CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Couple of weeks ago, I was at a used book store in Raleigh when 2 ladies walked in. I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation, not that I was eavesdropping. They were just so loud and obnoxious! Then, one of them belted out to the cashier—“Hey, did you know that Jesus was not born on December 25th? That day was actually a Roman festival honoring the Greek god Saturn. The church leaders adapted it to keep their people from going back to old pagan holidays.” I wanted to step in and say “Hey, that’s baloney!” but I knew that wouldn’t be good. Please listen carefully: The church did not create Christmas from some pagan holiday. December 25th did not become the birthday of Jesus through some church council decision. Instead, it was passed down through the earliest tradition as the day the Savior of the World was born. In fact, ever since the beginning of time, it was the “most important event” on God’s calendar. Today’s message is different than what I typically preach but it’s one we need to hear, especially our children and grandchildren who are bombarded with anti-Christmas statements this time of the year. It is titled “CHRISTMAS MYTH BUSTERS.”
Galatians 4 3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 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.”
Question: What do you believe about Christmas? Do you believe that it’s just a myth or do you believe that it’s the “fullness of time” when God sent his Son to save you? Have you received the adoption as sons and daughters of the King?
Foreword: We’re living in what’s known as the “Information Age.” Sometimes, it’s also referred as the Computer Age or the Digital Age. Never in the history of the world did so many people have so much access to so much information. In the past, if we wanted to know about a subject, we had to go to the library or a book store. But, now it’s at our fingertips! Any time any place we can access any information! In some ways, that’s a blessing, but, in some ways, that’s also a curse. People, even Christians, read something on the internet and immediately think that they are getting the truth on a matter. Please listen: Just because something is on the web, it does not mean that it is true. Also, reading a couple of blogs and watching a couple of YouTube videos does not make you an expert on a subject.
Having said that, there is a myth on the internet, which has been around much longer than the internet, that claims that December 25th was actually a pagan holiday that the church adopted as the birthday of Jesus to keep Christians from participating in their old pagan holidays. This began somewhere around the 4th century after Constantine converted to Christianity. Is this true or false? False! Sometimes even Christians say this without realizing the inherent danger. When we say that December 25th as the birthday of Jesus is a myth, the logical questions that follows is “Is anything else about Jesus a myth? Was he really the Son of God? Did he really die and rise again? Is he really the Savior of the world? Did he even come?”
To start with, there are 2 different lines of arguments in support of this myth, sometimes even used by Christians:
- The History of Religions View: This view goes back to the 1600s. According to this theory, in AD 274, the Roman Emperor Aurelian built a temple in honor of the Sun God, Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun). He did this because he had won some victories in battle and he wanted to honor the patron god of soldiers. He even instituted some special games in the god’s honor. Guess what date this was? December 25th. Furthermore, this was also the time of the Saturnalia, which ran from December 17th-23rd, in honor of the Roman God Saturn who was the god of wealth and agriculture. This was all based around the winter solstice. In the Northern hemisphere, this is around December 21-22, when the earth is at its maximum tilt away from the sun. The day is short and symbolized the death and re-birth of the sun. It was a time of great feasting, parties, gambling, and gift-giving. Christian leaders under hijacked these pagan festivals and Christianized them.
Listen carefully: There is zero evidence in early history from pagan or Christian writers that the church leaders did this. Instead, we find in historical documents statements that affirm that, according to tradition, Christmas was celebrated in Rome from the very beginning. Furthermore, parts of the world that were not directly impacted by Rome were also celebrating Christmas around the same time period. I can go on and on. In my opinion, the Roman emperor could have instituted his festival to counter the Christians celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25th.
- The Calculation View: This view goes back to the late 1800s. According to this theory, the December 25th day was calculated by the church leaders from the date of the annunciation (when Gabriel came to Mary) and the Conception of Jesus. These dates were then taken from the date when Jesus was crucified. This is all based on some rabbinic tradition that all the great prophets of Israel died on the same day as they were born (Integral Age). So, supposedly the early church leaders figured out that Jesus died on March 25th and then they calculated from there 9th months. That’s how they got December 25th. This is the biggest mess because here we’re not talking about the annunciation but the conception. So, what is it? Who knows! By the way, I don’t have time to get into some of the calendar issues, except to say that some of the later calendars are not very accurate. So, we are trying to recreate a date based on a faulty calendar! Again, there is no shred of evidence that the early church actually did this kind of math to figure out the birthday of Jesus!
So, is December 25th the actual date of Jesus’ birth? To start with, I cannot give you all the evidence in the next 10 minutes. I’m going to give you just two from the Gospels:
#1. 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. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet…” Let me stop there. When did Herod die?Josephus (Jewish Historian) tells us of an incident before the death of Herod. He had set up a Roman eagle above the gate of the temple in Jerusalem. This was a slap in the face of the Jewish people. Herod was getting sicker by the day and some of the Rabbis called on the young men to tear down the eagle from the gate. They did but got caught. Herod sent them to Jericho along with the rabbis and ordered that they be burned alive. The date of the execution was January 10, 1 BC. But, he’s getting worse. Then he decides to head out of town to the mineral springs beyond Jordan in the middle of February, 1 BC. Now, we have a statement by an ancient writer by the name of Macrobius. He recorded some witty sayings of the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. Here’s one—“On hearing that the son of Herod, king of the Jews, had been slain when Herod ordered that all boys in Syria under the age of two be killed, Augustus said, “It’s better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” This was a play on words from “hoos” (pig) to huios” (son). We have the date when Herod had his son Antipater executed. Herod died just 5 days after his son’s execution. This would place his death on April 8, 1 BC. But, let’s stop here for a moment: When did Herod have boys 2-year-old and younger killed. Matthew 2:16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” So, the wise men probably saw Herod before he left for the mineral springs in the middle of February. Where does this put the birth of Jesus? Exactly where we have always believed around December 25th.
#2. Luke 1 5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. This is referred to as the priestly course. King David had divided the priests into 24 courses to set up a calendar when they could serve. This is complicated but it puts Zacharias’ service around September 5-11, 3 BC. According to tradition, John was conceived around September 22nd, 3 BC. What does John the Baptizer’s birth have to do with Jesus’s birth? Luke 1 26 “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” Can you count 6 months from September? March, 2 BC. That’s when Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Can you count 9 months from March? December.
Then there are other silly arguments that the shepherds could not have been watching their flocks by night in the winter. According to the Mishnah, the sheep around Bethlehem were outside all year. This was especially true of the Passover Sheep which had to be outside for thirty days before Passover. This would be in February, the coldest and wettest month of the year. December would not be a problem.
What’s the point of all this? Listen again—Galatians 4 3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 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.”
God sent his Son and that’s a fact. What will you do about it? Have you received him as your Savior and King? Are you adopted in God’s family?
This week, the Clearview Church staff sit down and discuss our Christmas play “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” If you have any questions or have a recommendation for a topic, send us an email at email@example.com. If you like this episode, leave us a rating and share it with your friends!
INVITATION by Dr. Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: I’ve done a lot of weddings in my 20+ years of ministry. What I have observed is that one of the toughest things for any couple in planning their wedding is sending out the invitations—who to invite and who not to invite. Does that sound right? “If we invite so and so, then we have to invite so and so. But, if we don’t invite so and so, but invite so and so, then their feelings will get hurt.” At times, I’ve had to talk a couple or two out of eloping because they couldn’t agree over the invitation list! So also, the kingdom of God is like a wedding to which everyone is invited. Unfortunately, not everyone accepts the invitation. But, if you do accept the invitation, don’t forget it’s a gracious gift. Dress appropriately. Your confession may get you in but it’s your clothing that will keep you in. Are you dressed in Christ’s righteousness? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we coming to the final parable of the Wedding Banquet and the message is titled “INVITATION.”
Matthew 22 1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, “Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Question: As you know by now, parables are like a mirror. You have to see yourself in the story and ask which character you are playing. Are you the invitee who made light of the invitation and went his way? Are you the invitee who seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them? Have you ever received the invitation? If not, here it is—Jesus, the Son of God, came 2000 years ago in the form of a baby, lived a sinless perfect life, preached the good news, and then gave his life on the cross for our sins. He was buried and he rose again on the third day, according to scriptures. If you repent and believe in him, you can have forgiveness and life everlasting.
Context: The parable of the wedding banquet is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. As you know by now, the context is the key that helps us understand its correct meaning. To understand the context of this parable, we have to back up to Matthew 21 14 Then theblind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant.” I want to focus on the blind and the lame for a moment. Why were the chief priests and the scribes so indignant over the blind and the lame coming to Jesus in the temple? It could be because of a misunderstanding of Leviticus 21. Listen to verse 16 onwards—And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying: ‘No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame…21 No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the LORD…22 He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy; 23 only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I the LORD sanctify them.’” On first reading, those words seem so cruel and heartless? Does that mean that God discriminates against those who are sick, weak, and cannot help their circumstances? Of course not! If you read further at Leviticus 22, it will begin to make more sense, starting in verse 17 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, who offers his sacrifice for any of his vows or for any of his freewill offerings, which they offer to the LORD as a burnt offering— 19 you shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. 20 Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf. 21 …it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. 22 Those that are blind or broken or maimed…you shall not offer to the LORD… 25 …because their corruption is in them, and defects are in them. They shall not be accepted on your behalf.’” Why was there so much emphasis on being perfect? Because sin is imperfection and it can only be countered with perfection. All these sacrifices were simply a picture of the sacrifice of the perfect lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Listen to what Peter says in I 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.” What happens when we receive Jesus as our Savior? Our sin is countered with his holiness. Now, we are made perfect and holy before God as he is.
Application: What sacrifice are you bringing before God? Are you still trying to offer your defective and broken sacrifice to God? The only one acceptable is Jesus Christ.
With that in mind, let’s return to the parable: The king arranged a marriage for his son and send out his servants to those invited to come to the wedding. It appears that the wedding invitation had already gone out and this was simply a reminder that the dinner was ready. Surprisingly, they were not willing to come! He sent out other servants to plead with the guests saying “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. The Greek word for “to make light of it” is “ameleo,” which means “to have no care for” or “be unconcerned.” Question: Is that you? God’s invitation is coming to you but you are making light of it, you have no care for it. Do you think you are too good for it?
But some went beyond that. 6 “And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.” Keep in mind that this parable is coming to us in the language of Israel’s history but the application is to all of us. Throughout history, God has sent his messengers to different peoples with the gospel. Some have accepted and some have rejected. People ask me what happens to those who haven’t heard the gospel. My answer to them is that many times people haven’t heard because servants and missionaries who went with the gospel were treated spitefully and killed. Nonetheless, our job is to go or send others. That’s what the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is all about. What was the king’s response? 7 “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” That’s judgment. Listen to what Jesus said in John 12:48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” Don’t forget: Grace is amazing because there is a judgment!
The king decides to revise his list—8 Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.” 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. The word for highways is the Greek word “diexodos” which means the place where the street leaves the city limits and goes into the open country. Translators made it highway, which is technically okay but not in the sense of our highways today. What is the significance of this? In the city limits, you could find the lame and the blind on the street corners but these are those who are not even worthy to come inside the city limits!
Illustration: My father did not grow up in a Christian home. He never even went to a church. He was one of those who were outside the city limits. By the grace of God, he was invited to the banquet and he came!
Just when you think that the parable is done, there is a twist in the story. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.” Just like today, weddings are special occasions. You want to put on the best that you have. The man may have been poor, blind, and lame but he could have put on his Sunday best for the wedding. Apparently, he didn’t care! 12 So he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” Application: You may have been the blind and the lame. You may have grown up in a rough situation. You may have gone through a rough past. But, when it comes to the kingdom of God, it doesn’t give you the excuse to live as you please. Is that you?
What was the consequence? 13 Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Listen carefully: Your confession will be powerless on the other side. God will also look at your clothing. What is your clothing? Isaiah 61:10 “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herselfwith her jewels.” Paul sings out from the New Testament—Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” How is your spiritual attire this morning? Are you clothed in his righteousness? Do people see Christ in you? Are you saved?
This week, the Clearview Church staff sit down and discuss the #iamtheneighbor project and the importance of generosity. If you have any questions or have a recommendation for a topic, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like this episode, leave us a rating and share it with your friends!
INHERITANCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a sheep farm nearby. It was incredible! What got me was when the sheep saw their owner, they immediately went to him! Now, I was standing nearby but they kept eyeing me. It reminded me of what Jesus said in John 10:5 “the sheep will by no means follow a stranger…” Then the owner told me to step near and pet them. I did, and one by one they came near. What was most fascinating to me was how their owner knew each of them by name. To me they were all the same but he could tell the difference. Again, just like Jesus said in John 10:3 “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” So also, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows each of his sheep by name. You can pretend to be his sheep but there is a day of judgment coming when he will identify his own and the test will be acts of compassion done in his name. Those who belong to him will receive an inheritance but those who don’t will receive everlasting fire. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, and the message is titled “INHERITANCE.”
Matthew 25 31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feedYou, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Question: Which ones are you? Are you the sheep or are you the goat? Will you receive an inheritance or will you go into the everlasting fire? Are you saved?
Context: The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is the 3rd of the 3 parables that Jesus gave in his famous Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 & 25. If you remember from the last weekend, it was the message Jesus preached on the Mount of Olives where he explained to his disciples how things will be at the end of the age when he returns.
- The message of the 1st Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids was “Be prepared. Jesus is coming back at a time you’re least expecting.”
- The message of the 2nd Parable of the Talents was “Don’t just stand there. Use the money God has given to you to build his kingdom and make profit.”
- The message of the 3rd Parable of the Sheep and the Goats was Jesus is coming again but this time to judge and his judgment is not based on our confession but our compassion towards the least of these.
So, let’s examine the parable of the Sheep and the Goats carefully. (By the way, this is not really a parable like the others. It is more like a brief analogy with a long explanation. Hence, we will focus a lot on the explanation than the story.) Listen again to Matthew 25:31“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” In other words, Jesus is coming again but this time it is not to be laid in the manger but to sit on the throne, the judgment seat.
First, let’s talk about the importance of judgment. Repeatedly, the Old Testament refers to God as the Judge. Genesis 18:25 “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Psalm 75:7 “But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” Isaiah 30:18 “For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Why is judgment so important to God? Because God’s judgment is the natural outflow of God’s holiness. Sin disrupts God’s holiness and judgment sets everything right. If you think that judgment is unnecessary, then you don’t understand the holiness of God nor the horribleness of sin. There is a connection between holiness and judgment. Listen to Isaiah 5:16 “But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God who is holy shall be hallowed in righteousness.” Also, Psalm 50 1 The Mighty One, God the LORD, has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. 3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: 5 “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6 Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge.”
Question: Do you believe there’s a judgment coming? Do you truly understand the holiness of God and the horribleness of sin?
What’s unique in this parable is that Jesus is given the role of the judge. Why? Because of the title “the Son of Man.” Listen again to Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” It is also found a chapter later in Matthew 26:64 Jesus said to him (high priest), “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” That designation “Son of Man” implies that, as prophesied in Daniel 7, Jesus came as a representative of God. Not only that but lest anyone say “You don’t understand what we go through,” he was also fully man. Who has given him this authority? John 5 26 “For as the Father… 27 … has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.”
What will this judgment be about? 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him…” Lot of discussion has been centered around those words. The Old Testament does talk about a “Judgment of the Nations.” Joel 3:2 “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.” So also, Isaiah 2 3 “…For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people…” Bottom line: God will deal with nations and peoples throughout history based on how they treated the people of Israel.
In the midst of this judgment, there will be a judgment of compassion. The sheep are put on the right side and the goats on the left. (By the way, this does not mean that sheep are better animals than goats. It’s just an analogy.) What is the basis of the positive judgment towards the sheep? Listen again to verse 34 “…Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” The sheep are confused because they don’t remember seeing Jesus hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. 40 And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Who are the least of these My brethren? Some think that they are Jewish people but their leadership was rejecting him. Others think that they are the disciples but he was speaking to them. Still others think that they might be Christians or even Christian missionaries. There were no “Christians” or “Christian missionaries” yet. There was one more group—the poor and the less fortunate. This made up the majority of the people who followed Jesus. This is where the context helps us. This is who Jesus had in mind. And, yes, many times, his own followers (believers) are poor and less fortunate even today.
How about those goats on the other side? Listen again to verse 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: Why? Because they didn’t show any acts of compassion. They refused to help those hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. In the process, they didn’t help Christ. 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
For e.g. Someone refused to help me during a snow storm a couple of years ago. They wouldn’t even let me park in their driveway.
Big Question: Doesn’t this contradict the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone? This is the old Paul vs James debate. Galatians 5 13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Ephesians 2 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Another big question: Doesn’t this bring condemnation to believers? Yes, we can have assurance of salvation—I Corinthians 3:15 “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Don’t forget that this same Paul also said—2 Corinthians 5 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” Ultimately, Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Invitation: Which group do you belong to? Are you saved or lost? Will you be able to stand on the day of judgment? How are your acts of compassion?
ABUNDANCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: How many of you parents have ever given your kids money for lunch or a field trip and said, “Make sure you bring back the change”? Did you get your change back? If you did, please let me know your secret! In today’s message, we’re going to learn that our heavenly father also gives us all the money that we have in this life. But, unlike earthly parents, he doesn’t want just the change back. He wants us to make profit with it in building his kingdom. In fact, Jesus has promised that he is returning soon and when he does, he will require an account of what we did with his money. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we now come to the Parable of the Talents and the message is titled “ABUNDANCE.”
Matthew 25 14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, whocalled his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them… [the 1st & the 2nd received the commendation] 21 His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord…24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant…”
Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the first two servants who doubled what their Master had given to them or are you the one who hid what was given? When Jesus returns, will he say to you “Well done, good and faithful servant” or will he call you a “Wicked and Lazy Servant?” Are you saved?
Context: The Parable of the Talents is the 2nd of the 3 parables that Jesus gave in his famous Olivet Discourse. In these two chapters, Matthew 24 & 25, he explained to his disciples how things will be at the end of the age when he returns. Last weekend, we looked at the 1st parable, the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, five were wise and five were foolish. The wise were ready to meet the groom but the foolish didn’t have enough oil for their lamps when he came. At the last minute, they went looking for oil and the door was closed behind them and they couldn’t get back in. They begged to be let in but he answered, “I do not know you.” The message of the parable is that Christ is the bridegroom and we who believe in him are the wedding party. The groom has promised that he is coming but he hasn’t given us the exact time. We have to be prepared and watching. We cannot catch up at the last minute. Matthew 25:13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
Question: Do you believe that Jesus is coming again? We’re not talking about a vision or a dream or an allegory. Jesus is returning in a real physical body. Are you ready to meet him? Will you try to play catch up spiritually at the last minute? Will he know you?
Right after this parable of the Bridesmaids, Jesus gave the parable of the Talents. While the message of the 1st parable was “Be prepared. Jesus is coming back at a time when you’re least expecting,” the message of the 2nd parable was “Don’t just stand there. Use the money I have given you to build my kingdom and make profit.” So, Jesus told the story of a businessman entrepreneur who goes to a far country. But, before he leaves, he gives his three workers some money—5, 2, & 1 talents. Sometimes we just read that casually and don’t think about the vast amount of money that he gave each of them. A talent was about 60-90 pounds, depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). A talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. It would take him 16 years to earn one talent. So, how much for the one with 2 talents? It would be equivalent to what an average day worker in those days would earn over 32 years. And, how much for 5 talents? 32+32+16 = 80 years. In today’s economy, if someone was getting minimum wage of $7.25 per 40 hours for 52 weeks, it’s about $15,000. Now add that over 16 years and it’s about $240,000. Then, for 32 years for someone on minimum wage, it would be $480,000. Finally, for someone with minimum wage over 80 years, it would be close to $1.2M. The point is that this businessman gave away a lot of money!
What did his servants do? The first one doubled it to approximately $2.5M and the second also doubled it to about $1M. The Master was very happy and said to both—21 “Well done,good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” How about the third guy who got $240,000? Listen to his statement—24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’” Let’s think about his statement for a little bit. To start with, its not a wise thing to label your boss, especially calling him a “hard man”!The Greek word “skleros” can mean harsh, cruel, and merciless. He even came up with an analogy to describe him! Next, he blamed his own fear! He was trying to make himself look weak and oppressed! Poor me!
What was the boss’ response? He saw through it—26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant…” It’s the boss’ turn to label him. The Greek word for lazy is “okneros,” which is more than just “lazy.” It also implies hesitant and reluctant. But, let’s keep reading—“you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, (“trapezites”—Greek word for banker, money changer) and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.” Just when you would think that the boss would’ve said—“No harm done. I have my money back. At least you didn’t lose it. I guess I’ll have to invest it myself,” listen to verse 28 “So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
What is the message? Jesus is the businessman entrepreneur who has to go away. This is his ascension. But before he goes, he gives all of us an incredible amount of money and resources that He wants us to use to build his kingdom.
Question: Did you know that the money you get paid and earn is given to you by God? You may say, “I go to work and put in my time. I built this business from nothing and made profit.” Who gave you the strength, the wisdom, the connections and the success? God did. You may ask, “How about people who don’t believe in Jesus?” Same answer. God is the one who helps them too but they don’t acknowledge him. They will also have to give an account one day. The question still remains: “What are you doing with God’s money?” Yes, you should work hard and work smart but your goal should be more than just being rich or comfortable or have the good life. Your goal should be to build his kingdom and spread his gospel.
Also, don’t just do the best you can. Make profit! Use the money God has given to you to expand his kingdom. Find creative ways to double the spread of the gospel. At Clearview, we are constantly looking for ways to double our outreach. Everything we do is to reach more than we did before. That’s why we did the #Iamtheneighbor project.
Well, I just don’t have the time or energy. I have too many bills to pay. 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.” When you start making him profit, he has a special eye towards you. Proverbs 10:22 “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” Psalm 127 1 “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It isvain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”
Well, I’m just not going to do any of this. Let’s go back to the parable one more time—28 “So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. In other words, if you don’t use God’s money for the purpose he is giving it to you, he will pass it on to someone else who will! But, wait, there’s more—30 “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
I don’t understand how it works but somehow your eternity is depended on how you spend your money down here.
Let’s get to the point—
- What are you doing with the resources God has given to you? Are you using them to build God’s kingdom?
- Are you using your money only on self-preservation and self-indulgence?
- What will Jesus say to you when he returns? Are you making profit for his kingdom? Are you winning more and more souls for his kingdom?
- Are you saved?