In this episode, the Clearview Church staff sit down to continue their Christmas discussion on generosity, the “gift of giving” and remembering those less fortunate than ourselves during the holidays. If you have any topics you’d like for us to discuss, be sure to email us at email@example.com!
In this episode, the Clearview Church staff sit down to continue their Christmas discussion on generosity, the “gift of giving” and remembering those less fortunate than ourselves during the holidays. If you have any topics you’d like for us to discuss, be sure to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
A MIND TO WORK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Have you heard the expression “busy as a bee?” Do you know someone who is always “busy as a bee?” We get that expression from the worker honeybees who work nonstop, foraging nectar and pollen for their colony. Researchers have found that these hardworking bees don’t live very long. In fact, one biologist from the University of Illinois said, “The harder a bee forages, the shorter its lifespan is.” They literally work themselves to death. In the same hive, there are other bees who just sit around and do nothing. They are the slacker bees. They let the other bees do everything. In our human realm, we call this the “80-20 rule” or “the law of the vital few,” where 20% of people do all the work and the remaining 80% just sit back and watch. Unfortunately, the church is a prime example of this behavior. There are people who are working themselves to death and there are those who are sitting back and taking it easy. We’re more than a hive. We are a body where every member should have a mind to work.
Nehemiah 4 3Now Tobiah the Ammonitewasbeside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes upon it,he will break down their stone wall.” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked Youto anger before the builders. 6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height,for the people had a mind to work.
Question: Do you have a mind to work? What is your contribution to what is happening here? Are you part of the body at Clearview? Are you saved?
Context: The Book of Nehemiah is one of my favorite books in the Old Testament. It’s about a man named Nehemiah, who was not priest or a prophet but just a lay person who answered God’s call to help his people. He left his high position in Persia and came to his ancestral homeland to help rebuild the walls around the city of Jerusalem. If you know history, in 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had destroyed the city of Jerusalem, the temple, and the city walls. Everything lay in ruins. But, fifty years later, as promised, God brought his people back from exile and commanded them to rebuild. They finished the temple by 516 BC but the city walls still lay in ruins a 100 years later. Many reasons for that – lack of right leadership, lack of motivation, lack of unity, opposition from the neighbors. The result was that there was no security, no stability, but hopelessness, apathy, and worst of all, a gradual loss of identity. By much prayer, Nehemiah rallied the people to begin the work but it wasn’t easy. In the face of incredible opposition and little skill and few resources, they finished the wall in only 52 days! It was an incredible feat! A major reason for that was as Nehemiah 4:6 says, “the people had a mind to work.”How do people get a mind to work?4 reasons:
1. CARING LEADERS
Before you think that I’m trying to beat on my own drum, remember, Nehemiah was not a priest or a prophet. He was a cup bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. That sounds like a bar tender but that’s a title for someone who was responsible for the life of the king. He was like a secret service agent but much more. Historians tell us that more than likely he was also the keeper of the signet and in charge of the administration of the accounts. He was a very influential person. Nehemiah also tells us that he was in the palace at Shushan. This was a gorgeous palace. The walls were decorated with bright colored enameled tiles. Carved on the walls were the images of the Immortal Guards, wearing colorful clothing decorated with tiny stars. Their bows, arrows, and spears were made out of gold and silver. When Alexander the Great marched into Shushan, he took 1200 tons of gold. Bottom Line: Nehemiah had it made.
Listen to what happens when he hears that his people back home were in trouble – Nehemiah 1 3And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the provincearethere in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalemisalso broken down, and its gatesare burned with fire.”4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mournedfor many days. . .” People don’t just join a cause. But, when they see leaders who actually care about them, they are inspired to work.
Application:Leaders, how do you see ministry? Is it a chore to work with children? Is it a chore to help out with the youth? Is it a burden to help with Kindle?
2. CONSTANT PRAYER
How did Nehemiah react when he heard the bad news back home? Other than weeping, listen to Nehemiah 1:4“. . .I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” When the king asked him what was wrong? Listen to Nehemiah 2:4“Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So I prayedto the God of heaven.” What happened when there was opposition from their neighbors? Instead of getting frustrated, he prayed – Nehemiah 4:4 “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity!” Instead of getting better, things actually got worse – Nehemiah 4 7“Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.” In other words, every step of the way, Nehemiah led the people to pray. No wonder the people did not give up. Prayer is the antidote to fear and apathy.
Application: Leaders, do you pray for the ministry? Awana leaders, do you pray for your teachers? Joy leaders, do you pray for your people?
3. UNWAVERING DETERMINATION
Nehemiah 2:19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”
Background: Just when you’d think that everyone would be happy about this, there was opposition. Who was Sanballat? Archaeologists tell us that he was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He was Nehemiah’s chief enemy. The wall was a threat to him. Listen to what he says in Nehemiah 4:2And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? (He mocked them physically.) Will they fortify themselves? (He mocked their military ability.) Will they offer sacrifices? (He mocked their faith) Will they complete it in a day? (He mocked their determination.) Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stonesthat are burned?” (He mocked their resources).Ridicule or mockery is Satan’s choice weapon to discourage and dishearten God’s people.Shakespearecalled ridicule “paper bullets of the brain.” Scottish PhilosopherThomas Carlyle once called ridicule “the language of the devil.” 3Now Tobiah the Ammonitewasbeside him…” Who was Tobiah? He was the governor of Ammon to the east of Jerusalem. He came from a family of very powerful Jewish aristocrats. He wasn’t happy either because the wall was also a threat to him.“And he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes upon it,he will break down their stone wall.’”Chuck Swindoll remarked – “Critics run with critics.” Who was Geshem?Some archaeological discoveries describe him as the governor of Dedan; others describe him as the king of Kedar. That being the case, Geshem controlled the eastern desert region of Syria, northern Arabia, Sinai, and northern Egypt. He was a very powerful ruler and he was afraid that rebuilding the wall and empowering the people would interfere with his lucrative trade in myrrh and frankincense, besides many other things.
Application: Have you ever had to deal with Satan’s mockery? I’ve had to. Sometimes he uses people who appear very close to you. You would think that it would be easy to brush it off but it’s not. Warren Wiersbe said, “Some people who can stand bravely when they are shot at will collapse when they are laughed at.”
4. FIGHTING FAITH
Nehemiah 4 14And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”20Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
Ultimately, we have to remember that we are fighting for our families and God is fighting for us. Translated: We are serving for our children and our grandchildren and God will take care of the problems.
Application:How do you see your role at Clearview? Is it “I got to teach Sunday School. I have to keep nursery. I have practice tonight. Is it Kindle again this week?” Or do you look at what you do as fighting for your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, and husbands? Do you see the mighty hand of God in the rebuilding of his kingdom?
Do you have the mind to work? Are you saved?
FIRST, BELIEVE (INTRODUCTION) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: As you know, there is a big craze going on over comic book superheroes. Every year a new movie is coming out. We went to see one last week. What’s interesting is that many of them are prequels. A sequel is a movie that continues the main story. A prequel is a movie that goes back before the main story. That’s why kids say, “You’ve got to watch this movie first and then you’ll understand this movie.” This morning we’re starting a new series called “First, Believe.” It is a prequel to our series on discipleship. Here’s the theme of this series: Before you can be a disciple, you have to get saved. You cannot be a disciple without getting saved. Getting saved begins your walk of discipleship. You cannot be saved if you don’t want to be a disciple. Discipleship doesn’t save you. It’s simply the evidence that you are truly saved. True gospel will initiate discipleship. The burden of proof is more on the church than on the individual.
Galatians 1 6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
Question: “True Gospel will initiate discipleship.” Is their discipleship in your life? What gospel have you believed? Do you know the true gospel? Are you saved? If “the burden of proof is more on the church than the individual,” how is the church doing?
Context: I’ve mentioned this many time before but this is my twentieth year as pastor. I’ve also mentioned this many time before but this is my first and only church. The negative is that you are stuck with me and I’m stuck with you! The positive is that it has allowed me to get a panoramic view of the life of many Christians, their beginning, their middle, and, in some cases, their end. It has allowed me to do a lot of reflection on why some people grow as disciples and some don’t. It has taken years of study, prayer, and tears to come to the series that we’re starting today. I’ve already given you the theme of the series in the introduction but here’s the theme of today’s message: “FALSE GOSPEL WILL ONLY PRODUCE FALSE DISCIPLES WITH DIRE CONSEQUENCES.”We began by reading Paul’s opening remarks to the Galatians. It’s obvious that he is upset with them:
- He begins by reprimanding them for forsaking the true gospel.6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”
- He acknowledges the hand of the false teachers.7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
- He pronounces a curse on the infiltrators.8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
- He identifies Jesus Christ as the source of the true gospel. 10For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taughtit,butit camethrough the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
What’s the point of all this? Very early on in the life of the church, people were becoming confused about the meaning of the gospel. To add to that, there were people going around corrupting the meaning of the gospel. This is a serious offense because the gospel saves us. False gospel is false assurance that we are saved.
Question: Can you define the gospel? This is very critical, even more so than having the right key to the safe. Eternity is too long to be wrong.
Before I tell you the true gospel, let me list for you 5 gospels that have been floating around for a long time with dire consequences (I am getting my information from Bill Hull who has written prodigiously on the subject of discipleship):
- The Forgiveness Only Gospel – It is the most popular gospel. It simply tells you how to get your sins forgiven and get your ticket into heaven. It is partly true and partly false. It is true because it includes the affirmation of certain critical facts about God, Jesus, Sin, Forgiveness, and Eternal Life. It is false because it fails to include certain critical facts about repentance, invitation to follow Jesus, and obedience to his word. It is easy to identify the “Forgiveness Only Gospel” people. Their Christian life revolves around sin management. I like to call them the “Carwash Christians.” Monday through Saturday, do whatever you want to but then Sunday you come and get washed up.
- The Liberal Left Gospel – The old left gospel of the early twentieth century tried to make Christianity relevant to the scientific age. It focused on dismissing the Genesis account of creation, rejecting the miracles in the Bible, and redefining the necessity and meaning of the atonement of Christ. Instead, it focused attention on transforming society through social justice. That’s why the leaders of such gospel churches would always show up in their long robes and their tippets and their cinctures anywhere they could make a statement about injustice. I wish more people who actually believed the gospel would have done this as well. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before these liberal left gospel churches had nothing but empty pews. These churches are still around. They come up with clever interpretations of the Bible that have nothing to do with the gospel. They love to hide in nice liturgical churches where the leaders don’t believe anything but they let the people do the rituals to soothe their souls.
- The Prosperity Gospel – Unfortunately, this is the fastest growing false gospel. It promises health and wealth to any who had the faith to believe. They teach that the miracles that happened in the Bible are still available today if you only had the faith. This is very misleading because I believe that God still heals in answer to prayers and that if we do things God’s way that there are blessings that follow. But, this gospel tends to manipulate God and what he has said in his word. Some of the leaders of this movement are usually looking to buy another plane while many of their listeners in third world country are still living in slums. They do a lot of damage to many of us who are trying to preach the truth.
- The Consumer Gospel – This gospel is quite popular in evangelical churches. It is focused on meeting your needs in fast and efficient and professional ways. I’m all for that but without the gospel, it’s no different than paying extra and flying first class instead of economy. Messages are designed to meet your immediate needs (nothing wrong with that) but not too much emphasis on sins and repentance. It’s a guilt free gospel that is designed to help you have a great day. People who have been to such churches have high expectations. They may believe the right overall doctrines but don’t try them too much. If their needs are not met, they will leave.
- The Religious Right Gospel – This is the opposite of the liberal left gospel. It has right beliefs. It stands on the right side of moral issues. It separates itself from the sinful corrupt world. Personally, I would agree with all of their convictions. Having said that, they are just as mean and hypocritical as the world they are in opposition to. What makes it worse is that they know enough Bible to justify their sinful behaviors. They are the “do as I say but not as I do” Christians.If I may add, such churches are full of legalism. As Bill Hull says, “there are a lot of dead people at the First Church of the Right because grace there is scarce, and life comes from grace.”
Question: Which gospel do you belong to? The Forgiveness Only Gospel, The Liberal Left Gospel, The Prosperity Gospel, The Consumer Gospel, or The Religious Right Gospel.
What is the true gospel? I will unpack this in the weeks ahead:
First the Revelation – 1 Corinthians 15 1“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”
One response here – Repentance for our sins.
Now the Response – Romans 10 9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Two responses here – Believe in Him and Follow our Master.
Altogether, 3 responses – Repent, Believe, and Follow. The Holy Spirit helps you with all three of them. Have you done this? Are you doing this?
WHEN THE BODY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Back in 2009 our family decided to take a trip out west. We were all able to get in my truck with our luggage under the bed cover. We all had plenty of room. It was a trip of a lifetime! The other day I said to Nicole – “That was so much fun! Maybe we can do that again one day.” To which she replied – “If we all tried to get in your truck and ride 5000 miles, we would kill each other.” So also with our church body. There was a time when 20 people on a Sunday morning was a good Sunday. The children’s ministry had 2 kids, that’s Rebecca and Abigail. We would count anything that breathed. Things have changed since then. God has truly blessed us and our church body keeps growing. If were not careful, we would kill each other. With that said, let’s turn to the book of Ephesians for our message titled “WHEN THE BODY GROWS.” We will do a series through this book soon but for now just a few verses from chapter 4.
Ephesians 4 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Question: How do you relate with others in the body? What is your role in this church body at Clearview? Are you helping to edify this body in love? To be a part of this church body, you have to be saved. Are you saved?
Context: Before we can understand the meaning and application of the passage we just read, we need to first ask “Why did Paul write this letter to the Ephesians?” Although there is no clear consensus, most scholars believe that Paul’s main purpose was to promote unity and love among the Ephesian Christians. He wanted them to love one another with the same deep love with which they love God and Christ. Those two are interconnected. Why did he feel that this was important? Maybe because he sensed that they were losing their grip on love. Was he right? Yes. Just a few years later, listen to what John wrote in Revelation 2 1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: (that’s Jesus) 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” What will people say of our church a few years from now?
With that in mind, let’s return to the passage but let’s begin in Ephesians 4 verse 1 to truly understand what we read. 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord…” Meaning: He is bound to Christ. He goes where Christ goes, does what Christ tells him to do, and says what Christ tells him to say. In other words, he is not writing on his own authority but Christ’s. What does Christ demand? 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” Paul begins this section by urging the Ephesians to remember the Christian graces. They are given in 2 Peter but some are here as well. Lowliness means humility. Nothing will destroy unity faster than pride. Gentleness means meekness. It is not weakness. Instead, it is knowing when to be angry and when not. Longsuffering means patience. It means don’t say what comes to your mind and your mouth. Bearing with one another in love means learn to tolerate each other and do it with “agape” love. Don’t resent the other person. What’s the goal? 3 “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It makes a difference in how you treat and interact with each other.
Application: Are you marked by Christian graces?
Now, if I were to end the message here and tell you to remember the Christian graces and be nice, kind, and loving to each other, it probably won’t last 10 minutes. Our Christian graces are linked to our foundational beliefs. We stand upon a 7-layered foundation:
- One Universal Church – 4 “There is one body…” Paul was dealing with issue of Jews and Gentiles coming together. So also today, there are many churches and denominations but if you are willing to receive Jesus Christ as your only Savior and God, then we are part of that one body.
- One Spirit – 4 “There is one body and one Spirit…” The same Holy Spirit indwells you who indwells me.
- One Hope – 4 “…just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” We have the same expectation that God will work his plan out for us and this world and Christ will ultimately come for us (the blessed hope and glorious appearing).
- One Master – 5 “one Lord…” The same second person of the godhead who became man and died for me and rose again on the third day is your master as well.
- One Faith – 5 “…one faith…” There is one settled body of truth which Jude calls 3 “…faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
- One Baptism – 5 “…one baptism…” This refers to the baptism Paul talks about in Romans 6 where we “were baptized into His death,” “buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised with him to “walk in newness of life.” The water baptism is the demonstration of this inward spiritual baptism.
- One God and Father – 6 “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Through Christ we have the same God the Father and we belong to the same family. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my father” but “our father.”
If you are willing to stand on this 7-layered foundation, we can work out any other disagreements we may have. If we step off any of these layers, no amount of pretend niceness is going to hold us together.
Application: Do you know our foundational beliefs?
Remember our Christian graces. Remember our Foundational Beliefs.
Remember our role in the body. 7 “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, (established churches along with signs and wonders and miracles. Today we don’t have this gift but we do have missionaries) some prophets, (communicated the divine revelation of God. Today we don’t have this gift because we have the New Testament but we do have revivalists) some evangelists, (preach and explain the good news of salvation like Philip the evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch but today Billy Graham) and some pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping (katartismos = “mending” restoring, putting things right) of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (This is my goal as the pastor/shepherd of Clearview) 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” It’s like a spiral. The more it turns the deeper the unity grows.
Our church body is growing but we need to be aware of our Christian graces, our foundational beliefs, and our role in the body.
Are you doing your part in the body? Are you in the body? Are you saved?
THE JOY-PRODUCER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: When you talk to some Christians, it seems that to be a good Christian you have to be miserable. In fact, the more miserable you are, the godlier you must be or so they think. It reminds me of a group of Christians who were gathered on a Friday evening prayer meeting when one lady prayed, “Dear God, please bless us your people. We’re in here trying to serve you while the world is out there having a wonderful time.” In other words, to be a good Christian you cannot have wonderful times, only miserable times. This is completely contrary to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus came to bring joy and in this message we will learn that he is the great JOY PRODUCER.
John 2 1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
Question: We will look at this passage in detail in a few minutes but for now the question we need to answer is this – “Is your Christian life more resembling of a funeral service or a wedding service?” Are you full of misery or are you full of joy? The coming of Jesus in any life brings joy. Has Jesus come into your life? Are you saved?
Clarification: Before we begin this message, let me clarify one thing. Typically this passage is invoked either in support of or against drinking alcohol. For example, some people say, “Jesus turned water into wine so it’s okay to drink, as long as you don’t get drunk.” Then people on the other side say, “Jesus would never endorse alcohol. He only turned water into unfermented grape juice (which is not true).” Listen carefully: No matter where you stand on this topic, this passage is neither for nor against drinking alcohol. It has a much deeper meaning, which we will learn in this message.
Let’s Begin: Instead of starting in verse 1, we need to drop down to verse 11 “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” The key word there is “signs.” It comes from the Greek word “semeion.” John the apostle/writer of the gospel used this word for Jesus’ miracles. Now, Matthew, Mark, and Luke also used that word but not for Jesus’ miracles. They used it in a negative tone when the scribes and the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus and he refused. To the contrary, John the apostle concluded his gospel in these words – John 20 30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” When John used the word “signs,” he had more than “miracles” in mind. He used the word “signs” the way the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), used that word to prove the power of God and his work on behalf of his people. For example: After the flood, God said in Genesis 9:13 “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” After God brought his people out of slavery, they sang in Deuteronomy 26:8 “So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.” In Isaiah 7:14, it was prophesied, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” When John used the word “signs,” he meant those incidents that proved that Jesus was/is God and he was the one who was to come. In other words, signs were more than miracles by Jesus to help people (the other gospels); they were proof of who he was/is and why he came.
So what was the sign behind the miracle of the wedding at Cana? As we just read, Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Back in those days, Jewish weddings were a time of great joy and celebration! Unlike the Roman weddings, which were not ostentatious and extravagant, Jewish weddings symbolized the greatest joy! They normally lasted a whole week! By the way, by the end of this year, I will do 7 weddings in total! They are a lot of fun and excitement but they’re also a lot of work, as some of you know very well. Imagine a whole week of celebrations! If you were wealthy back then, you’d invite the whole village. Think about all the food and drinks you had to prepare! According to one ancient Jewish source, if you invited someone to a wedding and didn’t show proper hospitality, you are no better than a thief! Guess what! At this wedding, the drinks ran out! How embarrassing! So Jesus’ mother mentioned it to him and listen to his reply – 4 “…Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” What Jesus was saying is – “Do you really think that I left my heavenly throne and came down to fix drinks? I’ve come for something much greater.” What was Mary’s response? 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” It seems like she didn’t get it but that’s not true. Remember, after his birth and the visit to the temple at the age of 12, twice it says in Luke 2 that Mary “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She knew that Jesus was much more than her son. Somehow Mary knew that Jesus would use this as a sign. By the way, this was not his first miracle but the first sign that he performed. That’s why I didn’t begin this series with it.
Listen to verse 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. That’s about 150 gallons of water! To get an idea of how much that is, imagine a fish tank, 6 feet long, two feet tall, and two feet wide. That’s a lot of water! What is it for? For ceremonial hand washing and ritual cleansing of the vessels. During the time of Jesus, these rituals were at an all time high. Even John the Baptist’s disciples got into arguments with the Jewish people over purification (John 3:25). Listen to what Jesus did – 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” Think about it, Jesus could have easily told them to fill the wine jars with water but he specifically commanded them to fill up the purification pots. Remember, this is a sign. Jesus is telling them that he has come to replace all those purification laws and rituals with something much better. John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Listen carefully: Nothing wrong with traditions but don’t let rituals and traditions get in the way of true substance. Go to Jesus.
What happened next? He told them to get some out and take it to the Master of the feast. When he tasted it, he was amazed and said to the bridegroom, 10 “…Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” Apparently, they would serve the best quality wine first and when people were drunk and didn’t know or care what they were drinking, then they would serve the inferior quality. What he was saying is “I thought the party was on but I was wrong. The real party is about to begin!” What’s the point? Remember, this is a sign. Jesus was asking them “Didn’t my boy John the Baptist tell you that the better wine was coming?” Oh Yeah…just a chapter earlier. John 1:15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” John 1 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” John 1 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ Don’t miss this: This passage is not about to drink or not to drink. This passage is about Jesus being the good wine who brings true joy and celebration! Everything prior to him was inferior. When he comes into your life, then the real wedding feast can begin!
11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. What does this glory look like? It’s not some bright light or some halo around the head, some nimbus or aureole. It is a combination of grace and truth. John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
- Truth is you are lost in your sins but grace brings you forgiveness.
- Truth is you are an enemy of God but grace makes you a child of God.
- Truth is that you are born to die but grace gives you eternal life.
- Truth is that you are nothing but grace invites you to join God in his work.
Some people are reluctant to believe in Jesus. They think that coming to Jesus would mess up their party. They think that coming to Jesus will kill all their fun. It’s just the opposite. When you come to Jesus, you see his true glory and that’s when the party really begins. Listen to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Do you have this joy in your life? By receiving Jesus as your Savior you can. Beware of Joy Killers? Sometimes they are people, places, or passions. Be intoxicated on Jesus. Be addicted to him. It never gets old.
LOVE IS SERVING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Many of us have heard the name Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach. He was known for his diehard determination to win, especially in tough situations. He also had a big ego. There are lots of stories about him, some true and some not. They say that once he was in championship playoffs and for some reason his wife Marie couldn’t go. It really disappointed him. Green Bay won in spite of the incredible odds. Lombardi was on cloud nine. He got home and his wife was asleep. He tried to slip into bed quietly but his cold feet touched her legs. She exclaimed – “God, your feet are cold!” To which he instantly replied – “When we’re in bed, just call me Vince.” In this message, we’re going to learn why love and pride cannot coexist. Turn to I Corinthians 13 for our message titled, “LOVE IS SERVING.”
I Corinthians 13 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Context: Once again, keep in mind that Paul was writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth. Unlike Athens, that was just an old college town, and Sparta, that was just an old military town, Corinth was a happening place at the time of Paul. It was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia, sitting on two ports, one to the east and the other to the west. The Agora (marketplace) was the largest in Greece. You could buy anything you wanted. I can go on and on. What kind of people lived here? If you remember, Corinth was a Roman colony populated by freed slaves, army veterans, many original Greeks, and business people and laborers. Have you been around people like that? People who have pulled themselves up by their boot straps; people who think they are tough and hardcore; people who think their family tree goes back to some big shot; people who have struck rich and have a lot of money. What is one thing they all have in common? PRIDE. Unfortunately, this Corinthian sense of pride and arrogance had crept into the church and was destroying the unity of the church. Paul had to address it. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. Paul is being sarcastic here. He is telling them, “Don’t forget where you came from.” 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. What is pride? Pride is forgetting where we came from and self-glorying in God’s presence.
Question: Do you have a pride problem? Don’t be too quick to deny it. Pride is an equal opportunity employer. It infects Christians as well as non-Christians. It infects the rich as well as the poor. It has killed more marriages, destroyed more friendships, and sabotaged more hopes than anything else. Are you saved? Refusing to be saved is saying that you are good enough and don’t need Jesus to save you. Leave your pride behind and come to him today.
Let’s begin by examining the words that Paul used to describe love – “love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” The first one “does not parade itself” is the Greek word “perpereuetai.” This is the only time it is found in the Bible and only one time in secular literature. It has the idea of bragging by talking a lot about one’s self in big lofty words. Its noun form is “perperos,” which means a “bragger.” I don’t have any solid proof for this but if you just listen to that word “perperos,” the stem of that word is being repeated – “perper.” Think about the word “murmur.” It is the sound of someone repeatedly grumbling. Or the word “barbarian” originally referred to people who were not sophisticated in speaking and sounded like the were repeating “barbar.” So also, in my opinion, “perperos” is someone who is repeating things about themselves. After a while, it just sounds like a repetitive obnoxious noise.
Illustration: Sometime back I was at a meeting and this one gentleman began talking. Every statement was prefaced with “Let me tell you how I am,” “Ya’ll gonna learn something about me,” “The kind of person I am,” and “When you get to know me.” He was not a bad person at all but he didn’t realize that after a while we were simply hearing the same noise being repeated. Unintentionally, he had become a “perperos.”
In the Corinthian culture this was kind of normal. You had to assert yourself and prove that you were better and more powerful and wealthier and had deeper roots than the other person. But in the church culture, this was abnormal. Now you had to acknowledge your spiritual poverty, lower yourself, serve others, and put the needs of others before yourself. No wonder the love in the Corinthian church was dying out. It is very hard to love others when you are busy telling them why they should love you.
Paul adds – “love is not puffed up.” The Greek word is “phusioutai.” It literally means “to blow up, to puff up, or to inflate.” It’s found 6 times in this letter. Each time the idea is of someone being full of pride and self-importance but not necessarily with their words. It is more about the demeanor than about the speech. It is pride without sound.
Illustration: Sometime back I met this young lady who was with a young man I knew. As I was talking to him, I realized that she had a “don’t care to be here” look on her face. I thought it must be because she didn’t know anyone and that we were leaving her out of the conversation. So I turned to her and asked her where she was from. She gave me a one-word answer. So I tried to extend the conversation by telling her about someone I knew from the same city. She abruptly responded – “Yes, someone said that already.” It had a sense of finality to it like, “I’m not interested in prolonging this conversation.” I observed her the rest of the time. She sat by herself, avoided any eye contact with anyone in the room, and had a look of disdain. I also noticed that people left her alone. She was sending a message without words and people were hearing it loud and clear.
In the Corinthian culture this was also kind of normal. You had to assert yourself and prove that you are stronger, wealthier, and better than others by your attitude and your demeanor. But in the church culture, this was abnormal. You had to put aside your pride and reach out to the other person in genuine love, care, and understanding. No wonder the love in the Corinthian church was dying out. It is very hard to love others when you are busy telling them that you are too good to associate with them.
Here’s a statement worth remembering: Sometimes pride struts around and everyone can see it. Other times it struts sitting down and everyone can sense it. The solution is – Pride with words has to step back and serve and pride without words has to step up and serve.
How does God love us? He doesn’t strut around in pride. Neither does he sit puffed up in pride. Instead, He serves us in true humility. Paul makes a powerful statement about God in the introduction of his letter to the Corinthians that almost seems blasphemous. I Corinthians 1 25 “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” There are some verses in the Bible that are too deep for my finite mind to grasp. This is one of them. Think about it – How can God be foolish? How can God be weak? God is not foolish and neither is he weak. What is Paul saying here? To understand that read the previous 3 verses – 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. The cross made Jesus appear foolish to this world and the incarnation made Jesus appear weak to this world (per Tertullian). They both go against pride. But God was willing to appear foolish and weak to this world so that he could save us. That is true love! In other words, while the Corinthians were strutting and puffing in pride, Jesus was willing to become a servant in order to save us.
How we should love others? Don’t strut and puff in pride but be willing to step back and step out and serve others in humility. Paul didn’t just talk about this. He demonstrated it in his work among the Corinthians. Listen to some of his statements to them:
- 1 Corinthians 2 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
- 1 Corinthians 9 9 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Can you hear the servant humility of Paul towards the Corinthians?
How do you see those around you? Do you see them the way Christ sees you? Are you willing to serve them the way Paul served the Corinthians? Sometimes people say, “I’m just an extrovert. I can’t help it.” It’s one thing to be outgoing and it’s another thing to talk only of self. Sometimes people say, “I’m just an introvert. I can’t help it.” It’s one thing to be a quiet personality and it’s quite another to have an air of superiority that says, “If you want to talk to me, you make the effort to come to me.” In a marriage, if one person is always getting his/her way, that’s pride. In a marriage, if one person is always pulling back and making the other reach out to them, that’s also pride.
Here’s a totally different question: How do you see those who are proud? Are you willing to serve even those who strut around or strut around sitting down? I mentioned 2 different incidents, one about the man who only talked about himself and the other about the girl who sat in her pride and refused to talk with others. Guess who had a greater pride? Me. Because I sat back and judged both of them. Listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book “Life
Together” – “He who is bearing others knows that he himself is being borne, and only in this strength can he go on bearing.”
Are you willing to serve others? Are you saved?
LOVE IS CHEERING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: As you know, we’re in our series – LOVE IS THE GREATEST. Many of you have commented to me about how much you have loved this series and how much you are looking forward to the messages coming up. Thank you! This morning we come to the third message from I Corinthians 13 titled “LOVE IS CHEERING.”
I Corinthians 13 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Bridge: I remember the first ball game I went to in America. It was a basketball game. What fascinated me the most were these students on the sidelines who were jumping up and down, holding up placards, blowing the megaphones, and telling us to clap our hands, stomp our feet, and shout some slogans. I asked the guy next to me. “Why are they doing all that?” He told me that they were cheerleaders. My question: “What if they stop cheering?” He replied: They play better when we cheer them. People in our life also play better when we cheer them. In this message, we’re going to learn how love is cheering the other person, not envying them.
Context: Once again, Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians because there were a lot of selfish and self-centered things happening in the church. The worldly mentality was creeping in. They were treating each other hatefully. They were becoming more and more divided. They were falling into worse and worse sins. When Paul got news of it, he wrote this letter to them. The message of this letter was not just “don’t be selfish” or “don’t be hateful” or “don’t be divided” or “don’t fall into sin.” The message was “love each other the way God has loved you.” Why? The root of all their problems was the love problem. Last weekend we learned that “love is calming” and today “love is cheering.”
Question: But before we do that, would you agree that at the root of a lot of our problems is the love problem? Would you agree that many of the problems we are facing in our marriages, homes, churches, communities, nation, and world is because we don’t know how to love others? Are you a loving person? Are you saved? Have you accepted the love of God in your hearts through Jesus Christ? You can never love properly until you have properly accepted God’s love in your hearts. Have you done that?
What did Paul mean when he wrote, “…love does not envy…” If you remember from last week, “Words have inherent meaning only to a certain extent. They get their true and full meaning from their context. For example: the word “oversight.” “She has the oversight of that project.” It means “she is in charge of that project.” “I’m sorry. That was my oversight.” It means “I accidentally missed something when I was going over it.” The context helps you understand the true meaning. Biblical words also have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning from the biblical context.”
Let’s look at the true meaning of the Greek word that Paul used to describe love – “…love does not envy,” the Greek word for “envy” is “zeluo.” It literally means “to burn” or “to boil.” It can have a positive or a negative meaning. Positively, it means to “deeply desire,” “eagerly desire,” or “zealously strive.” It’s like when we say, “He was burning with energy” or “She was burning with excitement.” For example: In I Corinthians 12:31 Paul says, “But earnestly desire the best gifts.” Meaning: Passionately and earnestly seek after the best gifts that God wants you to use in the church. But this same word can also have a negative connotation. Sometimes it can mean “jealousy” and other times it can mean “envy.” People often confuse them. There’s a difference between them.
What is “jealousy?” It’s when “I have something that I will not share with you.” Human beings are often uman Hujealous over someone or something. “He’s such a jealous guy.” Meaning: He’s so possessive over his girlfriend or something else.” Here’s something very interesting. The Bible tells us that God also gets jealous. In the Old Testament God repeatedly becomes jealous over his people. In Exodus 20 he told the children of Israel – 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” Did you know that one of the names of God is “Jealous?” Exodus 34:14 “ (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).” The Hebrew word for jealousy and envy in the Old Testament is “kanah,” which is literally “to become intensely red.” When the Jewish people translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek, they used the word “zelou” to translate “kanah.” What God is saying here is that he turns intensely hot when we give his honor to someone else. He will not share our allegiance with anyone. Please don’t misunderstand – God shares many things with us. He shares his love, his power, his authority, and even his glory with us. Someone might say, “Oh no, not his glory. Doesn’t God say in Isaiah 42: 8, ‘I am the Lord…And My glory I will not give to another?” Keep reading – “Nor My praise to carved images.” That passage is against idol worship. But listen to Romans 8 16 “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Isn’t God so gracious and generous towards us?!! The only thing that God will not share with anyone is our loyalty to him.
Why am I going so deep? Christianity in America has become simplistic. There’s a difference between simple and simplistic. Simple: “This is the day the Lord has made.” Simplistic: “Have a nice day.” There’s a reason why people are struggling with their convictions. Because of ignorance, they have become shallow. It’s time to move from simplistic to simple.
As I was saying, the word “zelou” can also mean envy. There’s a difference between jealousy and envy. What is envy? John Piper gave a great definition for it – “Envy is desire mingled with resentment.” In other words, “You have something I really want and now I resent you for it.” Let me clarify: You can like someone’s dress and that’s not envy. You can desire someone’s success and that’s not envy. You can model yourself after some person and that that’s not envy. Envy is not admiration. Envy goes a step beyond. It is desire plus resentment. By the way, God is never envious towards us. There’s nothing in us that he desires or resents us for. Envy is exclusively a creature problem and it has been around since the beginning:
- It got Lucifer in trouble – He began to envy God.
- It was the cause of the first sin – Eve envied God and wanted to have His knowledge.
- It was the cause of the first murder – Cain killed his brother because he envied his offering.
- Down through the ages brothers have envied each other – Ishmael envied Isaac, Esau envied Jacob, Joseph was envied by his brothers, David was envied by his brothers, even Jesus was envied by his brothers.
- Someone might say “this must be a man thing.” Not true – Sisters have envied each other as well – Rachel envied Leah in the OT. Martha envied Mary in the NT. Aaron and Miriam were envious of Moses.
All of us at some point have been bit by the “green eyed monster”:
- A friend of yours has a boyfriend/girlfriend and you don’t. You wish you had someone like they have in your life. That’s okay. But now you begin to talk bad about that person. That’s envy.
- You want to play sports and then there’s that kid who is better than you. You wish you had their talent. That’s okay. But now you begin to badmouth them. That’s envy.
- You wish you could sing but so and so is amazing. You can admire that person’s gift and that’s okay. But now you begin to spread rumors about her. That’s envy.
- You have children who are average or sick but then there are other families that have healthy children and great performers. They always seem to come out on top. You can pray and ask God to bless your children as well. That’s okay. But you begin to make snide remarks about them. That’s envy.
- Then the big one – how you look. Why do I have a weight problem, height problem? I don’t like my nose, my chin, my eyes and on and on. We often feel like God is so unfair in giving looks. On a scale of 1-10, we think God goes around saying “Everyone is 10, you are just 1-2.” When you see someone who is a 10, you look for faults in their life and secretly wait for them to fall. That’s envy.
- Someone has a better husband/better wife, better job, better house and the list goes on and on. To desire to have those things is not wrong. It becomes envy when you begin to malign the other person.
- Don’t think this doesn’t happen in ministry. it happens more in the ministry than in any other field. How do I know? I have been both the perpetrator and the victim of envy. I have felt the intense dislike for a person just because they had a bigger church, ministry, and influence. Several years ago Nicole and I went to the SBC convention. On the way back, something happened. I wasn’t talking much. Nicole asked me if I was okay and I said “yes.” But she knows if something is wrong and she won’t let me rest until I share it. Envy had its ugly grip on me. I lost my passion, lost my prayer life, lost my joy. I was envious of someone I had never met and he did not know I existed. I have also felt the intense dislike of others towards me because I pastor a bigger church, have a bigger ministry, and wider influence. I was elected to be the moderator of our Association. After the meeting, one pastor came to me and said – “you know they asked me first but I told them that I was just too busy for stuff like that.”
Socrates said, “Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of murder and revenge, the begetter of secret sedition, the perpetual tormenter of virtue. Envy is the filthy slime of the soul; a venom, a poison, a quicksilver, which consumes the flesh and dries up the bones.”
How does God love us? He loves us without envy. He wants the best for us. He wants to see us to grow and mature and live in joy and peace. He even sends trials in our lives to help us, never to hurt us. He not only sent His Son to die for us but now he also lives in us through his Holy Spirit and cheers us on from the right hand of the Father.
How should you love others? Love them without envy. It begins when you cheer others in their success. It’s when you rejoice when you see them win. It’s when you pray that they won’t fall. It’s when you encourage them when they seem to struggle. Do you ever conquer envy? Probably not. But you learn to repent and refocus faster and start cheering that person in love.
By the way, when you see that person fall, don’t misunderstand what is happening. One way God deals with envy is that He crucifies the one being envied. If I were God, I would crucify the one who is envying – right? Not really. Just the opposite. Someone said, “God never makes the path of greater fruitfulness enviable.” When you have a problem with someone because of envy, God says “I will crucify that guy for you.” Cain – you have a problem with Abel, I will take him early in life; Ishmael – you have a problem with Isaac, I will take him up on Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him; Esau – you have a problem with Jacob, I will keep him running all his life; Joseph’s brothers – you have a problem with Joseph, I will have him sold into slavery; David’s brothers – you have a problem with David, I will keep him running from cave to cave hunted by Saul. James – you have a problem with Jesus, I will crucify him.
Are you saved? Are you cheering others in love?
LOVE IS THE GREATEST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: We’re going to take a break from our regular series on the Life of Christ and go to I Corinthians 13 for the next few weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. It’s a series on love titled “LOVE IS THE GREATEST.” Don’t think that this series is only about romantic or marital love. It is about love in general in our family, church, and community.
I Corinthians 13 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Bridge: Would you agree that the word “love” is probably the most used word in the world? Would you also agree that the word “love” is probably also the most abused and misunderstood word in the world? People love everything from hamburgers to hairstyles and spouses to spinach. We sing about love, write about love, and tell each other “I love you” or “I don’t love you.” The question is – “do we truly understand what love is?” In this series we’re going to learn what love really means and how to show it.
Question: Before we go any further, let’s have a heart to heart talk. Do you truly understand what it means to love? I’m not talking about just romantic or marital love but also loving people in our church and our community. Are you saved? If not, you are loving with a weak, inferior, and selfish love. It’s only when we receive Christ in our hearts as our Savior that the Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts.
In this message we’re laying out the groundwork for this series. 3 things to understand:
I. THE CONTEXT OF CORINTH
Background: In the first century, there were three prominent cities in Greece. First was Athens, known for its great history, architecture, and ancient schools of learning. By the time of Paul, it was just a tourist town where people send their children to study. Second was Sparta, also known for its great history and military tradition. By the time of Paul, it was also just a tourist town known for its ancient battle stories. The third city was Corinth. Unlike Athens and Sparta, it was anything but ancient. Yes, it went back hundreds of years but it was more alive than ever during the time of Paul.
What made Corinth so unique? To begin with, it was its geographical location. It was sitting on the crossroads or intersection between the east and the west and the north and the south. It was sitting on the isthmus. What is an isthmus? It is a narrow strip land joining two large lands, with sea on either side. If you want to go north and south, you have to go across this isthmus. Also, on the east side, there was a harbor and on the west side, there was a harbor. They created a shortcut across this narrow strip of land called diolkos. It was a paved track, something like a railroad track. They would empty the ship of its cargo at one harbor and then drag the ship across the diolkos to the opposite harbor, reload the ship, and keep sailing. You say, “that’s crazy!” Because the journey around the Peloponnese was so dangerous due to the sudden heavy winds and jagged rocks, it was safer and cheaper to do that than to sail around and destroy the ship and lose all the cargo. Corinth was a major crossroad for trade in the ancient world.
Let me back up a little bit and say a word about the people who lived in this place. In 146 BC the Romans had destroyed Corinth because of their rebellion but in 44 BC Julius Caesar rebuilt this city and populated it with former slaves, army veterans, business people, and laborers. Yes, there were people there who were original Greeks but most probably were not. Picture in your mind, not only a major crossroad of the ancient world but also populated by people who had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Someone said that this was like San Francisco during the California gold rush! People were making money and moving up the social ladder.
By the way, what kind of people do you think were passing through this town? Sailors, merchants, troops. You can only imagine the immorality and debauchery that went on in this place. This was a place where people came if they wanted to have a good time. And as they say – “What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth!” Remember, when I told you to keep an eye on the big mountain behind me. It is called the “Acrocorinth.” By the time of Paul, the temple of Aphrodite was up there. Some say 1000 and some say 100 girls served as priestesses in the temple. This was nothing but religious cover for prostitution. Corinth had a high death rate due to infectious diseases. There’s something else, Corinth was also the location of the Isthmian Games. They were just like the Olympic Games but held every other year and Greeks from all over would come to watch and participate. You can imagine the crowds of people that would come to the city.
I find it amazing that Paul did not stay in Athens or go to Sparta? Instead, he went to Corinth. Why? This is where the people were. This is where lostness was at its max. This is where people were drawn to sexual lusts and selfish pride. This is where people needed to hear that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” This is where people needed to hear “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul came to Corinth sometime in March AD 50. Here he met a Christian couple, Aquila and Priscilla. He stayed with them and worked with them. What did they do? They were tentmakers. I find this very fascinating. Paul was literate and he could have easily got a job as a translator or a scribe. He could have earned good money working at the tax table by the docks or at one of the money lending shops. Instead, he chose tent-making. Why? Any common person coming into the town for a short business trip or to watch the Isthmian Games would need a tent. Guess what? They had to come to Aquila and Priscilla’s shop and who would they meet? The greatest evangelist who ever lived! Paul. I believe that many of them probably got saved at the tent shop! How amazing! And the church was born.
Application: Have you taken the time to look at our own community? Sometime we talk so bad about our community. Do you think God has placed you where you are for a reason? Are you sharing the love of God with your community?
II. THE CONDITION OF THE CHRISTIANS
Background: Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months, teaching them, and encouraging them. After the church was up and running, Paul put right leaders in place and left to go back towards Asia Minor and Jerusalem. Then two things happened: First, he began receiving letters from the church in Corinth, asking for guidance in certain matters. Second, he began hearing reports from people that the church in Corinth was having problems. People were divided. They were fighting with one another and they were even reverting back to their old sinful lifestyles.
What were some of the things that Paul was hearing? To answer that, you simply have to read between the lines of Paul’s letter:
I Corinthians 3 3 For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? The Corinthian church was splitting into groups.
I Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! Some of the Corinthians were turning against Paul and calling him a fool.
I Corinthians 5 1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! Sexual immorality had entered into the church. What’s worse is that they had no problem with it! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
I Corinthians 6 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Some of them were dragging fellow believers into the court.
I Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. Some couples were no longer being sexually intimate. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
I Corinthians 11 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? They had brought the social divisions of the world into the church, even into the communion service.
The Corinthians were acting spiritual but they had zero love. I Corinthians 13 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Application: How is your spiritual walk? Is your life marked by love in your home, church, and community? Is your understanding of love shallow, weak, and incomplete like the Corinthians?
III. THE CONTENT OF LOVE
Now we come to the passage we will focus on in the next couple of weeks: 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…” Paul was going back to the basics with the Corinthians and teaching them what true love looked like. These former freedmen, army veterans, business owners, sailors, shipyard foremen, common laborers, and even prostitutes were saved but their old way of life was seeping back into their new life.
Sometimes people say, “So and so must not be a Christian because I don’t see any love in them. If you are saved, you will be a loving person. Sometimes they even point to Romans 5:5 “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Listen carefully: Just because you’re saved and you have the love of God poured into your hearts does not mean that loving others will be automatic. If that were so, we wouldn’t need this passage. You need both. You need to be saved and have the Holy Spirit pour God’s love into your hearts. But because we have lived so long in a loveless world, we need to learn and then practice actions of love. Again, the Holy Spirit is there to help us. Without obedience, there will only be love within and selfishness, self-righteousness, pride, wrath, lust, and greed without.
Invitation: Are you saved? Are you practicing love
OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This is the first weekend of the New Year and I want to preach a message titled “OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD.” Hopefully, it will awaken us to come out of the graveyard of excuses and inspire us to step out into the New Year with Christ.
Luke 9 57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
Bridge: This is the time of the year when people everywhere make New Year’s resolutions to change their lives, to break some bad habits, and even to start some good ones. According to some surveys, about 70% of the resolutions are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions of growing in Christ and following Him. Another year comes and another year goes and still there’s no progress. Today’s message is going to help us come out of the graveyard of excuses and step out into the New Year with Christ.
Context: The passage we just read took place during the early part of Jesus’ ministry. Multitudes of people were flocking to Him. It seemed like the movement was growing by leaps and bounds. Just then Jesus had an encounter with three different individuals. Each had a desire to follow Him but unfortunately had second thoughts and went back to the graveyard of excuses. Sadly, not much has changed. Even today people begin with a resolve to follow Christ but for one reason or another, they go back to their old lives. They refuse to leave the graveyard of comfort, obligations, and approval.
Question: Are you buried somewhere in the graveyard of excuses? What resolutions have you made for 2017? Sometimes people say – “I just don’t make any resolutions anymore. They don’t work for me anyways.” To me, it’s like saying – “I just don’t have any destinations anymore. They don’t work for me anyways. I just get in my car and drive!” That’s ridiculous. The problem is not with the resolutions as much as it is with the list of excuses we make. By the way, before you can leave the graveyard of excuses in following Christ, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death. Are you saved?
3 common graves in the graveyard of excuses:
#1. GRAVE OF COMFORT
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”
Background: At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple but Jesus knew his real intention. Apparently, he was approaching Jesus as a rabbi. Matthew even tells us that he addressed Jesus as “Teacher.” In those days, and even in some settings today, a rabbi would gather around him a set of young followers. Their job was simply to take care of their master’s needs. It was a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices and obligations. Yes, they had to follow the rabbi wherever he went but all their basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter were taken care of.
Jesus knew what this young man was thinking. It would’ve been very easy for him to say – “Alright. Come on. Just do what everyone is doing.” Instead, he abruptly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Please don’t misunderstand this. This was not a call to give up your Sleep Number bed or your Tempur-Pedic pillow for Jesus. This was not a call to renounce all the material comforts of life and choose to wander around and live under a tree like some hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble right now. What Jesus was asking this young man was – Do you really understand what it means to follow me? To follow me, you have to live an uncomfortable life where–
- It may be comfortable to tolerate some old sin in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
- It may be comfortable to hang on to some old habit in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
- It may be comfortable to hold on to some grudge against someone in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
- It may be comfortable to live by some old dreams and desires in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
I can go on and on. What Jesus was telling this young man was – “Following me will not be comfortable. It may get lonely, painful, tough, and disappointing but here’s the promise – I’ll be with you.”
Even today, people want to follow Jesus as long as it is comfortable. They want an easy life with minimal changes, responsibilities, and sacrifices. They want to go forward with God only if they don’t have to give up anything. They want to go deep in their walk only if they don’t have to do too much digging. They want to sacrifice only if someone else is footing the bill. By the way, they’re the first ones to check out when things get tough.
Application: Do you really know what it means to follow Christ? Are you willing to take the uncomfortable way? Again, this was not a call to give up all the comforts of life and all the finer things of life. You can have all the comforts of life and finer things of life but the comforts of life and the finer things of life cannot have you. How much are you willing to sacrifice?
#2. GRAVE OF OBLIGATIONS
59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
Background: At first reading that sounds like a strange request! Is the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! Not really. What the man was really saying was that “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I can follow you.” This man was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down. Right now I have too much on my plate. Once I can take care of all that, then I’m set to follow Jesus.” By the way, this was a delusion because things would never settle down for him. What would happen after this man buried his father? Now they’d have to divide up the inheritance. He may be responsible to make sure that everyone gets his or her fair share. It’s rare that siblings ever get along in such matters. Someone would be bound to claim “unfair.” Now he would have to smooth out any hurt feelings. Who knows but the matter might end up in a court of law. That would be the end of it.
Jesus recognized his excuse. So listen to his response – 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How unthinkable?!! Was Jesus actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. It is always about taking care of those who are helpless. But in this situation, the man’s obligation was going to keep him from going forward with Christ. The answer was very clear – “Let the dead bury their own dead.” What does that mean? Jesus was being rhetorical. He was telling the man to stop focusing on every trivial or essential concern of life and to follow Him.
Here’s the point: Life has a way of keeping us obligated, especially if we’re looking for excuses. If there’s not one obligation, there will be another:
- After the children grow up
- After they get done with college
- After they get married
- After the grandkids start school. It never ends!
Application: Are you waiting for things to settle down in your life? What excuses comes to your mind when you think about going forward with God? What noble obligation is keeping you from following Christ?
#3. GRAVE OF ONE LAST GLANCE
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
Background: Again, on first reading, this sounds like a reasonable request – “Let me go and tell bye to my family and friends. How can that be so bad? At least they’ll know where I am.” Don’t misunderstand. This was not about bidding farewell to loved ones. It was about taking that one last glance. What’s so bad about that? The world is full of people who took that one last glance like Lot’s wife. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what she saw. All it says is that she turned into a pillar of salt. She was petrified forever. Even today people turn into a pillar of salt with that one last glance. What do they see?
- Some see Pain; things that have wounded them deeply and they feel they can’t leave until they heal.
- Some see Regrets; things they wish they had done differently and they feel they can’t leave until they fix them.
- Some see Failure; places where they messed up in life and they feel their past would repeat again.
- Some even see Disappointed Faces; people in their life that are hurt because they’re following Christ and they feel they can’t leave them.
Luke 14 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Matthew 10 34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
What advice did Jesus give to this man? 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus used an imagery from farming to make a very important point. Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church shared with me how when he used to plow with a mule, he was told to keep his eye on a point in front and not look back. When he kept his eyes forward on the mark, he had straight lines behind but if he were to look back at the lines, then the lines would be crooked.
Invitation: Are you looking back instead of going forward? Is Jesus your goal or do you keep looking back? Are you ready to come out of the graveyard of excuses?
- Instead of the grave of comfort, “deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Christ.”
- Instead of the grave of obligation, “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of you.”
- Instead of the grave of one last glance, “run the race, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”
Are you saved