Canon by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Last month, June 2021, an Italian artist named Salvatore Garau put up a sculptor at an auction titled “lo Sono,” meaning “I am.” He set the opening bid between $6000 to $9000. Only problem was that it was an invisible piece. According to Garau, “The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has a weight…Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us.” People laughed about it. Some put pictures online of their invisible pieces. Believe it or not, someone bought it for $18,300! Here’s where the story takes a turn. Couple of days ago, Tom Miller, a Florida-based performance artist, claimed that Garau stole his idea. Back in 2016, he had assembled an invisible piece titled “Nothing” over 5 days. Miller has hired an attorney. How does this connect with our message in our series titled “CONTEND?” Just because you believe it, it doesn’t make it right. Main point: The Bible is not one person’s imagination of truth and reality. It is a collection of God’s words through various individuals in various times and in various ways regarding one thing – the coming of his son. Jesus is God’s son who came as a real historical person in a real historical place and time to fulfill God’s promise of salvation for all humanity.

Hebrews 1      1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Context: What a powerful declaration of the special revelation of God through the ages! If you remember the chart I have created, so far, we worked up. The Scriptures are authoritative because they were inspired by God and hence inerrant. They were inspired because they were the special revelation of God. Now, we need to work down. Because the scriptures were authoritative, they were affirmed as canonical by the church. The Old Testament canon was already set before the New Testament was written and the New Testament canon was affirmed by the church in due time. Of course, there are certain questions that have been raised regarding canonicity. Here are some questions that we received in our survey:

  • Why are there more books in certain Bibles?
  • Is there any value in the books that have not been included?
  • Isn’t the process of canonization similar to other religions?

In answering these questions, I want us to compare the biblical canon to the Buddhist canon. In other words, how do the Buddhist religious books compare to the Bible.

  1. Main Character:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

  • Buddha or Word of the Buddha
  • There was one – Siddhartha Gautama from Northern India in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. He was a prince. For various reasons, his father would not let him venture out of the palace. He did not know what suffering was. He was married and had a child. One day, at the age of 29, he asked his charioteer to take him for a ride. On the way, he was exposed to “Four Sights” – an old man, a sick man, and a funeral procession. In other words, he was exposed to suffering. The fourth sight was a Hindu sadhu who seemed very peaceful. He decided to become one and left his wife and son. This was the “Great Renunciation.” He went searching for the truth and even tried to scourge himself. Finally, at age 35, he sat under a pipal tree to meditate. All night, he fought against the evil tempter Mara. As a result, he experienced enlightenment and the path to the end of suffering.
  • This path begins with 4 Noble Truths: 1. Existence is suffering (dukkha) 2. Suffering is caused by desire (tanha). 3. Liberation (nirvana) from suffering and desire is possible. 4. The Eightfold path is the way to escape – right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Basically, they are morality, concentration, and wisdom.
  • After this he gained some disciples and began preaching his way to enlightenment.
  • Basically, his teachings were rooted in Hinduism, Jainism, and other ancient religions. There was a lot of focus on suffering, meditation, and following wise teachers. Karma was again important. The goal was to progress through the reincarnation cycles and escape to Nirvana. Unlike Hinduism, which focuses on coming back in the next life, Buddhism focuses on the continuation of pure karma from one life to another.
  • But, there were many other Buddhas. Their common teachings together are the buddhavacana or the word of the Buddha. This is the essence of the eternal Dharma or teachings.

B. Bible

  • From start to finish, the Bible is about Jesus. Listen again to Hebrews 1 2 “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…”
  • That’s why when Jesus began his ministry, he said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” After he rose from the grave, he met some of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
  1. Canon:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

  • There are 3 canons based on the three main traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Theravada (way of the elders) claims to be the earliest and closest to the early Buddhist community. It is found in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Kampuchea).
  • Mahayana began around the time of Christ and spread from India to China, Korea, and Japan. It claims to be superior to Theravada. Unlike the Indian focus on nirvana, the Chinese and Japanese focus was more on enlightenment.
  • The Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana came in the 7th century to Tibet, and it is found in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. It is more focused on Indian tantric practices. These include mudras (physical postures), mantras (magical phrases), calling on ghosts, demons, and territorial spirits. Their leader is the Dalai Lama, who is considered to be a reincarnation of the previous 13 Dalai Lamas and is believed to be connected to Buddha.
  • Based on the 3 traditions, there are 3 different canons:

#1. Theravada – Pali Canon which has the Tripitaka (3 baskets) containing Buddha’s teachings, monastic codes, and philosophical analysis. They were passed down orally and finally penned 400 years later and agreed upon 500 more years later. This is much larger than the Bible, 11 times. This is how the Ajanta and Ellora Caves came to be. They were places for monks to study, work, and meditate.

#2. Mahayana – It has the Pali canon and many more which it considers to be superior. It has about 100,000 pages in printed form. They are like libraries. This where the Lotus Sutra comes in, if you’ve heard of it.

#3. Tibetan – part of the Mahayana tradition and other texts.

  • Buddhism has also spread to the west. It is heavily influenced by Japanese Buddhism and a new kind of Buddhism is emerging. It is a buffet style Buddhism, which tinkers with Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, even Jodo (pure land) Buddhism.

B. Bible

  • Old Testament – 4 Canons (Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox)
  • Jewish – The traditional number of books is 24. Referred to as Mikra (that which is read) or Tanakh [T, N, K = Torah (instruction/law), Nevi’im (prophets), Kethuvim (writings)]
  • Protestant – The traditional number of the books is 39. It retains the order of the LXX but the text is based on the Hebrew Bible.
  • Roman Catholic – The traditional number of books is 49. It is based on the Alexandrian canon of the LXX. The order of books varies. It is based on current editions, such as the Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible. The appendix of the Latin Vulgate contains 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasseh.
  • Orthodox – The traditional number of the books is 53. It is based on larger versions of the LXX. “Orthodox” here refers to the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches (the Slavonic Bible being the traditional text). In Orthodox Bibles, 4 Maccabees and the Prayer of Manasseh-and in Slavonic, 3 Esdras are in an appendix.
  • The extra books found in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons are not part of the Jewish canon. According to Josephus, the 24 were it for the Jewish canon.
  • The Essenes from Qumran only cite from the Jewish canonical books and only wrote commentaries on them.
  • Philo (20BC – 40AD) the Jewish scholar only cites from the canonical books. So also, the NT authors stick to the canonical books. Jude quotes from 1 Enoch but it was not claimed to be canonical.
  • The extra books were added by the RC and Orthodox as important to certain Jewish people.
  • The New Testament canon of 27 books have remained the same throughout. The ones claimed recently are gnostic heretical books.
  1. Purpose (Adapted from Thane Hutcherson Ury)
A. Buddhist Religious Books B. Bible
1.    No personal god 1.    God wants us to know him.
2.    History is cyclical. No creation 2.    History is linear. Yes, creation
3.    Main problem is suffering 3.    Main problem is sin
4.    Salvation is from inside 4.    Salvation is from above
5.    Ultimate goal is Nirvana 5.    Ultimate goal is relationship with God
6.    It all happened under a tree 6.    It all happened on a tree
7.    No judgment 7.    Day appointed for judgment
8.    No life after death 8.    Eternal Life
9.    Be lamps to yourself 9.    Shine the light of Jesus
10.Without Buddha, still Buddhism 10.No Christianity without Christ

3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. The writer then goes on to compare Jesus to the Torah, Moses, the Promised Land, the priests, Melchizedek, the sacrifices, and the covenant.

Invitation: Who would you rather trust? Someone who imagined or someone who has been promised and who came in definite time and place and fulfilled that promise? Are you saved? Do you know Jesus as your Savior and King?

Misstep by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Have you ever been startled? I was one time when I was working late night security and the big AC unit came on behind the gym and scared me to death. When people are deathly afraid, they stop thinking. I have seen ladies climb on top of dining tables to get away from a tiny mouse! In our series through 1 Peter, we have been going through a miniseries called ONE MIND where Peter is reminding the believers to be united and not give in to fear. Main point: Healthy fear keeps us in step, but unhealthy fear causes us to misstep. When we are faced with the unfamiliar, it can drive us to isolation and even temporarily block our ability to reason. In such moments, we need those who will breathe godly courage back into our lives.

1 Peter 3:10 “For ‘he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.’”

Context: In exhorting the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor to be of one mind and not turn against each other, Peter quoted from Psalm 34. As we have done throughout this series through 1 Peter, every time Peter quoted from the Old Testament, we went to that passage in the Old Testament and spend some time studying it. We’re going to do the same thing here. We’re going to spend some time in Psalm 34. This psalm begins with a short title that says, “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” At one time, scholars doubted these titles, but more and more now think that they are original. So, what is the context of Psalm 34? To understand the context of Psalm 34, we have to go to 1 Samuel 21    12 “Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.” What an unflattering picture of the giant killer, the anointed king, the man after God’s own heart, and the sweet psalmist of Israel! What would cause someone like David to act like this? Short answer, FEAR. To understand the long answer, we have to dig a little deeper, starting in chapters 17 through 20. In just 4 chapters, David had gone from being the most loved man in Israel to being the most wanted man in Israel:

  • Chapter 17 – David killed Goliath with a slingshot and saved the armies of Saul. Instantly, he was a hero in Israel; but this was no big deal for him since he had already killed a lion and a bear and rescued a lamb of his flock from its mouth.
  • Chapter 18 – David gained the favor of Saul who wouldn’t let him go back home. In fact, Jonathan, Saul’s son, and David became best friends. In time, David even began to lead the armies for Saul against the Philistines with great success, and the saying was, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Unfortunately, Saul began to eye David with envy. He even tried to have him married off to his daughter so he could control him. Sadly, God had left Saul, but he was with David. Saul knew that and he even tried to kill David with a spear.
  • Chapter 19 – Jonathan tried to convince his father that David was loyal to him, which helped for a little while but not for long.
  • Chapter 20 – Saul was once again after killing David. At first, Jonathan didn’t believe David, but he realized very quickly that it was true when his father even tried to kill him. This is where that incident took place where Jonathan and David made a covenant with each other in the field. It says in 1 Samuel 20:42 “Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’ ” So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.
  • For the first time, David must have felt truly isolated. So, he went to the man of God. 1 Samuel 21:1 “Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest.” Keep in mind that he was the great grandson of Eli the high priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, ‘Why are you alone, and no one is with you?’” The word for afraid in Hebrew is “charad,” which means to be terrified or trembling. Of course, he must have heard about the feud between Saul and David, but more is going on here. In 1 Samuel 2, God had pronounced a curse on the house of Eli because he would not discipline his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. 31 “Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever.” David must have looked like the grim reaper to Ahimelech.

Illustration: After my dad converted from Islam to Christianity, he went to a mainline church in his hometown and asked them to baptize him. They knew who he was. His father was the police commissioner. They asked him if it was because of a girl. When he gave his testimony, they refused to baptize him because of fear.

What was the impact on David? 1 Samuel 21:2 So David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ Important principle: When you are around someone who is full of fear, unless you are strong, it will jump on you.

Let me talk about fear for a moment. What is fear? Researchers are still unsure. Suomi and Harlow – Is it an emotional state? Is it a motivational force? Can it be perceived as a stimulus? Kahoe notes that it often gets confused with anger, anxiety, and phobia, but there is a difference: “Anger incites attack against a threatening object, fear incites withdrawal. Fear relates to an identifiable object or event; anxiety is interpreted as free-floating apprehension and probably incorporates other emotions with fear. Normal fear addresses a realistic danger, phobia a relatively persistent and irrational fear.”

Some research done on rhesus monkeys has helped us understand how fear works. By the way, I don’t believe that we are descended from monkeys. I believe that we are designed by the same creator. We can see some patterns regarding how fear works. Suomi and Harlow concluded that fear is both inherited and acquired. A certain amount of fear is actually good and healthy and it bonds us to our loved ones and “enhances an existing social relationship.” On the other hand, “too much exposure to fear stimuli too often can have undesirable consequences.”

What happens when someone has intense fear? It can sabotage his/her perception, thinking, and motor processes (From Kahoe). When a person is in a state of fear, they want to comprehend and escape at the same time. Their adrenalin starts rushing. Sometimes, overprediction can lead to phobias and panic attacks. In the short run, this can help you adapt to your surroundings, but, in the long run, it can lead to dysfunctions.

While David was talking to the priest and getting some bread from him, he noticed from the corner of his eye that one of Saul’s henchman was there, an Edomite named Doeg. Now things began to spiral downwards for him. 8 And David said to Ahimelech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” 9 So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.” 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. Now, he took the Enemy’s weapon and made the foolish choice to head to the Enemy’s territory. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. This was where he began to act like he had lost his mind. His performance was so convincing that Achish said to his servants – 14 “…Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

That’s how the Enemy works. When we allow him to infiltrate our mind, he turns the very words that once brought courage to us to bring fear into our lives. He humiliates us in the presence of all and makes us a laughing stock.

Application: Have you been infected by fear? Is the Enemy having a heyday with you?

What did David do? Like the Prodigal Son, he came to himself. 1 Samuel 22      1 “David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.” These were giant killers. One killed 300 at one time with a spear. Three of them crossed behind enemy line and brought water for David from Bethlehem. One killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day. The wrong companions had to go so the right companions could come to David.

How is this connected to 1 Peter? Peter wanted the believers in Asia Minor to be of one mind with each other. Together, they would be a mighty army for God.

Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 1 John 4     18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

Application: How do you handle fear? Who are you surrounded by? Are you saved?

Greater Plan by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER PLAN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: When the kids were young, sometimes they would enjoy helping me in the yard, some more than others. It would start out with a lot of excitement until they got tired, bored, or hot. Then, they would go back in the house to get a snack or a drink, and I wouldn’t see them after that. Although they would genuinely help me, I always knew that the bulk of the work was going to be on me. In the evening, we would get ice-cream to celebrate, it was not just for “my” work but “our” work. As you know, we’re in our series on 1 Peter and we now come to verse 10. Main point: When the trials of life become too distressing, you have to remember that you are simply a small part of God’s greater plan. In other words, when doubts arise as to where life is headed and what God is doing, tether yourself to God’s eternal plan of salvation through Christ. It began before you and it will continue to those after you. Here’s the best part – If you suffer with Christ, you will also share with him in glory. The title is “GREATER PLAN.”

1 Peter 1:10 “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.”

Context: Here Peter was talking about the salvation of the pilgrims of the dispersion in Asia Minor. These were Jewish background and Gentile background believers in the Anatolian peninsula, modern day Turkey, who were facing persecution in the form of ostracization and rejection by their own families and community. This was all because they had received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Peter encouraged them to rejoice (aggalion = exultant joy, shouting joy) knowing that God was testing their faith and purifying them through their trials. He also reminded them to keep their eyes on Jesus Christ, whom they had not seen historically but they loved him and whom they could not see presently but they trusted him. As they loved and trusted Jesus through their trials, his invisible presence became visible and filled their hearts with joy inexpressible and full of glory. Not only that, but they also received the assurance that they would receive the end of their faith—the salvation of their souls.

Application: As you’re going through your trials, how is your love for Jesus? Do you take the time to think on his earthly ministry? Does your heart overflow with love for him? Are you trusting him every day? Do you take the time to reflect on his heavenly ministry right now? Does your heart take on new courage and strength knowing that he is with you? Do you have the assurance of your salvation? Are you saved?

Peter was not through. Since he brought up the subject of their salvation, he wanted them to understand how privileged they were in the whole course of salvation history, God’s greater plan. Listen again to 1 Peter 1:10 “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.” Which prophets was Peter talking about? The Old Testament prophets. They inquired (ekzeitein) and searched carefully (eraunein). When those words are used in the context of discovering divine will, they have a very deliberate and meditative meaning. In other words, this was not just some side hobby or idle pursuit. They were very intense and intentional in their search:

  • We could start with Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people. In Genesis 20:7, God called him a prophet. Did he inquire and search carefully? Jesus said in John 8:56“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
  • How about Moses? He said in Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.” When Jesus began his ministry, people began to make the connection with what Moses had said – John 6:14 “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’”

By the way, their search was not about the nature of his coming but about the timing of his coming. Listen to 1 Peter 1:11 “searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” The phrase “searching what, or what manner of time” should be read as “what time or what sort of time.” They knew what the Christ would do when he came; their question was “when?”:

  • Listen to David in Psalm 22 15 “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. 16 For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet…18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” No confusion there about how the Christ would suffer!
  • Also, listen to Isaiah 53     5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 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.” Again, no confusion here regarding how the Christ would suffer.
  • I don’t have time to bring up the rest of the prophets. Listen to Peter in his sermon from Solomon’s porch in the temple in Acts 3:24 “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.” The point is that the suffering of Christ was no afterthought. It was well understood. Their question was “when?”

Who was prompting this questioning? The “Spirit of Christ” = The Holy Spirit. By the way, this timing question became even more intense as it got closer to his coming:

  • Isaiah 6:11 “Then I said, ‘Lord, how long?’”
  • Daniel 12 8 “…Then I said, ‘My lord, what shall be the end of these things?’ 9 And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.’” Illustration: Like kids asking “Are we there yet?”
  • Habakkuk 1:2 “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear?” Habakkuk 2 2“Then the LORD answered me and said…3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.’”

By the way, this was not just about Christ’s suffering but as verse 11 adds, “the glories that would follow.” What are these glories? 1. Resurrection – 1 Peter 1:21 “who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory…” 2. Ascension and Authority – 1 Peter 3:22 “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”

What is the point of all this? 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven…” Throughout their existence, the people of old, especially the Old Testament prophets lived in the light of Christ’s coming suffering and glory. They faced their trials in the shadow of this greater plan of suffering and glory. More importantly, they did all this for us:

  • When Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah, he had this greater plan in mind.
  • When Joseph lay dying, he spoke to his brethren about this greater plan.
  • When Rahab the prostitute hid the spies in her house, she had this greater plan in mind.
  • When David was fleeing for his life from Saul, he wrote about this greater plan in his psalms.
  • When Jeremiah wrote to encourage the people in exile, he had this greater plan in mind.
  • When Esther resolved to stand up for her people saying “if I perish, I perish,” she had the greater plan in mind.

I can go on and on, the point is this – Those Old Testament people faced their trials with the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow with us in mind. In a way, they were partaking in Christ’s suffering that would come in the future, along with the glories that would follow. By the way, a side note here – 12 “…things which angels desire to look into.” Meaning: The angels watch in awe this entire drama throughout human history!

What is the application for us? Some people live in the microcosm of their own trials, griefs, pains, and uncertainties. They feel defeated, disillusioned, or distressed. They want God to get them through or bless them with something or teach them some great truth or principle. What if life was never meant to be lived in some personal bubble. What if my suffering or yours were part of a divine Master plan? What if our trials were meant for us to connect with the sufferings of Christ and the glories that are to follow? What if what we’re going through is not for us but for those coming after us? What if we are to rejoice and not reject the sufferings of life? Listen to 1 Peter 4:13 “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

Here’s the principle: If you don’t tether yourself to God’s greater plan of salvation through Christ, the storms of life will carry you away or tear you to pieces or leave you bruised and wounded. And, when you get through, that’s it. There’re no glories to follow.

Invitation: Are you bogged down with the immediate? Can you see what God is doing through your storm? Can you see what God is doing through the storm of 2020? What are doing for those who are coming behind you? Are you saved?

Essential by Dr. Abidan Shah

ESSENTIAL by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: “If you could have only 3 things with you on a deserted island, what would they be?” They asked kids that question and some of their answers were: boat, helicopter, fridge full of food, water, matches, mall of America, my dog, my unicorn named Fluffy, my phone, a knife, my dad, my mom, my family, my best friend, etc. It’s amazing the things we consider essential in our lives. One thing that did not make the list, and I doubt it’s on anyone’s list here, is the Church. We definitely consider Christ, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel as essential, but we don’t think the Church is on the same level. Today, we’re starting a brand-new series titled ESSENTIAL from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here’s the main point: The Church is not second tier in the Christian life. It is top tier. The Church is the body of Christ. Can you imagine a person with just a head but no body? The Church is also the Bride of Christ. Can you imagine a wedding with just a groom but no bride? Everywhere Christ is, the Church is; and everywhere the Church is, Christ is. Christ and the Church are inseparable. The Church is essential. In fact, the Christ-Church relationship is the model and power for all our relationships.

Ephesians 1     15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you…:

Context: Paul is commending the Church in Ephesus for their faith in Christ and for their love for the saints. Those are 2 very positive things: Love for God and Love for the Church. Nonetheless, all may not have been so well among the Ephesians. Scholars have debated the reasons why Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesian church. Although, there are many suggestions, the most common one is unity. There are reasons for this: The Greek word for unity “henotes,” from which we get our English word “unity” is found twice, only in this letter. The term “one” (hen) is found about 14 times in the letter. So also, words that emphasize “being with” or “being together” are found a bunch of times in this book. All that to say, Paul wrote this letter to encourage unity in the Ephesian church. Maybe, they were drifting away. But, this unity could not be achieved by force. It could happen only when believers genuinely loved one another and understood why it was vital that they maintained their spirit of unity as a church. So, Paul told them what he was praying for. Listen to Ephesians 1     16 “…making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…” Paul was praying that the Ephesians would have deep wisdom and revelation, and their eyes of understanding would be opened. What should they see? 3 things to be exact:

  • 18 “…that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
  • what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
  • 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe…”

Here’s the translation:

  • Past: We need to have the solid assurance that God will bring to pass what he has promised. While we patiently wait on his plan, we need to look back and remember that he has called us.
  • Future: We need to remember that we are incredibly valuable to God. He will not allow his inheritance to be lost. He will claim us one day.
  • Present: We need to utilize the immense power that he has given to us. This power can withstand any attack of the Enemy and the world system around us.

Out of all 3, the most important is the present because we need power to live now as believers.

Application: Would you agree that ever since this crisis began, the church has lost its sense of power? We have become like cotton candy. We have nothing solid to offer. We are like a door stopper that the world has kicked out of the way and shut the door, leaving us sitting lifeless on the outside. By the way, let’s not blame the world too much. Much of it we have done it to ourselves! We have made ourselves dispensable by emptying out the salt shaker and snuffing out the lamp.

Paul spends some time explaining the source, the display, and the storehouse of this power that is available to believers in the present:

  1. Source: 19 “…according to the working of His mighty power…” God is the source of this mighty power.
  2. Display: 20 “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seatedHim at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” The Resurrection and Glorification of Christ is the display of this mighty power.
  3. Storehouse: 22 “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, Christ is the storehouses of this mighty power. This is manifested in 2 major places:

A. Creation: 22 “And He put all things under His feet” is a fulfillment of Psalm 8:6 “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Everything the first Adam had lost, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, gained back.

Are you worried about what’s happening in the world or in nature? You can stop. Jesus is in charge. Yes, not everything is right or okay, but he is still ultimately sovereign.

B. Church: “…and gave Him to be head over all things to the church.” A better translation: This same Christ is also the head of the church, both local and collective. If you still have any confusion regarding the relationship of Christ and the Church, the next verse solves any doubt. 23 “which is His body…”

Here’s what Paul is saying: Christ = head, Church = body, Christ = body and head. In other words, the church members are bound to each other and we are connected to our head Christ. This cannot be separated.

Application: In the beginning of the pandemic, I found it very interesting how the church was quickly deemed “nonessential.” And, when it was declared lawful to be open, how many were hesitant to open and still are! Don’t think that I don’t understand the health concerns. I do. I understand that some can’t safely return right now. But, how about those who can but choose not to or choose to minimize the importance of the church. Have you considered the ramifications what we are doing?

Final line of verse 23 “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” In other words, God’s fulness, which fills Christ, fills the Church. This is not a one-time filling but an ongoing constant filling. This power is alive and fresh. It is new every day for every challenge and opportunity that may come in our path. We need this power specially to combat the evil powers. We need this power in our daily lives, especially our relationships. What does this power look like? It is God’s moral excellence, his perfection, his truth, his protection, and his blessing.

Application: Do you now understand the emotional, mental, and spiritual health ramifications of not opening the church? In this series coming up we will learn how this impacts our daily relationships, starting with the husband-wife relationships.

Ephesians 5      25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Invitation: Is the Church essential to you? Is the Church essential to your family? Are you part of the Church? Are you saved?

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

A TALE OF TWO PRIORITIES (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

A TALE OF TWO PRIORITIES Article by Abidan Paul Shah

 

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on September 17, 2016)

a-tale-of-two-priorities“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” – Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)

We are living in an age similar to the one Dickens described in his novel. On the one hand, we are the prosperous citizens of the Information Age, rolling in the luxuries of the knowledge boom. On the other hand, we are the penniless inmates of the Ignorance Asylum, rotting in the filth of foolish decisions. We are constantly looking down at our gadgets for tips and tricks when we should be looking up to the One who holds all truth. We are searching Google for answers when we should be seeking the Bible for wisdom. We are chatting on Facebook with strangers few states away when we should be talking face-to-face with loved ones a few steps away. We are giving our children all that we never had when we should be giving them all that they really need. We are talking about changing the world while we are chafing at the miseries of those down the street. We are content with wearing wristbands when we should be wearing work gloves. We are holding up signs of love and equality on the sidewalks when we have hate and intolerance hidden inside.

(Wow! Not sure where all those rhymes came from! Dickens would dig it if he could! J)

The point of this article is not to demonstrate my rhyming skills, which seem to have vanished as randomly as they came to me…Neither am I trying to advocate some kind of a primitive lifestyle, away from all the distractions of the Internet or social media. We’ve driven too far down the technology ramp to backup. All I am proposing is that we return to the two priorities Jesus gave when someone asked Him “Which is the great commandment in the law?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Please don’t misunderstand those words. Jesus was not suggesting that we stick God and people on the top of our already crazy busy life. That would never work. Sooner or later we would push both of them off or supersede them with the mundane or the urgent. Instead, imagine your life as a circle with God as its center and everything flowing out of Him. He is no longer just someone we glance at once or twice a week but our entire life becomes an outworking of His love and truth. In the process we not only love Him with everything we have but His love radiates through us to those around us. Our friends and family feel it and so do our enemies. We begin to make wise decisions that are motivated by God’s love rather than our impulse or others’ incitement.

In short, a God centered life brings to us the best of times in spite of the worst of times.

LIFE IS A VAPOR (ARTICLE) by Abidan Paul Shah

LIFE IS A VAPOR – Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on April 2, 2016)

You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)

Sylvia Edwards 4Monday afternoon two weeks ago I got a phone call that I have received before as a pastor but I never imagined whom it would be about. “Sylvia Edwards died.” I thought I had misheard the name and so I asked – “Who did you say again?” I heard it right the first time. It was Sylvia. I couldn’t believe it…I saw her the night before at church! We talked about her singing at the coming Fourth of July program. She wasn’t feeling well but she was still excited about picking out the songs and getting started with the practices. If you knew Sylvia, you would know that she loved to sing and she wasn’t one to sit still very long! Now, two days later we were standing by her graveside – “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”

Life is indeed a vapor, a mist. It’s like breathing on a glass window on a cool day. You see the condensation for a couple of seconds and then it’s gone. Such is life. The Bible repeatedly warns us about the brevity and unpredictability of life – 1 Chronicles 29:15 “…Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope.” Job 7:7,9 “…my life is a breath!…As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, So he who goes down to the grave does not come up.” Psalms 102:11 “My days are like a shadow that lengthens, And I wither away like grass.” In spite of all such warnings, many still live as if they have all the time in the world.

Sylvia Edwards singing at Clearview with her sister Linda Twisdale

Sylvia Edwards singing at Clearview with her sister Linda Twisdale

Listen to what the Bible says – “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” (James 4:15) This does not mean that God is against planning. He wants us to plan but He also wants us to acknowledge Him in all our planning. He wants us to remember that our life is a gift from God. It means much more than saying – “Lord willing I’ll be at church Sunday.” It means living life knowing that our every breath, heartbeat, and brainwave is on loan from God and can be taken away from us any moment. Sylvia knew that and so lived her life. How about us?

Many of us waste time on the trivial and miss the important. “One of these days I am going to spend time with my children.” “One of these days I am going to take my wife on a special date.” “One of these days I am going to bake that pie for my husband.” (Ladies – I know that seems trivial but not for us!) “One of these days I am going to stop by and see my parents.” “One of these days I am going to make things right with my brother.” “One of these days I am going to call my sister.” God wants us to stop procrastinating and start doing what is good – Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Did you know that procrastination is a sin?! It is especially when we delay with God. “One of these days I am going to turn my life around.” “One of these days I am going to church.” “One of these days I am going to read my Bible.” “One of these days I am going to give my life to Christ.” Unfortunately, that day never comes and we keep sliding away from God. We’re like the fool who said – “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:19-20)

Make it right with God today…not because you might die tonight…but because you have to live tomorrow.

TIMEOUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE – 2

TIME OUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

timeoutThis morning we are in part two of our two-part series through Romans 13 titled, “TIMEOUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE.” Just like in a game when the players begin to lose their momentum, the coach calls a timeout to talk to his players, so also in the game of life, the Holy Spirit calls a timeout to talk to us: He reminds us about the game plan He has for us. He warns us about the time that is remaining in the game. He corrects the mistakes that need to be corrected. Finally, He gives us the right focus to get back in the game and win it.

Romans 13:11-14  11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.  14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is inspiring, to say the least. Paul through the Holy Spirit challenges us to wake up out of our complacency and start living the Christian life. He warns us that it is “high time,” meaning you are not only asleep but you have overslept. “The night is far spent and the day has dawned.” But before we can jump back in the game, He also corrects some of our common mistakes or distractions in the game of life.

Application: This morning there are many people here who started well, they conquered incredible odds, and they even made some tremendous progress, but then something happened and they got distracted and lost their focus. Instead of winning the game, they are sitting on the sideline, looking back to the glory days. This morning the Holy Spirit wants you to acknowledge your distractions, make the necessary changes, and get back in the game. For those who haven’t been distracted, this message is a reminder to avoid these distractions and help others do the same. But, more than that, God wants us to set our minds on the right goal.

3 distractions to avoid in the game of life:

I. UNRESTRAINED CELEBRATIONS

13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness

Sadly, we lose the force of the passage because of words that have almost become archaic. So let’s look at each of those words carefully.

Background: The word for revelry is the Greek word “komois” and the word for drunkenness is “methais.” Komois was the name of the Greek god Comus who according to Greek mythology was the son and cupbearer of the God Bacchus – the god of wine and partying. Comus was the god of all night celebrations. He represented anarchy and chaos. Usually you see him depicted as a young man who is at the point of unconsciousness from drinking so much. He has a wreath of flowers on his head and a torch that he’s about to drop from his hands.

During his festivals, people came out into the streets at night with loud music and singing and drinking and vulgarity and sensuality and sexuality. This was a night when everything goes. Men and women would exchange clothes. This was a night of unrestrained celebration. I tell people – sometimes we think that we have invented wild and crazy and that’s not true. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Paul warns the Christian not to get involved in these “unrestrained celebrations.” In Galatians 5 he gives the same warning19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness…21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It’s all right to go to a Fourth of July Celebration and have a great time. Go to the Fair and have a great time. But when you start going places where there is drinking and vulgarity and sensuality and sexuality, just know that now you are on the Devil’s playground, where he sets the rules or the lack thereof. Don’t even watch it on TV.

Peter also agrees with Paul in I Peter 4:3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.  4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.

II. UNBRIDLED SEXUAL PERVERSION

13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust,

Background: Again, two words are used – the first one refers to natural sexual behavior. But it is not referring to the sex between a husband and wife. It is referring to premarital or extramarital sex. The world says, “as long as a man and a woman love each other, it doesn’t matter what they do in the privacy of their home or car. We’re not in the 1800s. Everybody is doing it.” Or, if it’s about their children – “They won’t listen anyways. All you can do is tell them to use protection. At least my boy is not with another boy or my girl is not with another girl.” Wrong! God calls it sin. That is lewdness.

The second one refers to all manner of unnatural sexual behavior. This is referring to everything from homosexuality to bestiality. We’re living in a time when even some Christians try to condone this sinful lifestyle. There is a strong effort in our nation to destroy marriage. It doesn’t matter what Federal Judge from wherever has to say, the Great Judge calls it a sin. We’re not called to make fun of those living in that sinful lifestyle. We’re not called to condemn people living in that lifestyle. We’re called to love them but still call “sin” sin.

Listen to Paul in Ephesians 4:17   17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,  18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;  19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Sex in marriage is wonderful and beautiful and a gift from God. Sex outside of marriage whether it is premarital or extramarital or unnatural, it is sin.

Application: Do you go places where this is going on? Are you around people who exemplify this kind of behavior? Are you watching shows and movies and Internet where you are filling your eyes and the eyes of your children with this junk? Are you too curious for your won bad?

III. UNEDIFYING DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR

13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

Background: Here the word strife means trying to get one’s own way in an argument. It wants to possess something, no matter whom it belongs to. It is self-indulgent. It brings an atmosphere of constant tension and dissension.

The second word for envy is the Greek word “zelos.” It really refers to jealousy. It means you have something that you refuse to share with others.

Strife and envy/jealousy have a way of destroying fellowship in the body. They have a way of distracting us from the game of life.

What is the outcome? James 3:16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

Application: Do you go places that glorify this kind of behavior? Do you watch movies and shows that show this kind of behavior? Do you hang around people who live this kind of lifestyle?

3 Distractions to Avoid: 1. Unrestrained Celebrations. 2. Unbridled Sexual Perversion 3. Unedifying Destructive Behavior.

It’s not enough just to avoid sin. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” Meaning: You cannot go through life with a list of “I don’ts.”

1 Attitude to Embrace:

IV. REPRESENT CHRIST IN EVERY WAY.

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,

Background: This simple sentence is the theme of the entire book of Romans. It means to put on His jersey. It means to look like Him. It means that in everything I think, look, walk, and talk like Jesus. I put on His eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet, heart, and mind. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” means that when people see me, they see Jesus. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” means that when people see me, they see Jesus. tweet this button But, there’s more – When I see myself, I see Jesus.

What else? And make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Meaning: Don’t let any part of you show the ugliness of sin and flesh.

How does all this work? Let each part of you look like Jesus Christ. He has complete and total authority over my mouth, eyes, ears, hands, feet, mind, and heart. I have to get permission from Him to do anything. When I do things His way, people see Jesus. When I do things my way, people see me. I am sinful, evil, worldly, selfish, carnal, and empty. He is selfless, kind, loving, patient, caring, gentle and humble.

If I am saved, I belong to Him. I have to do it His way. I Corinthians 6:20 helps us with this: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

When I choose to go my way, I fail and do not represent Him.

Are you saved? Without being saved, you cannot put on Christ.

TIMEOUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE – 1

TIME OUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

timeoutThis morning we begin a two-part series through Romans 13 titled, “TIMEOUT: STOP, REFOCUS, AND GET BACK IN THE GAME OF LIFE.” When a team starts doing poorly, the coach calls a timeout to talk to his players – to remind them of the game plan, to warn them of the time remaining, to correct their mistakes, and to encourage them to get back in the game. So also in life we need a timeout.

Romans 13:11-14  11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.  14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Overall Background: The passage before us if one of the most inspiring passages in the Bible. Paul is like a coach talking to his team. He is going over the game plan, he is reminding them of the time remaining, he is correcting their mistakes, and he is inspiring them to get back in the game.

Application: This morning all of us need this timeout. We get so caught up in life. We get so frustrated with our circumstances. We get so disillusioned with our situations. We get so wrapped in bad habits and bad decision that we start losing. Let me remind you – If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are still in the game. The message for you is to listen to your coach – the Holy Spirit. If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, you are lost. No matter what game you win, you will still lose in the end and this is the message for you.

4 things Paul tells them in this timeout:

I. “YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO.”

Verse 11 begins with 3 words – “And do this”

Do what? Do what I’ve been teaching you since Romans 12:1. It is filled with applications on how to live the Christian life. For example:

–       Romans 12:2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Meaning: Change the way you think about God, life, self, and others.

–       Romans 12:5 “so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Meaning: We’re connected. Learn to get along with others in church.

–       Romans 12:9 “do not avenge yourselves…for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Meaning: Don’t waste your time holding a grudge. Let God handle it.

–       Jump over to Romans 13:9-10You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor.” Meaning: Love those whom God has placed in our life.

When Paul says, “And do this,” he is referring to all this and more. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t deliberate. Don’t hesitate. Obey it. Repeatedly the Bible tells us to obey.

–       1 Samuel 15:22 “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.”

–       Luke 6:46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?

–       James 1:22   But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

–       1 John 2:3   Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

For e.g. Once I was talking to a coach about a player and he said – “He is a great player but he doesn’t listen.”

Many of us think that we need a new secret to help our Christian life. We know enough to keep us going for a long time. Like the Hymn – “Trust and Obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey. Are you obedient?

II. “WATCH THE CLOCK.”

11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep;

Background: There are 2 things that Paul is telling them – First, watch the clock; and second, you are already in the fourth quarter. You have overslept!

Christians can and do fall asleep. I’m not talking about sleeping in church, which some do. They think I can’t see them. Let me ask you  – “Can you see me?” Then I can see you!

I’m talking about spiritually sleeping. Let me give you a quick checklist to determine if you are asleep:

–       Do you know what’s happening around you? In your family, marriage, church, and community.

–       Does it bother you that what is wrong is normal and what is right is abnormal?

–       Does it bother you that your loved ones and friends do not know where they will go when they die?

–       Does it bother you that the church has lost its focus?

If you know Jesus as your Savior, your eyes are opened to the truth, you know the people are lost, you know that you have the hope of eternal life with you, without knowing Jesus people are lost. How can you be asleep?!! Moreover, how can you oversleep?!! That’s even worse! We are running late.

for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

Background: Salvation here is not individual salvation but our ultimate deliverance from sin when Jesus comes for us. Now some people think that the early church believed that Jesus would come in their generation. That’s not exactly true. They believed that Jesus could come any moment. There’s a difference there. There is not a single prophecy that has to be fulfilled for Jesus to come again. He came the first time. There are 129 prophecies regarding the first coming in the OT. There are 329 prophecies regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ in the OT and NT. Now if the first one took place with fewer prophecies, then how much more will the second one come to pass, if it is 3 times more. We are 2000 years closer to His coming.

12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand.

Application: Isn’t it true that many of us know the right thing to do but we push it off to another day? We say – “Tomorrow, I’ll get started at that” but tomorrow never comes. “One of these days, I’ll get around to working on my marriage, going to church, reading the Bible, praying, serving God, and giving my life to God.” But that day never comes.

You need to be revived.

III. “LET’S MAKE SOME CHANGES.” 

12…Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness,

Background: Paul tells them – Guys, you have to change some things. Remember, the definition of insanity: do the same things over and over and expect different results. The reason you are in a mess if because of wrong choices.

If you are a Christian, what does the Bible say about you?

Romans 6:17-18  17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

II Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

I Corinthians 6:19-20  19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Hence, cast off the works of darkness. That’s not you!

Application: You may have to make some changes in what movies you watch, what romance novels you read, what games you play, what people you call your friends. Put away all your past regrets, present lures, and future fears. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Ask godly people to support you.

IV. “GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT.”

“and let us put on the armor of light.”

Background: The imagery is one of changing clothes. Put away your pajamas and put on your armor. You are in a battle. There is a battle for your marriage, for your children, for your lost loved ones, for your church, for your community. But you cannot fight this battle with earthly weapons.

Ephesians 6:12-13  12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Last week I had a phone call from someone I’ve know for a long time and this person said to me – “I feel like my time is up. I had so many dreams and goals but I think life has passed me by.” I could hear a sense of defeat and discouragement in this person’s voice. My answer was – “Absolutely not! You are breathing aren’t you? Then, you are still in the game. You need to take a timeout, reassess your situation, seek God’s help, and get back in the game.” Instead of despairing over lost time, God wants us to live the remainder of our life with urgency and purpose.

Application: Are you doing all you can to live for God? Are you doing all you can to win people to Jesus Christ?

Let me add something here – If you’ve never received Jesus as your Savior, you are not asleep. You are dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” You don’t need to be awakened. You need to be resuscitated.

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