Reflection by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: This weekend, it has been 20 years since September 11, 2001. Anytime people talk about what took place on that day, they always add where they were that morning – “I was on my way to work and the radio was on,” or “I was getting breakfast at a restaurant and the TV was on,” or “I was asleep and my family/friend called me and told me to turn the TV on,” and on and on. How many of you remember what you were doing that morning? Personally, it was a busy morning in our home. My dad was visiting with us. In fact, he was preaching revival meetings at our church in Henderson, which was in a different location at that time. Nicole’s mom had also come to help us. Nicole had just returned from taking Rebecca to school. My dad was watching the news on TV and there was something about a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. We didn’t think much of it until 17 minutes later another plane hit the South Tower. Then the most chilling words that I’ve ever heard came from the TV announcer – “Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe we are under attack. America is under attack.” I also remember my dad saying, “That is the work of Bin Ladin.” I had never heard that name before, none of us had, but it didn’t stop there. At 9:37 am, a third plane hit the West Side of the Pentagon, where our very own David and Evelyn Woodson were working. They narrowly escaped. Finally, about 10:03 am, Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvnia. It was probably targeted towards the White House or the Capitol Building. Through the heroic efforts of the passengers, the plan of the hijackers was foiled. Altogether, about 2,977 people died, among them were 340 firefighters and 72 police officers. Thousands were injured and billions of dollars were lost in damages. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in history. The attack was on much more than life and property. It was on our American way of life, a life that our founding fathers envisioned, and many gave their lives for it. Before I preach this message titled “REFLECTION,” let’s stand together for a moment of silence.

Micah 4:4 “But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”

Context: This verse was a very important verse in the founding of these United States. In fact, it contains the ideals that make us a great nation, and the solution to how to get them back. Before we see why that is, we need to understand its original context. Micah was a prophet of the southern kingdom of Judah who lived around the same time (740 BC – 690 BC) as Isaiah. Although he primarily preached to the southern kingdom, he also prophesied to the northern kingdom. In particular, he addressed the royal cities of Samaria (north) and Jerusalem (south). The problem was on two fronts: moral decadence inside and military invasion outside. Spiritually, it was very bad in the north, but the south was not too far behind. Some prophets were promising that God was going to come through and everything will be fine, but they were false prophets (Micah 1:3-7). Micah warned the people that God’s judgement was on the way. He told the southern kingdom not to try to build an alliance with Assyria. The Assyrian army under Tiglath Pileser was going to march south against Israel in the north. Once they were done destroying them, they were going to come after the south. Just as prophesied by Micah and others, the Assyrians came down Israel’s coastal plain into Philistia and one by one captured every city along with way, starting with Damascus in Syria and then Galilee. Then, he died, and people thought that it will be all good, but his son, Shalmaneser, came to power. He put down the rebellion and deported the people of the north into exile (722 BC). This was the Assyrian Exile. Now, the remaining southern kingdom tried to make a deal with Egypt and then with Babylon, even though God had warned them not to go here nor there but turn to him. After Shalmaneser came Sargon and after Sargon came Sennacherib. He was ruthless. He laid siege to 46 strong cities and countless villages along the path. In fact, in a place called Lachish, archaeologist found a huge pit where the Assyrians dumped some 1500 bodies, throwing pig bones and trash on them and covering it up. Next, he turned towards Jerusalem and had Hezekiah hemmed in as a “bird in a cage.” He bragged about it on his prism which is now in the British museum. Jerusalem was overrun with refugees and had become about 3-4 times its size. Micah 2:12 “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, Like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.”

Application: Can you imagine what the south, especially Jerusalem, must have been like? Can you imagine how the people must have felt? Can you imagine how they must have looked back to the glory days of David and Solomon? Can you see the parallels?

Then, King Hezekiah repented. Listen to his prayer – 2 Kings 19      15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, 18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. 19 Now therefore, O LORD our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone.” Listen to God’s answer – 2 Kings 19      32 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, Nor shoot an arrow there,Nor come before it with shield, Nor build a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, By the same shall he return; And he shall not come into this city,’ Says the LORD. 34“For I will defend this city, to save it For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’ ” 35And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.” His own sons killed him as he was worshipping in the temple of Nisroch, his god. According to Herodotus (Greek historian from the 5th century BC), Pharaoh Sethos of Egypt had a dream that a deity was going to fight Sennacherib and that night an army of field mice got into the Assyrian camp and destroyed their weapons. More than likely, this was the bubonic plague.

Application: With all the craziness happening in our country and our world, are we stopping to ask what is God trying to tell us? Could it be that God is bringing us to a point where we are like a “bird in a cage?” Are we going to repent like Hezekiah?

When we truly repent, then God gives us a message of hope. After there was repentance, God gave Micah a vision of the New Jerusalem. Micah 4        1 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow to it. 2 Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 He shall judge between many peoples, And rebuke strong nations afar off; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. 4 But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, And no one shall make them afraid; For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”

The Vine and the Fig Tree – It is found 2 other times in the Old Testament. First one is the past glory under Solomon in 1 Kings 4:25 “And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.”Second one is like Micah about the future New Jerusalem in Zechariah 3:10 In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, “Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.’ ” These two things (Vine and Fig Tree) were symbols of life, vitality, and fertility (Daniel Dreisbach). They both take years of patience and cultivation. They are symbols of peace and security.

Micah 4:4 was George Washington’s favorite Bible verse. He quoted it as much as 50 times, especially in the last half of his life. People often question his faith because he did not say much in public about Jesus Christ. Most of the time, he used vague terms like Providence (270 times), The Governor of the Universe, Higher Cause, Great Ruler of Events, All Wise Creator, The Great Spirit, and the Supreme Dispenser of all Good (Thomas Fea). Sometimes, clergy would try to pin him down, but he would always wiggle his way out. Hence, some claim that he was a deist or a 17th century Anglican or a Latitudinarian. What is the truth? Washington was a very wise man. He was operating from a Christian perspective and there were many Christians denominations at that time. He wanted to make sure that all of us would have the freedom to exercise the faith according to our conscience. In his personal letters and church involvement, you find out that he was a very religious person who knew Jesus Christ as his Savior. What is the connection to Micah 4:4? He knew the peril that we were in as a newly formed nation. He knew that without God we were doomed. His hope was to help create a nation that would exemplify what the New Jerusalem would look like one day (from Lillbach):

  • To Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788: “…every one (under his own vine and fig-tree) shall begin to taste the fruits of freedom…”
  • To the Hebrew congregation of Newport, August 17, 1790: “…every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
  • To Landon Carter, October 17, 1796: “…in the shades of Mount Vernon under my Vine and Fig Tree; where at all times I should be glad to see you.”
  • Doctor James Anderson, April 7, 1797: “I am once more seated under my own Vine and Fig tree, and hope to spend the remainder of my days…”
  • To the Secretary of the Treasury, May 15, 1797: “…if ever this happens it must be under my own Vine and Fig tree as I do not think it probable that I shall go beyond the radius of 20 miles from them.”
  • To John Quincy Adams, June 25, 1797: “I am now, as you supposed the case would be when you then wrote, seated under my Vine and Fig-tree; where, while I am permitted to enjoy the shade of it, my vows [i.e. prayers] will be continually offered for the welfare and prosperity of our country…”
  • To the Earl of Buchan, July 4, 1797: “…as my glass is nearly run, I shall endeavor in the shade of my Vine and Fig tree…”

His “vine and fig tree” was his ancestral home, Mount Vernon. He had to go away from it for extended periods of time, but he loved coming home. Before and after office, they constantly had guests over. It was rare not to have guests and even strangers at their dinner table. It was his refuge. It brought him happiness. This is what he wanted for everyone who came to this land and was willing to work for it. His “vine and fig tree” represented 3 things that the founding fathers believed represented America (from Dreisbach):

  1. Freedom from Want
  2. Freedom from Fear

How about the slaves that he had? Yes, we cannot ignore that question or bulldoze it, especially in today’s culture. When Lafayette asked him about abolishing slavery, Washington was concerned about the Union. Also, when the Quakers wanted to do the same, he knew it would tear up the Union. He made his statement by his own example. He freed all 123 of his slaves when he died.

Today, we will be taking up on offering for the refugees that are here. They are the Afghan families that were working with our troops and had to flee when Taliban took over. The Raleigh Baptist Association contacted us for help, and we are. What if there are some bad people? If they take God’s money and use it for evil, God will retrieve it. We will do our part as Americans. That’s what makes us different.

  1. Freedom of Religion

John 8      34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Invitation: Has there been repentance in your life? Are you truly free? Are you ready for the New Jerusalem? Are you praying for our nation today?

Living Hope by Dr. Abidan Shah

LIVING HOPE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Have you ever been disappointed? You were hoping for something but it didn’t turn out that way. As a kid, I remember when my mom would make my favorite desert. Before I would leave for school the next day, I would slide it behind the milk carton in the fridge. I was hoping that no one would find it until I got home. The moment I got home, the first thing I would do was to go look for it. Many a time I walked away so disappointed because someone got to it before I could. We all get disappointed over various things – friends, family, politics, culture. Today we will learn what the Bible has to say about a hope that doesn’t disappoint. We are in our series on 1 Peter and our message is titled LIVING HOPE. Please turn to 1 Peter 1:3. Main point: Unlike earthly hopes, the hope that comes from God never disappoints. Biblical hope is not based on earthly expectations and fears. It is based on the solid foundation of God himself. In other words, the hope that God gives is much more than the anticipation of something in the future. It is a deep personal trusting relationship with God.

1 Peter 1     3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Context: As you may remember from last weekend, Peter was writing to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Most of them were probably Jewish background believers who had lived in that part of the world for centuries. As Jewish people, they had already been ostracized; but now, because some of them had become believers in Jesus, their own communities had also ostracized them. Not only that, but many of them may have also lost their inheritance. I can only imagine how hopeless they must have felt. Also, based on the rest of the letter, some of them were probably locals who had converted to Christianity and they were also facing similar treatments. I think of my own dad who lost his inheritance when he became a Christian. I have often thought about the hopelessness he must have felt. Peter was writing to encourage such people to stay strong in their faith. He wanted them to know that even though the world and their own were rejecting them, God had chosen them. He wanted them to have their hope in God. He had a special inheritance for them in the future.

Let’s read verse 3 again. By the way, as we walk through this passage, notice how all the fundamental building blocks of our faith are tightly put together in these 3 verses – 3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” The Greek word for “Blessed” is “eulogetos.” This is different from the Greek word for “blessed” in the Beatitudes – “Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are the merciful.” The word there is “Makarios,” which means “happy” or “to be envied.” Here the word blessed is actually translated “praise.” Keep in mind that “eulogetos” gives us the English word “eulogy,” which comes from the compound Greek words “eu” (well/good) and “logos” (word). The word “eulogetos” means “to say a good word about someone.” Peter was calling on his readers to say a good word about God. By the way, this was not a good word about some generic God, but very specifically – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The point is that Peter was calling on his readers to praise the living true Triune God in the midst of their difficulties.

Principle: If you find yourself overwhelmed by your situation, turn your attention away from the situation and yourself and start praising God. Take time to praise God for who he is and what he has done for you. Listen to David in Psalm 61     1 “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Application: Are you overwhelmed by your problems? Are you overwhelmed by what’s happening in our world? Are you praising God right now?

Now Peter gives the reason for this praise – 3 “…who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The pilgrims of the Dispersion had been rejected by their own families. They had been cut off from their family trees. Peter was reminding them that God had brought them into his family by his abundant mercy. The word he used was “anagennaw” (begotten us again), which means “to give new birth.” It is similar to “gennaw” in John 3 where Jesus told Nicodemus in verse 3 “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This rebirth does not just happen. It requires resurrection life, the power that brings life into a dead person. I Corinthians 15:45 “And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” God compassionately chose to rebirth us into his family through the resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. God the Father delivered his Son out of the clutches of death and thus made the way for all sinners born dead in trespasses and sins to be delivered from the clutches of sin and death as well. This begins with spiritual rebirth and is completed with our own resurrection one day.

Application: Have you been born again? Have you experienced the resurrection life of Jesus? If you prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King, you have. Do you know that there is a resurrection coming for you in the future?

What is the result of this rebirth? 3 “…who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope…” Something very interesting here about that word “hope.” It has an adjective “living.” Where does this concept come from? The world offers hope but it can be conditional or uncertain. The hope that Peter was talking about was living because it was rooted in God himself. This is the biblical understanding of hope. Here are some examples from the psalms in the Old Testament – Psalm 38:15 “For in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.” Psalm 71:5 “For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth.” Psalm 130:7 “O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there ismercy, And with Him is abundant redemption.” Paul talks about this as well – Romans 5:5“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Here’s the point: God’s hope is not rooted in some human expectation or fear. It is built on the character of God himself. In other words, hope is not just what may happen or what may not happen. It is a deep personal trusting relationship with God. Because we are part of Jesus’ resurrection life, we have this living hope.

Application: What is hope to you? A better life? Your party in power? Streets of gold? Mansions in heaven? All that is fine to desire, but, ultimately, our hope should be God himself. It’s not that you cannot hope for those other things. You can but only if the ultimate source of your hope is God. Is God your hope?

It’s about to get even better – 4 “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”

Background: This living hope is leading us to an inheritance. In this life, the pilgrims had lost their inheritance, but there was a real inheritance waiting for them that was indescribable.By the way, Peter was reaching in the Old Testament tradition to find the true meaning of inheritance. Listen to Psalm 16:5 “O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.” Peter describes it in negative terms because nothing compares to it in this life. Paul would whole heartedly agree with Peter here. Listen to Paul quoting from Isaiah 64 in 1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’”

3 negatives:

  1. Incorruptible (aphthartos) – In this life everything faces corruption because of sin, even our bodies.
  2. Undefiled (amiantos) – In this life everything is tainted by sin.
  3. Unfading (amarantos) – In this life everything fades. The second law of thermodynamics (entropy) is constantly working to pull things down.

Philippians 3    20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

This does not mean that we cannot fight for the incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading in this life. We can and we should because we know what it looks like. Having said that, we know that it is available on the other side.

What is the guarantee that all this will happen? 5 “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

  1. God is responsible.
  2. We need to trust him.
  3. It will be revealed in his time.

Invitation: Do you have this living hope? Are you looking forward to the inheritance? Are you born again?

Identity by Dr. Abidan Shah

IDENTITY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Everybody wants an identity. We want to belong to a group that will include and affirm us. We see this early in life at school – the popular kids, who have the latest clothes and styles, the jocks who live for sports, the brains/nerds, who are more concerned about their grades than they needed to be, the goths, who always wear dark clothes and crazy hair; the country kids with trucks high enough to walk under; then there are the loners, the different ethnic group kids, the floaters, and the potheads, who are usually very friendly. This doesn’t change as we grow up. We still want an identity, a sense of belonging. As we begin our series on the actual text of 1 Peter, we will learn what should be the ultimate identity of every believer. Please find 1 Peter 1:1. Main point: Our identity should be ultimately rooted in God and his salvation in our lives through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:1 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…”

Context: For the past 3 weeks, we have been focused on Peter’s character. The reason for this is because the more we understand Peter, the better we will understand his letter. Of course, the Holy Spirit was behind the letter, but he used the personality, the experiences, and the gifts of Peter. Peter begins his letter by identifying himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ,” which means a “representative” of Jesus. This did not happen overnight! Jesus had to do a deep, painstaking, and unrelenting work in Peter’s life:

  • Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, from being religious to rock-solid.
  • Jesus took him from being a fisherman to becoming a fisher of men.
  • Jesus took him from being the impulsive one to becoming a pillar of the church.

Is it any wonder that he stood up on the Day of Pentecost full of the Holy Spirit and preached his first message and 3000 men, not counting women and children were saved, altogether 10-15,000! Is it any wonder that even his shadow could heal people! Is it any wonder that he could go toe-to-toe with the religious leaders and chief priests and not back down! By the way, Peter was not perfect. If you remember from last weekend, Paul admonished him openly when he messed up. But, Peter was spiritually mature enough to receive the admonishment and not become bitter. Now, he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Here’s an interesting point: The higher you climb in your spiritual life, the more concise your identity becomes. You don’t have to list your entire resume of accolades and accomplishments. For e.g. Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.

Application: What has God done in your life? How will you identify yourself at the end of your life? The first step towards that journey is to move from a sinner to a sinner saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. Are you saved?

Let’s go further. Peter now identifies the recipients of his letter. 1 Peter 1:1 “…To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Where are these places in the world? All of them are located in modern day Turkey, a vast area of approximately 129,000 square miles. That’s as big as California or North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia combined. The history of this region goes back to thousands of years to the Hittites, the Phrygians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, the Goths, the Celts, the Byzantines, etc. This was a very diverse part of the world with regards to land, ethnicity, cultures, religions, and languages. There were big cities and small towns. There were Roman colonies to the South and more Celtic people to the North, generally speaking. I can go on and on.

Who were the pilgrims of the Dispersion? The word for “pilgrims” is “parepidemos,” which means someone who does not hold citizenship where he lives. They may have been born and raised there. They may dress like their neighbors. They may eat like their neighbors. They may even look like their neighbors. But, they are outsiders. Peter even qualifies their identity with “foreigners of the Dispersion.” The word “dispersion” is coming from the LXX and Jewish literature. It referred to the people of Israel who had been scattered away from their homeland of Israel. This dispersion goes back to the time of Solomon when some moved there because of trade. A major dispersion came with the Assyrian exile when the Northern kingdom of Israel was forcibly relocated by the Assyrians. Couple centuries later came the Babylonian exile when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was also temporarily exiled but some came back but many didn’t. They were foreigners and outsiders wherever they went. Even though many generations were born and raised there, dressed like their neighbors, and ate like their neighbors, they were never totally accepted. Hence, they would return to Jerusalem for their Jewish festivals. Maybe some of them were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2     5 “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia…” Peter was now writing to encourage them as they were not only Jewish people scattered abroad, but they were now Christians, which means they were also being ostracized by their own Jewish community. Peter understood how it felt since he grew up in Bethsaida, a minority Jewish town. He even understood how it felt when his own people rejected him because he was now a disciple of Jesus. I believe all this may be true, but I also believe that Peter was referring to all Christians (Jewish background and Gentile background) who were scattered as a minority all over that region. Even Gentile background believers were now like the Dispersed Jewish people. Even though they were citizens, they were now being treated as foreigners. We will see that as we go further in this letter.

Application: Have you been ostracized because you are going to church? Has your own family and friends left you out because your priorities have shifted? I think of my own dad. His own family kicked him out because he followed Jesus Christ. In fact, we were all cut off from the family tree.

How do you encourage people like that? So, Peter gave them a new identity—2 “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” There are 3 prepositional phrases here that connect to each member of the Trinity. This is deep!

  1. “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” – “Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” The culture around them may have rejected them but God had chosen them through his “prognosis” to include them in his family. That’s the first person of the Trinity.
  2. “in sanctification of the Spirit” – “Chosen by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.” Yes, they had a choice to receive Christ as their Savior, but the Holy Spirit was stirring their hearts, opening their understanding, and drawing them to salvation. He actively does that for everyone who is open to Christ. That’s the third person of the Trinity.
  3. “for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” – “Chosen for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” This was not some election to walk around flaunting your new religion. This was an election unto obedience. What is the “sprinkling of the blood” mean? This is referring back to Exodus 24  7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”Even though they said the words, they couldn’t follow through. But, we can through the blood of Jesus Christ. We have been set free from the power of sin. Sin is still present but through Christ, we can conquer. By the way, that’s the third person of the Trinity.

These people really got the message. These people reached their culture and that entire region became the cradle of Christianity. This is where we find Constantinople, Nicaea, and Chalcedon. Here were held the famous councils were the deity of Christ and the Triunity of the Godhead was affirmed! Unfortunately, these parts have been lost because Christians failed to reach the next generation and prepare them to stand strong. Just this year, the Hagia Sophia was once again declared a mosque after 90 some years of being a museum. It was one of our flagship churches!

In some ways, that’s where we are as Christians in America. We need to wake up and reach the culture around us. If we don’t, we will ultimately find ourselves driven out. That’s why how we vote in this election matters! We need to vote for that party and candidate that will make this nation pleasing to Jesus Christ.

Application: What are you doing to make sure that our nation continues to stand strong? Are you aware of what is at stake? Do you understand your new identity? You are not an accident. You are not an outsider. You have been drawn by the Holy Spirit. You have been chosen to obey.

Finally, Peter ended with “Grace to you and peace be multiplied.”

Invitation: Do you have God’s grace and peace? Are you saved? Through Christ you can have grace and peace.

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you saved?

Produce by Pastor Abidan Shah

Produce

PRODUCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  As many of you know, this was a very busy week for me. I had to give the oral defense for my PhD dissertation. It’s an exam that you have to take before you can officially get your doctorate. I had passed my dissertation already but I was very nervous about this exam because it determines whether or not you really know your stuff and deserve the title of “doctor.” I was so nervous that I asked David to drive me to Wake Forest. By the way, that morning, the entire staff and their families showed up at the house to pray with me. It really meant a lot to me! After 2 hours of sitting in the hot seat answering questions, I was told that I had passed the exam. Needless to say, I was very happy and relieved. Listen carefully:Christian life doesn’t end at “I’m saved and when I die, I’m going to heaven.” If you’re saved, you’re facing an exam where God the examiner is coming around to see whether or not you are producing fruits worthy of repentance. Fruit bearing is the natural outflow of salvation. By the way, these fruits are not what you might think. They are acts of mercy. And, one more thing, your clock is ticking. Are you producing fruits worthy of repentance? That’s the title of our message today—PRODUCE—in our series on the parables of Jesus.

Luke 13      6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are. Are you a fig tree that is bearing fruit or one that is barren? Do you know that your clock is ticking? You may have 3 years left or you may have 3 hours left. Are you saved? Are you bearing fruit?

Background: Compared to the parables of the Wheat and the Tares, the Prodigal Son, or the Good Samaritan, today’s parable of the barren fig tree is not as popular. But, it is a very important parable. It is a continuation of last week’s message on the parable of the Good Samaritan. In fact, this parable was given on the same journey that Jesus embarked on in Luke 9:51. If you remember last weekend’s message, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to be ascended and he started making his way towards Jerusalem. As he is making this one-way trip, he sends his disciples out into the fields that are white unto harvest and they return with joy saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (Luke 10:17) In other words, lives are being transformed and demonic strongholds are being broken. Jesus praises God and blesses his disciples because they are participating in building God’s kingdom and they are seeing and hearing the things of eternal life. Then, a certain lawyer wanting to get in on the action tests him saying, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him what is in the law. He replies, “Love God and Love Neighbor.” Jesus tells him to go do that. Then seeking to justify himself, he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. The message of the parable is “Don’t ask ‘who is my neighbor?’ but instead ask, ‘who needs a neighbor?’” If you remember from last week—“A True Neighbor is someone who shows Mercy. Mercy is the distinguishing mark of those who have Eternal Life. If you want to know whether or not you have Eternal Life, ask yourself ‘Are you a Good Neighbor?’” Don’t just have pity, put some money behind it.

Application: By the way, I am so encouraged to see and hear the testimonies from so many of you of how you have used your $100 cross! Wow! Many of you are still praying for God to send the right person in your path who needs your gift. That’s wonderful. I am glad to hear that you are getting it! It’s not enough just to have pity. You have to put some money behind it. Unfortunately, not everyone will get it.

Not everyone got it when Jesus told the people to show mercy and put some money behind it. Luke 11    53 “And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, 54 lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.” In other words, they missed his message of mercy completely! Instead, they were trying to cross-examine him! Listen to Jesus’ warning to them— Luke 12    40 “…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect… 42 “…Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to givethem their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45 But if that servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 “…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required…56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” In other words, Jesus was saying “I’m teaching you the importance of Mercy and you are trying to cross-examine me? What you don’t realize is that I’m the Examiner and your exam has begun!”

Human beings are masters of deflection. We call that “changing the subject.” Listen toLuke 13     1 “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” We don’t have any historical record outside of the Bible regarding this incident but this is very much like Pilate. He was a very cruel man. In fact, once he was even ordered back to Rome to stand trial for a similar act that he did against the Samaritans. What was the reason for this discussion? Who knows! We love discussing current affairs. We love making small talk. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all otherGalileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Jesus gave them another useless small talk to bring them back to his main point.

Application: Do you like to deflect what the Holy Spirit is telling you? Do you like to make small talk? Do you like to joke about the message or discuss something useless to ease the pressure of conviction? God knows your heart.

At this point, Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree. Listen again, Luke 13    6 “…A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. By the way, the fig tree was a symbol for Israel but it still applies to all of us. 7Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ Here’s where people make a big mistake—they think that fruits worthy of repentance are stop sinning, start going to church, don’t do drugs, don’t cheat, don’t lie, etc. Like the adage – “I don’t drink. I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls who do.” That may be true but this is not what’s implied here. To find its true meaning, we have to back up to Luke 3where John the Baptist used the same imagery—7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Now listen very carefully—10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” Fruits worthy of repentance are acts of mercy!

Application: Are you a merciful person?

Let’s go back to the parable one more time—7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Invitation: You are living on borrowed time. Will you show mercy and put money behind it? Mercy is not the requirement for salvation. It is the verification of salvation. Have you received God’s Mercy through the death of Jesus on the cross? Are you saved?

Neighbor by Pastor Abidan Shah

NEIGHBOR by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How many of y’all grew up on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood? The show ran from 1968 to 2001 with just a couple of years missing in between. It became a hit with many children and parents. Fred Rogers who was also a pastor had a unique and a gentle way of talking to children. He understood how they felt and he got down to their level without becoming silly necessarily. The show dealt with issues like why kids shouldn’t be afraid of a haircut, how to deal with the death of a family pet, what to do when going to a new school, and even issues like divorce, racism, and disabilities. Anybody remember the song? “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” Then it ended with “Won’t you please, Won’t you please? Please won’t you be my neighbor?” Mr. Rogers didn’t come up with the idea of a neighbor. It has been around for over 2000 years ago. In fact, Jesus gave its true definition in his famous parable of the Good Samaritan. Here’s the definition: A true neighbor is one who shows mercy. Mercy is a distinguishing mark of those who have eternal life. If you need proof that you have eternal life, ask yourself, “Are you a neighbor?” “Do you show mercy to others?” “When was the last time you showed mercy to someone?” In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come now to the famous parable of the Good Samaritan and the message is titled “NEIGHBOR.”

Luke 10     30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are. Are you the priest who passed by the other side? Are you the Levite who also passed by the other side? Or, are you the Good Samaritan who stopped and showed mercy? Are you a merciful person? Are you saved? If you need proof of eternal life, check your mercy record.

Background: The parable of the Good Samaritan is right up there with the parable of the Prodigal Son as the most popular parable of Jesus. It has been the subject of numerous paintings, stories, movies, and the name of many charities and hospitals all over the world. In fact, we are about to start our annual Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoebox ministry. Having said that, unfortunately, this parable is often misunderstood. To interpret it correctly, we need to examine the context in which Jesus gave this parable. Typically, people begin with verse 25 where the lawyer asks Jesus “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus asks him “What is in the law?” He replies, “‘Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus tells him to go do this and he will live but seeking to justify himself he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Although that is true and we will come to that, that’s not the whole context. In order to get the whole context, you have to begin in Luke 9    51 “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.”

Who were the Samaritans? If you were to ask the Samaritans (only about a 1000 exist in Israel today), they would tell you that they are the true descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that the worship center was wrongfully moved from Gerizim to Shiloh and that’s when things went downhill. But, if you read the Bible, you will see a different account. In 2 Kings 17 we find out that when God sent Assyria against the Northern Kingdom, they not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples. Under this strategy, they would move the conquered people to another part of the world, and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Samaritans were people who had been settled in the land of Israel by the Assyrians. They somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were left behind. The Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. To make matters worse, the Samaritans even tried to sabotage their building projects when they returned from the second exile in Babylon. Needless to say, there was bad blood between the Jewish people and the Samaritans. Each saw the other as neighbors they wished they did not have. What happened when Jesus came by the Samaritan village? 52 “…And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village. Can you imagine the disciples’ reaction?

Application: What would you have done? What do you when people mistreat you? Who is your neighbor? How do you treat them?

For time’s sake, let me condense the account. In Luke 10, Jesus commissioned 70 of his disciples to go out saying 2 “…The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.” In other words, “You are going out in a cruel and a harsh world. Remember to be kind and merciful.” What if they were rejected? They were only to shake the dust off their feet and go to the next village. They were given a simple promise by Jesus—16 “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” In the very next verse 17 the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” On hearing this, Jesus said something very important for our message—23 “…Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” What was Jesus talking about? He was talking about the Kingdom of God. He was talking about Eternal Life. By the way, Eternal Life is not going to heaven when you die. It begins now through Jesus Christ. It means having a portion in what God is doing and what God will do one day. You see and hear things that prophets and kings have desired but couldn’t. But, to do that you need MERCY.

Now comes the account of the lawyer asking the question 25 “…Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” His answer was correct—Love God and Love your neighbor. 29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Why did he ask that question? He was hoping to prove that he had extended the typical boundaries of neighborhood. To the contrary, Jesus removed all boundaries. Then he gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho and thieves beat him up and left him for dead. Both the priest and the Levite walked by because they had to be somewhere on time or they didn’t want to defile themselves or they didn’t want to get involved. Then here comes a Samaritan. What a twist! In other words, the Samaritan saw no boundary but the lawyer was wanting to know the limits. Instead, he had compassion, lit. splagchnizomai, “to have the insides feel bad.” He bandaged him, poured oil and wine on him, set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, he gave 2 denarii and gave to the pandocheus (inn keeper) and said “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” Here comes the big question—6 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” The question is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “Whose neighbor am I?” In other words, you cannot have boundaries if you want eternal life.

Don’t miss this: People who have mercy don’t ask “Who is my neighbor?” but “Whose neighbor am I?” A true neighbor is one who shows mercy. It is a distinguishing mark of those who have eternal life. If you need proof that you have eternal life, ask yourself, “Are you a neighbor?” “Do you show mercy to others?” “When was the last time you showed mercy to someone?”

Mercy is not a requirement for eternal life but a verification of eternal life.

NOW THE BIG REVEAL!

Built by Pastor Abidan Shah

BUILT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  One of my favorite TV shows from years ago is “Home Improvement” with Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. Tim is a family man who has a TV show on home repairs. He has a good knowledge of tools and general mechanics but he often forgets to follow directions, skips a step or two, and always tries to make some crazy modifications. Of course, his assistant Al Borland tries to warn him every time but he doesn’t listen. As a result, he is on a first name basis at the local hospital, not to say that his projects usually fall apart. We love to laugh at Tim’s many accidents and mishaps but many peoples’ personal and spiritual lives are no different. Because they forget to follow God’s directions, skip a step or two, and try to make some crazy modifications, they too find themselves in a mess. If you want to build a life that will stand on the day of judgment, you need to build on the right foundation and that foundation is Jesus and his words. We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the wise and foolish builders. The message is titled BUILT.

Matthew 7    24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” 

Question: Are you a wise builder or are you a foolish builder? Are you building a life that will last? Are you only a hearer of the word or are you a doer of the word as well? Are you saved? Have you heard the gospel? Have you done anything about it?

Background: Before we dive into this parable, let me make a quick clarification. The parable of the two builders is found in both the gospels of Matthew and Luke but with minor variations. While Matthew focusses on 2 different building sites and the description of the weather, Luke focusses on 2 different building processes. I encourage you to go home and compare Matthew 7:24–27 with Luke 6:47–49. Same parable but different wording. Why is there a difference in the wording? It could be that Jesus gave the parable twice with two different emphases. Or, maybe the gospel writers were not trying to quote Jesus verbatim but simply trying to convey the gist of his stories. What am I trying to get at? Red letter bibles can be great but they can also be a little misleading. The difference between Matthew and Luke’s account of the parable is proof that the gospel writers sometimes put in their words what Jesus said and that’s okay. Now, back to the parable—24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them…”

Question #1. Who were the “whoever”?

Let’s back up to Matthew 5:1 “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.” Primarily, Jesus was speaking to his disciples but it was in the hearing of the multitudes. In other words, the listeners were a mixed bag of committed, curious, conditional, and covert. To this group Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount:

  • He began by introducing them to the Kingdom Values (the Beatitudes)3 “Blessedare the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” and on and on. He reminded them that his disciples are to flavor the earth and illuminate the world: “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.”
  • Then he challenged them to a Higher Living–Matthew 5:20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He gave them the 6 Antithesis: You’ve heard it said…but I say to you. For example: Matthew 5     27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
  • After this, he told them to be Sincere. He warned them against hypocrisy and the temptation to parade their piety in public, especially in their giving, praying, and fasting—Matthew 6     3 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” He even gave them a Model Prayer (Lord’s Prayer/Disciples’ Prayer) to go by—Matthew 6    9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 10Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
  • But, it’s not over. Next, he warned them against accumulating earthly treasures. Instead, Matthew 6:20 “lay up for yourselves Treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
  • He was still not done. Next, he reminded them not to stress and worry but to Trust and ObeyMatthew 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.”
  • In closing, he told them—
    • Don’t be Judgmental (trying to look at the speck in your brother’s eye when there’s a plank in your own eye), 
    • Have Childlike Trust for good gifts from God (Matthew 7    9 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”)
    • Be Countercultural—Matthew 7    13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”,
    • Exercise Discernment—Matthew 7    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits.”

This makes up the rock on which we are to build our lives.

Application: Is this your foundation? Are you hearing and doing what Jesus said?

Question #2. What are the “storms”?

We often think that the storms are the crisis we have in this life—relationships, finances, health, moral and ethical value shifts, etc. This may be but I don’t believe that’s what Jesus had in mind. How do we know that? Back up to Matthew 7    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Isaiah 28    16 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily. 17 Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place. 18 Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it.”

Invitation: You may be able to withstand the storms of this life. Saved or lost both can. But, how about the storm that is coming on the Judgment Day? Will your house stand? Are you saved? Are you hearing and doing the words of Christ?

Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: “The best things in life are free.” True or false? True. How about “There’s no such thing as free lunch.” In other words, there’s nothing truly free in this life. Somebody has to pay for it. True or false? True. Which one is truer? Both are just as true. So also, when it comes to our salvation, it is a free gift. It doesn’t cost us a thing to be saved but it cost Jesus his life. No, you don’t have to pay anything for your salvation but salvation means that now you are a disciple of Jesus and everything you have belongs to your Master. Have you counted the cost of discipleship? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we will try to understand the cost of discipleship and that is the title of our message today–COST.

Luke 14     25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Question: Do you have an unfinished spiritual tower? Are you way over your head in a spiritual battle? Are you truly saved? Are you a disciple or just an uncommitted, wishy-washy fence-sitter?

Context:  How do you picture Jesus 2000 years ago when he came the first time? Do you see him as a solitary figure praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? Do you see him with his 12 disciples? Maybe walking through the fields or sailing on the Sea of Galilee? Maybe you see him sitting on a mountaintop with a small crowd seated on the side of the mountain preaching the beatitudes. Listen once again to verse 25 “Now great multitudes went with Him.” Can you picture that? Imagine walking with the huge crowds of people at the state fair. It’s overwhelming to say the least! Now imagine that ten times worse and everyone is trying to get to one person! Why were they following Jesus? Of course, some like the disciples were committed to him. They had accepted the call to discipleship but many had not. They were following him for Food (Walking/Talking Cafeteria), Miracles (Mobile E/R), and Preaching (New and Different). Jesus being God knew that and he stopped, turned around, and declared—26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Does it mean that we have to literally hate our family in order to follow Jesus? Of course not. In Greek, when influenced by Hebrew and the Old Testament, the words “love” and “hate” can mean “choose” and “not choose.” For example:  Malachi 1     2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” So also, Jesus wants us to pick him over any earthly relationship. By the way, this is not the first time that Jesus had made such a statement. In Luke 9 someone told him 57 “…Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air havenests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: My father’s testimony of leaving his family to follow Christ.

Application: How about you? Is some relationship getting in the way of discipleship? Why do you go to church? Will you sacrifice your spiritual life for friendship?

Something else in verse 27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” There is an immediacy to this call. It doesn’t mean that you follow flippantly. It means go now. Just like the passage from Luke 9 “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” and “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: Again, my father left that very night. If not, he would’ve stayed.

Application: What is keeping you from committing your life fully to Christ? Are you waiting for things to settle down? Are you waiting to have all your fun and then give what’s left over to God? Listen to what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12     1 “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: 2 While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain.”

Now Jesus gives 2 parables to show what lack of counting the cost and following fully looks like: 

1. Tower Builder: We’re not told why the individual decided to build this tower. Maybe it was for agricultural purposes to watch over the fields or maybe it was for military purposes to watch the enemy. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this awkward unfinished structure is standing now in the front yard that does nothing. Now it is a monument to shame. Listen to verse 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” They were probably saying things like “Are you going to hang clothes on it?” “Maybe you can tie your goats in it,” or “You should sell it. Oh wait, you can’t move it, can you?” Why did this happen? Because he didn’t count the cost of building—28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a tower going nowhere! Is that you? To give another analogy, they have these half-baked, soupy, uncooked, and unfinished Christian life.

2. King on a Warpath: Unlike the last parable, the consequence of failing to count the cost in this parable is deadly. This king thought that he was big and bad with his 10,000 soldiers only to find out that the other side had 20,000! You’re about to get a whooping! Again, why did this happen? 31 “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a defeated army. After all these years of playing Christians, the promises in the Bible still don’t work. Unfortunately, people blame God for those defeats. Is that you?

Question: Have you considered the cost of following Christ? Are you willing to follow him in order to be saved? Some people may ask at this point—“Isn’t this works salvation?” Don’t misunderstand. Following Jesus is always the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. Listen to Philippians 2     12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

We need to rethink what we have believed about getting saved. Listen to 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. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.Are you willing to lay aside your old ways and step into the good works that God has prepared beforehand for you?

Invitation:  Are you willing to get saved? Are you ready to be a disciple? Maybe you are already saved but you haven’t become a disciple, today is the day. Maybe you are lost, are you ready to do it the right way and be his disciple right from the start.

Shrewd by Pastor Abidan Shah

SHREWD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, Jesus was saying—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reward by Pastor Abidan Shah

REWARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How do you feel when someone breaks in line ahead of you? It happens in grocery stores, on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. You’ve been standing patiently in a line and then some inconsiderate jerk decides to jump ahead! Sometimes, it happens on the highways. There is a merge sign 5 miles back and you do the right thing but people keep driving past. Then they try to butt in right before the lane ends and some bleeding heart lets them in! It’s so unfair! So also, God’s grace can sometimes appear unfair by our standards. We expect God to honor our lines of justice, fairness, and seniority but he operates by his own lines of goodness and mercy. Just when we think we are next in line for his rewards for all the good and faithful service we’ve done, God puts us at the back of the line! We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The message is titled “REWARD.”

Matthew 20     1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, “Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are. Which laborer are you? Are you the one who came early or are you the one who came late? If you came late to God, are you working hard to make up for lost time? If you came early to God, are you still working hard for him or have you lost your focus? Have you become envious of the newcomers? Or maybe you are part of the third group who is still standing idle in the marketplace. It means that you’re lost. The Master is calling you. It’s time to get saved.

Context: The parable we just read is deemed by scholars as one of the three most difficult parables of Jesus. The reason it’s difficult is because it’s hard to identify whom Jesus meant when he said in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Were the “first” the “Pharisees and the scribes” and the “last” the “tax collectors and sinners”? Or were the “last” the “disciples of Jesus”? In my opinion, we have to begin 15 verses earlier in Matthew 19:16f to understand the true context of the parable. Here Jesus had the famous encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. Remember, he came to Jesus and asked him what he should do to have eternal life and Jesus told him to keep the commandments—“You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” etc. The young man very confidently replied, “I’ve already done them. What’s next?” Then Jesus raised the difficulty level and said to him in verse 21 “…If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Why did Jesus tell him that? After all, Jesus didn’t say that to Nicodemus who was also a very rich man. In fact, if you remember, he actually said the opposite when the woman broke the expensive alabaster flask of perfume at his feet. When people complained that it could have been used to help the poor, Jesus defended her and said in Mark 14:6 “Let her alone…She has done a good work for Me.” The reason Jesus told the young man to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him is because he was possessed by his possessions. Listen carefully: There is a big difference between you possessing riches and riches possessing you. You possessing riches is not a problem. There were many rich people in the Bible and many rich Christians throughout history. On the other hand, riches possessing you is a problem. It is not based on how much money you have in your bank account. It’s your attitude towards money. You can have only two dollars in your name but those two dollars can control your life. This young man was not ready for Jesus because he already had a god. As a result, he walked away sorrowful. Please don’t forget: Coming to Jesus does not mean you have to give up everything. It simply means that now Jesus is everything. That is a very hard thing to do if you are possessed by your possessions. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples in verse 23 “…Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were shocked at this statement and asked in verse 25 “Who then can be saved?” and Jesus replied in verse 26 “…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Application: Are you the rich young ruler? Are you possessed by your possessions? God can help you. He is not here to take your money. He wants to give you eternal life.

Now Peter in his characteristic manner takes this opportunity to gain some points—27“See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Unlike this rich young ruler who refused to part with his wealth, they had left all and followed Jesus. He wants to know what will be their reward? 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” I can imagine the twelve disciples thinking “Yes! Payday is coming!” Jesus being God knew what they were thinking and he said in the next line—30 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” You can almost hear the disciples say, “Wait! What? Isn’t it first we give and then we get and those who give first, get first.” Listen carefully: Even though the disciples had given up their earthly possessions to follow Jesus, they were still operating by earthly principlesTo counter this, Jesus gave the parable of Laborers in the Vineyard. Think about the parable again—The landowner had gone out early in the morning to get laborers to work in his vineyard. Those who came early in the morning were the first disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the other 8. Since there weren’t enough laborers, the landowner went back at the third hour. Still they weren’t enough and he went back at the sixth hour, the ninth hour, and the eleventh hour. Everything was great until it was time for the wages. The disciples were thinking that they were going to be the new leaders, replacing the Pharisees and the scribes. They were going to get the motherlode of the rewards. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way in the kingdom. First, the order got reversed. The eleventh hour once got paid first. Second, the eleventh-hour people got the same amount promised to the first hour people and the first hour people didn’t get any extra reward. Don’t misunderstand: We are not talking about the rewards in heaven. I Corinthians 3:8 “…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” The reward in this life are the presence of God, the gift of the Spirit, the joy of the Lord, the peace that passes all understanding, the riches in Christ. The first ones don’t get an extra helping! Unfortunately, church people like to act like they have an extra helping when they encounter the 11th hour people. We like to show off Bible knowledge, our spirituality, our understanding of the deep things of God, etc. God says, “You are all on the same level to me.” I believe that the greatest evangelists and Christian heroes and heroines have yet to be born. Again, don’t misunderstand: We are not saying that any new believer can get up and start teaching and preaching. I Timothy 3:6 tell us that an overseer should not “a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” Having said that, we don’t have levels of membership at Clearview.

Application: How do you see other believers who are less mature than you? How do you treat people who do not know the Bible as well as you? How do you treat people who are still struggling in their spiritual walk?

When the first hour people began to fuss12 “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’” Their problem was envy. Then Jesus made the same statement from Matthew 19:30 in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Invitation: Have you heard the call? Have you answered his call? Are you saved? This may be the 11th hour for you.

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