Authority by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Howard Hughes was a very successful American businessman. He made it big in the fields of engineering, aviation, and film making in the mid-1900s. Towards the end of his life, due to physical and mental issues, he became an eccentric and reclusive. Unbeknownst to Hughes, a journalist and novelist named Clifton Irving secured a contract with a large advance from a publishing house to write his autobiography. Irving claimed that he had exclusive interviews with Hughes, which was not true. At the last moment, Hughes and his lawyers stepped forward and exposed the whole thing as a fraud. Some people think that the Bible is nothing but a well-crafted and elaborate fraud on God perpetuated by the church to fleece the masses. In fact, here are some of the questions that you sent regarding the Bible: “Doesn’t the Bible have errors?” “What about all those books that did not make it into the Bible?” “What makes the Bible more special over other religious books?” “Aren’t all the copies of the New Testament corrupt?” “Why do the various translations disagree?” “Aren’t the biblical accounts similar to ancient myths?” It may seem like these questions regarding the Bible are all over the place, but, in reality, they are all connected to the issue of the Authority of the Bible. Main Point: The Bible is unlike any book in the world. It is the word of God without any errors, and it claims authority over our individual lives, church, and world. In fact, submission to scriptures is submission to God, more specifically to Jesus Christ.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

Context: The first assault that Satan made against human beings in their relationship with God was regarding the Authority of the Word of God – “Has God indeed said…”That question had 2 implications: first, are you sure that’s what God said; second, are you sure you have to obey him. The first implication has to do with Revelation. The second has to do with Application. Both are a challenge to the Authority of God’s Word. To understand why the Bible is Authoritative and why we have to Obey it, we need to understand some of the other terms connected to the doctrine of Scripture. If you grew up in church, especially in evangelical circles, I’m sure you have heard a lot of big words regarding the Bible: Inerrancy, Inspiration, Revelation, Authority, Canon, Interpretation, Infallibility, and Application. What do they all mean and how are they connected? To begin with, the key word in all these words is Authority. J. I. Packer (famous evangelical theologian who authored “Knowing God”) wrote, “Authority is the basic theological issue into which discussions of biblical revelation, inspiration, and interpretation finally run.” I have come up with the following chart. It’s not perfect, but it helps us to understand how all the terms connect to Authority and to each other:

  • The Bible has to be obeyed (Application) because it is Authoritative.
  • Before you can properly apply, you have to correctly interpret it (Interpretation).
  • The Authority only extends to the Canonical books because they alone were recognized by the church.
  • They alone were recognized by the church as Canonical because they alone were Inspired.
  • Because they are Inspired, they are Inerrant.
  • They are Inspired and Inerrant because they were Revealed by God through the Holy Spirit to his people.

Let’s start at the beginning:

1. Revelation: This is God making himself known to human beings. There are 2 kinds –

A. General

i. Nature – Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

ii. History – Daniel 2:21 “And He changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings and raises up kings.”

iii. Human Nature – Romans 2:14 “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.” This is only about right and wrong, not salvation.

 B. Special – We need more specific information in order to be saved. Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This is where the 66 books of the Bible come in. The information in them is Personal, Anthropic, and Analogical. They come as historical acts (Abraham and Isaac; Babylonian exile), divine speech (“The word of the Lord came to me…”) and the incarnation of Jesus.

2. Inspiration: This is the process by which revelation is recorded and communicated to God’s people. More specifically, “the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on selected individuals which rendered them the instruments of God for the infallible communication of his mind and will” (Charles Hodge). 2 Timothy 3 16 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, (theopneustos = God-breathed) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” It is verbal (very words and not just concepts and subjects) and plenary (all is equally inspired even if certain parts are more beneficial than others). Also, it has both the human and divine elements (differences between the styles of the prophets and the writings of the gospels). 2 Peter 1:21 “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

3. Inerrancy: “[Inerrancy] is a corollary of the doctrine of full inspiration of the Bible. The view of the Bible held and taught by the writers of Scripture implies the full truthfulness of the Bible” (Millard Erickson). Here’s the best definition: “When all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.” (Paul D. Feinberg)

Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

Matthew 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

Note: Infallible – usually used by those who allow for the possibility that the Bible may not be fully free from error. They limit inerrancy to matters of faith and practice, especially salvation.

4. Authority – Here’s the definition of the “authority of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem – “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” The Bible has both bestowed and inherent authority. Because of its content that points to the living true God, it has bestowed authority. Because it is inspired and inerrant, it has inherent authority. It has authority over individual lives, church, and culture. Submission to scriptures is submission to God, more specifically Jesus Christ.

Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

1 Thessalonians 2:13 “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

5. Canon: Here “canon” refers to the list of authoritative books. It is often falsely alleged by the skeptics of Christianity that the church picked those books that fit their socio-political agenda. This is sensational history repeated in novels like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. That’s just not true! The canon was providentially set by the Holy Spirit and the church councils in the third century simply affirmed those books. The true evidence is seen in their use by God’s people from the first century. Very early on, they made lists of books that were deemed authoritative. Yes, there are certain Bibles that have extra books in the Old Testament. We will discuss that in the weeks ahead, but this is not so in the New Testament. Most of the extra-canonical books are Gnostic in origin.

6. Application: Ever since the end of the seventeenth century, there has been a growing shift in the western culture regarding the word authority. Prior to the coming of modernism, authority was looked upon as a benefit. Since then, it is looked upon as a hindrance to the free inquiry of truth. Authority is considered to be the opposite of truth. Obeying the Bible is seen as optional and even detrimental to freedom. We have to once again recognize that the Scriptures are not only authoritative as a top down authority, but they are very beneficial to us because they truly know us and can help us. Hebrews 4 12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

7. Interpretation: In order to obey, scriptures have to be properly interpreted. We have to use all the possible methods that will help us get to the heart of what God is saying and what he is expecting of us. Does the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart guarantee accurate interpretation? How can two people taught by the Holy Spirit have conflicting views on a passage? Does the Holy Spirit give us deeper meaning that cannot be reached by a normal study of a passage? In what way does the Holy Spirit guide our understanding in the study of God’s Word? Only the saved can be enabled by the Holy Spirit to truly appreciate and apply the Word (I Corinthians 2:14; I Thessalonians 1:6).

We began with Satan’s challenge to the Authority of God’s Word in the lives of Adam and Eve. I want to close with his similar challenge in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Matthew 4       3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10   Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Invitation: How much Authority does the Word of God have in your life? Ultimately, the Bible is God’s rescue manual to save you. Are you saved?

The Anatomy of Salvation by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE ANATOMY OF SALVATION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  This past week, our Clearview staff was on our annual retreat in Arizona. We do this every year as a time to plan for the summer and the upcoming year. It is much more than just a time to get away. Although, in light of how extremely busy this past year and a half was, it was great to see everyone spending time with their families. Those who are close to the team and are helping out in some ministry at Clearview, you know what I mean. While there, our team produced an 8-week bible study through Nehemiah on rebuilding lives and ministry, and also filmed at some incredible locations that you will see in the CONTEND series. In today’s message, we will answer a question that was asked in various forms: “Why do some people reject the gospel?” “Can someone believe even if they have some questions?” “Recently, I have heard of many big names that have renounced their faith. Why is that?” Main point: Salvation is God’s miraculous work of grace through Jesus Christ in the life of person. Nonetheless, there are certain observable factors that lead to the decision to receive Christ and remain in him. Our upbringing and the evidences we encounter in life determine our degree of belief in Christianity.

Acts 26     12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Context: This is the conversion account of the Apostle Paul before King Agrippa. It is found 2 other times in the book of Acts (Acts 9 and 22). It is such a radical testimony! One moment, Paul was persecuting Christians, and the next moment, he was one. Listen to his own description of his pre-conversion life – Acts 26      9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” Paul was a killer! Paul had a license to kill from the religious authorities. As he was on one of his evil missions, God knocked him to the ground with a bright light from heaven and a question, not in Greek or Aramaic, but Hebrew – “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Paul’s response was – “Who are You, Lord?” What would cause such a quick and radical change in him? It was much more than just a bright light and a mysterious voice. Those were simply to bring him to his senses. Paul gave us the clue in verse 4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” In other words, all the necessary ingredients for his salvation were there, Paul was going in the wrong direction. God simply had to turn his around.

The real question before us is – “What makes a person decide if they want to receive the gospel?” Often, it is believed that salvation is a mystery. God draws people by his grace and opens their eyes to the truth. It is truly a miracle. All that is absolutely true, but it is only one-sided. Lately, there has been more research in this field, especially from probability and decision theory. If you are a student of mathematics, you know what I am referring to. This is a very technical area. Although, I was a math and science teacher, I am not going to get into too much detail here. If you would like to know more, there are several important works that have been published lately that utilize Pascal’s Wager in calling people to believe in God. Pascal was scientist, mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and Catholic theologian who lived in 17th century France. He was brilliant. He was of frail health and died at the age of 39. Here’s my re-statement of the Wager, “We cannot come to the knowledge of God’s existence through reason alone. It’s wise to live as if God does exist because such a life has everything to gain and nothing to lose. If we live as if God exists, and He does indeed exist, we have gained heaven. If He doesn’t exist, we have lost nothing. To the contrary, if we live as though God does not exist and He really does exist, we have gained hell and punishment and have lost heaven. A rational person should live as though the Christian God exists and seek to believe in him.” Bottom line: it is rational to believe in God even with incomplete evidence. Although, some have criticized this wager through the centuries, several scholars (Jeff Jordan, Michael Rota, Thomas Morris, etc.) have attempted this approach, especially a Swedish mathematician, Ola Hössjer, professor at the Stockholm University, Sweden. He takes the Wager model and extends it so that the decision to become a Christian has 3 main ingredients: prior belief (a priori), evidence (a posteriori), and will. He uses Bayes’ Rule or Bayes Theorem to understand the probability of decisions. In other words, “our degree of belief in Christianity is the result of an inborn tendency to relate to God and the evidence we encounter in life.” By the way, Thomas Bayes (18th century statistician, philosopher, and non-conformist Presbyterian minister) who came up with his theorem to counter David Hume (English philosopher and skeptic) who claimed that the probability of people inaccurately claiming that they’d seen Jesus’ resurrection far outweighed the probability that the event had occurred in the first place. Jordana Cepelewicz summarizes Bayes’ simple explanation, “Consider a ball thrown onto a flat table behind your back. You can make a guess as to where it landed, but there’s no way to know for certain how accurate you were, at least not without looking. Then, he says, have a colleague throw another ball onto the table and tell you whether it landed to the right or left of the first ball. If it landed to the right, for example, the first ball is more likely to be on the left side of the table (such an assumption leaves more space to the ball’s right for the second ball to land). With each new ball your colleague throws, you can update your guess to better model the location of the original ball. In a similar fashion, Bayes thought, the various testimonials to Christ’s resurrection suggested the event couldn’t be discounted the way Hume asserted. By the way, according to Cepelewicz, Bayes theorem has been used to decode the German Enigma cipher, helped the United States Navy locate Soviet subs, enabled statisticians to determine the authorship of the Federalist Papers, and even unlock the secrets of the brain.

We don’t have time to look at all this in detail. Let’s just briefly look at the 3 main ingredients: prior belief, evidence, and will.

Prior Belief (a priori = before experience): Inborn conception of God (the desire to call on God and worship someone or something), inborn conception of first cause (the understanding that everything has a beginning/cause), inborn desire for meaning (the desire to do or be something), and inborn desire for love (we all want to love). Each of these can be encouraged or discouraged in a person, especially during the early years. That’s why we place such emphasis on children’s and youth ministries.

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Augustine – “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

Evidence (a posterior = after experience): Historical/Cultural (creativity and culture, misconduct of Christians, church history, religion and wars, other religions), Moral/Ethical (moral law, presence of evil), Scientific (design, bible and natural science, cause) Theological/Philosophical (fall of man, judgment and hell, truthfulness of the Bible, theodicy, Israel) and Personal (pain, suffering, miracles, personal testimony). When we hear about people renouncing their faith, one of these evidences is weak or faulty.

The combination of Prior Belief and Evidence leads to Rational Belief. Based on the individual, it depends on which one will be more important than others.

Will: Some need just a little rational belief; some only need some rational belief; and for some, strong rational belief is not enough.

Why was the response of the Paul immediate and heartfelt? He had plenty of prior belief and evidence. For him, the major evidence was not the light and the voice from heaven. It was the tremendous background he has in the scripture. The light and the voice simply stopped him in his tracks and turned him around.

Difference between my dad’s conversion and mine. It matters how you raise children. Current crisis is permanently marking them. How do you talk about church to them or sermons? Do you discipline and guide your kids?

Pascal said, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”

Invitation: What is holding you back? Do you know people who are lost? What do you think is holding them back? Have you prayed for the Holy Spirit would open their eyes and yours?

Greater than Religion by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER THAN RELIGION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Throughout the world, people have all kinds of traditions when it comes to Christmas. In Norway, they hide their brooms on Christmas Eve, because, according to tradition, witches are out on Christmas eve. In South Africa, children look forward to fried caterpillars or Christmas caterpillars on Christmas day. In India, where I grew up, we sang Christmas carols all night from door to door of every church member. To miss someone’s home was a big insult. They would wait for us with food, sweets, coffee, and tea. By the way, the same morning was Christmas day and we had church service at 9 am. It was tough because some of us were half asleep. All these traditions are good but sometimes traditions can overshadow the truth and we end up with religion and religious leaders. In our Christmas series titled GREATER, we’ve seen how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. In this message, we will see that Jesus was even greater than all the religious power brokers of the world. Find John 1:19. Main point: Jesus did not come to fit into our religious traditions. He came to bring us into a relationship with God. Jesus came to tear down the curtain in the Holy of Holies from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

Matthew 2      1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

Context: If you remember, last week, this was the same passage we used for the message, but our focus was on King Herod. We are using it again because it gives us the third power broker of the ancient world – the Religious Authorities. Next to Rome and Herod, they were in charge. Just like Herod was connected and subjected to Rome and Augustus Caesar, the Religious Authorities were also connected and subjected to Herod. In fact, they were also connected and subjected to Rome, as we will see later on.

In the passage, the Religious Authorities appear to be at Herod’s beck and call4“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” They knew better than to reject his summons. After all, he was the king. He controlled the appointment of the high priests. He expanded and built the temple in Jerusalem. He maintained peace in the region. He kept a buffer between them and the Romans. Of course, they lined up on the double. Were they aware of the answer? 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Amazingly, they even gave the right answer. What was Herod’s response? 7 “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.” Why didn’t Herod order the chief priests and scribes to go with the wise men? Why didn’t they go on their own initiative? One of 2 reasons:

  • They didn’t believe this was going to happen. It was just a myth to them.
  • They didn’t want it to happen. It was too costly and risky for them.

By their refusal to act, they were going to cancel the first Christmas! They would rather stay with their traditions and rituals than to go after the real thing.

Application: I find it very interesting how people are willing to shut down Christmas or redefine Christmas or see Christmas differently this year. What annoys me the most is when people try to use spiritual lingo to cover up their fear. How many of you have heard of the term “cancel culture”? It is when a person does or says something controversial and they are immediately cancelled. This happens on social media a lot. People turn against someone and they cancel them. 2000 years ago, people tried to cancel Christmas. They failed. They are trying it again and, unfortunately, believers are going along.

Who were these Religious authorities? In the passage it says “chief priests and the scribes of the people,” but altogether there were 4 major groups with some subgroups: Priests and Levites, Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes:

  1. Who were the Priests and Levites? As you know from the Old Testament, priests belonged to the tribe of Levi and had to be descendants of Aaron. Along with the Levites, they were the “ritual specialists and mediators between God and people” (Kugler). While the priests were responsible for running the temple and carrying out the sacrifices, the Levites handled the music and the supervision and management of the temple activities. Under Moses’ supervision and Aaron’s leadership, the standards were extremely high regarding holiness. Exodus 28 36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE Lord. 37 And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban. 38 So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.” Unfortunately, through the centuries, the priesthood in Israel had continued a downward spiral. In 174 BC, a man by the name of Jason had bribed Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, to become the high priest. Three years later, a man by the name of Menelaus, who was not even a Levite, also bribed his way to the position. After that, the Hasmoneans family of priests controlled the position. The Levites were no different. Does this mean that every priest and Levite was corrupt? There were a few like Zechariah and Elizabeth who were truly righteous, but, it seems that those from Jerusalem proper were corrupt. Remember, the parable of the Good Samaritan. The antagonists in the story were the priests and the Levites.
  2. Who were the Sadducees? The first time we hear about the Sadducees is under John Hyrcanus (135-104 BC). The Sadducees claimed to be the “righteous ones,” going all the way back to Zadok, the righteous high priest. In reality, the Sadducees were mostly from the aristocracy and despised by the common people. Under Alexander Jannaeus (103-76BC), 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Sadducees. Then in 37 BC, with the coming of Herod the great, the high priesthood became a political appointment under Rome’s supervision with the Sadducees in charge of all the temple activities. They were not necessarily all priests or attached to the temple. The chief priests and the high priests came from the Sadducees. This was the reason why some Jewish people actually built a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt and some left to form the Dead Sea community at Qumran. In short, the people went to the temple but inside they knew it was in corrupt hands. What did the Sadducees believe?No resurrection, angel, or spirit. They did not accept the oral law or the law of the sages, as the Pharisees. They had their own traditions regarding the Torah. They placed more emphasis on the books that focused on the temple. The came testing him with the question about the resurrection of the 7 brothers married to the same woman. Matthew 32:22 “…God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” They didn’t want Jesus. He was a threat to the establishment.
  3. Who were the Pharisees? They were mostly a lay movement of people who were trying to live a pious life. They believed in the right doctrines. They advocated a simple lifestyle. They were popular with the common people because they would help them keep the law. They focused on “Table Fellowship” – they called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Every household was held responsible. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. This does not mean that they rejected the priesthood or the temple. Their meals were exclusive and hierarchical because they believed that what you put inside of you matters and who you have around matters. They couldn’t get over Jesus’ eating habits and association with sinners.

Unfortunately, they constantly butted heads with Jesus. They were frustrated that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. They were frustrated that Jesus did not keep all their trivial Sabbath laws. They wanted Jesus to give them a sign. They accused him of being demon possessed. Jesus did not let up on them. He told his disciples in Matthew 5:20 “…unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He called them “Blind Guides,” “Hypocrites,” and “White-washed tombs.”

Attached to the Pharisees was a subgroup known as the scribes. Jesus often addressed them together.

  1. Who were the Scribes? They interpreted and taught the Law to the people. They were closely connected to the temple in Jerusalem and, in the smaller villages, they held positions of authority. They were envious of Jesus’ knowledge of the bible and popularity with the people. They considered themselves to be experts in the law/Old Testament. Listen to how Jesus dealt with them in Mark 12 38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” He pronounced woes upon them along with the Pharisees – Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. The Priests and the Levites were corrupt.
  2. The Sadducees were protecting the status quo.
  3. The Pharisees were about self-righteousness.
  4. The Scribes were busy showing off their knowledge.

In this world Jesus came not to fit into the religious categories and traditions but to tear down the curtain from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

1 Peter 1     18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Invitation: Do you have religion or do you have a relationship with Christ? He came not to fit into our traditions. He came to clean it up. Are you saved?

Humility by Pastor Abidan Shah

HUMILITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you know a proud or an arrogant person? How many of you know someone who thinks he/she is humble when they’re really not? How many of you would say that you are a humble person? All of us tend to think that we are humble and someone else is proud—when in reality, we all have the same spirit of pride. It reminds me of that man to whom they gave the badge of humility but they had to take it away when he tried to wear it. There’s only one who was/is truly humble and his name is Jesus. In fact, he humbled himself to the point of death, even the death of the cross. He is our model and source of true humility. That’s our message today titled – HUMILITY in our series from Philippians 2called MIND (RE)SET.

Philippians 2      5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question: Are you a humble person? Do you have the spirit and the heart of Christ? Have you come in humility before him and received him as your Savior and King?

Context: Last weekend, we learned that Jesus chose to come into this world as a “doulos,” as a slave. He didn’t stop being God. He didn’t give up any of his divine attributes. He gave up by taking on the mind of a slave, the mind of humility and obedience.Listen again to verse 8“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient…”If you read the gospels carefully, he’s constantly serving and humbly inviting people to come to him so he could serve them. Matthew 11    28 “Come to Me, allyouwho labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yokeiseasy and My burden is light.” Multitudes thronged to him. They understood what he meant. They felt that he could help them. They also knew that they could approach him. After all, who is afraid to come to a slave!

Application: 2000 years later, men and women, boys and girls are still coming to Jesus and exchanging their burdens for his. They are laying down their sorrows, regrets, guilts, shame, struggles, fears, worries, and doubts and taking up his cause and living a life of peace and joy. Have you made the exchange?

But Jesus came for much more than just to serve people and lighten their load.Listen again to verse 8“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross.” In other words, Jesus didn’t just live the slave’s life, he also died the slave’s ultimate death. The cross was a slave’s ultimate punishment. Let me explain what that means (My information is coming from scholarly books and articles, especially Martin Hengel’sCrucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross):

1. Crucifixion was widespread in the ancient world. I’m sure you’ve heard that the Persians invented crucifixion. That may be true but we don’t know for sure. There have been citations from ancient sources that it was practiced by the Indians, Assyrians, and Scythians (modern day Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan). Even the Celtic, Germanic, and Brittani people practiced it. The Greeks with all their high ideals of human dignity also practiced crucifixion. At one time, Alexander the Great had 2000 people crucified for rising in rebellion against him. The Carthaginians (Punic people, ancient Phoenicians) were known for brutally crucifying people. More than likely the Romans learned it from them. Men and women were crucified, probably more men than women.

2. Crucifixion among the Romans was for the lower classes of people – slaves, violent criminals, and rebels. The Persians and Carthaginians used it for high officials and commanders and the Greeks used it for state criminals but the Romans used it primarily against slaves and those who were free but not Roman citizens. It was called a servile supplicium. A slave could be crucified if he was found with a weapon (a shepherd was crucified for defending himself against a bear) or if the owners were not capable of controlling their slaves. It was especially utilized against rebellious slaves. This was seen during the Third Slave Rebellion led by Spartacus in the first century BC when the Roman General Crassus had 6000 slaves crucified and lined them all along the Appian Way leading to Rome.

3. Crucifixion was very effective. There were 3 reasons for this: 

  • First, it satisfied the human thirst for revenge, especially against rebellious slaves. One ancient writer called it “resentful rage.” It means torture and scourging would happen before the crucifixion. Jesus was flogged.
  • Second, it spread fear among the onlookers. Crucifixion did not end in 6 hours like Jesus. Many times, the victims would hang there for 3-8 days.
  • Third, it was set up at a high traffic place like a crossroad, theater, high ground, and even the place of the crime. Jesus was crucified on the hill called Golgotha or Calvary. Golgotha is Aramaic and Calvary is Latin for skull. It was outside the city (Hebrews 13:12) and by the main road (Mark 15:29). People were shaking their heads and even taunting him – “Didn’t you say that you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. How about saving yourself and coming down from the cross!” By the way, the victims were never buried. The scavengers would come and eat on the corpses. That’s the worst form of humiliation and dishonor. 

4. Crucifixion was not discussed. Ancient Roman writers did not like to talk about crucifixion. They just mention it and move on. It was horrible sight. Some leaders and philosophers would talk about the heinousness of the crucifixion but they knew it had to be done. The only time crucifixion was ever discussed was in drama and theater. Even here, the hero would end up escaping the cross. The people in Philippi to whom Paul is writing may have seen plenty of crucifixions. It’s horrible but part of life. Just don’t have anything to do with it. 

5. Crucifixion was accursed to the Jewish people. The Hasmonean kings had practiced crucifixion. Alexander Jannaeus had crucified 800 Pharisees and another one had crucified 70-80 sorcerers at one time. It was very shameful, especially because of Deuteronomy 21     22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you asan inheritance; for he who is hangedisaccursed of God.”

Why did Jesus choose a slave’s death? It was God’s plan of redemption. Listen to Isaiah 53      3He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, ourfaces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But He waswounded for our transgressions, He wasbruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peacewasupon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. 8He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9And they made His grave with the wicked—But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, norwas anydeceit in His mouth. 

Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin of 71 leaders, the highest ruling body in Jerusalem, presided by the High Priest) secretly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus and Pilate gave him the permission. Nicodemus (another member of the Sanhedrin) also met him and brought a big bag of mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint his body. Then they put him in Joseph’s tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Why was he not left to rot on the cross or placed in just any old tomb? Yes, he was a slave but he was much more than just a slave. Plus, it was also a fulfillment of a prophecy we will see in a few moments.

So also, the thief on the cross got it. He rebuked the one who was taunting Jesus and said in Luke 23    41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”42Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” By the way, it’s not just these two Jewish men who got it but think about the Roman centurion standing by the cross. Mark 15:39So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Are you humble like Jesus your Savior and King? Do you know him? He is humbly calling you. Isaiah 53:10“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Himto grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall seeHisseed, He shall prolongHisdays, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.”

The Witness Stand by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE WITNESS STAND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Witness Stand

Introduction: How many of you remember watching legal shows on TV? Let’s say that you were falsely accused of murder but everything pointed in your direction, which TV attorney would you like to fight for you in court? How many of you would hire Perry Mason? How about Ben Matlock? Mason was a prosecuting attorney and Matlock a defense attorney. I remember how Matlock would cross-examine a phony witness and before long he/she would blurt out “Ok, fine, I didn’t see it!” The Bible repeatedly uses the language of the courtroom, especially in the New Testament. Every believer is a witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The first disciples were eye-witnesses. We are faith witnesses and we have an obligation to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. That’s the message today called “The Witness Stand.”

Acts 26     12“While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It ishard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.

Question:If Matlock were examining you today on the witness stand, would you turn out to be a true witness or a phony witness? Are you truly saved? Are you sharing your witness? Are you telling people what Christ has done in your life?

Context:This is our final message on the foundational beliefs of Clearview Church. A major foundation of our church is that all of us are called to be witnesses. We are called to tell the world what we have seen and heard about Jesus. Our motto is “Making Christ Visible.” In fact, the mission of our church is “to lead all people into a life changing, ever growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” This is based on Jesus’ final words to his disciples in Acts 1:8is “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This command was not just for the first eye-witnesses but also for all faith witnesses who would come later. The passage we just read is about the conversion of Paul and the call that he received from Christ himself. Listen again –16But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witnessboth of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.” The key word for us is the word “witness.” What does it mean?

Witness – That word comes from the Greek word “marturia” or “martureo,” which is found in various forms around 200 times in the New Testament. It has a legal meaning. It refers to someone who can certify facts, especially in a court of law. Of course, Greek writers like Homer, Pindar, and Plato used it in this legal way, the legal idea behind that word depends heavily on its use in the Greek Old Testament. It is used when God is called as a witness in his covenant with Israel or when Israel is called to be a witness to the nations for God. The witness is not just a reporter of what they have seen or heard but they are also responsible to bring the other person around to the truth. In other words, a witness is more than just a reporter of facts in a court, they also have to be convincing. In the New Testament, that word is used again and again to verify and authenticate the person and work of Jesus. I don’t have the time to look at all the references, but here are just a few:

  • John 1 6There was a man sent from God, whose namewas 7This man came for a witness, to bear witnessof the Light, that all through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, butwas sentto bear witnessof that Light.
  • Luke 24 46Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And you are witnessesof these things.”
  • Acts 4:33And with great power the apostles gave witnessto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
  • 1 Peter 5:1“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witnessof the sufferings of Christ…”
  • Revelation 20:4“Then I sawthe souls of those who had been beheaded for theirwitnessto Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image…”

As witnesses we are called to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. Are you?

Before Paul became a witness, he had been several other things:

  1. Spectator – Acts 7 57Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58and they casthimout of the city and stonedhim.And the witnesseslaid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen as he was calling onGodand saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
  2. Accomplice –Acts 8:1“Now Saul was consenting to his death…”
  3. Criminal –Acts 8  1“…At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2And devout men carried Stephento his burial,and made great lamentation over him. 3As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committingthemto prison.
  4. Mastermind – Acts 9 1Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
  5. Most Wanted – Acts 9 3As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.4Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It ishard for you to kick against the goads.”

Jesus took him from the Most Wanted Criminal to becoming a Chief Witness to the gospel. Has he done that in your life?

Some people are occupying other spots in the courtroom:

  1. Judge – Questioning other people’s motives and casting judgment.
  2. Prosecutor –Always attacking and condemning people.
  3. Defense Attorney – Always defending people instead of witnessing to them.
  4. Spectator –doing nothing, just enjoying the show.

Are you a witness? Are you saved?

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