Uncomfortable Obedience (2019) by Dr. Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE (2019) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2019)

Introduction: Once again, we want to welcome you to our Christmas Eve Service. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, and using our gifts in his service. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our limits. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Luke 1    26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were teenagers or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal (kiddushin) was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then, under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Mary today (last Christmas Eve, if you remember, we focused on Joseph). Just like Joseph, Mary was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary had a choice. Keep in mind that everything that the angel said was in the future tense. She was going to be pregnant and it was not going to be Joseph’s child. In fact, she would be a virgin when she became pregnant through the Holy Spirit. I can imagine Mary wondering how people would laugh at her. I can imagine Mary thinking how her friends and family would treat her. What a scandal! What a shame…Mary must have gone through a range of emotions: shock, unbelief, anxiety, helplessness, isolation, frustration, and even anger.

By the way, God sends his people in our path to help us during such difficult moments in our life. Mary went to the home of her cousin Elizabeth. Through her, the Holy Spirit encouraged Mary and confirmed to her that this was from God. This is when Mary sang her famous song starting in Luke 1    46 “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed…54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.” This song is traditionally known as the “Magnificat.” It comes from “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” which is the Latin translation of “my soul magnifies the Lord,” the first line of Mary’s hymn.

  1. Mary had to carry the child for the next 9 months. This was not some one point in time decision. Can you imagine the trauma she had to go through every single day of those 9 months! Keep in mind that she would not be claiming that she had made a mistake or she was raped. She would be claiming to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. I can imagine people telling her to fess up. I can imagine friends and family telling her to admit that she messed up or was raped. She couldn’t do that. Again, imagine the emotions she must have felt: anger, helplessness, embarrassment, and unbelief. Nonetheless, she stayed the course.

How could she do all this? If you read the Magnificat carefully, its Mary’s love prayer to God. She loved God unconditionally. God would not have sent his Son to her if she wasn’t a loving person. Would you!

The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally. I John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Mary loved God.

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

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

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

Before the Manger: How Can a Baby Change My Life?

BEFORE THE MANGER – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

beforethemanger1Christmas is here. If you don’t believe that you weren’t out shopping this weekend! Today I’m starting a four-week series titled “BEFORE THE MANGER: HOW CAN A BABY CHANGE MY LIFE?” This message is titled: “ARE YOU READY TO FACE JESUS?”

John 17   1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Overall Background: There are as many as 650 different prayers in the Bible but none of them can match the depth and the height of the prayer we just read. It is prayed by Jesus Himself. In other words, we are being privy to a conversation between the Godhead, the Trinity! How amazing is that! What we are going to focus on today is what He says in verse 5 “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” It appears that Jesus is longing for something that He had to temporarily set aside when He came as a baby in a manger.

For e.g. Like the little boy who was wearing his nice pair of shoes. His dad asked him to help out in the yard. So he took off those nice shoes and put on his simple shoes. Once he was done, he asked his dad – “Can I please put on my nice shoes now?” Dad replied, “Sure son. Thank you.” I know the analogy breaks down because Jesus now has both His nice shoes and simple shoes on! The point is this – The reason many people don’t think much of Jesus is because they only see him in His simple shoes as a baby in a manger. They picture Him only as the carpenter’s son born in a sleepy little town of Bethlehem, surrounded by sheep and cattle, visited by some shepherds. They never contemplate Him in His nice shoes, in His glory before the world was. They never seem Him as the Lord of glory who created the world and who had no beginning. No wonder many people have a tough time declaring Jesus – Lord/Master/Boss of their lives.

Question: Have you ever met Christ in all His glory? Do you understand what He laid aside to come into this world and die on the cross for your sins and mine? If you know Him for who He really is, is He truly the Lord/Master/Boss in your life? Are you saved?

This morning very briefly we will try to catch a glimpse of the glory of Jesus before the world was. The goal is for you to bow before Him. There’s only one response. 3 things:

I. HE WAS BORN BUT HE ALWAYS WAS.

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Bethlehem 1

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 1 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Bethlehem 2

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 2 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Back in January of this year, Nicole and I went to Israel and we were able to go to Bethlehem into the Church of the Nativity. This is where tradition tells us was the place where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. Both of us touched the star that surrounds the bedrock on which the manger was set according to tradition. It was quite a moment to actually touch the ground where Jesus was placed when He was born into the world. At the same time, I had to remind myself that this was not the place where Jesus came to existence. He was there before the world was.

Bethlehem 3

Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity) 3 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The Prophets prophesied about this. Listen to Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Listen to how John begins his gospelJohn 1   1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. But he doesn’t stop there. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. So also Hebrews 1   1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

I can go on and on but the point is this – Jesus did not begin 2000 years ago. He always was! As God, He had no beginning. In fact, He created the world in which He entered.

Application: How do you see this baby in the manger? Do you understand that He made the world and you and me? Do you understand that He breathed life into you? In Acts 3:15 Peter chastises the people by saying that they killed Jesus the “the Prince of life.”

II. HE BECAME LIKE US BUT HE WAS ALWAYS LIKE THE FATHER. 

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself…”

Background: Repeatedly, Jesus talks about His relationship with the Father. Many people misunderstand this relationship. They think a Father-Son relationship means the Son has to be born to the Father. For example: When I say that I am the son of my father, it implies that I had a starting point. When I say that I am a father to my sons, it implies that I was responsible for bringing them into existence. But when the ancient people, especially the people of the Bible, used the phrase “son of,” they were not talking just about being a descendent or having a starting point but having family resemblance. I am related to my father and my sons are related to me. I am like him and they are like me. Jesus repeatedly explained this to the people: John 8:19 “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” John 10:30 “I and My Father are one.” John 14:9 “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Not only that but Father-Son relationship also implies inheritance. John 3:35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” John 16:15 “All things that the Father has are Mine.” Finally, the Father-Son relationship implies access. John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 15:23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.” Listen to how Paul puts it in Colossians 1 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist…19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

Here’s the point: We think of God the Father as the powerful one who controls the entire universe and directs our lives. We forget that He has placed all things in the hands of His Son. The Son is in charge.

Application: How do you see Jesus? Do you see Him only as a helpless baby in a manger or do you see Him as the Son of God with full authority from the Father? Have you come to Him? Have you received Him as your Savior?

III. HE TOOK ON EARTHLY GLORY BUT HE ALWAYS HAD HIS DIVINE GLORY IN REACH.

5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Background: While on earth Jesus temporarily veiled His glory. As Paul says in Philippians 2:7, Christ “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” This does not mean that He was “gloryless” on earth. Listen to John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Sure – Jesus set aside his divine glory but He took on a bondservant kind of glory while He was on earth: this glory was reflected when He had to lie in a manger because there was no room in the inn; this glory was reflected when He submitted himself to his parents at 12 years of age; this glory was reflected when He talked to an adulterous Samaritan woman; this glory was reflected when He healed the lepers. I can go on and on – Jesus was glorious because He was full of grace and truth. Having said that, Jesus had to veil/cover up His divine glory when He came into this world. It doesn’t mean that Christ gave up His deity. It only means that temporarily He held back His Heavenly glow.

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

What is this pre-incarnate glory? In the Old Testament it is known as the “shekinah” of God. In Exodus 13 Christ showed this glory to the people of Israel as the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. In Exodus 33 Moses wanted to see “God’s glory” but it was so bright that God had to shield him. In Isaiah 6:5 Isaiah saw this glory and cried, “Woe is me, for I am undone!…For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” Only once did Jesus reveal His pre-incarnate glory. It was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew 17 2 says, “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” Paul describes it in I Timothy 6:16 as an “unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see…” In the Book of Revelation when John saw this glory, he says in Revelation 1   14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. In Revelation 21:23 we read that the Heavenly City “had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.”

Listen carefully – Jesus’ pre-incarnate divine glory is more than just bright light. It is Jesus in all His power and authority. There’s only one response when you meet Him this way. It is submission. Hebrews 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Do you know this King of glory, Jesus Christ?

Illustration: Blaise Pascal was a brilliant French scientist, philosopher, mathematician, and inventor in the 17th century. At the age of 15, he was writing books and inventing theorems. At the age of 19, he developed a calculating machine, which was probably the first computer. He also made discoveries that led to the invention of the barometer, vacuum pump, air compressor, syringe, and the hydraulic press. With all this success he still became disillusioned with life. On the night of November 23rd, 1654 he picked up the Bible and began to read John 17. When he came to verse 3 – “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – it was as if a spark went off and the whole room was on fire. He wrote – “From about half past ten at night to about half an hour after midnight: FIRE.” In that very instant he was converted and became a Christian. When he died, they found this verse sewed into the lining of his coat. It touched him so much that he wanted it always close to his heart.

Question: You may not have a similar experience but are you converted? Have you received eternal life through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? He is coming again but Matthew 24:30 says, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

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