Abundant by Dr. Abidan Shah

ABUNDANT – 1 by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  How many of ya’ll were up at 12 midnight to welcome the new year? How many were up past 1, 2, 3, 4, 5? I was up in body but sleep in spirit. Someone said, “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up for New Year’s. Middle age is when you’re forced to!” At the close of each year, we pray that God will show us his direction in the upcoming year. As we were praying and seeking God’s direction in 2022, the word “Abundant” came to us – abundant in our church; abundant in our family; abundant in our marriage; abundant in our children and grandchildren’s lives; abundant in our work; abundant in our community; and abundant in our personal life. Don’t misunderstand. By abundant, we don’t mean more money, success, and happiness. Although all that is wonderful and we want that, but here we’re talking about being abundant in bearing fruits for God’s kingdom. Main point: As we embark upon this theme of “Abundant” in the new year, it is vital that we know that “Abiding is the key to Abundance.” It is only when we remain in Christ by loving and obeying him that we bear much fruit.

John 15       1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Context: The passage we just read comes in the middle of what’s known as the “Farewell Discourse” in the Gospel of John. Keep in mind: All four gospels talk about the final night of Jesus with his disciples before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, taken to be tried before the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and then unjustly crucified; but only two of them have a “Farewell Discourse” on the night before he was taken when he gave them his final instructions. They are Luke and John. Our focus is of course on John’s Farwell Discourse, which is 15% of the Gospel. By the way, Farewell Discourse is a special genre or literary form that is found in some ancient writings and even the Old Testament. They are the final words of a famous or important person. In secular works, examples are the final words of Socrates (Plato) and Pericles (Plutarch). In the Old Testament, examples are the final words of Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and David. They have a certain pattern to them: reference to their coming death; review of their life; encouragement to press on; predictions or prophecies about the future; final warnings; and final blessings or prayer. Amazingly, the same pattern is found in the Farewell Discourse of Jesus in Luke and John but with some very important differences. Unlike secular works where many of the deaths in the pagan literature were suicide, Jesus was not headed to commit suicide. He was headed to fulfill God’s plan of redemption by giving his life on the cross for the sins of every human being. Unlike the Old Testament works, the focus was not on God’s faithfulness in the past but on Jesus himself. Jesus was much more than just some beloved guru who was about to be killed. He was the Son of God about to change the destiny of countless with his sacrifice on the cross. His Farwell Discourse tops all the rest. There is a reason why I spent this time giving you an overview of Farewell Discourses – They are very important. They must be read with extra care and detail.

Although, our focus will be on John 15 for the next couple of weeks, I want to spend some time today showing how it fits in the Farewell Discourse in John and then lead into the communion. There are 5 key words to remember:

  1. Service

Unlike the other gospels, John did not give the words of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Instead, he described something else.

John 13      3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

This is not something that the other famous people ever did. When asked why, he responded in John 13      12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Before we can talk about bearing abundant fruit, we must learn to serve like Jesus. It is in service that we find fruits.

Application: Do you understand what it means to serve others, especially in the family?

  1. Glory

At this point Jesus began to warn them that there was a betrayer among them. Immediately, Matthew wrote in his gospel that they began to question – “Is it I?” Then Jesus identified Judas as being the one and Satan entered him and John 13:30 “…he then went out immediately. And it was night.” Then technically begins the Farewell Discourse – 31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, “Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Instead of being obedient, Peter wanted to be part of the glory, but this was not his task. He got into trouble not for denying Jesus but for disobeying him. John 13      36Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38 Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.”

True glory is in obedience.

Application: Do you see the danger of envy and self-glory? Do you know when you are trying to run ahead of God?

  1. Promises

John 14      2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

John 14     15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Application: Do you believe that you are never left an orphan? Do you recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Now Jesus told them that it was time to go from the upper room, possibly on Mount Zion towards the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. John 14:31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here. Here comes John 15. In other words, John 15 was spoken around 10-11pm as they were walking by moonlight. Three possibilities have been suggested by commentators:

  • They still talked for a while before they left because John 18:1 tells us again that they went out.
  • They walked past the Jerusalem temple. According to the Middot, “A golden vine stood over the entrance to the sanctuary, trained over posts; and whosoever gave a leaf, or a berry, or a cluster as a freewill-offering, he brought it and the priests hung it thereon.” Maybe they stopped by there and talked about John 15.
  • They walked down the hillside of Jerusalem and there were probably vineyards that they had to walk past before they crossed the Kidron, and Jesus must have stopped by there and spoken those words.

We will see this entire section in the weeks ahead.

Main thing to remember is that “Abiding is the key to Abundance.”

Application: Do you understand that in order to bear fruit, you have to remain in him? To remain means to love and obey him. Do you love and obey him?

  1. Persecution

John 16     1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Application: Do you know that the life of abundance will have tribulations?

  1. Intercession

John 17      1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 17        9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

John 17:20   “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

If you think about it, the disciples probably ran past some of these stops in the Kidron Valley and on the hill towards Jerusalem after Jesus was betrayed.

Application: Did you know that Jesus prayed for you on the night before he was betrayed in his Farwell Discourse? Do you know him? Are you saved?

Uncomfortable Obedience by Dr. Abidan Shah (2021)

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE (2021)

Introduction: Once again, we want to welcome you to our Christmas Eve Service. For the past 3 Christmas Eves, we have been talking about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, and using our gifts in his service. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our limits. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable? In 2018, we focused on how Joseph had to practice uncomfortable obedience in taking Mary to be his wife even though she was with a child that wasn’t his own. In 2019, we focused on how Mary had to practice uncomfortable obedience in being willing to carry a baby that had a supernatural origin. In 2020, we focused on how the magi had to practice uncomfortable obedience in following the star in the east and seeking the king of the Jews. Tonight, for the next few moments, we will focus on how the shepherds had to practice uncomfortable obedience in receiving the message from the angels and going into the town of Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus.

Luke 2      8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Context: Typically, the reason given for the shepherds to be included in the Christmas narrative is either “They represented untrustworthy sinners that Jesus came to save” or “They represented poor common folk that Jesus came to lift up.” (See Sarah Harris’s dissertation) When we study ancient history carefully, we find that neither are totally true. In fact, the shepherd imagery was commonly used as a designation for gods and kings among the Sumerians and Mesopotamians. Even the Egyptians depicted their Pharaohs with a flail and a shepherd’s crook. So also, the Greeks.

When we come to the Bible, the Old Testament, God is repeatedly described as a shepherd to his people Israel:

  • In Genesis 49:24, listen to how Jacob blesses Joseph – “. . . the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel).”
  • In Exodus 15:13, Moses describes God as a shepherd setting his people free from Egypt – “You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation.”
  • In Isaiah 40:11, listen to Isaiah’s prophecy about God’s future care of his people – “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carrythem in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.
  • In Jeremiah 13:17, listen to Jeremiah’s sorrow over the sins of his people – . . . My eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, Because the LORD’S flock has been taken captive.”
  • In Micah 7:14, listen to Micah’s prayer to God – “Shepherd Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your heritage, who dwell solitarily in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel; Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in days of old.”
  • Then the psalms are full of the shepherd imageries – Psalm 78:52 “But He made His own people go forth like sheep, And guided them in the wilderness like a flock.” Psalm 80:1 “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock. . .”

By the way, God’s greatest leaders have also been shepherds: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. Of course, who can forget Psalm 23     1 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

The point is that contrary to what we have assumed, shepherds were not always looked upon as the worst and the lowest of society. Instead, many times, God was depicted as a shepherd who guided, provided, and protected his people.

In fact, 800 years before the coming of Jesus, the prophet Micah gave a word of comfort to the Southern Kingdom of Judah as they were facing enemies from all sides.Listen to Micah’s prophecy to wait for their Shepherd King who would come to rescue them – Micah 5     2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the One to be Ruler in Israel, (Meaning: A King is coming from the City of the great king David. He is the rightful King.) whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (A better translation is “whose origins are from of old.” In other words, “although he will be born yet he has no beginning.” He is no ordinary King.) 4 And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the LORD, (Meaning: He will be a Shepherd King to his people unlike the unfaithful King Ahaz of Judah. He will be like his earthly ancestor David, who was the good shepherd king. Wait on Him!) In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; And they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 And this One shall be peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land. . .” I know what you are thinking. Why would God send someone 800 years later to save them from a problem they are facing right now? The time to put a band aid on their wound was over, it was time to schedule a major surgery.

Why were the local shepherds invited? Listen again to verse 8 “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Some people have claimed that they were temple shepherds. That may be but we don’t have any solid evidence for it. I believe that they were symbolic of the faithful, brave, and good shepherds who were simply under shepherds waiting on the Chief Shepherd to come and take over his flock. Luke tell us that they came with haste and found the baby Jesus. What was their response? 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. . . 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”

Here’s the point:

  1. The shepherds had to overcome their fear of the angels.
  2. The shepherds had to overcome their fear of going into the town at night.
  3. The shepherds had to overcome their fear of the people and share the story with others.

So also, when it comes to following Christ, it’s not easy. There will be uncomfortable obedience. Even coming here this evening may not have been easy for some of you. You were willing to obey God than to fear human beings or anything else.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others’ opinions, and personal fears.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?