Press On by Dr. Abidan Shah

Press On

PRESS ON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: As many of you may know, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo had to be postponed to next year because of the COVID-19 crisis. One of my favorite events is the 100-meters dash, where you see the fastest man or woman on earth. My favorite athlete in that event is Jesse Owens. He represented the United States at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, where he was not just competing against other athletes but against Hitler’s Nazi ideology. What many people don’t realize is that he grew up in a devout Christian home. When he was five years of age, he had a fibrous tumor on his chest. Since his parents were just poor sharecroppers, they could not afford any medical care. So, his mother, Emma, took a sharp kitchen knife, sterilized it, and removed a golf ball size tumor from his chest. You can only imagine the pain he must have felt. The bleeding continued for days and little Jesse Owens remembers his dad, Henry, praying for him, “Oh, Lord Jesus, ‘Please, please, hear me. I know you hear everything, but this saving means everything. She’ll die if he dies — and if she dies, Lord, we’ll all die — all of us.’” Within minutes the bleeding stopped. God answered his prayers. But, listen to Jesse Owens philosophy on running. He was told to run as if the track were on fire. He said, “I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up.” I cannot think of a better philosophy for living the Christian life – “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”That’s the title of our message today – PRESS ON – in our series on Paul’s letters to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     12 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Question: How are you running the Christian race? Will you win the gold medal? We are not competing against each other but against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Who is winning? You cannot be in the race unless you are saved. Are you saved?

Context: Athletics or competitive sports were a big part of Greco-Roman life. Altogether there were 4 Panhellenic games: Olympic (Olympia), Isthmian (Corinth), Pythian (Delphi), and Nemean (Peloponnesian region). There were also some lesser games. More than likely, Paul went to the Isthmian games because he was in Corinth planting the church the years those games were held there in AD 49 and 51. That’s why he was in tent-making because spectators came from everywhere and needed some shelter during the games. What a perfect opportunity for Paul to share the gospel!

How did the people see these games? We have historical evidence that the Greeks, Romans, Jewish people, and many other ethnic groups came to these events. Although most of the games were for males and attended only by males, there were other games for females as well. These events were not just athletic events, they were also religious events where there were sacrifices to certain deities on the opening and closing days. The athletes even believed that the gods themselves helped them to win. The games were a display of excellence (“arete”), both external (beauty) and internal (goodness). These two aspects are what made someone a good citizen. They thought that an athlete was made into the ideal citizen in the gym through education and practice. Then, the citizens came together in the “agon” or gathering to observe these ideals. The idea was “if a person looked good, then he was a good person.” What about injuries? A mangled ear, broken nose, scars, and intense exhaustion was a sign of endurance through difficulties that led to a superior character.

What would the athletes get for winning the competition? They would get the “stephanos” or foliage crown (wreaths made out of olive, wild celery, or pine), but there were also cash rewards. Depending on how great their achievements, there would also be statues, monuments, and inscriptions. What if you were to lose? In many cases, this was a disgrace. One Stoic philosopher wrote, “In the Olympic Games you cannot just be beaten and depart, but first of all, you will be disgraced not only before the people of Athens or Sparta or Nikopolis but before the whole world. In the second place, if you withdraw without sufficient reason you will be whipped. And this whipping comes after your training which involves thirst and broiling heat and swallowing handfuls of sand.”

Did Paul take interest in those games? We don’t know for sure but he used a lot of athletic imagery in his letters. More than any other sport, he made mention of the “foot race” or “trecho,” from which we get our English word “trek.” These races took place inside a 600 feet enclosure known as the “stadios,” from which we get our English word “stadium.” Nicole and I have been on the race track in Olympia. It was unreal to stand there knowing that athletes had ran there for thousands of years! There were 3 kinds of foot races: first, the “stadion,” which was a dash from the starting line “balbis” to the “terma” (finish line), about 200 meters long; second, the “diaulos,” which was a dash from one side to the other and back, about 400 meters long; and the “dolichos,” which was 24 lengths of the stadium, about 5 miles long. He mentions this race about 3-4 times in his letter to the Philippians. Nicole and I have been to Philippi, Greece. Although, there was no stadium there, there is evidence that people had interest in athletics in Philippi. By the second century AD, a “palaestra” was built there next to the agora. Participating in the games and attending them were probably seen as a mark of preserving their Hellenic/Greek identity.

With all this in mind, let’s walk quickly through Philippians 3:12 onwards:

If you remember from last weekend, Paul counted all his achievements (5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless) as loss (zemeia), actually unspeakable filth (skubalon) compared to gaining Christ. Now, through Christ, he has justification, sanctification, and glorification.

Now, Paul turns to the athletic imagery of a runner.

Philippians 3     12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, (dioko = move rapidly and decisively towards an objective) that I may lay hold of (katalambano = grasp) that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind (past achievements and crowns) and reaching forward (epekteinomai = stretching forward) to those things which are ahead,

14 I press (dioko) toward the goal (skopos) for the prize (brabeion) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

17 Brethren, join in following my example (symmimetai, from which we get mimic but this is in a group context), and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 whose end (telos) is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

20 For our citizenship (politeuma = citizenship) is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” The church is the “agon” in which the “arete” is achieved.

21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown (stephanos), so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

I said in the opening: “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”

Invitation:

  • How are you running the race?
  • Are you too busy fussing about useless things?
  • Are you distracted from the race?
  • Are you following the wrong athletes?
  • Are you reaching forward to the crown?
  • Are you helping others reach forward to the crown?
  • Are you in the race? Are you saved?

Gospel-Centric by Dr. Abidan Shah

Gospel Centric.jpg

GOSPEL-CENTRIC by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Do you know someone who is really into something like a hobby, sport, or some cause? They talk about it all the time. They want you to get excited about it just as much as they are. I knew someone like that when we lived back in Georgia about 25 years ago. Nicole and I were friends with this couple from her dad’s church. The man was an A-grade mechanic and was also big into Nascar. He would talk to me about it all the time about the size of the engines, the pistons, the tire pressure, and on and on. Even though I didn’t know a thing about Nascar, before long I was talking about Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Ernie Irwin, and Dale Earnhardt (No. 3). I was coming home after church and actually watching the races! Once we moved, I sort of stayed into it and then I lost interest. So also, with the gospel, there are people who are so consumed with the gospel that they can’t help but talk about it all the time. They love sharing the gospel. They are gospel-centric. When you are around such people, you become just like them. You also become gospel-centric. That’s the title of our message today in our new series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians titled “COMMUNITY.”

Philippians 1     3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…7 “… both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace…12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

Question: Paul’s ministry was gospel-centric. He wanted the Philippians to make their church gospel-centric as well. How much is your life gospel-centric? Do you think our church is gospel-centric enough? Do you know the gospel? Are you saved?

Context: If you grew up in church, you probably heard the word “gospel” at some point. How important is this word “gospel”? You may have heard it before or maybe from me that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell,” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good, of course, but “spell” means story or news. So, Gospel = Good News. But, in today’s message, we are going deeper and looking at the Greek word behind gospel—“euangelion.” It is found several hundred times in various forms in the New Testament, about 84 times in Paul’s letters, and about 9 times in his letter to the Philippians. For starters, it was not invented by Paul or by the other New Testament writers. Neither was it borrowed from the Greco-Roman world, even though it was used to refer to good news like the birth of the emperor and special decrees by him, and sacrifices were offered to the gods when the “euangelion” of victory came to them. This helps our understanding of the word but the New Testament writers had a different source for “euangelion.” It was the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 40-66, where it talks about the coming of the Messiah. Listen to Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings (Here, the Greek word for “good tidings” in the LXX is “euangelizo” from “euangelion”) to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” The gospel was rooted in the Scriptures as the promise of the coming Messiah. The world was in bad news but good news was in its way!

When Jesus came, he saw his ministry as a fulfillment of this prophecy. At the start of his ministry, he went into the synagogue and read Isaiah 61, and declared “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 6:21). Then, he went everywhere preaching the gospel of the kingdom and doing the things listed in Isaiah 61. When John the Baptizer doubted Jesus’ ministry, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 in Matthew 11     5 “The blind see and thelame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” When the gospel writers wrote about the ministry of Jesus, they also used the same word “euangelion” to refer to his coming— Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This continued in the early church where the book of Acts repeatedly used the word “euangelion” to refer to the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection. Both Peter and Paul referred to themselves as preachers/ministers of the gospel: Acts 15:7 “…And…Peter…said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe”; Acts 20:24 “…nor do I (Paul) count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

The point I am making here is that the Old Testament writers, Jesus, gospel writers, the early church, and the pillars of the church (Peter and Paul) were all gospel-centric. Their main focus was bringing the good news to the world that was under bad news.

Question: Are you gospel-centric? Is our church gospel-centric?

Let’s get back to Philippians: In what ways was Paul gospel-centric to the Philippians? He uses the word “euangelion” 9 times in this letter. Let’s quickly look at them:

Philippians 1    3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

  1. The gospel binds us in fellowship.

Philippians 1:7 “just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.”

  1. The gospel opens opportunities for God’s grace.

Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

  1. The gospel takes precedence over trials.

Philippians 1     15 “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

  1. The gospel neutralizes bitter envy.

Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

  1. The gospel demands a certain conduct.

Philippians 2    21 “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.”

  1. The gospel proves selflessness.

Philippians 4     2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

  1. The gospel increases our value.

Phil. 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

  1. The gospel offers opportunities to partner.

Question: Is the gospel the glue that holds our fellowship together? Does the gospel take precedence over our personal trials? Are you living up to the conduct worthy of the gospel? Are you partnering with others in sharing the gospel?

Here’s the final question: What is the content of the gospel? Paul actually gives us the content of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15    1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved…3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (Meaning: Paul is not the manufacturer of the gospel) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (There’s the bad news) 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (There’s the good news) 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren…” (There’s the proof of the good news)

Question: Do you understand this gospel? Do you believe this gospel? Are you on the gospel of train? Or, have you lost your train of thought and are stranded with some poor substitutes?

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

hosannaIntroduction:  This past Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. Due to the coronavirus situation, parades all across the country were cancelled. Needless to say, a lot of people were disappointed. I don’t think they were disappointed because they couldn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s life, but it was because they couldn’t get out and have a good time with their family and friends. 2000 years ago, there was also a parade and some people tried to cancel it but they couldn’t. It was the parade for Jesus as he came into Jerusalem. Instead of clover leaves, the people held palm branches in their hands. Instead of Irish drinking songs, the people were singing Hosanna to the Son of David. As we draw closer to that time of the year, I want to preach a 4-week series titled “HOSANNA.” Here’s the message in this series: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

John 12    12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” 14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” 16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

Question: Did you know that God desires to save you? I’m talking to believers. He wants to rescue you from your predicament, whatever trials you are facing. Are you saved? I’m talking to unbelievers now. Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Context: When people first come to Clearview, they are somewhat amazed at how much I talk about being saved. Some have even come to me and asked if that was a Baptist thing. I try to explain to them that it is not a Baptist thing but a Bible thing. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about being saved, being delivered, and being rescued by God. In fact, that word Hosanna is literally the combination of “hosiah” and “anna,” where “hosiah” means “save us” and “anna” means “now” or “please.” It’s referring back to Psalm 118 where the psalmist says in verse25 “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.” This was usually prayed after the harvest season celebration. They would even wave and beat the ground with branches of willow and palm trees. Later on, this was also done during times of great needs and burden. In the weeks ahead, we will focus on all that. In this message I want to focus simply on the idea of being saved or rescued by God. It is all over the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus’ name in Hebrew is “Yeshua,” which is Savior! With that said, let’s look at it quickly in the short time we have:

  1. Let’s begin by going to what is considered the oldest book in the Bible, Job:

Job 5:11 “He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”

Job 40:14 “Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.” Here God is speaking sarcastically to Job. He asks Job if he can do all the mighty things that God does. “If so, then you can save yourself Job.”

  1. When God’s people were in slavery in Egypt, he sent Moses to rescue them:

Exodus 14    13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

  1. After they settled into the Promised Land, God sent judges to save his people:

Judges 7:2 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’”

Keep in mind that Gideon’s army was 32,000 men and they were outnumbered. Then 22,000 left when given the choice. Only 10,000 left and only those who drank like dogs were allowed to stay and that was only 300! God said, “Now that’s perfect!”

  1. After the judges came the kings but the formula didn’t change:

1 Samuel 17    45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give you into our hands.”

When the kings trusted in the Lord to deliver, they won. When they trusted in themselves, they fell.

  1. In the wisdom books, it is not cunning and strategy that saves but the Lord:

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I will recompense evil”; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.

Proverbs 28:18 Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, but he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.

  1. Over a hundred times, the prophets call upon the people to look to the Lord to save:

Isaiah 45    21 “Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. 22“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!”

Jeremiah 15:20 “And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you and deliveryou,” says the LORD.

Hosea 14     1 “O Israel, return to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; 2 Take words with you, and return to the LORD. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us…”

Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

  1. Finally, in the psalms, it is everywhere that God is our Savior:

Psalm 28     8 The LORD is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed. 9Save Your people, And bless Your inheritance;

Psalm 44     6 For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. 7 But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. 8 In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever.

Psalm 80:3 “Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”

Psalm 119:94 “I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts.”

Psalm 144     9 “I will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, 10 the One who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David His servant from the deadly sword.”

Let me repeat again what I said in the opening: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Are you saved?

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