Go and Be the Difference

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GO AND BE THE DIFFERENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Go and Be the DifferenceWe are in our series called Salt and Light on the Sermon on the Mount and today we are looking at a very familiar passage from Matthew 5. We’ve been going over and over again on this one passage because it is critical that we get it – critical for us individually, for our children and grandchildren, for our nation, and for our church. Our message is titled – “GO AND BE THE DIFFERENCE.”

Matthew 5 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” When Jesus spoke these words 2000 years ago, the world was in a big mess. Tiberius Caesar was ruling Rome – a cruel man, an open homosexual, perverse beyond your wildest imaginations. Herod’s sons were controlling the various regions. One of them (Herod Antipas) had even taken his own brother’s wife and had John the Baptist beheaded. Annas (father-in-law) and Caiaphas were running the temple. They cared more for money, politics, and power than anything else. The people were struggling under heavy tax burdens. You can imagine them saying – “It’s just getting worse and worse.” “How long will God let this go on?” “When will He step in and make things right?” Just when you would’ve expected Jesus to tell the multitude to sit tight and hold on, He challenged them to stand up and head out – “Go be the Salt and Light!”

Our world is in a big mess – politically, financially, morally, and spiritually. As a nation, we’re divided. As a people, millions are struggling to make ends meet. As a culture, we’re losing the battle for traditional values. As Vance Havner would say, “Sin that used to slink down back alleys now struts down main streets.” As a world power, we don’t have the respect we once did. As a church, we are barely keeping up with the lostness around us. What is Jesus saying to us in 2015? Same as back then – “Go be the Salt and Light.”

Application: Are you concerned about the condition of our world? Does it bother you how our nation and our world are sinking in every way? Have you asked God what He wants you to do? Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior?

Here’s the essence of this message – When the beatitudes become a part of your nature, you will become the salt and the light of the world. As we walk through this message, ask the Holy Spirit to help you be the difference makers in this world.

I. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HUMBLE SPIRIT.

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit…5 Blessed are the meek…”

Background: They are 2 different aspects of humility – “Poor in spirit” means people who have very little of self. “Meek” means people who wait upon God. As poor in spirit they know that all that they are and all that they have is by the grace of God. As meek, when people offend them, instead of getting angry, frustrated, or disappointed with people or God, they give everything over to God. Humility has nothing to do with how much or how little you have in your bank account. It has everything to do with how little you think of yourself and how more you think of others.

The Christian spirit of humility transformed the Western culture. Men and women full of the Holy Spirit began to put others ahead of themselves. People became gentlemen and ladies and started greeting each others with “good morning,” “good evening.” They began saying things like excuse me, pardon me, my bad, or go ahead. They began standing in lines instead of jumping in front of others. Have you traveled overseas? People will climb all over you to get into a bus or a train. It’s considered normal. The further we get away from Christian values our world becomes more barbaric.

Application: Are you a humble person? Better question – do people consider you a humble person?

II. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A COMPASSIONATE HEART.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Background: Many of us found comfort for personal grief and loss when I preached on this few weeks ago. But Christians saw so much more in this beatitude. They heard their God and Master telling them that if they see someone mourning, it was their obligation and privilege to provide comfort to them. In fact, another beatitude says 7 “Blessed are the merciful…” Meaning: if you see someone in need of mercy, you be merciful. It’s a step beyond humility.

The Christian spirit of compassion transformed the Western culture. In Hinduism, there is not much compassion for the poor. Simplistically speaking, the poor are in that state because of their previous life. For you to help them would be to interfere with karma. Somebody might say – “How about Gandhi? Didn’t he fight for the rights of the untouchables?” What many people don’t realize is that Gandhi was greatly influenced by Christianity. Someone else might say – “Wait a minute! Didn’t he say that he would be a Christian if it wasn’t for Christians.” That’s very hypocritical of Gandhi. When he was attacked by fellow Indians in the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa and left for dead, a Baptist pastor by the name of John Joseph Doke took him into his home and nursed him back to life. Gandhi was grateful but he was also forgetful.

How about Islam? If you are a Muslim beggar, maybe you’ll get something. But if you are anything else, you don’t count. I can go on and on. It’s the coming of Christianity to the east that brought orphanages, women’s shelter and relief societies.

Everywhere people are talking about fairness and equality. Unfortunately, Christians are looked upon as being bigoted, racist, and prejudiced. How did this happen? We’re the people of Wilberforce, Newton, and Wesley! We should be leading that fight!

Application: Are you a compassionate person? Do you care about others or is it all about you? How do you respond when you hear people suffering?

III. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HOPEFUL ATTITUDE.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Background: Who is a peacemaker? They are not people who compromise the truth or sweep things under the rug but they actively seek to bring a resolution in conflict. They do whatever they can to promote peace in their family, neighborhood, church, community, nation, and world. They are hopeful that people can live in peace. Why? Because Jesus is the Prince of peace. Wherever Jesus goes, peace follows.

The Christian spirit of peacemaking transformed the Western culture. Instead of lex talionis or the law of retaliation (what we know as “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth”), men and women full of the Holy Spirit began to put down their battle-axes and reach out with love and compassion. It did not mean that didn’t have laws and consequences for crime. It just means that they stopped being bloodthirsty. I wish I could say that with the coming of Christianity there was never another battle or war in the West but that would be a huge lie. As long as there are sinful, self-centered, and greedy people, there will be conflicts but true Christians have always called for peace.

Application: Are you a peacemaker? Or, are you a troublemaker? Do you pray for peace in our community, our nation, in our world? Are you hopeful that there can be peace?

IV. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HIGHER CALLING. 

5 “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.”

Background: Have you thought about what it means to “inherit the earth?” It goes back to the book of Genesis 1 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Have you ever wondered why the Western culture has been so successful? Because we don’t worship the Sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the rivers, animals, trees, spirit beings, and any carved image. We worship the living true God. We believe that He has given us authority and power over everything. We don’t worship nature. We transcend it. We harness it. No we don’t destroy it but we use it for our benefit and the benefit of all human beings.

There was a time when Christians were the most creative people but unfortunately we’ve become a stick in the mud. Lost people seem to have the market on art, music, education, exploration, business, and the list goes on! We’re not just conservatives but we have become preservatives! We’re looked upon as being the fun killers. I don’t have time to list for you all the scientists, artists, and innovators in history who were born again Christians or operated under the Christian worldview.

Application: What is your calling? Are you a conservative or a preservative? Have you taken God’s command to go out and create like Him?

V. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HOLY LIFESTYLE.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

Background: Righteousness is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings about an external change in our lives. “Pure in heart” is a person who is no hypocrite. They our holy externally as well as internally.

Our society definitely needs people who hunger for righteousness and are pure in heart. What do you think will happen if people are pure in heart in businesses, media, and the courtroom? They do what is right not because they’ll be caught by some law enforcement but because they have to answer to someone much higher, i.e. the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you holy both externally as well as internally? Do people refer to you as a person who is genuinely pure in heart?

VI. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A RELENTLESS PASSION FOR LOST SOULS.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Background: there’s more to being a Christian than just being a good citizen. It involves telling people that they are sinful and headed to hell. Unfortunately, many people don’t want to hear that. You will lose friends, opportunities, privileges, and even your life. But that is the most important thing about being the salt and the light. When the salt is put in the food, it disappears. When the lamp is lit, it burns away.

Dirk Willems - Love your enemies

Dirk Willems – Love your enemies

For e.g. Dirk Willems was imprisoned in his hometown of Asperen in the Netherlands for being an Anabaptist. He escaped the prison by making a rope of strips of cloth and slid down over the prison wall. He ran across the frost-covered pond over a thin layer of ice. Dirk had been eating prison food and was very thin but his pursuer fell through and began crying for help. Dirk turned around and pulled the man out. You would’ve thought that they would let him go but they didn’t. The burned him at the stake on May 16, 1569. His tongue was not clamped and so you can imagine him screaming. The wind blew the flame away from him so that his death was long and miserable. Time and again Dirk cried out to God. Finally one of the authorities could not bear to see him suffer any longer and ordered an underling to end his torment with a quick death.

Are you willing to go and be the difference? Are you saved

The Blessing of Standing Up for What’s Right

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THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

standingupforwhatsright

This is our eighth and final message in our series on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount and today’s message is titled, “THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT.” Keep in mind the series called SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount is far from over.

Matthew 5 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This final beatitude is very different from the rest. It deals with a subject that is very painful and has brought great sorrow to the people of God through the centuries. It has tested the reality of their faith and the firmness of their convictions. In fact, I don’t like to talk about it much because I had to experience it growing up. The subject is Persecution. Simply defined, it means – “any form of harassment and aggression against you because of your faith in Jesus Christ.” I’m sure we’ve all heard of the persecution of the early church and through the Middle Ages, and even now in Russia, China, and the Middle East. Unfortunately, persecution is not that far away anymore. It’s already on your doorstep. Ask Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the Oregon-based Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and were fined $135,000. Eventually, they were forced to close their business.

Aaron and Melissa Klein

Aaron and Melissa Klein

Sweet Cakes by Melissa

Sweet Cakes by Melissa

Klein Family

Klein Family

Application: What would you have done? Would you have stood up for righteousness or would you have given in? How would you handle persecution? Here’s a deeper question – Is there enough evidence in your life for the world persecute you? Are you saved?

Many of you have told me how much you have enjoyed this series. If you ask me, this is the most important message in this entire series on the Beatitudes. It is important for us individually, for our children, for our grandchildren, for our church, and for our nation’s future. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you like never before. 3 questions again:

I. WHY DOES PERSECUTION COME? 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…”

Background: Jesus makes it clear that persecution comes for righteousness sake. Now, what is righteousness? Remember, the fourth beatitude – Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” In this context, righteousness is not just the imputed righteousness of Christ – the righteousness that is accounted to us as Paul talks about it in Romans 4, the forensic righteousness – but it is the daily practical righteousness. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that brings about an external change. Because we are saved we begin to live a life that day-by-day pleases God, that step-by-step obeys His word, and that moment-by-moment looks more and more like Jesus Christ. There’s a difference in the way we walk, talk, see, and hear. There is a difference in the way we work, play, shop, and live in this world. There is a difference in the way we treat our friends and families. There is also a difference in the way we treat our enemies and our opponents. In short, it’s not the righteousness that saves but the righteousness that shows that I’m saved.

How does the world react to this kind of righteousness in us? Some people admire us. Some people aspire to be like us. But, there are others who avoid us and even attack us. This is persecution for righteousness sake. Jesus was actually quoting the Old Testament when He gave this beatitude. Psalm 37:12 The wicked plots against the just (righteous), And gnashes at him with his teeth. Psalm 119 157 Many are my persecutors and my enemies, Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies…161 Princes persecute me without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word. But Jesus gave a deeper reason for this hatred. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, if you are persecuted for being godly, it’s because you have the kingdom of heaven. What is the kingdom of heaven? Do you remember the first beatitude? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who have received Jesus as their Savior. Remember what Paul said in Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Persecution is the assurance that the Holy Spirit is in your life. Listen carefully – “The real reason the world hates you is not you but the one who is in you.”

For e.g. I used to work at a job laying Cat 5’s all over the state. The guys I worked with knew what I was doing. Some of them were fine with me but others hated me and I never understood that. Maybe its because I wanted to go home rather than drink and go to the doll house.

Application: The question is not “Are you facing persecution?” The real question is “Are you godly?” 2 Tim. 3:12 “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Here’s a different way of asking that question: “Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life?” If you’re not saved, then you don’t have the Holy Spirit and there’s no reason for the world to hate you.

II. HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE PERSECUTION? 

Background: Unfortunately, most messages end with – “Persecution proves that America is not a Christian nation anymore.” “It’s just gonna get worse and worse.” “It’s just the signs of the times.” The problem with these statements is that it is contrary to what the Bible says. Thank goodness Jesus told us what to do! Listen to verse 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Who are the prophets before you? We don’t have time to recount each of them but here are just a few:

Moses – Exodus 17:3   And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”

Jeremiah – Jeremiah 20 1 Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. 2 Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.

Daniel – Daniel 6  4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”…16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions.

Application: This is a hard one to apply because many of us haven’t faced hard-core persecution. Let me ask in a different way – how do you respond when you get slighted, mistreated, and neglected? Do you rejoice? Are you exceedingly glad? Do you consider your great reward in heaven? Or do you pitch a fit? Do you pay back ten fold? Our response to our trials is just a precursor of our response to persecution.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

13 “You are the salt of the earth;

Background: Keep in mind that this is all one message. Just when you think that the message is over, the most important point is about to come. We use just a pinch of salt in our food. That’s all we typically need. What’s the point? Persecution has a way of thinning out the crowd down to a pinch. What’s happening in America is that God is weeding out the imposters from the real deals. The problem in America is too many people are pretending to be something they’re not which is hindering those who are really searching for God from coming to Him. That’s why I believe that the greatest revival and awakening is coming very soon to America.

Now the crowd is down to a pinch but the pinch becomes indispensable. Just like salt – it’s a very small in proportion to the whole meal but it changes the flavour and the taste of the meal. “but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” What happens to those who have lost the flavour of Christianity?It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Churches are closing all over America but that’s not a bad thing. Too many sincere people are stuck because of some obligation and some loyalty but it’s killing the cause of Christ. But a new day is coming!

What will happen in this new day? 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Have you ever driven towards a big city at night? You can see the glow towards the sky. Those who’s truly have the light will shine brightly in this dark world and people near and far will come to them. By the way, I love it when people refer to our church as “the church on the hill.” This is not the time to hide your light but to shine it even more. Our job is not to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. But listen to verse 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Personal Illustration: As a 9-10 year old, I remember coming back home from school and trying to turn on the lights and the fan and nothing happened. Imagine 115° temperatures in the hot summer and not having any electricity to turn on the fan, forget about any air condition. I went to the kitchen and asked my grandmother if the power was out and she told me that our electrical connection has been cut. “Why?” “Because we’re on the same line as the church. They cut the power to the church and so our power is out as well.” I remember that night my mom crying as she went around the house lighting candles and oil lamps. We ate in the dark by candlelight, not something unusual because when power would go out, we would do that. But this time it was different. There was no estimated time when services would be restored. We went to bed early that night obviously, hoping against hope that somewhere in the middle of the night the fan would start blowing but it never did. The next morning, no hot showers. This was for real. Later that week, my dad was able to talk to a so-called “Christian” neighbor who was kind enough to run a single line to our house, just enough to turn on a light bulb. At least, we could have light. Unfortunately, some time later he got upset with us for some reason and cut the line. I think that hurt much more than the first time. But that experience and many more shaped me into the person I am today.

Home church in India (1)

Home church in India (1)

Home church in India (2)

Home church in India (2)

Home church in India (3)

Home church in India (3)

Home church in India (4)

Home church in India (4)

People have a lot of false ideas about persecution in America. Some think that it’s going to get worse and worse and it’s time to fly out. Others think that it automatically grows the church. Neither is true when you study the Bible carefully. First, God thins out the numbers to those who are truly godly. But He doesn’t stop there. Then, He holds them up like the pinch of salt and a little oil lamp to change the world for the better.

Listen to verse 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Imagine once again people in America praising your Father in heaven!

Persecution is not what God is doing to Christians in America but what God is doing through Christians for America.

Are you saved? Are you living a godly life?

The Blessing of Bringing Harmony

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THE BLESSING OF BRINGING HARMONY by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

theblessingofbringingharmonyThis is our seventh beatitude in our series on the Sermon on the Mount called SALT AND LIGHT and today’s message is titled “THE BLESSING OF BRINGING HARMONY.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are 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. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” When we place our faith in Jesus as our Savior, we become sons and daughters of God. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” The right to be a child of God is only awarded to those who receive Jesus as their Savior. But, according to this beatitude, there is a difference between being a child of God and being called a child of God. Listen again – “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” The title of son/daughter of God is only awarded to those who are peacemakers. Meaning: If you are a troublemaker, a rabble-rouser, an instigator, and an agitator, then you may have the position of being a child of God but you will not receive the title of being a child of God. You may claim that you are a Christian but God doesn’t boast about you nor do people acknowledge you.

For e.g. I remember this young man in our hometown – a rough character, a gangster. He was a friend of my brother. One day my brother told me that he actually came from a very prominent family and his father was actually a judge. I couldn’t believe it! He had the pedigree of a good family but his reputation was very different.

Application: This morning, you may be a child of God but the question is “do people call you a child of God?” Are you known as a son/daughter of God? There’s a big difference between position and reputation – between being a Christian and being known as a Christian. Better yet – Are you known as a peacemaker or as a troublemaker? Are you even saved? You cannot have God’s peace until you get saved.

As we walk through this message, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to your position as well as your reputation as a Christian. Three questions again:

I. WHO IS A PEACEMAKER? 

“Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Background: When Jesus gave that beatitude, there were all kinds of people in the crowd, just like the crowd in this place:

  1. There were troublemakers in the crowd, like the zealots. These were people who were constantly itching for a fight with the oppressive Romans. In fact one of Jesus’ own disciple was Simon the Zealot. There are some zealots here this morning. These are people who are constantly looking for conflict. They love turmoil and chaos. They enjoy seeing people at odds with each other. It’s normal for them. They love drama. Maybe they grew up that way in an environment of constant tension. I know someone like that, no one here. Every time I see this person, there’s always some drama that’s brewing and some fire raging.

Question: Is that you? Stop starting trouble and stop thinking that the whole world is like you. You need to ask God’s forgiveness.

  1. There were parasites in the crowd, like the tax collectors. These were people who had mastered the art of taking advantage of the situation. Just get all the taxes you can, avoid any confrontation, and let people kill each other. Some tax collectors are here this morning. They are only interested in exploiting the situation. They are not interested in bringing peace, just using the conflict for their personal benefit.

Question: Is that you? You take pleasure in watching people go after each other because it takes the attention off of you. You need to realize that you are part of the problem. You also need to ask God’s forgiveness.

  1. There were peacekeepers in the crowd, like the Roman soldiers. Their job was to maintain the Pax Romana (the peace of Rome). They knew how to weed out the bad element and enforce peace. There are some Roman soldiers here this morning. These are people who want peace at any prize. They will compromise the truth, avoid the facts, sweep things under the rug, and pretend that everything is just fine. “Let’s not talk about it.” Only problem is that one day it all comes out. By the way, I’m not referring to law enforcement but everyday peacekeepers.

Question: Is that you? God sees everything and you will have to answer for what you’ve done. You also need God’s forgiveness.

  1. There were false peacemakers in the crowd, like the Pharisees and the scribes. They found peace in controlling the masses. Their idea of peace was to get people to respect them and honor them. There are some Pharisees and scribes here this morning. They’ve got plenty of problems but delight to tell others how to solve theirs. One time someone I knew had unjustly attacked me and I had to distance myself from this person. What was funny was this other person who wanted to be the mediator – “You know I can see both sides.” This person couldn’t solve his own conflicts! I told this person to take a hike.

Question: Is that you? Then you need to stop trying to fix others and seek God’s forgiveness in your own life.

Mt. Sodom

Mt. Sodom (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Lot's Wife

Lot’s Wife (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

But Jesus presented a whole new category to all these people – peacemakers (Gk. eireinopoioi). Although this word construction is found only once in the New Testament, the concept of peacemaking is found all over the Bible. The earliest example we see is in Genesis 13:7 “And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.” What was Abraham’s reaction? “Let’s not fight. Pick what you want and I’ll go the other way.” What did Lot do? 10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD… Lot picked the lush, green, and fertile land. As we just read, it was Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities known for their sexual immorality. We’ve been through there. What’s amazing to me is that when God came to destroy those cities, he mentioned his plan to Abraham. What did Abraham do? He could’ve said, “I told him so. He asked for it. I knew this would happen.” Instead he tried to bargain for Lot’s life and family! That’s a true peacemaker.

Peacemaker is someone who has more than just a peaceful disposition. You know people like that – they don’t meddle in anybody’s business; conflict tears their nerves; and they’re always thinking of their happy place. Peacemakers are much more. They recognize conflict and they do whatever they can to bring resolution. They’re not blind to the facts or compromise the truth or sweep things under the rug but they actively seek to promote peace. They are people who when they see that someone is at odds with them, they set aside their pride, step out of their comfort zones, reach out to the other person, and try to make things right. They are people who when they see two parties in conflict, they set aside their agenda, step out of their comfort zones, and try to bring reconciliation. They don’t do that to look important or to play the judge. They do that because it’s the right thing to do. These people know how to approach the two parties, sometimes with words but many times just with their presence. They pray more than they preach.

Application: Are you a peacemaker? When someone is at odds with you, how do you handle it? Do you find ways to avoid them? Do you try to show them how mad you are or how it does not bother you? Or, do you try to make things right? Are you known as a peacemaker between others? You cannot be a true peacemaker until you have God’s peace in your heart. You need to be saved before you can go save others.

II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A SON/DAUGHTER OF GOD? 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”

Background: Keep in mind Jesus is the Son of God, son with a capital S. We worship one God but three persons – Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is how God has chosen to reveal himself. Jesus is God’s Son in the past, present, and future. It is known as the eternal functional subordination of the Son. That’s the triune God we worship. But, God has many sons and daughters. They’re not eternal but they’re adopted. Listen to Romans 8 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” When we receive Christ as our Savior, we are adopted into the family of God, with all the rights and privileges. In time we also take on the family characteristics. We begin to look like God.

What is God like? We know that God is holy, loving, gracious, powerful, wise, unchanging, eternal, and on and on. But did you also know that He is a God of peace?

Isaiah 9:6 “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Romans 15:33 “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

Romans 16:20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way…”

I can go on and on but the point is simple – God is a god of peace and when we enter into His family, we become people of peace. You look just like God than when you forgive and reconcile.

Illustration: Nicole loves to talk about who the kids look like in our family.

Application: Whom do you look like? Jesus often identified some of his enemies as “sons of the evil one” and “sons of those who kill the prophets.” When you actively seek to promote peace, you look like God’s son and daughter. How do people describe you?

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK? 

Background: Human beings are constantly in conflict. Every moment there are millions upon millions of conflicts taking place all over this world – conflict between a husband and a wife, conflict between siblings, conflicts between friends, conflict between neighbors, and, on a large-scale, conflict between nations. It began in the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve for his disobedience. Later conflict spread to the children when Cain killed Abel. Where do conflicts come from? James gives us the reason in James 4 1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Conflicts are the result of sin.

We can do anything about it so God took the first step of peace by sending Jesus as the peacemaker. Listen to – 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” Once we receive this peace, we become God’s peace ambassadors. Listen to 2 Corinthians 5 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

People constantly talk of peace. Most everybody wants world peace. Peace will not come into this world until Christians who know the Prince of Peace Jesus Christ take the gospel of peace every human being. Then and only then will we not only have peace with God but also peace with our fellow man. We fuss about how terrible things are in the world and in our nation. Here’s my question: where are the peacemakers?

Are you saved? Do you know the Prince of Peace Jesus Christ?

The Blessing of Spiritual Vision

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THE BLESSING OF SPIRITUAL VISION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofspiritualvisionIntroduction: So glad all of you are here this morning and also glad to have all those who are joining us by radio! Thank you for tuning in! We’re back in our series called Salt and Light on the Sermon on the Mount and this morning we will be looking at the sixth beatitude in our message called – THE BLESSING OF SPIRITUAL VISION.

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are 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. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Just when you think that you have a handle on these beatitudes, this one throws you for a loop. Think about this – As a Christian you can be poor in spirit and have the kingdom of heaven, mourn and be comforted by the Holy Spirit, meek and inherit the earth, hunger and thirst for righteousness and be satisfied, merciful and receive mercy but if your heart is impure, you’ll never see God. In other words, you can be stable emotionally, growing biblically, and acting mercifully but if you are living sinfully, then you will be blind spiritually. You can do a lot of things right as a Christian and even be a salt and light to the world but if there is sin in your life, then God will be hidden from you.

There are two words that have all but disappeared from Christian vocabulary. First is the three-letter word – Sin. We talk about everything from prayer, worship, ministry, God’s will, conservative values, and reaching the world but sin? Who wants to talk about that! Another word that has gone out of her vocabulary is holiness. In fact, that word is looked down upon as legalistic, negative, old-fashioned, judgmental, and boring.

Question: How is your sin life? What do you think about holiness? When was the last time you repented before God? Has the Holy Spirit convicted you recently of some sin in your life? Have you done anything about it? There is no substitute to holiness in the Christian life. Here’s the heart of the matter – are you saved? If there is no conviction of sin, it’s probably because there is no Holy Spirit in your life. You’ve never seen God and you’ll never see God until you see Him on the Day of Judgment.

This morning ask the Holy Spirit to remove the trash in your heart so that your vision may be clean enough to see God. Once again – three questions in this passage:

I. HOW TO HAVE A PURE HEART?

“Blessed are the pure in heart…”

Background: Before we run to Webster’s to define purity, we need to look in the immediate context. Jesus was quoting this beatitude, almost word for word, from Psalm 24, a psalm of David. To give you a little context – this psalm begins with the declaration that everything belongs to God – 1 The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. This earth, this universe, and all of us human beings are God’s property and He is the Creator King but He is not satisfied with just that. Listen to vs. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Meaning: God is not some almighty sovereign ruler, despot, and dictator who lives in His grand palace and can never be seen and approached by the common people. To the contrary, He wants to meet us, talk to us, and connect with us. He wants us to come to Him, hang out with Him, and live with Him. But there’s a problem – “Or who may stand in His holy place?” There’s a barrier/barricade that keeps us from getting near Him. It’s God’s holiness. He is holy and we are sinful.

People ask, “What is sin?” Paul gives a detailed list in Galatians 5 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 1 John 5:17 simply says, “All unrighteousness is sin…” Bottom Line: Sin is anything that is contrary to the nature of God and goes against the will of God. It is neither neutral nor passive. It wants to spread and take control and destroy everything. But God is holy and He cannot and will not let sin rule. That’s why His wrath is against sin and since we are sinners, it is against us. In fact, Romans 5:10 tells us that sin has made us “enemies of God.” Don’t misunderstand – God’s wrath is not some bad temper. He’s not some bully going around threatening people or a cantankerous old man, always angry and yelling at people to get out of His yard. Isaiah 28:21 reminds us that God’s wrath is His unusual act.” Think of it this way – “It is a love which is so jealous for the good of the loved one that it blazes out in fiery wrath against everything that is evil.” (Leon Morris, Apostolic Preaching of the Cross)

So sin invokes God wrath but that’s not the final word. To the question, who can stand in His holy place, the answer comes in vs. 4 “He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” Meaning: To come close to God you need to purify yourself, externally and internally. In other words, you need total holiness. No hypocritical, half-hearted, pretend holiness will do. God sees the heart. We are like an open book in His sight.

Application: Are your hands clean before God? Is your heart pure before God? Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin’?” It’s a rhetorical question. Jeremiah 17 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart…” David clarifies in vs. 4 “…Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.” 2 things God hates: 1. False gods – anything that is taking the place of God in your life. It’s more than just some idols in a temple. 2. False swearing – claiming God’s name falsely. When you say you are a Christian and yet disobey Christ and His Word, that’s swearing deceitfully.

Application: Is someone or something playing God in your life? Are you taking God’s name in vain? Have you ever received a spiritual heart transplant? Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? That’s the only way you can receive a clean new heart.

II. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SEE GOD? 

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

Background: How does that work? We have to go back again to Psalm 24. Listen to vs. 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5 “He shall receive blessing from the LORD…” Now listen carefully to vs. 6 “This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face.” For over 2000 years people have struggled with this verse. What exactly is David saying here? “Those who cleanse their hands and purify their hearts will receive a blessing from God. They will be called the Jacob generation. Who are they? They are those who are determined to see the face of God.”

Who was Jacob? Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and twin brother of Esau. Esau was the firstborn but despised his birthright. Jacob wanted that blessing and bought it for a bowl of stew. Later when Esau tried to get the blessing back, Jacob went as far as to deceive his father to get what was rightfully his. By the way, the Bible never condemns him for that. Esau made a vow that he would kill Jacob and he had to flee for his life. Twenty years later, it was time for Jacob to head home but he had to face Esau. The night before he prayed to God foe help. What was God’s response? Genesis 33:24 “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” How strange?!! Just when you’d think that God would have sent a cool breeze, put some angels around him, and given him sweet dreams on a soft bed so Jacob could wake up fresh and ready to take on Esau, some stranger jumps on him and tries to pin him to the ground! This goes on all night but the worst is about to come. Genesis 39:25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint…” Ouch! So now he’s sleep deprived, physically exhausted, and limping in incredible pain. Will he finally give up?

What in the world is God trying to do? God is testing Jacob. “You tricked Esau and got the birthright. You tricked Laban and got your Jacob wrestling with Godfamily out. You are about to trick Esau and head back to your home. Are you going to trick Me too? But how much do you really want the blessing?” Somewhere between the grappling and tussling, pushing and shoving it hits Jacob – his opponent is not just some man or even some angel (He had seen some earlier in Mahanaim). This person is a whole different being and immediately he tightens his grip. Did he pass the test? Maybe. The person says in vs. 26 “…Let Me go, for the day breaks” but Jacob replies, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” It was no longer about Esau. It was no longer about his livestock. It was no longer about his family. Did he pass the test? Maybe. 27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Meaning: You wanted the blessing. You fought for it and got it. Did he pass the test? Maybe. 29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. Did he pass the test? Now he passed the test.

Listen to Jacob’s response in vs. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Who was this? There’s only one who qualifies to be both God and man. It’s Jesus Christ pre-incarnate. The same way he came to Abraham and later to Moses, Daniel, and others, he came to Jacob.

Application: Do you really want to see God? God doesn’t reveal His face so easily and cheaply. How much are you willing to purify your heart? What would happen if you and I had that kind of determination to seek after God? The Holy Spirit is waiting to do that kind of work in our lives.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK? 

Jacob and Esau reconcile by Francesco HayezBackground: Keep in mind the true blessing of the beatitude is not to self but to others. We are blessed in order to be the Salt and Light to others. Let’s go back briefly to Genesis 32:31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. You can silhouette of a truly broken man. He sees Esau and bows seven time to the ground. What was Esau’s reaction? Genesis 33 4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. What a beautiful sight! 8 Then Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company which I met?” Remember the hundreds of animals – goats, ewe lambs, rams, camels, cows, bulls, donkeys, and foals? And he (Esau) said, “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 And Jacob said, “No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.

Our world is so broken right now. Our country is so divided right now. What is the answer? It may sound simplistic but here goes – “Men and women, boys and girls with clean hands and pure hearts who have only one desire – to see the face of Jesus.” When we go out like Jacob who saw the face of Jesus, then and only then will forgiveness and salvation come to the Esaus. Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Is your heart pure before God? David said in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do you need a new heart? Are you saved?

The Blessing of Not Getting Even

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here or watch the video here.

THE BLESSING OF NOT GETTING EVEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofnotgettingevenIntroduction: In our series SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount we come to the fifth beatitude from Matthew 5. Thank you for joining us this morning and especially thank you to those who are joining us by radio. This morning’s message is titled – “THE BLESSING OF NOT GETTING EVEN.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are 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. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 7 “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.” So far the beatitudes were primarily dealing with our personal relationship with God.

  • You are to be “poor in spirit” and have more of the Holy Spirit.
  • In times of loss and pain, trust the Holy Spirit and He will comfort you.
  • Be meek and give your problems to God and you will inherit His riches.
  • You are to hunger and thirst for His righteousness and you will be satisfied.

All of these are important but they focus primarily on our personal relationship with God. But the fifth beatitude – “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy” – has to do with our relationship with people. When people take advantage of us, hurt us, mistreat us, or insult us, instead of retaliating, getting revenge, paying them back or getting even with them, we are to show mercy to them. People think that mercy is showing compassion towards those who are less fortunate and cannot do anything for you. That may be true but it’s much more than that. It is showing compassion towards those who have done something wrong to you, hurt you, and maybe even hate you.

Question: Are you a merciful person or are you a person who gets even? Are you a person who forgives and reaches out or are you a person who pays people back? Do your family members and friends say that you always get the last word and you always come on top? Let me ask you a deeper question – Have you ever accepted the mercy God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? If not, no wonder you can’t show mercy.

This message is very important because how you show mercy is how you obtain mercy. If your life is only full of justice and only eye for an eye and only tit for tat, it’s because that’s how you are. Do you often say, “I wish I could get a break?” Then “Start giving others a break.” Let the Holy Spirit help you today. 3 Questions this morning:

I. WHAT IS MERCY? 

“Blessed are the merciful…”

Background: There is a lot of confusion over the meaning of the word “mercy.” People confuse it with so many other things. Let me explain with four scenarios:

  • First Scenario: Joe insults Mike so Mike insults Joe back. That’s JUSTICE. He has every right to do that. We do that all the time especially in our culture. We have a very tit for tat society. We like to put people back in their place. We like to have the final word. We see that even in how we joke with each other – “If you can’t take it, don’t dish it.” The problem is – We don’t just dish it back, we dash the other person! But that’s JUSTICE and we understand that very well.
  • Second Scenario: Joe insults Mike but Mike instead of insulting Joe back and getting justice, just walks away and gives it to God. That’s MEEKNESS.

(Qualifications – all this is in the context of personal relationships. When it comes to individual safety and national security, we have to defend the helpless and ourselves and even make preemptive strikes against the enemy. That’s a very different issue.)

  • Third Scenario: Joe insults Mike and Mike gives it to God but instead of just walking away and distancing himself from Joe, Mike does something else. He forgives Joe. He refuses to hold a grudge. He refuses to be bitter. He doesn’t want to carry that extra baggage in life. That’s FORGIVENESS.
  • Fourth Scenario: Joe insults Mike and Mike gives it to God and even forgives Joe but he doesn’t stop there. He puts his guard down, sets his pride aside, and reaches out to Joe. As hard as it is, he tries to see things from Joe’s perspective. He tries to be patient and kind to Joe. He tries to redeem and restore the relationship. That’s MERCY.

Mercy is forgiveness plus much more. If you want to understand it, you have to turn to the Bible – Ephesians 2 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, What is salvation? It is a gift originated in God’s love, worked out in his mercy, and offered to us by his grace. It not only forgives us but it raises us up and seats us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. All we can do is receive it by faith. Listen to verse 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” We have offended God but because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God has not only forgiven us but also given us all the riches in Christ. No other religion can demonstrate mercy. It is an exclusive Christian virtue. Other religions may have justice, self-control, self-restraint, and even forgiveness. Only Christianity tries to redeem, restore, rebuild, reaffirm, reassure, and a lot of words starting with “re.”

What happens when we are touched by the mercy of God? We abdicate our right to revenge and retaliation. We relinquish our right to get even. We hand over the gavel of justice. Just like how God is towards us, we too forgive the person who has offended us but don’t stop there. We try to reach out and bring out the best in that person’s life.

Application: Have you ever received God’s mercy in your life? He worked out the plan of salvation when you were so undeserving. Unless you get saved, you cannot even begin to understand mercy. F.B. Meyer said – “It (mercy) is an exotic which Christ brought with Him from heaven.” Are you holding out mercy towards someone in your life? Are you only giving justice or forgiveness? Are you willing to go beyond?

II. HOW DO WE OBTAIN MERCY? 

“Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy”

Background: What does it mean to “Obtain Mercy?” It means having God’s forgiveness and restoration in our lives. Mercy is not just something that we need when we get saved but it’s also something we need every day after we get saved. Everyday we need God’s forgiveness towards us. Everyday we need God’s restoration in us. Why? Because we are weak. Because we cannot keep God’s standards. Because we fail so often. Of course our salvation is intact. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our eternal destiny is secure. But because of sin our relationship with the Father get’s broken. Even though we are headed to heaven, life begins to feel like hell.

How do you get mercy (forgiveness and restoration) in our lives? Some people think we need to pray for mercy. Some people think we need to ask God to forgive us for our sins. What does God have to say? “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy” Meaning: If you want mercy in your life, you have to show mercy to others. If that’s not enough, in the Lord’s Prayer or Disciples’ Prayer, Jesus said it again in Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” Then he gave an amazing parable in Matthew 18 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Application: Are you known for justice? Are you known for just forgiveness? Are you known for giving people three strikes and then out? If so, then you are setting the course of your life. James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

When you show Mercy and in return have God’s Mercy in your life, your life becomes a blessing to those around you. When Jesus was in this world He often reprimanded the scribes and the Pharisees for failing to show mercy. They were not horrible people. They tried to keep God’s commandments. They even tried to witness to others. Matthew 9  10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ (Jesus was quoting Hosea 6:6) For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

What the world needs to see are people who are so full of God’s mercy that they cannot help but show mercy to others. It will call on us to reconcile with the fact that some people who have offended us may even get away with what they did to you. You will have to kiss revenge goodbye. You will have to refuse to talk bad to people’s faces and even behind their backs.

In return not only will God show you mercy but people will also show you mercy when you need it. Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Corrie ten Boom Story on Forgiving (from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive”)

Nazi Holocaust

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. “It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’ “The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue Jewish Women Holocaust 2uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.] “Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? “But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. “‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me. “‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’ “And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

Corrie Ten Boom and Billy Graham“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. “For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ “I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ “And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ “For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”

That’s MERCY – forgiveness that calls the person a brother or sister. The only way we can do that is if we have the love of Christ in our hearts. That’s what this fallen world needs to see. Do you have it?

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

The Blessing of a Spiritual Appetite

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THE BLESSING OF A SPIRITUAL APPETITE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofaspiritualappetite

We’re in our series on the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 called, “SALT AND LIGHT.” This morning we will be looking at the fourth beatitude and our message is called, “THE BLESSING OF A SPIRITUAL APPETITE.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are 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. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” On the surface, this beatitude seems very simple to understand and easy to apply but it’s anything but that. Look at it carefully and you realize that there’s more to it than what you think – 1. What is righteousness? 2. Why do we have to hunger and thirst for it? After all Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 61:10 “For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” I don’t have to work for it. I only have to trust Jesus for it. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Keep in mind that the Beatitudes build upon each other. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we develop an appetite for spiritual things like never before. There’s a new hunger and thirst in our lives. You know that you are accepted by God because of Jesus Christ but now you want to live a life that looks like Jesus Christ. It is a life that is simultaneously full and not full enough, quenched and unquenchable, satiated and insatiable, satisfied and yet always yearning for more.

Challenge: Does this describe your life? Do you hunger and thirst for the things of God or are you the type who can take it or leave it? Here’s a deeper question – have you ever had a spiritual appetite? A lost person is a dead person and a dead person cannot have an appetite.

This morning as we walk through this message, listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying in your heart. Hopefully, by the end of this message your spiritual stomachs will start growling. If you’ve never had a spiritual appetite, we pray that you will be born-again and begin your spiritual meal. Three questions again this morning:

I. WHAT IS RIGHTEOUSNESS?

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

Background: When we hear the word “righteousness” in this beatitude, we need to first look at what it means in its immediate context.

Meaning: Two things in this verse – First, this kind of righteousness does not come naturally. You have to seek after it. Second, when you truly seek after this kind of righteousness, then you are filled. The words are in the passive voice referring to God. In other words, you seek after it and God fills you up. So we have – This kind of righteousness is not natural. You have to seek for it and then God fills you up with it. But that still doesn’t tell us much about this “righteousness.” Let’s go beyond this verse to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount –

5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…

Meaning: Two things again in this verse – First, this kind of righteousness brings about an external and noticeable change in our lives. It’s not just some internal righteousness. Secondly, it does not always evoke a pleasant and favorable response. Sometimes the response is negative, hostile, and hateful. In other words, some of those who don’t have this righteousness persecute the ones who do have it. What do we have now? This kind of righteousness is not natural. You have to seek for it and then God fills you up with it. People can see it and some of those who don’t have it persecute those who do.

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.

Meaning: Two things again in this verse – First, this kind of righteousness can be faked. Jesus is saying, “You gotta do better than the hypocritical scribes and the Pharisees.” Second, if its fake then it can keep you out of the kingdom of heaven. So let’s see it again – This kind of righteousness is not natural. You have to seek for it and then God fills you up with it. People can see it and some of those who don’t have it persecute those who do. Fake righteousness can keep you out of the kingdom of heaven.

6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Meaning: This time righteousness is connected to the kingdom of God. If you remember, kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven is the rule of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.

So let’s connect the dots. What is this righteousness in this context? It is the work of the Holy Spirit that leads us to want to live a life that pleases God and looks more and more like Jesus Christ. It brings about external change that causes some people to be hostile. Those who fake this are not in the kingdom of heaven – under the control of the Holy Spirit. God promises to take care of those who really hunger and thirst for it.

Application: Does this describe you? Has there been a real change in your life? Is the Holy Spirit working in your heart causing you to yearn for the things of God? This does not mean that you are perfect but you are definitely not fake.

II. HOW TO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR IT? 

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

In America it is very hard to understand hunger and thirst. If you’re hungry, go in the kitchen and make yourself a sandwich. If you’re still hungry, get a bag of chips or some cookies or some ice cream. If you’re hungry and don’t want to work for it, then get in your car and go through a drive through and get what you want. If you’re hungry and want somebody to wait on you, then go inside the restaurant and order what you want. What if you’re thirsty? Go to the kitchen sink and get some water. If you’re thirsty and don’t want water, then you have soft drinks, sweet tea, milk, juice, and other beverages we’re not going to name. We’re living in the land of milk and honey. I’m not saying there are no hungry people in America. There are people, especially some children in America, who would love to have what you threw in the trashcan last night. Overall we don’t understand hunger and thirst.

Illustration: Come to India with me and I will show you what real hunger and thirst looks like. Children walking around on the streets with their bellies bloated not because they ate a lot of food but because they have Kwashiorkor – protein malnutrition that swells their bellies. I have seen children so weak that they could barely walk. They have Marasmus. I’ve seen a brother and sister fighting over a piece of bread on the street. We have the luxury of all these drinks but I’ve seen people drink water from places that I wouldn’t use to water my lawn. They have Cholera and Typhoid.

Let me cut to the chase – If you’re not hungering and thirsting for righteousness, it could be a symptom of a deeper problem.

  • You are already stuffed. What are people stuffed with? Entertainment, Hobbies, Sports, and Toys. Not that all these things are bad in themselves but they cannot give you the nutrition that you need for your spiritual lives. No wonder many Christians are walking around with Spiritual Kwashiorkor and Marasmus. Psalm 63:1 “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.”
  • You are eating wrong spiritual food. What are you eating and drinking spiritually? If you are listening, watching, and reading the wrong biblical stuff, you will have Spiritual Cholera and Typhoid.

What are the consequences of a poor diet? It affects our relationship with God and with each other. We don’t have faith, hope, joy, peace, and wisdom. Instead, we have anger, bitterness, wrath, envy, jealousy, misunderstandings, and all the other junk. No wonder our churches are in such a mess! Listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? Sometimes people come to church one Sunday and say “feed me.” My question: “How long since you ate?” It’s been a year! Imagine if you missed your meal for a year – 365 X 3 = 1095 meals! By the time a put a bib around their neck, they’re on the way out. “I went to church/bible study and it didn’t help me.” Same goes if you miss a week – 7 X 3 = 21 meals!

Application: How is your spiritual diet? Are you truly seeking after the things of God? Are you daily feeding upon His Word? Are you daily submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Are you dealing with sin harshly and resting in the righteousness of Christ?

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

Background: When people truly hunger and thirst for righteousness, God does the filling. The Greek word is “chortazomai” which means “fattening animals” or “being stuffed.” Spiritually malnutritioned people are a very poor representation of Jesus Christ. They are like the Snickers commercial – “You’re not you when you are hungry.” They make decisions that are shameful and embarrassing. They hurt people around them. They act in ways that are contrary to the Word of God. They actually repel people from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When the world sees Christians who are stuffed with the right food and drink, the Holy Spirit holds them as an advertisement of what Jesus can do for them. They may not be perfect or have all that they want or they may have their struggles but in their hearts and on their faces there is the smile of contentment.

Invitation: Which one are you? Come to Jesus. He said in John 6 48 I am the bread of life…51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” John 7 37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

The Blessing of Humility

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THE BLESSING OF HUMILITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofhumilityThis morning we are looking at the third beatitude and our message is titled “THE BLESSING OF HUMILITY.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are 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. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. At first glance this beatitude seems very simple to understand and easy to apply but it’s anything but that. I preached on it 13 years ago and so I pulled out my notes thinking that I could just warm up this old biscuit and serve it. I couldn’t do it. It’s not that I preached something wrong back then but I did not realize how deep it was entrenched in our system. It is listed as one among the three things that is not from God – “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16) It’s as if the Holy Spirit said to me – “You were digging in the right spot but you didn’t go deep enough.”

Application: Do you consider yourself a humble person? Be careful how you answer that! “Pride is so subtle. Just when you think you are humble, you get nailed!” As someone said, “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.” Here’s a better question – Do others consider you a humble person? Pride is the enemy’s choicest weapon against the Christian and the church. When they asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He answered, “whoever humbles himself as this little child.” Are you saved? To be saved you have to set your pride aside, admit that you are no good, and humbly receive God’s grace.

This beatitude is probably the most difficult beatitude that Jesus gave. Once again we’re going to ask 3 questions about this beatitude. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you.

I. WHO ARE THE MEEK?

“Blessed are the meek”

Background: Typically people run to Webster’s or some quote from a famous person to define meekness or humility. When Jesus gave this beatitude He did not have some dictionary or some Chinese philosopher in mind. Instead, He was quoting a psalm of David from the Old Testament – Psalm 37. Listen to verse 10 “For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. 11 But the meek shall inherit the earth…” Jesus was quoting David. To understand meekness, we have to understand what David meant by it. He wrote this psalm to help the righteous deal with the wicked. He tells them to be meek. Keep in mind that this is not in the context of daily security or national defense. Remember David killed the wicked Goliath. This is in the context of daily relationships.

Who are the meek who inherit the earth according to David? If you put two verses in this psalm side by side, you get the true definition. Verse 11 “But the meek shall inherit the earth…” and verse 9 “But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth.” In other words, meek are those who wait on the Lord. Typically, people think of the meek as people who walk around all hunched over saying, “I’ll go along with whatever” or “Just pretend I’m not here” or “Forgive me for living.” David’s description of the meek and the humble is a person who waits upon God when people do their thing. Instead of getting angry, frustrated, or disappointed with God, the meek let God handle their case.

It’s easy to be meek/humble when people are being nice to you. It’s a whole different story when they’re not. The perfect example is found in Numbers 12:3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) What a complement! But do you know the context of this statement? Listen to verse 1 Then Miriam and Aaron (brother and sister) spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. (They didn’t come out and say that.) 2 So they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. Do you think Moses didn’t know that? He must have told her – “Ignore them” but his friend God had heard it. Verse 4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” 6 Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. 7 Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. 8 I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?” Isn’t that amazing when God speaks in your defense?!! You know why many times God doesn’t come to our aid? Because we are not meek and we take matters into our own hands.

But it doesn’t stop there. 9 So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed. 10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron begged Moses to do something. Moses was not strutting saying, “Remember that next time. Don’t mess with me.” Instead, verse 13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!” How many of us would have done that? What was God’s response? 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” You know why sometimes God doesn’t come to our aid? Because He knows we are not meek and we would love to crush our enemies instead of praying for them. Any wonder that Moses was the most humble person on earth?!!

Application: The true test of meekness comes when people mistreat us in our family, friend, work, neighborhood, and even church. Are you a meek and a humble person? True meekness and humility is a life that waits upon God and let’s God handle our battles. Do you wait upon Him? Do you trust Him to handle your case?

II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO INHERIT THE EARTH? 

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.

Background: We have to go back to Psalm 37 to understand it’s meaning. 5 times in this psalm that phrase “inherit the earth” is used. What is the point that David is making here? He explains it in the opening verses of the psalm – 1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. What a powerful imagery! The proud wicked seem to be cropping up and flourishing. They seem to be gaining power and prestige. They abuse and mistreat people but seem to be getting away with it. Don’t be afraid because they are like the grass in the Middle East. For the moment it appears so lush and green but once that hot desert wind known as the “hamsin” comes, it will dry up and fade away. Unlike Aaron and Miriam who were saved but acting like the proud wicked and God disciplined them, what will He do with the proud wicked? 13 The Lord laughs at him, For He sees that his day is coming… What else? 35 I have seen the wicked in great power, And spreading himself like a native green tree. 36 Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.

But what about the meek and the humble? “For they shall inherit the earth.” The key word here is “inherit.” What is an inheritance? It is something that has been passed down because of family connection. Because God is our heavenly father, Christ is our brother, and we are joint heirs with Him, everything that God has now belongs to us also. What should the meek focus on? 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Some of this inheritance will come to you in this life and some in the life to come. Don’t fret over it or be envious or waste your life wondering why they are so blessed and you’re not. Be meek and wait upon God. He will take care of you. You will “feed on His faithfulness.” You will have the “desires of your heart.” You will have “abundance of peace.” He will give you exactly what you need.

But there’s more. This inheritance is not just for you but also for your children and grandchildren. Here’s one of my favorite passages in the Bible – 25 I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread. The blessing goes on!

Application: Do you want to inherit the earth? Do you want God’s blessing in your life? Are you waiting upon Him? Are you meek and humble in His sight?

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

Keep in mind that the beatitudes build upon each other. The first one 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Remember – the kingdom of heaven is the Holy Spirit ruling your heart. When you are “poor in spirit” meaning less and less of self, you will be more and more led by the Holy Spirit. What is the second beatitude? 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. In life you will go through loss, which will bring grief and mourning. Instead of giving in and falling apart, the Holy Spirit will come alongside and comfort you. What is the result of this? You come to realize how much you cannot make it by yourself. You understand how much you need God’s help and grace in your life. You set aside your pride, your wisdom, your strength, and self-confidence and you wait more and more upon God. You don’t worry about the wicked proud but you become meek and humble. How? The Holy Spirit helps you with this. D.L. Moody, “A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.”

In turn the world sees the difference in our spirit and attitude. J.C. Ryle said, “Humility and love are precisely the graces which the men of the world can understand, if they do not comprehend doctrines.”

Are you saved? You have to humble yourself and acknowledge that there’s nothing you can to save yourself. You need God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

Augustine said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”

The Blessing of Brokenness

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THE BLESSING OF BROKENNESS by Pastor Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Blessing of BrokennessWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and as of last week we are in our miniseries on the Sermon on the Mount called “Salt and Light.” Today we will look at the first Beatitude and our message is titled, “THE BLESSING OF BROKENNESS.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are 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. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The first beatitude is very important for us to understand. It sets the tone for the rest of the Beatitudes. To be honest, it sets the tone for the Christian life. The principle behind that verse is “the way up is down.” It goes contrary to everything in our human nature. We think that the way up is up. As Emerson said, “Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star…” As a naturalist, he was talking about harnessing the power of nature but the point still stands that we as human beings think that the way up is by hitching our wagon to a star. Not so in God’s eyes. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Men and women throughout the ages who got this truth got the heart of God and lived a life of blessing.

Application: Which way is up for you? If you want to go with God, the way is down. Do you want God’s blessing in your life? Are you willing to be broken? That’s good not bad.

By the way, this principle is not only true in our relationship with God but also in our relationships at home, church, and community. Men and women, boys and girls who truly live by the principle “the way up is down” bring blessings every where they go. In fact, they become the salt and light in their circle of influence. They season and brighten their world for the better. If there’s anything our nation and our world needs right now is a healthy dose of “the way up is down.”

Three important questions we will ask about this beatitude:

1. WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? 

Background: Several times in Matthew we see Jesus using the term the “kingdom of heaven.” Ay the way, it’s no different than the “kingdom of God” in Mark, Luke, and John. For some people the kingdom of heaven/God was an earthly rule by the Messiah – something that would set them free from their Roman rulers. For other people the kingdom was the ultimate rule of God in the end of times. It was a future ideal rule of God with his people. When Jesus used that term He was talking about something quite different. It was something more internal than external. It was something right now and not just out there in some distant future. It was something that was more eternal than temporal. In Matthew 13 Jesus gave many parables to explain it’s meaning –

  • 24 “…The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.”
  • 31 “…The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
  • 33 “…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
  • 44 “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
  • 45   “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…”
  • 47   “the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind..”

Even though Jesus tried again and again to explain the meaning of the kingdom of heaven to his disciples they still didn’t get it. In fact, even after his resurrection in Acts 1:6 they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” I can picture Jesus shaking his head when he said in verse 7 “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But then he made the statement that holds the clue to the meaning of the kingdom of heaven – 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The kingdom of heaven/God has to do with the Holy Spirit.

Why didn’t Jesus just come out and say it during his ministry? As John 7:39 says, “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” They were not ready for the Holy Spirit. It would’ve been too confusing for them. He said a few things about the Holy Spirit – the comforter – the focus was still the cross.

So what is the kingdom of heaven/God? It is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who have received Jesus as their Savior.

Romans 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you in the kingdom of heaven/God? Are you living in the power, control, and direction of the Holy Spirit? How do you get into this kingdom? Matthew 18:3 “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

2. WHO ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT?

Background: When we hear that phrase “poor in spirit” we immediately think of someone who is down on life, downcast, melancholy, and gloomy. Someone kind of like Eeyore – “Good morning Pooh Bear, if it is a good morning, which I doubt.” “It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it.” As someone said, “People like that brighten up a room just by leaving it.” They’re always fishing for sympathy. That’s not what this is.

I think to truly understand the meaning of “poor in spirit” you have to think the opposite of “rich in spirit” – someone who is rich in self or full of SELF – self-confident, self-assured, self-reliant, self-made, self-centered, self-righteous, self-seeking, self-preserving, and self-sufficient. In other words, they are SELFISH. It may be a lot or a little but they are rich in their spirit.

“Poor in spirit” is just the opposite. These are people who have very little of self. They’ve come face to face with their abilities, weaknesses, and limitations. They’ve come to realize that all that they are and all that they have is by the grace of God. They truly believe that they are unworthy and undeserving. Please don’t misunderstand – it’s not that they have a poor self-esteem; they just have a proper esteem of self. It’s not that they’re insecure but they realize that their security is not in self. In fact, many of them are very rich, very talented, and very successful. It’s not about that. The poor in spirit are simply grateful that God and people think as well of them and treat them as well as they do. Just like the poor when they get that dollar they’re grateful.

How do people get this way? It’s the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s called the breaking process – breaking our self down and replacing it with his self. He does it in many ways –

  • He does it through the teaching of the Bible. In Matthew 18:4 Jesus said “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Messages like this remind us of how much we are to humble ourselves before God and how much we are to let him control our lives.
  • He’s does it through our pain and our circumstances. Not always but sometimes he uses our needs and suffering to remind us of our poverty. 2 Corinthians 12 Paul said 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
  • He does it through the examples of other people. I remember growing up and missionary by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander. He was a mentor to my dad. He lived next door and would eat with us almost every day. He was a scholar in biblical languages. He translated of the Bible into Marathi. I used to sit on his lap and he would read books to me. I’ve never met a man so “poor in spirit.” One time a man came to him begging for some shoes. Keep in mind – the British used to rule India and some of the officers were quite hateful. But when this man asked Dr. Schelander he immediately began to take off his shoes. The man thought that he would beat him with his shoes for daring to ask and he took off running. Dr. Schelander had to chase him down and beg him to take his shoes.
  • He does it through our sin life. In his prayer of repentance, David said in Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.”

Application: Are you rich in spirit or poor in spirit? Has God taking you through the process of brokenness? If the kingdom of heaven is about the Holy Spirit, how much is he controlling in your life?

3. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

Background: The Greek word for “blessed” is “makarios.” It comes from the Hebrew word “asre.” We are more familiar with the Hebrew word “baruk,” which means “blessed by God.” If it was “baruk” here then the Greek word would have been “eulogetes.” But “makarios” from the Hebrew “asre” is not restricted to just being blessed by God. It has a wider meaning. Yes – it does carry the connotation that God looks at you favorably but it doesn’t stop there. I think the best translation may not be literal but it communicates the sense best. It is something like “You’ve got it good” or “You’ve got it made.” You bring blessing to others. When people come across you they’re not threatened by you or your self. Instead, they are drawn to you and they want to know the secret of the hope that is within you. They want to know how they can have a life that is not controlled by circumstances. They want to know how they can have a life that is directed by God. They want to know how they too can be blessed.

Our brokenness not only blesses us but also blesses those around us. By the way, this has always been God’s way as Paul says in I Corinthians 1 27 “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

The way up is down so that God gets the glory.

For e.g. I remember as a little boy going to a small village in India where we had planted a church. Those Christians lived in these tiny huts, no bigger than 10X10. They had hardly anything. Then in the evening we would have worship and preaching and it was amazing to watch them sing. They sang from their hearts. They sang as if they had it made!

For e.g. I also remember a very wealthy man in our church who sat on the floor with those village Christians and worshipped with them.

Application: How do you look at your life? Are you looking down at yourself because things don’t seem to working out as you wished they would have? Have you lost hope and become skeptical because it’s not all sunny in your life? Are you surrendered to the Holy Spirit and His work of brokenness in your life? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you being the Salt and Light to people around you?

Salt and Light: The Myth of a Secular Nation

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here or watch the video here.

SALT AND LIGHT: THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

saltandlightWe are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we come to Matthew 5 to what Augustine called the “De Sermone Domini in Monte” = Sermon on the Mount – the passage in which Jesus gave the Beatitudes, the Six Antithesis, the Lord’s Prayer, the Golden Rule, and other important principles of the Christian life. With that in mind, today we will begin a long miniseries titled, “SALT AND LIGHT – THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION.” There is something in this series that is very vital for our personal lives, our families, our church, our community, and our nation.

Matthew 5:13-14 (Click to watch video of reading by the Mount of Beatitudes)   13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: You may not know but the Sermon on the Mount has been discussed and debated ever since it was first written. As early as the first century we know of a document called the Didache that tells us that the early church struggled with how to obey such high standards that Jesus gave to His disciples and to the multitudes. People throughout the centuries have questioned if it was even possible to apply these rules and could it be that they were meant for another time and another place. Some people claimed that this passage was only meant for those who lived before the cross and that Jesus did not expect them to obey them but was just showing them how God’s standard of holiness was too high and how much they needed His grace in their lives. Others claimed that the list of righteousness and holy living has nothing to do with the past or the present but with the future millennial kingdom. In other words, there has to be an ideal environment for this high standard to be achieved.

So what do we do with the Sermon on the Mount? Do we just skip over it? I believe that the Sermon on the Mount is for every Christian of every generation. When you truly study this passage in its context you realize that Jesus did not give this sermon just to make us feel helpless before the holiness of God or to make us feel hopeful for some future Kingdom of God. He meant this sermon to be obeyed by all believers of all ages. There are some powerful truths embedded in these verses – truths that will change the way we live the Christian life, truths that will bless our homes and our families, truths that will change the way we function as a church, truths that will transform our community, and truths that will change the direction of our nation.

The Sermon on the Mount is a kind of Christian life that not only brings personal blessings but it also transforms the world around us. It’s not a life that runs from the world or a life that compromises with the world but a life that seasons and brightens the world around us. Daily I come across people who are either fed up with the world or fearful of the world. The Sermon on the Mount challenges us to live in such a way that the world sees our good works and glorifies our Father in heaven.

Application: Do you think we need this kind of a Christian life? Do you think our community needs this kind of a life? Do you think our nation needs God’s blessing? Are you being the salt and light in this world? Let’s ask a deeper question – are you saved?

This morning we won’t look at just one passage but several passages from the Sermon on the Mount. We will set the foundation for the rest of the series. If we get this message, we will get the rest of the series. 3 things stand out in this Sermon:

I. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF ISOLATION FROM THE WORLD. 

Matthew 5 1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them…

Background: Some people think that this proves that Jesus did not want the multitudes. “He saw the multitudes and went up the mountain with His disciples.” Not true. Let’s go to the end of the sermon in 7 28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 8:1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. This was not a private lesson just for the disciples.

How did the multitudes find Him? Let’s go to the verses immediately preceding the sermon on the Mount – Matthew 4 23 And Jesus went King of Kings Sermon on the Mountabout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people…25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

Bottom line: The multitudes did not find Jesus. He went and found them. One of the problems in our churches is that we are either running from the multitudes or we are waiting for them to find us. We like to talk about how bad the world is and how far we have come and how things are not what they used to be. Sometimes we’re doing everything we can to keep the world out. Make no mistake – we need to stay away from worldliness but not stay away from people. There’s a big difference. Jesus was not worldly but He loved people. He went out and met the needs of the people and then people followed him.

This does not mean that He was naïve about the multitudes. What kind of people were in the multitudes? Matthew 4:24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, (What do sick people do? They moan and groan and complain.) and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Do you think some of them fussed with each other? Do you think some were greedy, lustful, critical, and demanding? Of course! Ministry is messy. Jesus did not consider the crowd to be a burden. Sometimes we tend to think that the crowd is a burden. You’ll hear things like – “We got too many people here now.” “I don’t know every body anymore.” “It’s hard to keep up.” “I liked it when it was small.” Jesus loves this! It’s for the people that He came.

If Christianity is going to survive in America, it will have to go to the multitudes and that will be messy but that’s all right. God has not called us to isolation. He wants us out there seeking and saving that which was lost.

For e.g. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, learned from George Whitfield that if change were to come in England, they would have to go outside the church to fields and the docks and the markets. At first Wesley didn’t like it. He was too traditional. But on April 1, 1739 Wesley preached to a group gathered on Nicholas Street. Guess which passage? The Sermon on the Mount! He was chastised by church leaders but listen to what he wrote in his journal on July 11, 1739: “Permit me to speak plainly…God in Scripture commands me, according to my power, to instruct the ignorant, reform the wicked, confirm the virtuous. Man forbids me to do this in another’s parish; that is, in effect, to do it at all, seeing I have now no parish of my own, nor probably ever shall. Whom then shall I hear, God or man? “I look upon all the world as my parish…” England was riddled with immorality, skepticism, atheism, and the coming of Wesley saved it. He went to the people. We’re looking for new ways to grow our churches. Maybe we need to try the Jesus way!

Application: What do you think about the multitudes? Do you run from them? Do you spend your time criticizing them? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and save them? If not, step out of the way and let others do it.

II. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD 

2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Background: Just when you think that Jesus would laugh over sin, He raises the bar. Sometimes we think that in order to win the world we have to become like the world. Nothing is further from the truth. In the weeks ahead I’ll be preaching on each of these beatitudes. Let me just tell you – the Standard is high, very high!

Here’s more – 4 Blessed are those who mourn, (Some were complaining) For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, (Some were proud) For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, (Some were hungering for the things of this world) For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, (Some were bitter and hateful) For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, (Some had hidden sins) For they shall see God.

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If we want God’s blessing in our lives, it has to be the way of holiness and righteousness. We can’t go around that. In fact in Matthew 5:20 Jesus says to them, “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.” The Pharisees and the scribes at a high standard but Jesus said – “Your standard better be higher then theirs if you want to get to heaven.” Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 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.”

Nothing destroys our testimony before the world than hypocrisy and hidden sin.

Application: How is your sin life right now? Is there hate in your heart? Is there anger in your life? Is there unforgiveness towards someone? Is there lust? Is there greed? Are you having trouble seeing God? Could it be because “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

III. A LIFE OF BLESSING AND RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT TRANSFORMS THE WORLD.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

Background: Just when you think Jesus is only interested in our personal spiritual lives He makes a statement that I feel is one of the greatest passages in the entire Bible. Salt seasons our food. It makes it worth eating. But if the salt loses its flavor then it is worthless for the food. It has to be thrown away. People just walk over it.

Christianity is being trampled upon in America. It’s because Christians have lost their flavor.

Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

For e.g. As you know, Nicole and I went to Israel in January. One thing that really got me were the ultra Orthodox. They reminded me of the Pharisees and the scribes, maybe not in every aspect but regarding tradition. These people wear black robes, black hats, and black shoes. They have long sideburns and they’re constantly doing their Torah reading and mumbling their prayers. They are an oddity. They’re different. They’re strange. They’re judgmental. I asked our guides about them and both of them had some not so nice things to say. Both our guides were Jewish but secular Jewish.

I thought about our churches in America and Christians in America. In some ways, we have become an oddity. We have become different and strange. By that I’m not saying that we are different as in God’s people different but different as in old, outdated, harmless, naïve, flavorless, and “matter of time before they’re extinct people.”

Jesus went on to say in verse 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt. He notes that “Christianity and Christian influence on the government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; outlawing pedophilia; granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy in the Western world; prohibiting the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advancing the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlawing slave trade and slavery.

I’m amazed at how some Christians have been backing away from the public square when we should be the ones taking the public square. The reason we have the freedom we do and the blessings we do is because this nation was founded to be the salt in the light of the world. The reason we are compassionate towards people, animals, the less fortunate, the ones who are sidelined, and abused is because of Christianity. We have been beneficiaries of someone else’s faithfulness. Much has changed. Either we are hiding our light or we have a false light or we have no light.

When you and I begin to live the way Christians were meant to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the life of Christ in us, with the word of God on our lips and in our hearts, we become the salt and the light of the world. Do you want to know why the world and America and our community is in such a mess? Stop blaming Hollywood. Stop blaming the politicians. Stop blaming the atheists and the sexually immoral. They’re just living by their nature. Start looking in the mirror. If our Christian lives were what they were supposed to be, this world would be a better place. If we were teaching our children how to live the blessed life, they would be the change makers in our society today.

It’s not too late. Today’s the day to begin. First, if you are not saved, you need to get saved right now. Let’s go a step further – what are you doing right now to impact our community? What are you doing to make this 30-mile radius the best place on earth? Are you praying for our nation? Are you getting involved in politics? It’s not enough to preach the gospel. It’s also important to impact the culture. This is not just so we can keep preaching but also so that our society will remain civil, kind, compassionate, and blessed.

By the way, what did Jesus say in the Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Meaning: The very first thing that we are to pray for after glorifying God is for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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