Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

Prayer Doctrine.jpg

PRAYER – DOCTRINE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Kids have some very interesting prayers! I found a few online:

  • Dear God, If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set. Raphael
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Larry
  • Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. Joyce
  • Dear God, Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. Peter
  • God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. Love, Chris.
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. Sam

Unlike kids, who pray with a childlike faith and innocence, adults have a complex and sometimes even an unbelieving attitude towards prayer. Today we begin a 2-part series on prayer: first, we will focus on doctrine, and then, on practice. Here’s the main point of the first message on the doctrine of prayer: Our prayers reflect our understanding of God’s providence. In other words, our understanding of how much God is in control and how much free will we have will directly impact how and how much we pray.

1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Background: The Greek word for confidence is “parresia,” which can be translated as openness, confidence, boldness, and frankness. This is the kind of spirit we should have when we come to God in prayer.

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for my dad. We were not a perfect family, but we were a praying family. From an early age, I remember watching my mom, my dad, and my grandma pray. In church, I remember listening to adults pray, just like we do here. We even had home prayer meetings twice a week. We had 2 different language services (still do) and we would meet at different people’s homes each week to pray; Wednesday evening was people of the Hindi language service and Thursday would be of the English language service. As a little boy, I remember praying all the time—for a baby sister, for a new bike, for new shoes, for good grades in school, for being able to win a race with the other boys. I believed in prayer. But then, it happened. When, I can’t pinpoint the time, but I began to become more “realistic” and “grownup” about what I asked in my prayers. I began to lose the childlike faith and innocence in my prayers. I still prayed, but it wasn’t the same. I believe I have just described the prayer life of most of you here.

Why do we experience such a shift in our prayer life? Short answer: We grow up and face real life. We go through suffering and loss. Our hopes get dashed. Our prayers remain unanswered. We even come face-to-face with evil. Now, there is a change in our view of God and our prayers. It’s like the child who has a toy doctor kit and one day he gets a little cut. Instead of using the instruments (thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure kit) in the box, mom and dad take him/her to a real doctor or nurse who have real instruments. That’s when the child realizes that the instruments are simply toys. They are just pretend. Now, the child does play with the kit but it’s only pretend.

Long answer: Real life jars our view of God’s providence, and, with that, our prayers change as well. Let’s begin with defining the word “Providence.” For starters, that word is not found in the Bible but the concept is everywhere. Basically, it is the answer to how much is God in control of the world he has created and how much can we influence him. When we begin to seriously deal with the matter of God’s providence, a lot of complex and deep questions rise up. I don’t have time to deal with all of them here. There are some wonderful books out there like “Providence and Prayer” by Terrance Tiessen. Here, I just want to bring out a few of the major ones (they are interconnected): Is God timeless or is he bound by time just as we are? Because if he is in the same boat as we are, then, how can he really be prepared for what is coming around the corner? Does God know the future? How much does he know? If he does know the future, why doesn’t he do something about bad things? Does God allow evil to exist? Is he helpless to combat evil? Is he allowing evil to bring about something good? How about when it brings a lot of pain? Do I have any free will? Can people interfere with the plan of God? Does God change his mind? Bottom line: Does prayer change things?

If such questions about God’s providence are not answered, our prayer life will suffer.

Here’s how the proper view of the providence of God can help our prayer life:

  1. God’s providential control is comprehensive, detailed, capable, loving, and best.

There is much about the providence of God in creation in the Book of Psalms and Job. But, here is a classic passage from Matthew 6     26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 10     29 “…And not one of them (sparrows) falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Miracles are also part of his equation, but they are rare.When they don’t happen, we have to trust his perfect plan.

  1. People act freely within God’s overall will.

The best way to understand that is to imagine a road trip growing up. Mom and dad will get to the destination but it’s up to us as to how we will enjoy the trip. When it comes to humans, his sovereign will is always done, even if his moral will may be rejected. God’s purpose was to bring the people into the Promised Land. This was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah one day. Nonetheless, they all had a choice in how they would live in the land.Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Even evil has been allowed to exist temporarily but the boundary is set, as in Job. In his divine wisdom and care, he allows it. Through his foreknowledge, God already knows what we or evil will do, but everything is always within his reach and control. Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

  1. God works in us to bring us in partnership with his will and he uses prayers as a major means.

This happens through scripture, prayer, (personal and corporate) and fellowship with other believers. 1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Moses prayed for God’s people and miracles happened. The early church prayed and circumstances changed. Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Jesus wanted his disciples to participate in prayer. John 16      23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This applies to our personal lives as well because we are connected to his comprehensive plan. James 4:2 “…Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” Can we change the mind of God? In his perfect wisdom and plan, he has even allowed for that. His overall plan is always intact, but it does impact the immediate plan of God.

  1. Providence, Prayer, and everything else are ultimately connected to our salvation through Jesus Christ.

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: What do you believe about prayer? Does God answer? Can he answer? Have you prayed to invite Jesus into your life to be your Savior and King?

Adopted Father by Dr. Abidan Shah

Adopted Father

ADOPTED FATHER by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  When Nicole and I first met, she told me that if we were going to keep dating that I had to meet her father. A few weeks after, she informed me that her dad was coming to college to have lunch with her and that she really wanted me to meet him. Well, I did go by the cafeteria and peeked through the window and saw this rather big and tall man sitting next to Nicole. I chickened out. Later that day, she asked me why I hadn’t shown up. I gave some lame excuse. Then, with a far more serious tone she told me that if we were going to go further that I had to meet her father. Long story short, I met him, and with just one handshake, I knew that this man loved me even though he had never met me. I had a wonderful father growing up and still do, but without the influence of Jerry Shedd, I wouldn’t be here today. He became my adopted father. He demonstrated what God does in our lives when we get saved—he adopts us into his family through Jesus Christ. Main point: Adoption is that process where after God declares us righteous through Jesus Christ that he welcomes us into his family as his sons and daughters. He lays down his gavel as our judge and comes around to embrace us as our adopted father. Now, he wants us to go out and do the same to those who need an adopted father. That’s the title of our message on this Father’s Day Weekend.

1 Corinthians 4     14 “I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do nothave many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

A major benefit of our salvation through Jesus Christ is the gift of adoption into God’s family. If there’s one writer in the Bible who understood the importance of the doctrine of adoption (huiothesia), it was the apostle Paul. 3 things he brings out about it:

  1. Adoption was no afterthought doctrine. Listen to Ephesians 1  4 “just as He (God) chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” In other words, before God made the heavens and the earth, he chose to adopt us as sons and daughters. He was not satisfied in just making us pardoned sinners or reconciled friends; he wanted us to be family.
  2. Adoption was not free. It cost God something. Galatians 4 4 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters).” For Peter and John, adoption came through rebirth (being born again); but, for Paul, it came through a change in status, our justification after being redeemed from under the law.
  3. Adoption brought tremendous benefits. Galatians 4 6 “And because you are sons (and daughters), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
  4. Adoption has the promise of more benefits to come. Romans 8:23 “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

Adoption brings great assurance to us as believers that we are not just pardoned sinners or reconciled friends; we are family, and nothing and no one can separate us.

Question:  How do you see yourself in your relationship with God? Is he your judge, your boss, or is he your father?

One more thing: Adoption also brings a new sense of responsibility towards others. Listen again to Paul’s words in I Corinthians 4     15 “…for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.”

Background:  Acts 16:1 tells us that Timothy was “the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.” The way Luke phrases that statement, Timothy’s father never converted to Judaism. Intermarriage between Jewish people and Gentiles was not as problematic as long as the Gentile person converted to Judaism. The requirements for conversion were quite high. If there was no conversion, it was strictly prohibited. You can imagine what Timothy must have endured. Probably, his mother’s people did not accept him because his father was Greek and his father’s side did not accept him because his mother was Jewish. Keep in mind that Timothy did have a father but society and circumstances must have made that role very difficult. Then, it was probably on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) that Timothy’s grandmother, mother, and Timothy himself got saved—2 Timothy 1:5 “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” Paul doesn’t mention Timothy’s father which may suggest that he never got saved and maybe even cut off all relations with Timothy and his mother. Paul must have felt compassion towards Timothy and decided to take on the role of an adopted father in his life. Repeatedly, Paul referred to Timothy as his son—1 Timothy 1:18 “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy”; 2 Timothy 2:1 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul was protective over him, telling him in 1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” He encouraged him in 1 Timothy 6:12 to “Fight the good fight of faith…” He even warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:2-5 to avoid those who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal…” Paul’s understanding of the doctrine of adoption motivated him to adopt Timothy as his beloved and faithful son in the Lord.

By the way, the position of adopted father is nothing new. Repeatedly, we find that relationship in the Bible, even if the title is not used:

  1. Abraham adopted Lot after his father Haran died and took him along to the Promised Land. This cost him dearly because he had to rescue him and then had to give into Lot’s demand for the more fertile plain of Jordan. Ultimately, he even bargained with God for Lot and his family when God came down to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
  2. Jethro adopted Moses when he fled from Pharaoh and came to Midian. Exodus 2 21 Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. Later, he even helped Moses divide up the work of judging the people of Israel.
  3. Moses adopted Joshua and groomed him to be the next leader of God’s people.
  4. Eli adopted Samuel and taught him how to discern the voice of God. He knew that the sun was setting on his ministry and his own sons were unworthy of the task. Instead of being jealous, he groomed Samuel in his task.
  5. Samuel adopted Saul to groom him to be the next king of Israel. Unfortunately, he was too mule headed to get it.
  6. Samuel adopted David and he did everything that Saul failed to do.
  7. Elijah adopted Elisha. Elisha expressly refers to Elijah as “father” in 2 Kings 2 9“…Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” 10 So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” 11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more…13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him…”
  8. Joseph adopted Jesus after the angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. He was willing to sacrifice his reputation and comforts in order to adopt Jesus as his son.

If only more men and women will see younger men and women as sons and daughters in the faith! Once we understand the doctrine of adoption in our lives, we have a responsibility to see others who are younger in the faith as God sees us. You don’t have to become overbearing, but you can come alongside respectfully, wisely, and lovingly guide a younger person or a younger believer in their faith journey. Unfortunately, I have heard many times when an older person discouraged a younger person.

Personal Example: When my own father became a Christian, his biological father disowned him and God sent an American missionary by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander to be his adopted father. He was instrumental in sending him to seminary and became a mentor to him in life and ministry. My father was so impacted by Dr. Schelander that he named his firstborn after him. Dr. Schelander even touched my life as he was the only grandfather I ever knew.

Although, I am focusing only adopted fathers, women have also played the role of adopted mothers (Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses, Naomi adopted Ruth).

Invitation: Have you been the father you were called to be? Have you been grateful to the father (biological or adopted) that God has placed in your life? Is God calling you to be an adopted father to someone who doesn’t have one? Is God your Heavenly Father? Through Christ you can become a child of God.

John 1     12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Under God – Part Two by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God Part Two

UNDER GOD (2) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Introduction:  This past week our family made a quick trip to the Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a very relaxing time. In some ways, it was like travelling back in time with horse drawn plows, horse buggies, and farm life. The best part for our children was playing with the farm animals at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. I think Nicole had just as much fun! On the way back, we stopped at the Gettysburg Battlefield, a place I had always wanted to visit. This was the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. In just 3 days (July 1-3, 1863), as many as 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers either died, were wounded, or went missing. The little town of Gettysburg had no idea that a chance encounter between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would forever change their lives. In a matter of just days, their peaceful farmland was turned into a bloody battlefield. Bodies were lying everywhere. Every home, church, and public building was turned into a hospital. The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves. Four months later, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. As I stood on that battlefield, I thought to myself how the people at the time must have felt when they saw the devastation of lives and land. They may have felt like the United States of America was history. They may have felt like our glory days were over. What many people don’t know is that 75 years later in 1938, about 1800 veterans of that same battle came together on that same battlefield. Some were now 90 years old. They shook hands and pledged allegiance to the same American flag. Here’s my point: No matter what is happening in our nation today, don’t lose heart. We are still “One Nation Under God” and our best days are ahead. We need to look to the sovereign God for healing and hope. This is the focus of the second part of our message titled “UNDER GOD.”

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”

Context: If you remember from last week, Psalm 33 is connected to Psalm 32. This connection indicates that before we can talk about “Blessed is the nation,” we need to talk about “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In other words, before we can talk about how much we need God’s blessing as nation, we need to talk about how much we need God’s forgiveness as individual believers. Keep in mind that this is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. He did not write some cheap poetry, but he gave us what God desires from us. Once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, then we can see that God is our hiding place and we don’t have to live in fear. Instead, we are to look to him and follow his guiding eye. We can see that he loves righteousness and justice. Listen once again to Psalm 33    4 “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice…” In our nation today, people are calling for justice, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, we are not calling for righteousness, which is just as important. In fact, we want justice without righteousness. God demands both.

We need a change in perspective on God. For starters, we need to remember that God is not subject to us. He is a sovereign God. First, he is sovereign over his creation. 5 “…The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. (Land, Plants, and Animals) 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. (Sun, Moon, Stars, and Universe) 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. (Waters, Fish, Sea Creatures) 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. It’s one thing to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, but how about his sovereignty over nations and people? 10 “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.” First, the word for nation is “goy,” which has more of a political meaning. Second, the word for peoples is “am,” which has more of an ethnic meaning. In other words, whether it is an organized nation or an organized group, if they God against God’s sovereign will, he will “pur,” frustrate their plans, and he will “nu,” hinder and prevent them.

Question: Are we seeking to achieve our goals and our plans in this world? God will bring them to nothing. Instead, we have to accept verse 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

Now comes our focal verse—12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” There are 2 different decisions here: First, a nation has chosen God. Second, God has chosen the nation. You’ve heard me say this time and again. Our nation was built to be under God. Our Founding Fathers were not perfect people but they definitely believed that God was the source of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence begins with this preamble – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Our Constitution does not directly mention God but he is assumed and implied. The 2 documents had different goals but they both chose God as the source of blessing for our nation.

But, God also has to choose us as a nation. In my view, America has been a source of good throughout her brief history. Has everything been perfect? Of course not. Nonetheless, God has been guiding us with his eye. 13 “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.” We have to choose to see that? Have you heard of the “All-seeing eye” or the “Eye of Providence?” You can see it on the back of a $1 bill. It is on the top of a pyramid with 13 layers, representing the 13 original colonies. Over the capstone are the words “Annuit Coeptis,” which means “Favors Undertakings” or “God has favored our undertakings.”

God is not only omnipresent and omniscient, but he also actively shapes us. 15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. This is not just in a personal context but in a national context as well. 16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army. A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” God shaped the hearts of our Founding Fathers so they could design a nation like no other. God gave them the wisdom to design a nation that would not be under the tyranny of a monarch. We all know that the Revolutionary War was fought against the strong and coercive measures by King George of England against the colonies. Neither did the Founding Fathers want a nation under the tyranny of the multitude. They didn’t want to set up a democracy like the ancient Greeks. That was just majority rule. They didn’t want that. Can you imagine what it would be like if the majority in a society made decisions only for themselves and not for the minority? What if the majority wanted to enslave the minority? What could we do to make sure that the majority could be kept in check? The Founding Fathers were not only trying to prevent the tyranny of a king, but they were also trying to prevent the tyranny of the majority. They came up with 8 block and tackle measures to keep the majority in check (I’m getting most of this from Dinesh D’Souza’s recent book “The United States of Socialism”):

  1. A Written Constitution: Unlike England’s common law, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution, a supreme charter that would override the will of the majority. This would keep the government in check. This could be amended but the process is very difficult.
  2. The Bill of Rights: This was added to put a series of limitations on the government that begin with “Congress shall make no law”—
  • no law restricting speech, or the press, or the free exercise of religion
  • Citizens have the right to assemble, to bear arms, and enjoy the due process of the law, and to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure
  1. The Supreme Court: They can strike down those federal laws that go against the Constitution and protect the rights of the citizens against the majority.
  2. Representative Government: People elect leaders who represent them. If you don’t like your leaders, then elect others at the next term.
  3. Separation of Powers: Power is divided between 3 branches—
  • Legislative with elected officials in the House of Representatives and Senate, together forming the Congress. Their job is to make the laws;
  • Executive with the President of the United States who acts as the head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He implements and enforces the law by appointing heads of federal agencies and Cabinet;
  • Judiciary with power to arbitrate and resolve legal disputes. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  1. Federalism: Power is divided between the national government and state government.
  2. Checks and Balances: Congress makes laws but the President can veto them. To overturn a veto, it requires congressional supermajority. The President can enforce the laws but the congress and the judiciary branches provide oversight. The judges interpret the Constitution, but they are appointed by the President and confirmed the Senate.
  3. The Electoral College and the 2 branches of the legislature – the House and the Senate: The President, members of the Congress, and senators are elected by the people. However, the Electoral College makes sure that the bigger states with more people do not decide the presidency. Each state has 2 senators a piece but the smaller ones have fewer congressional representatives.

The point is that our Founding Fathers wanted to create a nation that would be fair to everyone. By God’s hand, they came up with an amazing system of checks and balances. They wanted to make sure that “might will not make right.” Our nation fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery. But, in each generation, our leaders knew that this would happen but the nation would go on because it was built on the right foundation. Lincoln acknowledged this in the Gettysburg Address (Video):

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

How much clearer can we get!

Let’s read the final words of the psalm—18 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. (In God We Trust.)22 Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

Are you praying for our nation? Are you hoping in his mercy on our nation? Are you saved?

Under God by Dr. Abidan Shah

Under God

UNDER GOD by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Lately, I’ve heard a lot of “I can’t believe what’s happening in our country” and “We need a lot of prayers as a nation.” I agree—It is sad what’s happening in our nation and we do need a lot of prayers. But, sometimes, I also hear things like “America is a horrible nation” and “Other nations are so much better than us in this or that.” Once in a while, a Hollywood actor will also claim that he/she is leaving America. I want to ask them “How soon can you make that happen!” To be honest, most of these people won’t last 5 minutes out there! And, I’m not talking about living in some gated resort or on a movie set. Here’s my point: America is not a perfect nation. It has its faults. Having said that, I still believe that it is the greatest nation on earth. The secret of our success in the face of some incredible odds is that we were built on the foundation of “One Nation Under God.” It is up to us, the church, to fix our faults by God’s help and continue to be that “One Nation Under God.” That’s the title of our message today—UNDER GOD—from Psalm 33:12. Let’s turn there. By the way, this is part 1.

Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” This verse is often invoked as the source of our Christian or godly heritage in America. It’s essence can be found in some very important places. First, it can be seen on our nation’s monuments, like the capstone on the Washington Monument has the words “Laus Deo,” which is Latin for “Praise be to God.” In the Capital Building, over the east doorway of the Senate Chamber are the words “Annuit coeptis,” which is Latin for “God has favored our undertakings.” The same statement is also found on the Great Seal of the United States. Then, the slogan “In God We Trust” is found over the south entrance of the Senate Chamber, in the House Chamber (Behind the President in the State of the Union address), and on our money. Then, our Pledge of Allegiance also carries the phrase “One Nation Under God.” All these examples show that Psalm 33:12 is a very important scripture for us as Christians in America. Even if the verse is not quoted, the idea is everywhere.

Personal Testimony: Having grown up in a country that was not built on this verse, I can attest that this nation is unlike any nation on the face of this planet.

Context: Before we start studying this verse to see how it applies to us as a nation today with all that’s going on, we need to back up and notice that this psalm does not have a title or a superscription like the other psalms around it. In other words, we don’t know for sure who wrote this psalm or why it was written. But, there is some evidence from early manuscripts from Qumran that this was probably a psalm of David. Then, why was this description omitted in the other manuscripts? Maybe, it was because Psalm 33 was seen as a continuation of Psalm 32. It was understood that they were connected. To understand that we need to notice the similarities between the last verse of Psalm 32 and the first verse ofPsalm 33. Listen carefully to Psalm 32:11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Now, listen carefully to how the very next psalm begins—Psalm 33:1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” Did you hear the similarities? In fact, in the Hebrew, the same exact word “ranen” is used for “shouting for joy,” “tsedek” for righteous, and “yasher” for upright.

What does all this mean for us? Before we can start talking about “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” in Psalm 33 we need to make sure we are in line with what Psalm 32 has to say. What is Psalm 32 saying? A Psalm of David. A Contemplation.”Meaning: David, the man after God’s own heart, has written these words. 1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Before we can talk about being blessed as a nation, we need to talk about the blessing of being forgiven. 2 “Blessed isthe man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”In just these 2 verses, three different words are used to designate evil: “Pesha” = rebellion against God; “Chatah” = sin, turning away from the true path; “Hawon” = distortion, absence of respect for God’s will. What is needed? Confession and Repentance. What happens if this is not done? 3 “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.” In recent days, we are seeing a lot of people talking and screaming, but we are not saying what needs to be said. What needs to come out of our mouths are words of repentance! 4 “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Can you feel the heaviness of sin?

Now begins his Confession and Repentance. 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. 6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him.”Notice: The command to pray is to the godly, the righteous. Maybe, the reference here is to Noah’s flood. If so, then we are to stand in the gap for others. We are to pray in confession and repentance for our collective sins:

  • removing prayer and Word of God from our schools;
  • legalizing abortion, the killing of unborn children;
  • redefining human sexuality, marriage, and family;
  • glorifying sex and violence through entertainment;
  • living self-centered and complacent lives;
  • embracing any and every view that is sent our way without checking with the Word of God.

We are facing the consequences of decades of these decisions.

Will we be okay? 7 “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Like Dad guiding me in how I should be at the dinner table with special guests.

9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.” It seems like we went from one pandemic to another, from a physical to a cultural pandemic. Could it be that God is using this time to harness and draw his people to himself? Are we being mule-headed and stubborn? 10 “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.” When proper confession and repentance happens, then comes verse 11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” The problem with us is that we want verse 11 without going through verses 1-10.

Question: Have your transgressions been forgiven? Have your sins been covered? Have you truly asked God what he is doing in your life and our nation through these pandemics?

Having gone through Psalm 32, we can now begin Psalm 33     1 “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.” 2 Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. 4 For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; (tsedek and mishpath) The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

Next week we will look in detail on how the founding of our nation was based on the values that come from this book.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you forgiven? Have you repented of your sins? Are you praying for healing in our nation?

2 Chronicles 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Rejoice by Dr. Abidan Shah

Rejoice

REJOICE by Dr. Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: A big thanks to our wonderful team and our volunteers for getting everything ready for us to get back in! It’s good to be back in! I don’t know how it has been for you but, for me, every day I’ve had to choose how I would face this crisis. I could choose either to live by fear and stress or I could choose to live by faith and rejoice. Human beings have been endowed with the gift of choice unlike the animal world. Animals choose but they do it out of instinct. Our dog gets really stressed when there’s a storm coming because she is scared of thunder and lighting. She gets really happy when she sees us because she knows that we love her and we will give her a treat. We had a cat too but I could never figure him out. Unlike animals, our choices are far more complex, and motivated by moral values and consequences. How did you choose to face this crisis? Did you choose to live by your instinct and fear or did you choose to live by your faith and rejoice?

Here’s the point: To rejoice through a crisis is a choice that every believer must make. If not, there will be fear and strife. It’s in choosing to rejoice that we have the peace of God and we can see the God of peace.

In our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we come to Philippians 4:4 for our message titled “REJOICE.” Let’s turn there.

Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

Context: As Paul was wrapping up his letter to the Philippians, he told them twice to rejoice. This is not a new command that he was introducing now. He had been telling them to do that all along. Philippians 2     17 “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” Again, in Philippians 3:1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it issafe.” He even gave his own example in rejoicing. Philippians 1:18 “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.” Don’t forget that Paul was in a Roman prison and he wasn’t sure if he was going to make it out alive. Paul could have been stressed and depressed. He could have even told the Philippians to be sad and mournful for him. To the contrary, he chose joy and told his “joy and crown,” the Philippians, to do the same.

What does it mean to rejoice? People often confuse peace with joy. In our book “30 Days Through a Crisis,” Nicole and I explain the difference. Peace is the calm assurance that God is in control and that everything will be okay. Joy is an outward celebration of God’s goodness. The Old Testament talks about joy with the Hebrew word “simchah,” which referred to singing, dancing, clapping, and other similar expressions during festive occasions like seeing a loved one, hearing good news, victory over an enemy, harvest, wedding, etc. The psalms are full of words of rejoice. In the New Testament, joy (chara) was the celebration of the coming of the Messiah. It’s the experience of being in Christ and having the fullness of the Spirit. You could be going through the worst of times and still be joyful because you are in Christ and you cannot lose the fullness of the Spirit. Yes, there will be tough days when we may not feel well, get a bad report, or lose a loved one, but, because the source of your joy is in Christ and his life, we can still rejoice. Question: If all that is true, why did we let this crisis steal our joy?

How do I rejoice? Do I jump up and down? Do I need to act all happy? Paul is about to teach us how starting in verse 5 “Let your gentleness be known to all men.” The Greek word is “epieikes.” It is one of the attributes of God. In the LXX, that word “epieikes” is used in Psalm 85:5 “Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?” God does not hold grudges. Same word is used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:1 “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…”Christ was meek and gentle in the face of suffering. By the way, 5 “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Meaning: The True Examiner who can see the outside and inside is watching and coming soon to judge us.

Principle: To rejoice, you have to be gentle instead of judgmental.

6 “Be anxious for nothing…” The Greek word “merimnaw” was used by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6     31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”Unfortunately, we get anxious during crisis. Instead, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” In other words, when you pray, remember to thank God for what he has already done for you.

For e.g. Clearview Staff families came together each week to pray for you.

Principle: To rejoice, you have to pray with gratefulness rather than panic.

What will be result? 7 “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” There is a peace that the world has. It is the absence of conflict. We are not talking about that. The peace we are talking about goes far beyond (huperecho). It is the calm assurance that all is well and will turn out for the best. It is knowing deep within that no matter what the headlines are saying and the pundits are prognosticating, the living true God is in control. It is knowing that Jesus is in the storm with us and he will stand up and say “Peace, be still.” By the way, this is much more than just some intellectual understanding. This peace of God stands as a sentry guarding us through the crisis.

Principle: To rejoice, you need the peace of God to guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus

8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things arejust, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” So many times, through my life, especially through this crisis, I have thought about this passage. The Greek word is “logizomai.” Previously, Paul used the word “phronema,” which as a verb means “to think,” “to judge,” or “to set one’s mind on.” Now, he used “logizomai,” which means to “consider,” “think,” “ponder,” “reason,” “meditate.” What do I focus on? In some sense, this is about focusing on the beautiful, inspiring, and profitable things, but it’s much more than that. The only place we will find all of these things in one place is in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the man from heaven who has demonstrated heavenly citizenship values.

  • whatever things are true, – Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
  • whatever things are noble, – At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow.
  • whatever things are just, – Jesus took God’s justice and offered us mercy.
  • whatever things are pure, – Jesus is God’s Holy and Righteous One.
  • whatever things are lovely, – Jesus was common and yet he demonstrated glory.
  • whatever things are of good report, – Jesus grew in favor with God and man.
  • if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – Revelation 5 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

Principle: To rejoice, you have to choose to focus on your heavenly citizenship values.

9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

For e.g. When we went out to serve our community, not recklessly, we saw the God of peace, Jesus Christ in the faces of people.

Principle: To rejoice, follow those who have the God of peace with them.

I began the message with this statement: To rejoice through a crisis is a choice that every believer must make. If not, there will be fear and strife. It’s in choosing to rejoice that we have the peace of God and we can see the God of peace.

Invitation: How did you choose to face this crisis? Did you choose to live by your instinct and fear or did you choose to live by your faith and rejoice?

Do you have a reason to rejoice? Are your sins forgiven? Are you saved?

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?

True Gains by Dr. Abidan Shah

True Gains.jpg

TRUE GAINS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Before the COVID-19 shutdown, our Clearview staff would meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at our local Y to workout. One of our codewords was “It’s time for some gains.” By that we meant, “It’s time for us to gain some muscles.” Some days, it was tough to get up early on a cold morning and drive to the gym. It was such a good feeling to sleep in, but, compared to the good feeling of working out, it was loss. By the way, one of us did a lot of looking in the mirror and admiring his gains but we’re not going to talk about that! So also, in the Christian life, we have to decide what really matters. What are the true gains in the Christian life? True Gains for a believer are knowing Christ and being found in him. Unfortunately, we substitute these gains for things that only lead to self-righteous pride and disunity. Our message today is titled “TRUE GAINS” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

Question: What things do you consider as gains in your life? What would you be willing to give up in order to gain Christ? Before you can gain Christ, you have to find Christ. Have you found Christ? Are you saved?

Context: So far, in this series on Philippians, we have learned that the Christians in Philippi were struggling with both internal and external problems. Internally, they were struggling with disunity in the body. Externally, they were facing persecution from their neighbors. This was very detrimental to their existence. Paul wrote this letter both to settle their disputes and to strengthen them. His answer to their situation was “have the mind of Christ.” Philippians 2:5, “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” In other words, if they were going to get along and survive the persecution, they needed a mind-renewal to match the mind of Christ. Developing a mind like the mind of Christ was another way of saying, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13). So, how should they behave if they’ve had this mind transformation, this working out of salvation? Here’s a checklist in Philippians 2    14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, (Do you do all things without complaining and disputing?) 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, (Have you become blameless and harmless?) children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Are you a child of God without fault, shining as lights in the world?) 16 holding fast the word of life, (Are you holding fast the word of life?) so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Are you giving others opportunity to rejoice in the day of Christ?)

But, Paul didn’t stop here. He went on to address the source of their conflicts. If there is a crack in the wall, we can keep patching it or we can find the problem and do some real fixing so the crack doesn’t come back. Paul wants to fix the problem under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not just for the Philippians but for all of us. Let’s look at how he does that, one verse at a time:

3     1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. It seems that Paul is about to end his letter, but wait! 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Between verses 1 and 2, there is a radical shift in tone. Scholars have debated this section to no end. Some have even said that there must be some other letter by Paul that got inserted here. I believe that this is one and the same letter. You have to read it in its rhetorical context. Remember, Paul was trained by the best of both Jewish and Greek worlds. What is the purpose for the shift in tone? Paul wants to deal with root problem of disunity among the Philippian Christians—Pride through self-righteousness. Paul doesn’t just come out and accuse them of pride and arrogance. That would be too much in your face or misjudging the wrong person, which we often do.

Instead, Paul lays out the example of those who demonstrate pride through self-righteousness: the Judaizers. These were people who were claiming to be Christians but still wanted to practice the Old Testament practices like circumcision. They contradicted and opposed Paul’s ministry, and they must have infiltrated the Philippian Church. Listen again to how he describes them in verse 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” The Greek word for dog “kuon” is the word from which we get our word “canine.” In Latin, it would be “Cave Canem” = “Beware/Watch for Dog.” Was Paul being hateful?Here Paul is using the word that was reserved for the Gentiles. Also, mutilation is the word “katatome.” Here again the word was used to describe those Gentiles who tried to practice circumcision (peritome) but they were only mutilating themselves. There was no covenant with God in their ritual. Unfortunately, the Judaizers had the same attitude even in the church towards those who were not circumcised. They would act uppity with them, as if they were privileged. What a sad thing to do? It could very well be that some of the people in the Philippian church had some Jewish background or they may have picked up some of these bad behaviors.

Principle: All pride is bad but spiritual pride is the most destructive. It is nauseating to the lost world; it demoralizes younger believers; and it angers God.

Listen to Paul’s response: 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

Application: Are you worshipping God in the Spirit? Are you rejoicing in Christ Jesus? Do you have confidence in the flesh? Is it about how long you’ve been in church? Is it about your spiritual pedigree? Is it about your Bible knowledge?

Paul now gives his own example: 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 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.

Instead of taking pride in any of this—7 But what things were gain (“kerdos”) to me, these I have counted loss (“zemia”) for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” The word for “rubbish” is “skubalon,” which refers to “unspeakable filth” or “dung.” Keep in mind: Paul did not say that these things are rubbish. But, compared to gaining Christ, they are rubbish.

What did Paul consider as his gains now? 3 things:

  1. His Justification (that event by which we are set or declared to be in right relation with God): 9 “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
  2. His Sanctification (that event that God is daily working in our lives to make us more like him): 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Grammatically, to know Christ is to experience the power of his resurrection and to join him in his sufferings.
  3. His Glorification (that event that God will one day welcome us into what he has prepared for us): 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Here are the true gains? Justification – saved from the penalty of sin; Sanctification – saved from the power of sin; and Glorification – saved from the presence of sin.

Invitation: How are your gains? What do you think of your justification, sanctification, and glorification? Are you saved?

 

 

Herald by Dr. Abidan Shah

Herald.jpg

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

Introduction: People everywhere are living in the grip of fear and hopelessness, even believers. It’s no different than how that small group of disciples must have felt after Jesus, their Master, had been unjustly tried and then brutally crucified right before their eyes. This was now the third day since he had been laid in a tomb. Little did they know that they were about to become the first heralds of the resurrected king. Here’s the gist of our message: Fear and hopelessness will keep you from becoming a herald of the resurrected king. Love is the only vaccine that will cure fear and faith is the only key that will unlock the door of hopelessness. This is our final message of our series titled HOSANNA and it’s called HERALD.

Luke 24     1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certainother women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowedtheir faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” 8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Question: Are you living in the grip of fear? Have you been plagued by hopelessness? Have you checked the level of God’s love in your heart lately? Are you plugged into his truth? Do you know Jesus? He loves you and he is the Truth. Are you saved?

Context: In order to truly understand how the disciples were feeling after the crucifixion of Jesus, we need to backup to Luke 23    44 “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” All this was so incredible, so bizarre, and so mind blowing, that people knew right away that something really bad had just been done. Luke tells us several things:

  • The Roman centurion said, “Certainly this was a righteous man!”
  • The whole crowd that was there began to beat their breasts and started leaving. It was a sign of mourning.
  • How about those who followed Jesus? Luke 23:49 “But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”
  • Some were probably shell-shocked – “I can’t believe it.”
  • Some were probably angry – “Those hypocrites killed him.”
  • Some were probably afraid – “I think they’ll come after us.”
  • Some were probably blaming each other – “Where’s the mighty Peter?”
  • Some were probably weeping. Those tears kept rolling down their face.

Now the question – “Who is going to get him down? We can’t just let him hang there. It’s Sabbath and that would make it 3 days before we can get his body. But, who’s going to do it?” No volunteers. They were afraid. The disciples and the followers were so gripped with fear that 2 men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had to come to their rescue. They were wealthy prominent men, members of the Sanhedrin who had a soft spot for Jesus. They had to pull some strings with Pilate to make it happen. Where were the big strong manly men? Luke 23     55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils…” The men were nowhere to be found.

Principle: Fear can be paralyzing. Fear is a choice weapon of the enemy and if I may add, “he’s using it very well in our nation.” Listen to what it says in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Application: With this crisis facing our nation and the world, we need to exercise caution, follow the guidelines, but we don’t need to live in fear. That’s what the world wants us to do. If we’re truly honest, that’s where many of us are. How about you?

Luke 24:1 “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certainother women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.” What made them leave the comfort of their homes and step outside? One word, LOVE. It was their love for their Master that enabled them to brave the authorities, the religious leaders, and any danger lurking in the early hours of the morning. How many ladies would agree to going into a graveyard in the early morning while it’s still dark? We’re not even talking about worrying about religious authorities who killed your leader.

Principle: Love will overcome fear. When you love someone, you’ll do anything for them. But there’s more, listen to 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.”You ask, “I don’t get it. How can love drive out fear?” Keep in mind that this promise is given to us in the context of our relationship with God. God is the biggest source of fear. But, when his love is in our hearts, then we know that we don’t have to fear him. If we don’t have to fear him, there is no one or nothing else that’s worthy of our fear.

Application: Are you living in fear? It’s only the love of God in your heart and your love for God that will drive it from you. The reason we fear this, that, and the other is because we don’t fear God enough or love him enough.

Now, as we read in the opening, the women came to the tomb with spices in their hands. The first thing they noticed was that the stone had been rolled away and the body was missing. Then 2 angels stood by them in shining garments. Of course, they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth. Listen again to what the angels said to the women in Luke 24     5 “…Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” What was their response? 8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. What a change! They believed and went from being hopeless to becoming heralds of the resurrected king.

But, listen to their response? 11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. Fear was still gripping them but their real problem was unbelief.

Principle: If you have a faith problem, the words of the Bible will feel to you like an idle tale. You will live in hopelessness.

But one person’s response was different. 12 “But Peter…” In the past 24 hours, there were a lot of “But Peters!”

  • Luke 22:54   Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance.
  • Luke 22:58   And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”
  • Luke 22:56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.” 57 But he (Peter) denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”
  • Luke 22:58 And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”
  • Luke 22:59   Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” This one didn’t stop there. Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Back to Luke 24: 12 “But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” He was willing to believe and hope came in.

Invitation: Are you living in hopelessness? Let’s recap: Fear and hopelessness will keep you from becoming a herald of the resurrected king. Love is the only vaccine that will cure fear and faith is the only key that will unlock the door of hopelessness. Do you know the resurrected king? Are you his herald?

Shrewd by Pastor Abidan Shah

SHREWD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Have you heard someone say “so and so is book smart but not street smart”? It means that a person has a lot of book sense but no common sense. Scientists and professors are known for that. I knew some professors from back in college who were brilliant when it came to books but clueless when it came to day to day activities. One was a genius in Physics but could not operate the coffee machine. Another one was a Math whiz but could not manage his money. So also, there are many Christians who are the “Good Book” smart but a failure when it comes to daily life decisions. They have a lot of spiritual knowledge but no relational and financial wisdom. Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is very different than anything I’ve ever preached. It’s on learning how to be “SHREWD” and that’s the title of the message.

Luke 16     1 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 So he called him and said to him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

Question: Parables reflect who we are in the story. Are you the wise steward or a foolish one? Have you been a good steward of what God has blessed you with? How are your finances? How do you see money? Do you use money or love money? Do you have the true riches in Christ? Are you saved?

Context: Previously in this series, you’ve heard me say that this parable or that is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. Today’s parable is the most difficult parable of Jesus. The reason it’s so difficult is because on the surface it appears wrong on many levels. But, if we suspend our judgment for a little bit, it will begin to make a lot of sense. So, let’s review the story again: The steward has been fired for wasting his master’s goods but before he cleans his office, he decides to take advantage of his access to the financial records and pardons part of the debts that others owed to his ex-boss. Listen again to verse 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’” I did some math and that’s about 400-500 gallons of oil. This would take about 75 olive trees to produce and it would be the wages of an average worker for 2 years. That’s a lot of money! Again, verse 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’” Losing 20 measures of wheat would come to losing the produce of 20 acres of land. That would be equal to losing about 500 denarii. Again, that’s a lot of money! Also, these were just two examples listed but he did that with all his ex-boss’s debtors. Here’s a question: Why didn’t he just steal some money and goods? If he had been caught stealing, he would have been punished severely. So, why did he do this? He was doing favors on his ex-boss’s expense to cash in later when he would be jobless. In other words, he was using his ex-boss’s debt ledger to build friendships that he could call on in the future for help.

What was his boss’s reaction? 8 “So the master commended (epaineo = praised) the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.” Why didn’t he call the authorities? What boss/owner in his right mind would do that! Keep in mind that this is just a parable, a made-up story given to make a point. The point was that the steward did not steal from his ex-boss. Instead, he made a clever decision to take advantage of his situation and make friends for a rainy day. This act even impressed his ex-boss! Just when you want to say that there must’ve been a misunderstanding in the wording, listen to Jesus’ conclusion—“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” The Greek word for shrewd is “phronimos” which means insight and wisdom, sensible, thoughtful, prudent, and wise. The same word is also used by Jesus in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” What Jesus is saying is that lost people are wiser in using money than God’s people. 

Of course, people have tried to explain this point in more palatable ways. Some have said that Jesus would never commend such a behavior or commend lost people. There must be some misunderstanding. Nope. Listen to verse 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” In other words, Jesus was telling his listeners to use money to make friends so that when life does not go as planned, their wise investments would help them out. Again, some people have claimed that this could not be. Maybe, Jesus was simply using irony or sarcasm here. Listen to verse 10 “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the trueriches?” In other words, if you haven’t learned how to use money wisely, why should God trust you with his true riches. Keep reading—12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Now it begins to make a little more sense. Jesus was NOT saying—

  • God’s people should be more like the people of the world.
  • God’s people should use other people’s money to outsmart them.

Instead, Jesus was saying—

  • Learn from those sons of this world who use money to make friends.
  • If you don’t know how to use money properly, why should God trust you with his true riches.
  • If you claim to serve God, stop serving money. You cannot serve both. You will love one or the other.

Why did Jesus go through all this trouble to explain all this? 14 “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money (philarguros = fond of money), also heard all these things, and they derided Him.” There is the clue! The Pharisees loved money. The tax collectors and sinners used money to their advantage but the Pharisees were only lovers of money. Listen carefully: The Bible does not condemn money. It only condemns the love of money.Listen to I Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 2 Timothy 3    1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers…”

What happens when you love money? You begin to worship it. It controls your life. It dictates how you live. It decides your priorities. Of course, there are many lost people who love money and they destroy their lives chasing after it. But, unfortunately, many saved people do the same thing. They claim to know God but they worship money. They give their lives to chasing it and pierce themselves with many sorrows. They are money lovers. They condemn the rich (U-Haul behind a hearse) but many rich are not money lovers (most philanthropists)! To the contrary, the sons of light are money lovers:

  • Instead of teaching their children the proper perspective on money, they only teach them to love money.
  • Instead of focusing on relationships and investing to build them, they watch them fall apart and they blame the church or circumstances or even God.
  • Instead of finding true purpose in life, they only live selfish and self-centered lives.
  • Instead of investing in God’s eternal kingdom, they only live for the here and now.
  • Instead of being a solid testimony for Christ, they repel the lost world from the gospel.

Is there any wonder that God does not give his own any true riches? Is there any wonder that many of God’s people are living beggarly lives? Is there any wonder that many of God’s children are pierced with many sorrows? Is there any wonder that we are not winning the lost world?

Invitation: Are you shrewd? Do you love money or use money? Are you saved?

Divisive Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

DIVISIVE MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: One of my favorite episodes on the Andy Griffith Show is the one where Andy plays the marriage counsellor. Fred Boone and his wife Jennie are some of the nicest people in Mayberry but they have one problem – they can’t get along with each other. They fight all the time. When they run out of words, they start throwing dishes at each other. Andy feels like he can help them out. So, he tries to teach them how to speak lovingly to each other, hoping that in time it’ll become a habit. It actually works but then something happens. Fred and Jennie begin fighting with everybody else in town. That’s when Andy and Barney realize that it is so much better to let them fight with each other, if they want to have peace in Mayberry. Do you know people like that? They are always fighting with someone. For them, its normal to be at odds with someone. They have a divisive mind. Unfortunately, such people are also in the church. Today’s message will help us deal with a divisive mind and exchange it for the mind of Christ.

Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Question: Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know what it means to be of one mind with others? Are you saved? Do you have the mind of Christ?

Context: Many of you have shared with me how much the sketch of the volcano and the plant has helped you. So, here it is once again. All of us have certain EXPECTATIONSin life. These Expectations represent our goals in life and how we expect life to turn out through the good times and the bad. These Expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. These Assumptions come from how our mind has been built by God through our parents, through our upbringing, and through the circumstances in life. What happens when our Expectations don’t turn out according to our Assumptions? We have FRUSTRATIONS. These are usually manifested as Anxiety, Guilt, and Resentment. In the past two sermons I gave you some illustrations from wanting success in life, marriage, and child-raising. Here’s another one from being hurt in life. If your Expectation is that the world owes you for the pain you have suffered in your past, you are in for a lot of Frustrations in life. This false Expectation is based on the false Assumption that life is perfect, that human beings are inherently good, that hurts can be rectified in this life, and that if you are hurt, you are entitled to special privileges. That’s not true. You have to abandon the volcano model for the tree planted by rivers of water. Instead of Assumptions, you have to seek after BIBLICAL TRUTHSi.e. THE MIND OF CHRIST. Instead of Expectations, you have to trust in the PROMISES OF GOD. Then, instead of Frustrations, you will have FRUITS. You will have to believe in the fallenness of human beings, the reality of sin, the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the importance of forgiveness.

Now back to our message on the Divisive Mind – Listen again to Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” In order to understand why Paul said those words, we need to take this passage apart and look at it a section at a time. To start with, Paul implores the Philippians – “Fulfill my joyby being likeminded.”The word for joy is “chara” which Paul uses 5 times in various forms in this letter:

  • In Philippians 1:4Paul prays for the Philippians with joy.
  • In Philippians 1:25Paul wants to continue with them for their“progress and joyof faith.”
  • Of course, here in Philippians 2:2 Paul wants them to fulfill his joyby being like-minded.”
  • In Philippians 2:29Paul wants them to receive Epaphroditus, one of his companions in ministry, with joy
  • In Philippians 4:1 Paul calls the Philippians his “joyand crown.”

I don’t have time to look at the related word “chairo” meaning rejoice, which is found about 7 times in various forms. The most famous one being Philippians 4:4Rejoicein the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Why is Paul so obsessed with joy and rejoice in his letter to the Philippians?

Before we answer that question, what is the meaning of this word “joy” and even “rejoice?” Of course, we can go to the Lexicons and the Greek dictionaries but the best way to discover the true meaning is by looking at the context in which those words are used in the Bible. Here is what I have found: Joy is a feeling of deep happiness based on biblical truths.What does this “deep happiness” feel like? C.S. Lewis, in his book Surprised by Joy,describes it as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” What Lewis is saying is that true joy never runs out or reaches its goal but keeps multiplying. Furthermore, it is not depended on our circumstances.

Back to our question – Why did Paul use the words “joy” and “rejoice” so many times in his letter to the Philippians? Listen again to Philippians 2:2Fulfillmy joy…” Fulfill implies that at the moment Paul’s joy was incomplete. It had depleted. It was leaking. What caused it to leak? “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” Just in case the Philippians were to misunderstand what Paul meant, he clarified it in 3 different ways – “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Talk about being emphatic! Why did Paul restate this in 4 ways? Because the Philippians were either divided or on their way to being divided. 

Listen very carefully – Nothing will deplete your joy in the Christian life faster than division in your life, your marriage, your family, and your church.

Where do divisions come from? 3“Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”Divisions come from selfish ambitions, conceit (excessive pride), sense of superiority (especially spiritual superiority, legalism), and self-interest. If a person has grown up in an environment marred by arguments and fights because of these negative qualities, it becomes a normal “Assumption” for them to live in contention with those around them. It is an unhealthy, evil, and destructive normal. It takes one divisive person to start something and before you know it, the whole body is infected with a spirit of division. 

How do you counteract such a divisive mind?Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:14-15“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…”Philippians 4:8“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” What do you do when someone brings negative divisive junk to you? Here’s an example from the Old Testament worth considering – David and Jonathan were best friends even though Saul (Jonathan’s father) hated him. After Saul’s house collapsed and David became the King over Israel, David wanted to do something nice for his old friend Jonathan. He asked if there was anyone left and a servant of Saul by the name of Ziba informed him that Jonathan had a son by the name of Mephibosheth who was lame in his feet. David had him brought and told him not to fear and that he will give him all the inheritance of his grandfather Saul. Wow! Then he told Ziba that he is to serve Mephibosheth the way he served Saul. All sounds great. Jump ahead to Absalom’s rebellion against David, his father. David had to run for his life and Mephibosheth could not accompany him because of his handicap and sent Ziba to help David fight against Absalom. Ziba met David and told David that he has come to help even though his master Mephibosheth has pledged his allegiance to Absalom. David told Ziba that in that case, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is now his. The battle is over, Absalom dies and David is victorious. Mephibosheth comes to congratulate David and David asks him why he did not go with him. He replied that he couldn’t because of his handicap and that Ziba had lied to him.What did David do next? Did he put Ziba on trial? Did he return Mephibosheth his property? No. He said in 2 Samuel 19:29“You and Ziba divide the land.” Why? Even though Ziba had lied, David’s mind was now contaminated against Mephibosheth and he could never trust him again. Factually he knew that Mephibosheth was good but emotionally he couldn’t trust him anymore. This is what happens when you allow a divisive person to speak into your life.

What needs to happen is that your assumptions have to be replaced by biblical truths. Philippians 2:1“Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” So much I could say about each – Salvation through Jesus, love for one another, Holy Spirit binding us in him and actively showing affection and mercy is need to deal with a divisive mind, whether yours or someone else’s.

Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know someone who does? Pray for them. Are you saved?

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