Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit Of Happiness by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Introduction: Elections are serious business but some time back I came across a bizarre and funny story. Back in 1967, Ecuador was holding its elections when a foot powder company ran an ad saying “Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies.” To make their ad more appealing, the company passed out flyers listing all the things Pulvapies would do if elected as Mayor. By the way, the flyer looked very much like the official ballot. Guess what happened on election day in the small town of Picoazà, Ecuador? People turned in their flyers at the election booths instead of their ballots! The foot powder won! Thank goodness they didn’t make it the Mayor! Election day is Tuesday and it’s no laughing matter. It’s important for all Christians to vote. Why?Not because the government can solve all our problems or bring God’s kingdom on earth but because the right government can protect our rights as Christians to live out our convictions and share our faith. If you know your history, the wrong government has always tried to silence and stamp out our faith. The lost world is never neutral or fair towards god’s people. Something else: Without Judeo-Christian values, governments will have no clear moral compass. My goal is not to get you to vote a certain party but to get you to vote your biblical convictions.

Daniel 6     3Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spiritwasin him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4So the governors and satraps sought to findsomecharge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he wasfaithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we finditagainst him concerning the law of his God.”

Question: Daniel was persecuted for his faith. Is your faith strong enough to be persecuted? Are you saved?

Context: We began a new series last weekend called “Thankful” and today’s message is about being thankful for our nation, thankful for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I chose the passage from Daniel because it teaches us the importance of standing up for our convictions. The Jewish people were living in exile in Babylon and Daniel was a high ranking official in the Medo-Persian empire. How high up was he? Daniel 6    1It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; What is a satrap? Darius I of Persia came up with the organization of satrapies or provinces for control and tax purposes. Each satrapy was to be ruled by satraps, which is the Old Persian word for “protector of the kingdom.” Usually, the satrap was a close relative of the king, someone he could trust. Darius appointed 120 satraps but Daniel was more than just a satrap.2and over these, three governors, of whom Danielwasone, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. So, three governors over the 120 satraps but Daniel was even more. 3Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spiritwasin him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. He was going to be in charge of the whole Persian empire! Wow!

Some people say that god’s people have no part in politics.

  • Some of the people who say that actually do mix politics and church but only when it suits their agenda and political party. But, if you say anything for your views, they immediately say, “Just preach the gospel. Don’t do politics.” Some even try to claim that you are violating the law. That’s not true. Since 1954, IRS has regulations that prohibit explicitly supporting a particular candidate by name but it allows us to teach on moral issues. That’s not illegal.
  • Some people claim that the gospel has nothing to do with politics. Such people fail to understand that the gospel is more than “I am saved and on my way to heaven.” It involves “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” The gospel is a change in lifestyle. What happens when two or more people begin to change their lifestyles, it begins to change the society in which they live.I John 3:8“…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Throughout the history of the world, god’s people have made their societies better by influencing the government (See Alvin Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World):

  • In the Roman Empire, Christians outlawed infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion (AD 374).
  • They outlawed the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators died (AD 404).
  • They instituted prison reforms by separating male and female prisoners (AD 361).
  • They abolished human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, the Lithuanians, and others.
  • They outlawed pedophilia.
  • They banned polygamy.
  • They outlawed the practice of burning alive widows in India (1829)
  • They began compulsory education for all children in European countries.
  • In the Roman Empire, Christians fought to abolish slavery.
  • In England, William Wilberforce helped abolish the slave trade and slavery itself in the British empire by 1840.
  • In our United States, there were Christians who supported slavery and that was wrong. But, a vast majority fought to abolish it. Two-thirds were Christian pastors.
  • I can go on and on but the point is that god’s people have made their societies better by influencing their governments. One such person was Daniel.

Time is short – the governors and satraps are threatened by Daniel and they decide to take him out. They asked Darius to sign a decree, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians that does not alter, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except King Darius shall be cast into the den of lions. What was Daniel’s response?Daniel 6:10“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” What an amazing political move! Daniel did not hide, apologize, or compromise. Instead, he openly challenged the decree.

Sadly, when Christians are confronted, they hide, apologize, or compromise. This confrontation is not necessarily about praying. It comes in other more sinister ways. At one time it was Christians have always been against Science. They would always bring up Galileo and how the church persecuted him. I don’t have time to go over the whole story. Many scientists were actually Christians. Then it was Christians have always been intolerant. I already gave you the list of things that Christians have fought for throughout history. Now there’s a new one – Christians need to learn the true history of the United States. This is a new one. It says that history has been created by the dominant group from the past and it needs to be straightened out. America was never founded on Christian values and that it was just greed and selfishness. How do you answer this?It all goes back to a German Philosopher by the name of Hegel who came up with the idea of the “historical dialectic.” He believed that history was always in a state of development. You can pick any time in history and see a group that is dominant and they agree on what they consider to be the truth. He called it “thesis.” This is usually challenged by a contradictory idea that is “antithesis.” This leads to a “synthesis.” Now this “synthesis” becomes the new “thesis.” There is no such thing as objective truth. Truth is relative. Hence, what you have learned is wrong and it’s time to set the record straight. We are living in the postmodern era. In the modern era, it was question everything. Now, it is “make history whatever you want it to be. If it’s real to you, then it doesn’t matter what I say.” But if you look at our history carefully, the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States are all based on the Bible. 52 out of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Christians. 34% of all citations in the Constitution came from the Bible.

Personal Illustration: Having come from a nation not founded on Judeo-Christian values, I can tell you that this nation was built on biblical values and it can stand only as long as it stands on biblical values.

Back to Daniel – The governors and satraps caught Daniel praying and ran to the king and accused him. The king tried to free Daniel but the ungodly men were not going to let him off that easily and finally he had to give the command to cast him into the lion’s den. All night he couldn’t sleep or eat and very early he ran to the den of lions crying loudly “Daniel, has your God saved you?” You know the rest of the account. The King had those men who accused Daniel and their families thrown into the den and they were destroyed.

Now listen to Daniel 6     25Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.26I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdommen musttremble and fear before the God of Daniel.For He isthe living God,And steadfast forever;His kingdomis the onewhich shall not be destroyed,And His dominionshall endureto the end.27         He delivers and rescues,And He works signs and wondersIn heaven and on earth,Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” What a revival!

Invitation: Are you praying for our nation? Will you cast your vote according to your biblical convictions? Are you saved?

Help! I’m Losing My Faith in the Bible.

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

HELP! I’M LOSING MY FAITH IN THE BIBLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

bible-with-question-mark copy You should know by now that we are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning I’m preaching a message titled “HELP! I’M LOSING MY FAITH IN THE BIBLE.” Instead of just one passage, we will be reading two passages – one from John 2 and the other from Matthew 21; one from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the other towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. When we read them, you will notice that they are both describing how Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem from the money changers and their animals.

John 2 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. 12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days. 13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.

Matt. 21 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” 12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

Overall Background: Lately I’ve heard (more times than I would like to count) about another young man or woman who has given up on Christianity and turned to atheism or agnosticism. Let me give you a recent example – In January 2015 an article made news. It was written by someone named George Perdikis who called himself the cofounder of the Christian group Newsboys. In this article he wrote about how he had become an atheist.

Listen to his words: “I left the band in 1990 and went back to Adelaide. There, I got married, taught guitar, played pubs and clubs, built homes, and had two beautiful daughters. As I carved out a life for myself away from the church, I began my own voyage of inquiry into what I believed. My perceptions started to transform when I became interested in cosmology in 1992. I soon found myself fascinated by the works of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Cox, and Richard Dawkins. I learned so much and was blown away by all the amazing scientific discoveries and facts. When my marriage dissolved in 2003, I turned my attention to human psychology. By 2007, I renounced Christianity once and for all and declared myself an atheist.”

Sad, isn’t it? But what I found sadder were some of the comments that followed:

“As a long-time Christian, I did take a long, hard look at Christ and his teachings, and became a convinced atheist.”

“I spent the better part of my life being a Christian. I sought desperately for evidence that would demonstrate that Christianity was true, and the thousands of other religions that mankind has invented over the centuries are false. In the end, though, I found absolutely nothing to distinguish Christianity from the rest of the pack, and found no real evidence to support the truth claims of any them.”

“Sorry, but there really is no evidence that anything in the Bible is other than story…There are literally hundreds of contradictions in the Bible.”

Just last week I heard that one of my good friends who inspired me to do a PhD died. He was one of the smartest men I knew and very knowledgeable about the Bible, history, and philosophy. I have books in my library on apologetics that he helped write. But that’s not the sad part because he is with Jesus right now. The sad part is that two of his oldest children have nothing to do with God and one of them is an atheist. I wasn’t able to sleep that night, not because my friend had died, but because of where his kids are today.

My heart breaks every time I hear such reports. To me, nothing is more painful than knowing that our children are no longer walking in the truth. The question is WHY? Why would someone who claims to have grown up in church, went to Sunday School, VBS, and Youth group give it all up? Why would someone turn their backs on the faith of their parents and grandparents? Why would someone discount that moment when they prayed to receive Christ as Savior? The reasons are many:

  • Maybe they were never truly saved.
  • Maybe they were holding onto rules and regulations rather than faith in Jesus.
  • Maybe they were never truly grounded in God’s Word. They are like the ones who received the seed that fell on stony places – heard the word and immediately received it with joy but since there was no root, they only endured for a while. For when tribulation or persecution came because of the word, they immediately stumbled.

Meaning: We did a poor job in grounding our young people in the word of God.

I often ask God what is my task as the pastor. Is it just to get up and give a three-point sermon on how to do better at something? Is it just to help people understand and apply the Bible? Is it just to lead us as a church to win the lost and grow? Or, is it more? The Holy Spirit pointed me to Titus 1:9 where Paul is giving the requirements of a pastor –holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. Meaning: I need to hold fast to the faithful word the Bible and exhort others to do the same and convict those who contradict it.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we need to spend our whole time defending the Bible. As Charles Spurgeon said to the meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1875 – “Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself.” No, we don’t need to spend our whole time defending the authority of the Bible but we do have a mandate to teach our children to hold fast to the faithful word. If we don’t, our young people will very well succumb to the idle talkers and deceivers.

This morning I only want to focus on the claim that “I cannot be a Christian anymore because there are contradictions in the Bible.” We don’t have time to look at every alleged contradiction in the Bible but we’ll look at one.

We read two passages this morning, one from John 2 and the other from Matthew 21. Some people consider them to be aHenry Ian Cusick Visual Bible - The Gospel of John contradiction. Both passages describe the event when Jesus came to the Temple, was appalled by the desecration of the moneychangers and their animals, and he made a whip of cords and drove them out. The problem comes in because Matthew 21 and also Mark 11 and Luke 19 mention the incident in the last week of Jesus’ ministry. In fact, after He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (which we call Palm Sunday) that he went into the temple and began to clean it. On the other hand, John 2 mentions the incident at the beginning of his ministry, right after the wedding in Cana of Galilee, which was the beginning of signs. How could that be?

  • Some people have taken this example to claim that the Bible has errors. If that’s the case then it’s no longer the Word of God. If it’s no longer the Word of God, then it’s no longer binding on our lives. If it’s no longer binding on our lives, then it’s no different than other “holy books” of other religions. In other words, Christianity is one among many ways to God.
  • Some Christians have tried to defend the Bible by claiming that Jesus actually cleansed the Temple two times – one in the beginning of his ministry and again towards the end of his ministry. The problem with this view is that there are too many similarities between the two incidents to be anything but the same incident. Also, if there were two different incidents, John could have mentioned it again in chapter 12 when he talks about Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding on the donkey but he doesn’t.

So what’s the answer? These are one and the same incidents. John has put an incident from the end of Jesus’ ministry at the beginning of his gospel. 3 things we need to understand:

  1. Positive not negative – Some people claim that the church has manipulated and corrupted the Bible. If I we’re trying to make the Bible look like God’s Word, this is one passage that I would definitely fix. This proves that people did not try to mend the Bible as is often claimed. It also proves that if people did not try to mend it then it must not have been a problem. We might have a problem with it but the early readers did not.
  2. Style of John – John repeatedly says “the next day” in John 1:29, 35 or “the following day” in John 1:43. But in John 2:1 he says “On the third day.” Is it the day earlier or is it three more days later? Actually, John is not trying to count the days. Instead, that’s just his style. It’s another way of saying “another day” or “the other day.” For e.g. Like people saying “the other day I was talking to my doctor or my mechanic.” You mean yesterday or day before. “Oh, actually a year or two ago.”
  3. Purpose of John – Towards the end of his gospel, John gives us the reason why he wrote this gospel. First, in John 19:35 “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” Second, in John 20 30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke who were laying out Jesus’ entire biography, John’s purpose from the beginning is to get you to the Passion Week. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus’ trial begins in the last week. In John, the entire gospel is Jesus’ trial before the Jewish religious leaders. Right from the start in John’s gospel, Jesus begins talking about His hour. If you remember in the first part of John 2 at the wedding in Cana when Jesus’ mother says to Him, “They have no wine,” Jesus responds by saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

Did you notice the word “signs?” Signs are more than just miracles. They are pointers towards the most critical week – the Passion Week.

In a sense, John is writing his biography of Jesus but he has a greater concern. It is to get to the Passion Week so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

INVITATION:

  • Are you saved? I think we made our case that the Bible doesn’t contradict. But please don’t misunderstand, this doesn’t mean that we need to answer every contradiction before you can become a Christian. If that’s the case, then you’ll never give your heart to Jesus.
  • Do you know that the Bible is unlike any book in the world?
  • Are you reading the Bible?
  • Are you allowing the Bible to be translated into your life?
  • Are you passing along the Bible to your children and grandchildren?

OUTLINE OF NT STUDIES – UNIT 4

OUTLINE OF NT STUDIES – UNIT 4

The following is my outline of the critical study of the New Testament based upon the following works: Werner Georg Kümmel The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems, William Baird, History of New Testament Research 3 volumes, Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986, and Scott McKnight and Grant Osborne, The Face of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research.

New Testament scholarship saw a radical shift with the coming of deism. Deism was the birth child of the cosmology of Newton (1642-1727) and the rationalism of the Enlightenment. For the deists God was not some orthodox creed or some authoritarian establishment but just a natural, universal religion.

The works of John Locke (1632-1704) were instrumental in creating the framework for the impact of deism on NT scholarship. Even though Locke himself was not a deist, he formulated the philosophy that was exploited by the deists against NT. Contrary to the notion of innate ideas, as proposed by Descartes (1596-1650), Locke advocated an empirical epistemology. According to this view, there are two kinds of knowledge: external sensation and internal sensation. The mind is a blank slate wherein all knowledge comes in via external sensation. This knowledge is then appropriated and arranged by the reflection of the human mind. What cannot be known by reason is revealed by God through supernatural revelation. This revelation will not contradict reason. To this the deists retorted – if the supernatural revelation does not contradict reason, what’s the use of revelation. After all, the ordered universe and the rational mind was enough. Hence, fulfilled prophecy and supernatural miracles were no longer viable or necessary.

Locke was considered to be a pious Christian but he rejected the doctrine of original sin and was not fully orthodox with regards to the doctrine of the Trinity. He also rejected the idea of propitiatory, substitutionary atonement. He considered faith to be simply an assent to doctrines. Although Locke laid down the famous dictum: “The most certain interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself, and it alone is infallible,” his views on Scripture were far from orthodox. He held to the opinion that the Scripture has errors. He also argued that human beings did not inherit Adam’s guilt but only his mortality. Other divergent views of Locke were that speaking in tongues in Corinth was actually speaking in Hebrew.

The father of deism was Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648) and the leader of the cause was Charles Blount (1654-1693). Deists claimed that God established a rational order at creation and then stepped away. Leading propagandists were John Toland (1699-1722) and Matthew Tindal (1657-1733). Toland’s basic thesis was that “there is nothing in the gospel contrary to reason, nor above it; and that no Christian doctrine can be properly call’d a mystery.” In other words, when the doctrine of the Gospels is exposed to reason, it is rational and free of any mystery. It is the clergy who have conspired to create the idea of the mysterious. He gave another important thesis: “Nor is there any different rule to be follow’d in the interpretation of Scripture from what is common to all other books.” Although, Toland allowed for miracles, he considered them compatible with reason.

Tindal, however, was sharper in his criticism of the Bible than Toland. He considered reason to be supreme and no scripture to be beyond the reach of reason. He further asked the question – how could anyone be certain of the text of the bible, if it has so many variants. He argued that Jesus simply revived the old religion and called people back to the religion of nature, the religion of reason.

Another deist, Anthony Collins (1676-1729) rejected fulfilled prophecy as legitimate to claim the authenticity of scripture or Christianity. He argued that since the Jewish people had manipulated the Jewish text to prevent the Christians from claiming the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy in Jesus, there was no use in trying to advocate fulfilled prophecy as a viable defence. Using allegorical interpretation of prophetic passages does not prove the truth of Christianity.

The charge against miracles was taken up by the deist Thomas Woolston (1669-1733). He tried to make a fool out of the clergy about miracles. Much can be said against Woolston’s approach. One major counterpoint is that if scripture itself lends natural explanations that invalidate miracles, then why didn’t the writers and scribes remove the incriminatory details.

Deism continued to flourish in England in the eighteenth century. Notable mentions include Peter Annet (1693-1769), Thomas Morgan (d. 1743), and Thomas Chubb (1697-1747). Annet called Moses an impostor and pointed out the discrepancies between the Paul of the letters and the Paul of the Acts. So also Morgan who blamed Moses for introducing senseless rituals of the Egyptians in the place of the rational religion of nature of Abraham, Noah, and Enoch. Christ was not the Messiah but a restorer of the natural religion. His attack of the OT is reminiscent of Marcion. He also denied the substitutionary atonement of Christ. Finally, Chubb questioned the authenticity of the Gospels. He rejected the notion that the Gospel writers were supernaturally inspired. To this can be added the doctrine of atonement, original sin, and Trinity.

Even though the deists were not biblical scholars, they raised some very important questions for biblical research. Their attacks were usually marked with sarcasm and ridicule. This did two things: open the door for more moderate attacks and open the door for defense of the scripture and orthodox Christianity. The latter somewhat impeded serious study of scripture. The deists assumed that nothing would be left of Christianity by the end of the eighteenth century but they failed to expect the coming of the Wesleyan revival. Neither did they expect the coming of David Hume (1711-1776) who argued that deism was not skeptical enough. Deism did not survive long in England but was revived in Germany.

JESUS – MYTH OR MASTER

JESUS: MYTH OR MASTER by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

We’re in a series called, “CHRISTMAS: CHRISTIANITY’S GREATEST PROOF” and this morning we are in the last message in this series called – “JESUS: MYTH OR MASTER.” Jesus is always making the news, especially during Christmas time. Prior to the Newtown tragedy the big news about Jesus was the Billboard set up by the Atheists in Times Square that read – “Keep the Merry, dump the Myth.” But since the Newtown tragedy, Facebook has been filled with posts about the children being in heaven with Jesus and pictures depicting Jesus holding little children. Like it or not our world is not through with Jesus. S.M. Lockridge (Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego, CA) once said, “Jesus – You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him.”

John 1:1-5  1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Overall Background:  Anytime someone comes to know Christ, we give him/her a Bible and tell them to start in John. Why John? Because the Gospel of John is simple and clear. It is easy to understand—even a child can get it. That is all true but, even though the Gospel of John is simple, it is not simplistic. There is a big difference between simple and simplistic. As a matter of fact, next to Romans, John is probably one of the most studied and written about books in the New Testament. Someone has rightly said, “John’s Gospel is like a shallow pool that a child could wade in. On the other hand, it is deep enough for an elephant to drown.”

The passage we just read is simple enough for a child to understand but deep enough to drown the most educated person. Unlike the birth accounts in Matthew or Luke, John through the Holy Spirit does not focus on Joseph or Mary or the shepherds or the wise men. Instead, he begins with the identity of Jesus before He ever came into this world.

Listen to verse 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Right there is a huge stumbling block for the skeptic – “the Word was God.”It would be so much easier to swallow if Jesus was just a good man, a great man, a godly man, a man in whom was God. It is so much more difficult to deal with the idea that Jesus was God. The lost world does not know what to do with all that. So they claim that Jesus was just a legend or a myth – something borrowed from some ancient pagan cult.

For e.g. Last week’s Newsweek magazine featured its cover story under the title “Who was Jesus?” by a well-known agnostic named Bart Ehrman. Listen to what he writes –

“As Christians around the world now prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, it is worth considering that much of the “common knowledge” about the babe in Bethlehem cannot be found in any scriptural authority, but is either a modern myth or based on Gospel accounts from outside the sacred bounds of Christian Scripture…. Christians throughout the Middle Ages were rarely interested in historical accuracy; they loved stories and reveled in their meaning, especially stories having anything to do with the appearance of the Son of God in the world.”

Hundreds of people responded negatively to his article and Ehrman actually enjoyed the response. Listen to what he said on his blog:

“I appreciate the animosity that people feel: I would have felt the same way in my late teens and early twenties when I too was a Bible believing, born-again, conservative evangelical who thought that Scripture was the inerrantly inspired Word of God. But education sometimes has its effect, and it certainly did on me.”

Even a 16-year-old girl confronted Ehrman about his article. Listen to Ehrman’s statement to her on his blog,

“What I told this earnest 16-year-old was that I appreciated her concerns and that I hoped she would continue to seek the truth, and be willing to follow the truth wherever it leads her, even if it leads her away from what she now thinks is true. If truth is from God, then there is nothing to fear from it. And if following the truth means rejecting your former beliefs, that’s the price you have to pay for being true both to the truth and to yourself.

That is what our young people are up against. We need to be able to give them an answer that is clear and confident and correct.

There are 3 things that John tells us about Jesus that you need to make a decision about:

I. JESUS IS EXTRA-ORDINARY

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

There are several things that are extra-ordinary about Jesus:

1.     HE WAS ALWAYS THERE.

In the beginning was the Word,

–         John uses the word “logos.” The meaning of that is “spokesperson.” Why did John go through all that trouble? Why not just say “In the beginning was Jesus?” He is pointing back to Genesis 1:1-31In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. Every time you read in the Bible “God said” or “the Word of the Lord came,” guess who is being referred to? Jesus!

2.     HE WAS WITH GOD

and the Word was with God,

–         Some people are puzzled over this one. What does that mean? Literally, it means that Jesus was not man’s Word but God’s Word.

–         For e.g. We say “Your word is your bond” or “You are only as good as your word.” Jesus was God’s Word. There are no lies in Him.

3.     HE WAS GOD

–         The Jehovah’s Witnesses translate this verse as “the Word was a god.” The reason they do that is because there is no definite article in from of God. So they stick an indefinite article “a” there. When the definite article is used, the emphasis is on the individual but when there is no definite article, the emphasis is on the nature of the individual. So the translation could be – “The Word was of the nature of God.” Furthermore, there are plenty other references in John where Jesus is called God.

Frankly I understand why people have a problem with Jesus.

–         On one hand, He entered this world at a particular time and place but, on the other hand, He existed before time and place.

–         On one hand, He is someone who was made like us, but, on the other hand, He was nothing like us.

–         On the one hand, He was fully human, but on the other hand, He was fully God.

Application: This morning you need to examine your hearts. What do you make of Jesus? It did not take hundreds of years for the legend to develop. John lays it out right in the beginning. Those who are too proud to acknowledge Him, call Him a myth or legend. But, those who are humble enough to acknowledge Him, call Him Savior and Lord.

1. Jesus is extra-ordinary.

II. JESUS MADE EVERYTHING

2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Background: Every time in Genesis when God said, it was Jesus who was creating everything. He is the one who –

–         Created the blue heavens above.

–         Created the space between the earth and the sky.

–         Scooped the seas, rivers, and lakes and filled them with water

–         Flung the sun, the moon, the stars in their orbits. By the way, you know how vast this universe is? The astronomer uses a yardstick called a “light year” – distance light travels in one year. Light travels at the speed of 186,273 miles per second. Our sun is only 8 light minutes away. Through high powered telescopes they are seeing suns and stars 8 billion light years away. They are capturing pictures through a Dark Energy Camera. Can you imagine that?

–         Made the earth with flowers and grass and trees.

–         Made the fish to swim; animals to roam; and birds to sing.

–         And, made man and woman in His image.

We take so much pride in our scientific advancements in America/West. Did you know that prior to the Middle Ages, there was no scientific advancement in the West?There were only barbaric tribes that worshipped the sun and trees and performed human sacrifices. They feared lightning and thunder. Now there was progress in architecture, mathematics and medicine; but, science (as one writer says) was at a “standstill, a stillbirth.” (Stanley Jaki, “The Savior of Science”).

Modern science came out of the Middle Ages when Western Christians began to see their world as a rational, ordered cosmos. They realized –

–         The world is not an illusion, it is real and it can be studied.

–         The sun is not a god to be worshipped; it’s a burning star that gives light and energy.

–         The nature is not something to fear, it has laws that can be probed, harnessed and improved.

–         The human body is not just shell and a husk, it is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Application: Isn’t it sad that we have taken the blessings of Christianity and now we want to throw out Christianity? Western civilization advanced because of Christ. You take away Christ and we will become just a dot on the radar of history.

1. Jesus is extra-ordinary; 2. Jesus made everything.

III. JESUS CAME INTO THIS WORLD

4In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Background: Sin brings darkness.

For e.g. Back in the summer the power went out because of a storm and it was pitch dark. I had to get the light from my phone to find the flashlight on the other side of the house.

The whole world was sitting in darkness waiting for the light to come. The author of life came into this world according to the determined purpose of God. He brought with Him the Light of men. But when He shone in this world, the darkness of sin did not comprehend it.

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

To this day Jesus is giving light to countless millions every day.

For e.g. Some days I get discouraged when I face the lostness of people. I ran into an Indian man at a restaurant. We began to talk about life in India and at one point he said – “the people in West stole our wisdom. They studied our Holy books and then implemented that wisdom and became successful.” His chronology was way off. The west began to advance because of Christianity back in the medieval times – 12th – 13th centuries. I listened to him. Europeans did not encounter Indian culture until the 16th – 17th centuries. I thought to myself “how sad.”

The same day a friend of mine Facebook saw one of my messages and wanted to share it on their profile. This friend is not a Christian.

The words of Adrian Rogers came to me – “People say ‘what is this world coming to?’ and I say ‘It’s coming to Jesus.’”

Application: The world is coming to Jesus. Do you know Him? He will change your life. He will change the way you live in this world.

For e.g. Man in train, every few seconds would remark “Wonderful! Wonderful!” The man sitting across asked why. His answer – just this morning the doctor removed the bandage from my eye and I can see. What is ordinary to you is extra-ordinary to me.”

When you receive Him, the ordinary will become extra-ordinary.

CHRISTMAS: CHRISTIANITY’S GREATEST PROOF – Part 1 (Virgin Birth)

CHRISTMAS: CHRISTIANITY’S GREATEST PROOF – Part 1 (Virgin Birth) by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

We’re in a new series for the next three-week called, “CHRISTMAS: CHRISTIANITY’S GREATEST PROOF.” This morning we are in part 1 of this series on the Virgin Birth.

Matthew 1:18-25 18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Overall Background: LIFE magazine just came out with a special edition last month (Nov. 16, 2012), titled “Jesus: Who do you say that I am?” It’s on the shelves right now. The introduction is titled “The Carpenter’s Son Who Changed Everything.” Listen to the introduction:

“From the most modest of means in a volatile part of the world that people of varying faiths…would come to call the Holy Land, a Life Cover - Jesus 2012young man emerged whose radical, inspiring philosophy seemed not only a challenge to religious orthodoxy and political authority, but perhaps a course forward through life, which was so often a vale of tears. He developed a following, and after His martyrdom, when He was barely 30 years of age, a cult….Who was this man?…To some, Jesus is the Son of God, the anointed, the Christ—born to a virgin just more than 2,000 years ago…To others Jesus is just a man….And to still others He is little more than a myth. Maybe He lived, they say, but His stature as a great and transcendent human being is a novelistic interpretation of Paul….He is, say these naysayers, an idea. But… Whether idea or man, Jesus—in whose name, surely wars have been fought, and awful deeds done—is a model that, day-to-day, encourages much good, a mirror that reflects, for many of us, our hopes….

(And then it concludes with these words) …Whether Jesus was sent from Heaven or not, whether He died on the cross or not, and ascended or did not—Jesus is alive in our time. To believers and non believers alike, Jesus matters. Still matters. He long has. He always will.”

That for a lack of a better term is “baloney.” Is it true? Does it have any facts behind it? Have we been misled to believe in a myth or an idea? Absolutely Not! But that is what’s being fed through many of our colleges and universities. Our young people are being bombarded by such false claims. This is not just a laughing matter. This is not just an optional matter like “do you like Coke or Pepsi?” or “do you like Country music or Rock Music?” or “do you like the beach or the mountains?” What you believe about Jesus decides where you will spend eternity. AND ETERNITY IS TOO LONG TO BE WRONG.

Application: This morning the question for you is not what you believe about the church or the Bible. The question is “What do you believe about Christ?” When Jesus asked His disciples “Who do you say that I am?” He did not ask that because He was confused. He asked to see if they believed in Him.

Maybe your faith has been shaken; maybe you have doubts in your heart; maybe you have questions but you feel you cannot ask them. Let the Holy Spirit of God open your heart and your mind to the truth. Don’t look at this morning’s message as just some intellectual discussion. This is a message that will increase your faith. The more you know and understand, the stronger you can stand against the assault of the enemy.

I believe Christmas (the coming of Jesus Christ) is Christianity’s Greatest Proof. This morning we are talking about the Virgin Birth. Meaning: Jesus was not just some “Carpenter’s Son.” He was God’s Son. Everything about Him was different, especially how He came in this world.

Now some people have a tough time with that. They raise some questions against it that I want us to look at this morning.

I. HOW CAN IT BE POSSIBLE?

A Virgin having a child, how can that be? This was the same question that was running through Joseph’s mind – Listen to verse 19 “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things,

Mary visited by angelWhat is Joseph thinking? I know that I can leave this girl and move on with my life. No one is going to blame me. But could it be that she is still a virgin and yet pregnant?

By the way, this was the same question that Mary had when the angel came and gave her the word that she has found favor with God and she will conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. In Luke 1:34 she says to the angel “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

Both Joseph and Mary were asking the age-old question: How can a virgin have a child? In other words, are miracles possible? Some people laugh at the idea of miracles. For example: Richard Dawkins, a self-proclaimed atheist, said sometime back, “The Virgin birth, the resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.”

So are miracles possible? In fact, that is the wrong question. The real question is “Is there a God?” If you can believe that there is a God, you can believe that miracles are possible.

Now some people don’t believe in God.

Let me prove to you that there is a God in less than 2 minutes.

For e.g. Here’s a watch in my hand. I have had it for the past three years. Just looking at it I can say that it is no more than maybe 5 years old. Prior to that, this watch did not exist. It had a beginning at some factory somewhere. Somebody had to make it. Since this watch had a beginning, somebody had to make it.

In the same way, this universe began to exist at some point. I believe that it is no more than 6,000 years old. Some people say more but either way, it had a beginning. For this universe to begin to exist, somebody had to make it – the sun, moon, stars, earth, oceans, grass, animals, human beings, etc. That someone is God. People throughout the history of the world have acknowledged that there is a God. Some of the greatest minds in the world—Socrates, Galileo, Newton, Einstein—have looked at creation and declared that they believed in God. David says in Psalms 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.”

Let me go one step further: If God made nature; Nature has to obey Him. Miracles are simply nature obeying its Creator.

The Virgin Birth was a miracle. Never had it happened before and never since. Science cannot explain it, medical field will deny it, and anyone with a normal intelligence will laugh at it. The only way it will happen is for the moment God will enter into the sphere of natural laws (the laws that He put in place). He is not going to break them or remake them or redefine them. He will prove to the world that they are His Laws – they are subject to Him. A child is not going to drop out of the sky, he is not going to appear out of thin air. No – a woman will conceive; she will carry him 9 months; she will feel the pain of child-birth; but it will not be humanly conceived. It will be a miracle!

If you believe in God, miracles are no problem! I have no problem with God so I have no problem with miracles.

Application: God is still in the miracle business. Do you believe that? He is still healing the sick, touching the brokenhearted, and changing a sinner.

Question 1. How can it be possible?

II. HOW ABOUT ALL THE OTHER MYTHOLOGIES?

The common ones that are mentioned are: Semiramis and Tammuz

  1. Assyrian mythology where Semiramis (the wife of Nimrod) gave birth to Tammuz. According to legend she was impregnated by a sunbeam.
  2. Egyptian mythology it was handed down as Isis and Osiris.
  3. Greek mythology about Dionysius, who was born from a human mother (Semele) and the god Zeus.
  4. Indian mythology – Buddha was conceived when an elephant entered his mother’s belly.

Indra and ChildWhat are these? They are simply counterfeits put forth by Satan to prevent the real virgin birth.

In the biblical virgin birth there are real people, places, and events. In pagan myths, gods actually mated with humans. In Christianity there is no such thing. It is simply God coming into this world. By the way – pagan myths were written over time (centuries); the Gospels were written while the eyewitnesses were still around.

If you want to understand the right basis for the virgin birth, you have to look to the Old Testament. Listen toIsis and Horus Matthew 1 verse 21-23 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

The virgin birth was not just an accident or an afterthought. It had been promised. In fact, it was the very first promise given to humankind.

Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

In the OT, it is always the seed of a man. But here it is the seed of a woman. This was the first prophecy – the proto-evangelium given.

Ever since then Satan has been trying to counterfeit the virgin birth or try to destroy any chances of it. Even with the Sons of God, he tried it and God destroyed the world in a flood. Later with Pharaoh, who commanded the midwives to kill the newborn sons of the Hebrews and when it failed, he commanded them thrown into the Nile. When Jesus was born – Herod tried to kill all the Jewish boys who were two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts.

Application: For everything good that God has for us, Satan always has a counterfeit. Not only that he will do everything to destroy God’s work in your life.

Question 1 – How can it be possible? Question 2 – How about the other mythologies?

III. WHY WAS IT NECESSARY?

Background: Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? One reason—to prove that He was sinless. Some people say that Jesus did not have to be born of a virgin to be sinless. He could have been born of the sexual intercourse of two human beings and still be sinless. But listen to how the Bible describes the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.”

The focus is not on Mary. It is on the Holy Spirit.

Sadly the focus on Mary has led to some false beliefs in the church: Often people confuse Virgin Birth with the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity. They are not the same. Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This is not a biblical idea. It was just an invention of the medieval church. Even the Catholic Church did not recognize this until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. On the other hand, Perpetual Virginity teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. It is not a biblical idea either. It has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century.

Substitute and RepresentativeVirgin Birth sets the focus on the Holy Spirit bringing the Son of God into this world. The person coming into this world was a Divine Person who was already existing before He entered into this world. He was not tainted by the sin that affects all of us who are born of Adam. He was perfect and sinless.

24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Application: Let me ask you – “Who is Jesus to you?” Just a good man, great man, great teacher or God’s Son. He came into this world through the Holy Spirit. Only that same Holy Spirit can open your eyes to see Jesus this morning.

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