 2nd Timothy.

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

2 Timothy 2   3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

2 Timothy 4 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Overall Background: The passages we just read come from 2 letters that Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith. What stands out to me in these letters is Paul’s use of the battle imagery to describe the Christian life. Repeatedly, Paul reminds Timothy to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ and to fight the good fight. This is contrary to what we hear today – “Get saved and all will work out!” or “Start living for God and you will know exactly what to do.” Paul doesn’t paint this rosy picture. Instead, he challenges Timothy that the Christian life is anything but easy. It’s warfare and only those who are committed to fight to the end will receive the crown of righteousness.

Here’s a statement: Christian life is the battle and every Christian (man or woman, boy or girl) is a soldier. We enlist the moment we get saved. Unfortunately, many go AWOL, retreat, or become a casualty. Very few fight the good fight and finish well.

Question: Are you fighting the good fight of faith? Are you a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Will you finish well? Will you receive the crown of righteousness? What would your fellow soldiers say about you? Are you saved?

4 things about this Battle of the Christian Life:

I. IT’S NOT “A” BATTLE BUT “THE” BATTLE.

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

Background: What is interesting to me is that every time Paul mentions the Christian warfare, he does not call it “a” warfare but “the” warfare. In other words, it’s not one of many warfares in life but the only real warfare. Many times people think that life is a series of battles – battle between me and my spouse or me and my children or me and the neighbors or me and my coworkers or me and the world or me and the Devil. Basically, there’s only one battle – it’s the battle you have within yourself. You win this battle and the rest will work out. How do we know that this is an internal battle? Listen to the next verse – that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience.” What you are fighting towards is “faith” referring to the apostolic faith and “good conscience” referring to daily holiness before God. In other words, daily you and I have to fight a battle within as to what we believe about Jesus and how we deal with sin. Paul says it a little differently in 1 Timothy 6:12 but it has the same idea – “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” Not that you are fighting to gain eternal life but you are fighting to recover what is rightfully yours.

What happens when you lose this battle?Which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.” When we lose this internal daily battle, our lives look like a shipwreck, a total disaster. Paul even gives the names of two individuals who lost this battle – 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. In other words, Paul says – “I’ve left them behind enemy lines because they seem to like it better over there. Hopefully, they’ll learn their lesson.

Listen carefully – Unfortunately, many Christians are naïve about this battle of the Christian Life. They wander around on the battlefield of life as if walking on a beach, busy putting on sunscreen, building sandcastles, picking up seashells, taking selfies, and riding the waves. They don’t realize that daily they are under attack. They don’t put on the whole armor of God. They don’t fight the good fight. They don’t resist the enemy. No wonder there is so many causalities!

Application: Do you realize that you are in a battle? Are you winning or are you losing this battle? What do you believe about Jesus? Is He real to you? Can you see Him everyday? How is your sin life? Are you back in your old ways?

II. IT’S NOT “EVIL” BUT “GOOD” BATTLE.

When we think of battle/warfare, it immediately brings up a negative imagery. Bombs going off, people getting shot, blood splattering everywhere, soldiers losing their arms and legs, homes blowing up, children crying. As someone said, “War is hell.” I did a wedding this weekend and we had the opportunity to meet a wonderful couple from England, friends of the Mahlers. They loved history just like us and they were telling us about a tour they took to Belgium where one of the battles of World War 1 was fought. They were telling us about this one battlefield where as many as 50,000 British troops died in just one day. They told us how they went to the graveyard where these soldiers were buried and how sad and heartbreaking this was. In fact, they are still finding bodies from some of those trenches.

Many of us don’t realize the sacrifice that our men and women in uniform pay for our freedom. Every day should be Veteran’s Day.

But unlike earthly battles that are evil, Paul uses the adjective “good” to describe the Christian battle? 1 Timothy 1:18 “wage the good warfare”; 1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith”; 2 Timothy 2:3 “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”; 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight.”

Background: The word “good” comes from the Greek “kalos,” which has the idea of beautiful, praiseworthy, beneficial, without defect, and high standard.

Here’s the point: The battles of this life can be bad, evil, dishonoring, and shameful, but the battle of the Christian life is always good, always beautiful, always praiseworthy, and always beneficial. God looks down with a smile when He sees us contending for the faith and striving to maintain a good conscience before Him.

  • It pleases God when we grow in our faith in Jesus.
  • It pleases God when we learn more about Jesus.
  • It pleases God when we obey Jesus.
  • It pleases God when we lift up the name of Jesus.
  • It pleases God when we walk in holiness.
  • It pleases God when we preserve our testimony.
  • It pleases God when we leave a godly legacy to our children and grandchildren.

Application: Which warfare are you fighting this morning? Is it good and pleasing to God? How do you see the battle of the Christian life? Can you say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight”? Is it bringing glory to God?

III. IT’S NOT JUST A “PRIVATE” BATTLE BUT A “COMMON STRUGGLE.”

Background: Just when we think Christianity is just my private struggle with my faith and conscience, Paul reminds Timothy that his calling and confession were not in private but in the presence of many witnesses. Listen to I Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Here Paul reminds Timothy that he was not alone in this battle. In fact, there were many witnesses who watched him when he enlisted. He is referring to Timothy’s conversion and baptism.

The tendency among many Christians is to live our Christian lives in isolation from others. We like to do our own thing. Give me my Bible and my notepad or ipad and I’m good. This was never meant to be this way. It’s like going into battle by yourself. You would get shot and hurt and no one would be there to help you. So also in the Christian battle, we don’t go about by ourselves.

Yes, community is messy and many times the overall outcome may appear to be slow and shallow but this has always been God’s way, in the Old Testament and the New. There is great encouragement in seeing other soldiers who have fought the same battle before you and won. There is a great encouragement is seeing other soldiers struggling with the same hills that you are trying to capture.

Application: Are you a lone ranger or are you fighting with your regiment? Do you look at others in the Body as a hurdle or as help in fighting the battle of the Christian life? Do you realize that you have a part to play in the battle of other Christians around you?

IV. IT’S NOT BATTLE “TO” VICTORY BUT BATTLE “FROM” VICTORY.

2 Timothy 4 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Background: There is something very rich in that passage. Even though Paul is challenging Timothy to fight the good fight and to follow his example in fighting the good fight, he doesn’t want Timothy to forget that the battle has already been won. Jesus, when He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave on the third day, He did two things for us – He broke the power of sin and He took the sting out of death.

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

I Corinthians 15 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:15 “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Romans 8 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Old Illustration: D-day (June 6, 1944) and VE-day (May 9, 1945).

Application: Do you understand what all this means? We are not fighting to win but we have already won. Are you living in victory? Do you realize who you are in Christ?

Are you winning the battle of the Christian life?

Are you saved

 

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