The Joy-Producer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE JOY-PRODUCER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

The Joy Producer

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 did7 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 Abidan Shah

LOVE IS SERVING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love-is-serving

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; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 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.

life-togetherHere’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 Abidan Shah

LOVE IS CHEERING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love-is-cheering-2Introduction:  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; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 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 Abidan Shah

LOVE IS THE GREATEST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

love-is-the-greatestIntroduction:  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. 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. 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. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 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? 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! 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. 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. 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. 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: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 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 Abidan Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

out-of-the-graveyard-2Introduction: 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

Battle of the Gods: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Pastor Abidan Shah

BATTLE OF THE GODS: HOW THE TRINITY CHANGES EVERYTHING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

battleofthegods1Introduction: Today we’re starting a brand new series in our ongoing study of the Life of Christ. It’s called “BATTLE OF THE GODS: HOW THE TRINITY CHANGES EVERYTHING.” We’re going to deal with a critical battle that is taking place over the doctrine of the Trinity (God is Father, Son, Spirit, three and yet one). And don’t think for a moment that this will be some deep theological discourse, hard to follow. Each message will be very applicable for our salvation, our church, our marriage, our family, and our world.

John 5   18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

Bridge: Have you ever been misunderstood or misrepresented by somebody? How did you feel? Annoyed, angry, and even amused. It happened to me some time back. I had seen this person many times around town. She was always friendly towards me. We had even talked briefly several times through the years. Then one day our conversation went beyond the pleasantries and she said something about my job at the hospital! I replied – “No ma’am. I work at a church in town.” All this time she assumed that I was a doctor at the local hospital. She thought she knew me but she didn’t. There is one person who is constantly misunderstood and misrepresented more than anyone else in this world. He is God. Even those who claim to believe in Him and talk with Him from time to time don’t really know that He is the Triune God – three persons in one essence. In this series we’re going to learn about this cardinal doctrine of Christianity, the Trinity.

Question: What do you believe about God? When you pray, which God are you praying to? Some Supreme Being or the Triune God? Someone might say – “I really don’t care. God knows my heart even if I don’t have it right.” Would you say that to your spouse or your best friend – “I don’t care to know who you are”? Are you saved? You don’t have to understand the Trinity to be saved but if you are saved, you will believe in the Trinity.

Today’s message is to help us understand the nature and the significance of this Battle of the Gods. 3 questions we will seek to answer:

I. WHY IS THERE A BATTLE OF THE GODS?

18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Background: Monotheism, belief in one God, was a cardinal doctrine of the Old Testament. The first of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” and the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” Throughout the Old Testament God repeatedly reminded His people Israel to remember that He is one. Isaiah 45 says, 5 “I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.” Zechariah 14:9 says, “And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—‘The LORD is one,’ And His name one.” When you read all these passages it makes sense why the Jewish people were angry with Jesus. He not only broke the Sabbath but He clearly referred to God as His Father, making Himself equal with God. In their minds this was a direct assault on the Ten Commandments, the Shema, and their entire Old Testament faith. The only solution for such a crime was the death penalty.

Were they right for wanting to kill Jesus? Of course not. Even though the doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the Old Testament, many passages in the OT tell us that God exists in more than one person.

  • In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”
  • In Genesis 3:22 God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.”
  • In Genesis 11:7 God said,Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language.”
  • In Isaiah 6:8 Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?”
  • In Psalm 45:6-7 the psalmist says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever….Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness….”
  • In Psalm 110:1 David says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’”

The fact that God is one and yet more was always there in the Old Testament.

Here’s a deeper question: Why didn’t God just lay out the doctrine of the Trinity from the beginning? This way there wouldn’t be any battle. 2 reasons why didn’t:

#1. The people of God were not ready for the full exposure of the doctrine of the Trinity. Think about a newborn baby. He/she needs food and nourishment, starting with mother’s milk or bottle milk and then gradually moving up to baby food, which can be nasty. Why don’t we just give the baby a nice juicy steak, with a fork and a knife? The baby is not ready for it. It will even hurt himself/herself. So also the damage the people of God may have done to the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, and the Holy Spirit. In His divine wisdom, God knew that they were not ready for all that information. In His divine mercy, He chose to reveal it slowly and carefully.

#2. God reveals Himself gently and progressively.

I heard someone once say – “Be careful of someone who shares everything about themselves in the first five minutes of your encounter.”

II. WHICH IS THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BATTLE?

Here is the doctrine of the Trinity in three statements:

  1. God is three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  2. Each person is fully God.
  3. There is one God.

I don’t have the time to go through every verse on each point. Error in understanding comes when any of the three statements are denied.

Error #1 God is three separate gods. That’s definitely not true.

Error #2 God is just one person who appears to us in 3 different forms. That’s a heresy called Modalism or Sabellianism.

Error #3 The Son or the Spirit or both are inferior to the Father.

  • The heresy of Arianism claimed that the Son was created by the Father and was not divine.
  • The heresy of subordinationism claimed that the Son was eternal and divine but not equal to the Father in being and attribute. The Son actually derived His being from the Father.
  • The heresy of adoptionism claimed that the Son was not eternal but just a man that God adopted at the baptism. He was not divine.
  • The heresy over the Holy Spirit that claimed that the Holy Spirit came only from the Father. Later it was fixed as the Filioque clause to say that He also came from the Son.

Application: Which side of the battle are you on? Do you have the right view of God?

III. DOES THE BATTLE OF THE GODS MATTER?

It absolutely does!

  1. If Jesus was not fully God, then how could He as just a man bear the wrath of God against all our sins?
  2. If Jesus was not fully God, then we can place our faith in just some human being for our salvation?
  3. If Jesus was not fully God, then how can we worship Him and pray to Him? Yes we can pray to Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:2  “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” 2 Corinthians 12   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.

And yes you can pray to the Holy Spirit because He is God as well.

  1. Because of the Trinity
  • We know that God can relate with us because He has related within Himself since the beginning of time.
  • We understand the unity in a marriage where two come together and become one flesh.
  • We understand the unity in a church where many come together and yet we are one body.
  • We understand the unity between Christ and His church.

Do you know the living and true God? Do you know the Triune God? God wants us to know Him for who He really is

It’s Time to Grow Up by Pastor Abidan Shah

IT’S TIME TO GROW UP by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

itstimetogrowupIntroduction: It’s only been a handful of times that I have opened a message with a remark like – “This is probably one of the most important messages I’ve ever preached.” That could be said about today’s message and you’ll know why real soon. Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 2 for our message titled – “IT’S TIME TO GROW UP.”

Mark 2   18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.

Bridge: How many of y’all have kids or grandkids 1-2 years of age? How do you react when they take their first step from the coffee table to the couch or get their first taste of lemon? You clap for them or ooh and aww over them. Now what if they are 10-20 years of age and still want you to do that? Unless they have some medical condition that is hampering their mental or emotional growth, it’s not the same, is it? Most Christians are 10-20 years or even more in their faith but they still act like they are 1-2 years old. They still want you to clap for them when they spiritually stumble from the coffee table to the couch and they still want you to call them cute when they make spiritually funny faces. In fact, they question your spiritual growth because you can walk without stumbling and have better control over your taste buds.

Context: In the message today we will see how the disciples of John and the Pharisees were shocked that Jesus was eating and drinking at Levi/Matthew’s house with tax collectors and sinners instead of fasting and keeping all the Jewish laws of purification and separation like them. So they came and asked Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” Jesus’s reply was earth shattering!

Before we look at His reply: Are you growing up in biblical and spiritual maturity or are you content with stumbling from the coffee table to the couch? Are you growing up in wisdom and knowledge in Christ or are you content making funny faces tasting lemons? There can’t be growth unless there is birth. Have you been born again? Are you saved?

Jesus’s reply to the disciples of John and the Pharisees can be divided into 3 parts:

I. IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE.

19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

Background: Before the coming of Jesus, the Old Testament prophets and people were preparing themselves with mourning and fasting for the coming of the Messiah. There was no celebration just solemn expectation. Once Jesus came, all that changed. To explain this Jesus invoked the imagery of a wedding celebration.

Illustration: As a pastor, I’ve performed many weddings. Before the wedding, the overall atmosphere is tense. People don’t eat much because they don’t want to overeat and get sick. They are even carefully about drinking because they don’t want to spill something over their nice clothes. There’s always someone who’ll say, “I’ll run to the gas station and get a soda,” and someone is quick to remind him, “The wedding starts in thirty minutes. Better off staying here.” If the bride and groom are getting ready somewhere else, people are constantly looking out the windows and checking their watches to make sure everything is still on time. People pace back and forth. Some stay seated, wringing their hands, and others are afraid to sit and get wrinkles in their clothes. Then as the music starts playing and the grandmothers and mothers are being seated, I am usually huddled quietly with the guys on the other side of the door. Everything is spoken in a whisper and everyone is checking his zipper. Someone without fail says, “I’m ready to get this over with.” The atmosphere is one of fear that something might just go wrong.

Doesn’t that remind you of many churches and Christians? Don’t get too excited, you’ll mess things up. Just be quiet and stay seated. Don’t go anywhere because you might get locked out. Everybody talks in whispers and checks their spiritual zippers. The atmosphere is tense and stressful to say the least. We call it reverence but it has nothing to do with the holiness of God. It misses the true mood of Christianity.

Let’s return to our wedding imagery. What happens once the bride and groom arrive and the wedding is over and reception starts? Everybody is excited. Nobody is quiet. People talk loud. They get food and drinks. No one cares if they get some on themselves. No one checks the zippers anymore. There is laughter and celebration and excitement. What Jesus was saying is – “I’m here. Let the party begin.”

Unfortunately, many church services look more like a funeral service than a wedding celebration and many Christians look like they just buried someone.

For e.g. Two boys were walking by the church. They didn’t know a thing about Christianity and decided to go in and see what went on. After a few minutes, one said to the other – “The people look like someone must have died.” To which the other replied – “You think it’s that man hanging on the cross?”

Now someone might say – “Shouldn’t we have a sense of reverence?” Listen again to Jesus in verse 20 “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” Meaning: Jesus was referring immediately to the cross and then later to His ascension. Either way, the fasting or reverence is one of excitement and personal holiness rather than grief and hopelessness.

Application: Do people see a spirit of celebration in you? Or are you like the little toddler who cries every time mommy leaves the room? Do people see the joy and excitement of Christ in you?

II. IT’S TIME TO STOP MIXING THE OLD WITH THE NEW.

21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse.

Background: There is something else that Jesus was telling these disciples of John and the Pharisees who came to question Him about the party He just had with the tax collectors and sinners at Matthew’s home. He was telling them that you could no longer bring old laws and rituals and mix them with the new life that He has brought. To explain this Jesus invoked the imagery from clothing.

Illustration: I remember growing up having to get patches to put on some pants because they had a tear. This was before all the preshrunk stuff we have today. My grandmother knew how to sow and she made sure that the patch had been soaked and would not shrink anymore. If she didn’t do that, the patch would shrink and pull the pant cloth from all directions. Back in the days of Jesus, the clothes were not as thick and durable as today and the cloth would easily tear. The point is that you cannot take a new cloth and stitch it on some old already shrunk cloth and expect it to work.

What was Jesus saying here? You cannot take the new life that He had brought and stitch on the old way of life of Judaism and expect it to work. It will tear it away. There is no happy middle ground. There is no saving the old. The old piece of garment has served its purpose and has to be retired. You cannot save the old laws and reapply them. You cannot take the old sacrificial system and reapply it. What I am talking about here is probably the most important and difficult matters in the study of the Bible – What to do about the Old Testament?

Does this matter today? There are Christians who get caught up in a lot of unnecessary distraction that has nothing to do with Christianity. Some try to keep the Old Testament dietary laws and rituals and prayers. Others get caught up into the various feasts and festivals of the Jewish people. Some go even further and get caught up into Hebrew names, the Roots of names. There are yet others who are always looking for patterns, number combinations, and secret codes. This is no laughing matter. Some actually deny the Trinity. That is very serious!

Please don’t misunderstand. The Old Testament is our foundation. I preach from it often. There’s much we can learn about how God worked with His individual people back then, something we can’t find in the New Testament. We also learn much about the nature of God from the Old Testament. We learn much about how Christ was promised and prophesied ever since the beginning of time. We learn much about how He worked with His people Israel and He still has many promises waiting for them in the future. In fact, it’s a shame that many Christians totally ignore the Old Testament. Having said that, we can’t go back to that period and start interacting with God as if Christ has not come. That is beyond foolish! In fact, those who fuss over food, the Bible calls him weak. Listen to Romans 14   1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him…8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

Colossians 2   16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Hebrews 9   10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Hebrews 10   1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect…14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Application: Are you trying to mix the Old and the New? Are you fascinated with trivial things instead of focusing on Christ? Do you know Christ more today than yesterday?

III. IT’S TIME TO CHANGE THE CONTAINERS.

22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

Background: There is one more thing that Jesus wanted the disciples of John and the Pharisees to understand. It was this – the container of the truth has to change. To explain this he invoked the imagery of the wine and wineskins. If you know anything about fermentation you’ll understand that it makes the substance enlarge and grow in volume. The old wineskins could not enlarge anymore. If you poured in new wine, the container will burst. It needed a new container that will grow with the fermentation and will be able to withstand the pressure.

What is the point? The doors were always open to the Gentiles before the coming of Christ but there was a certain way you had to come. With the coming of Jesus Christ, the doors have been flung wide open. No laws, purification, rituals, sacrifices, or circumcision is necessary. “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

That’s exactly what we are doing at Clearview. It’s still the gospel wine not water or orange juice or diesel. We still hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, the doctrine of the Trinity, the salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, literal heaven and hell, etc. But we are doing things in a new way. Is it the best way, right way, New Testament way? Who knows? It’s just a new wineskin. One day even this would be done away with. What matters is whether or not you have received Christ as your Savior. That’s why our motto is “MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE.

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Intellectual)

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters1Introduction: Today I’m starting a brand new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” For those of you who are new, we’ve been studying the life of Christ from all 4 gospels. We began this series about 2 years ago and we’re not even half way through. Somebody asked me when do you think we will get to the crucifixion and resurrection? Maybe when I’m ready for the nursing home!

John 2   23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man…5 34 “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 “I do not receive honor from men.”

Bridge: Have you ever said – “I wish I knew how to reach so and so but I don’t” or “I wish I could understand how this person thinks or what it’ll take to win them to Christ but I’m at a loss.” In this series we’ll learn how Jesus engaged individuals with the gospel.

Context: The passages we just read are like brackets. The first bracket is John 2:24-25 which says, “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” 2 things are underscored here about Jesus. First, Jesus knew all men (plural). Meaning: He knew every single human being, their nature, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and deepest darkest secrets. Second, Jesus knew what was in man (singular). Meaning: He knew what was inside human beings. He saw the darkness of sin within. Immediately following the first bracket, 4 individuals have an encounter with Jesus – a religious man, a woman with a horrible past, a brash rich person, and a sick hopeless person. Jesus met each of them where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. Then comes the second bracket in John 5:34 where Jesus Himself says, “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 I do not receive honor from men.” Meaning: Jesus was not interested in their endorsement or their adulation. He simply wanted to save them.

Some of y’all are looking at me thinking – “What does this have to do with my life?” Daily God brings individuals in our lives that need to be engaged with the gospel. They’re all unique. They have their abilities and accomplishments. They have their quirks and curiosities. But one thing they all have in common is sin and the need for a Savior. It is our responsibility to engage them with the gospel and bring them to Christ.

Question: Are you engaging people around you with the gospel? When was the last time you actually encountered someone you knew needed Christ? What did you do? Did you run from them? Did you condemn them, maybe in your heart? Or did you engage them? Are you praying for them? Do you pray that God will bring lost people into your life? Are you that individual who needs an encounter with Christ?

In this 4-part series we will meet 4 characters that had an encounter with Jesus, starting with man named Nicodemus:

 I. WHO WAS NICODEMUS?

John 3:1 “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night…”

Background: Right there we have more than enough to construct his profile.

  • Pharisees – There is considerable debate in current scholarship over who were the Pharisees. From my studies I’ve found that the Pharisees were a popular sect of the Jewish people that had been around for a couple of hundred years by the time of Jesus. Some say that their name came from the Hebrew “paras” which means, “to separate,” as in separation from the sinners, the compromisers with the world. Along with the Torah (the Pentateuchal Law), they also had an interpretive tradition (oral and written) that had been “paradosis,” or “handed down” from their fathers. When you read the gospels you notice that they were particularly strict about purity issues, such as proper hand washing before meals, laws about food, and tithing. According to Josephus, the Pharisees were a lot more popular with the people than the Sadducees or the Essenes. Maybe, it was because they accepted the entire Old Testament (Law, Prophets, and Writings). Maybe, its because they believed in the resurrection of the dead, angels, and fate and free will. Maybe, it was because they challenged the people to live a godly life but also found loopholes to help them get around the system. Even though the Sadducees controlled the temple, the Pharisees also had a lot of say in the matter. Many of them were very wealthy and influential.
  • Ruler of the Jews – influential, powerful, and wealthy.
  • Came to Jesus – Sent to Investigate, Clarification, or Win Jesus over.
  • Came by Night – Maybe he was busy all day. Maybe he didn’t want to be disturbed. Maybe he was afraid of what someone might think. Maybe it was all of the above.
  • First Words“and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’” Maybe he was trying to flatter Jesus. Maybe he was being genuinely honest. I think he was being honest because a Jewish person would have been very reluctant to use God’s name in vain.

Many people around us are like Nicodemus. They are moral but empty. They are powerful but weak. They have what they want but not what they need. They are willing to check it out but leery and suspicious of charlatans and fakes. They are searching but guarded. They are not bad people just lost people. How does the church typically respond to such people? Either we condemn them or we ignore them.

Question: Do you know some Nicodemus in your life? Can you see below the surface? How are you engaging him or her? Are you praying for him or her?

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM? 

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Typically people think that Jesus was blowing Nicodemus off by ignoring his complement and saying – “Stop flattering me. You’re lost and you need to get saved.” Not true. In actuality, Jesus accepted Nicodemus’ complement. Remember his first words – “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” How did Jesus reply? “Most assuredly, I say to you” which is actually “Amen, Amen.” What Jesus was saying was – “You’re right Nicodemus. Just as it’s impossible for me to do what I am doing unless God is with me, it’s also impossible for you to see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.” You cannot insult people into the kingdom of God.

John 3:4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Again, people assume that Nicodemus was just being sarcastic. Yes and no. Yes, he was pointing out the impossibility of being born again. No, he was not being just sarcastic. He truly did not understand what it meant to be saved. You cannot assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo.

John 3:5   Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Once again, “Most assuredly, I say to you” is actually “Amen, Amen.” But listen to how Jesus adapted to Nicodemus’ words – “Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Now Jesus used the word “enter” – “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” You have to adapt to the level of your Nicodemus. Not only that but Jesus also brought up another imagery that Nicodemus was familiar with – “water baptism.” Please don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not implying that you have to be baptized in water to be born again. He was saying that just as “John’s baptism” was the sign of a new beginning, so also Nicodemus will have to step into a new beginning. But, this is not an ordinary new beginning. It has to be one led by the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is not on water baptism but on the Spirit’s work.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.’ Something is lost in translation here. It’s not “You Nicodemus must be born again” but it’s “You (plural) must be born again.” Jesus was referring to all those people who believed in His name because of the signs He did but they did not believe in Jesus. Meaning: There was a detached belief there. It was more faith in His deeds than in His person. They were lost. You cannot assume that just because a person says he/she believes in Jesus that they are saved.

8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” This is a very interesting statement. The Greek word for wind and spirit is exactly the same. Jesus used play on words to tell Nicodemus that he cannot rationally understand how the new birth happens but it happens. You have to remind people that salvation may be mysterious but it’s real.

John 3:9   Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…” Here Jesus brought up the imagery from the OT when God sent fiery serpents in the Israelite camp because the people had spoken against God and Moses. Many died. But when they pleaded, God in His love also provided the remedy. Moses had to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. If anyone looked at the serpent, they lived. Jesus was giving Nicodemus a preview of how He was going to be lifted up on the cross. 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.” A Salvation without a cross is no salvation at all.

Finally, here come the most famous verse of the Bible – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus reminded Nicodemus that God loved him.

Illustration: D. L. Moody was probably the greatest soul winner who ever lived. About the same time as Moody was preaching a young man from England named Henry Moorehouse got saved, began preaching and God began to use him mightily. Moorehouse came to America to preach and offered Moody to preach for him. Moody didn’t think that Moorehouse could preach and just put him off. Moorehouse sent another letter and another letter. Finally, Moody had to be out of town and allowed Moorehouse to preach. When Moody returned, the church was powerfully moved. Moody’s wife told him that he had preached 2 sermons and both were from John 3:16. She added, “He preaches a little different from what you do. He tells sinners that God loves them.” Moody replied, “Well…he’s wrong.” She answered, “You’ll agree with him when you hear him because he backs everything he says with the Word of God.” Moody reluctantly agreed to go and hear Moorehouse. Sure enough, Moorehouse turned to John 3:16. Later Moody said, “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out, and I could not keep back the tears.” Moorehouse preached for several more nights from the same passage and Moody’s ministry took on a softer deeper turn. Henry Moorehouse is best remembered as the “man who moved the man who moved millions.” You can never underestimate the power of God’s love.

Are you engaging people with the love of God shown in Christ on the cross?

Have you received the love of God shown in Christ on the cross

Choices that Lead to Happy Endings by Pastor Abidan Shah

CHOICES THAT LEAD TO HAPPY ENDINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

choicesthatleadtohappyendings

Introduction: This is the final message in our series through the Sermon on the Mount. Many of y’all have shared with me how much these messages have impacted your life! No wonder it’s called the greatest sermon ever preached!

Matthew 7   13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Bridge: I don’t know if you’ve ever done this but a few months back I stopped by a gas station for gas. I pulled in at the pump, went in, stood in line, paid for the gas, walked out, got in my truck, and left. As I am driving I kept feeling like something wasn’t right. Then, it hit me! I forgot to get gas. Immediately I turned around and pulled in at the same pump. Thank goodness no one had come in behind me or it would’ve been “Merry Christmas!” for that person. Folks, that’s exactly what happens when you come to church, hear the Word of God, understand the Word of God, but when it comes time to apply the Word of God, you get up, walk out, and go back to your life! Howard Hendricks used to say and I’ve heard Rick Warren say it too – “Observation and Interpretation without Application is Abortion!”

Context: In Matthew 5-7 Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever – the 8 Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek…), the Salt and Light passage (You are the Salt of the Earth, You are the Light of the World), the 6 Antithesis (You’ve heard it said…but I say to you…), the importance of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father in Heaven…), the importance of marriage, how to deal with anxiety and worry, and the danger of judging others. After preaching a master sermon, in these final 15 verses Jesus laid out the application. The people had a choice to make – Choose Jesus and His Words and have a happy ending in life or reject Him and be on the Road to Destruction.

Question: You’ve heard many sermons and will hear many more. What choice have you made? Have you chosen to follow Jesus and His Words or have you chosen to live your life your way? Are you a doer of the Word or are you only a hearer of the Word? Is there a change in your life? Are you saved? If not, what is keeping you from it?

In this message, we will see the 4 choices Jesus gave to the people, 4 choices that lead to happy endings. Let the Holy Spirit make you a doer of the Word:

I. TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED. 

13 “Enter by the narrow gate…”

Background: Typically, this passage is interpreted as an invitation to salvation – “Come through the narrow gate and get saved!” That may be implied but it’s not the main focus of this section. Jesus wanted His listeners to understand that the life He offered was amazing and wonderful but it wasn’t easy and cheap. To live this kind of life, they would have to choose to do things differently – “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Meaning: Don’t think for a moment that the standards are lower for this kind of life – “You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t murder’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t be angry’…“You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t commit adultery’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t even look at a woman with lust’…You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I say to you, ‘love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’” In other words, Jesus was no charlatan – “Sign on the dotted line and all your problems will be gone forever.”

Christian life is not a convenient life. The gate is narrow, the road is difficult, and not everyone you know will join you. Having said that, it is worth it – 14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Illustration: “I have decided to follow Jesus” from the Nagas who were headhunters. “Though none go with me, still I will follow” was a tough line for them.

Application: Are you looking for easy Christianity? Are you looking for everyone to understand before you follow? Are you willing to pay the price?

II. GUARD YOURSELF AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS. 

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing…”

Background: It seems odd that Jesus would bring up the subject of false prophets in His application. Why did He think that it was critical to warn his listeners against them? Jesus raised the bar of righteousness for His listeners. He raised the standard of holiness. He did not promise a cheap and easy life. But, He was not a legalist. There’s a world of difference. Legalists are people who come with man-made lists and impose personal morality and rules. Unlike Jesus who came to set people free, these false prophets would come to bind people and enslave them in rules and regulations. They would use guilt and shame to control the masses. Jesus called them the “ravenous wolves.”

Illustration: Many times people come with some rule and regulation and personal morality and standard and they try to convince me to implement that at Clearview. I listen and filter it through the mesh of grace and mercy.

Grape vines

Grape vines

Yes – My Jesus has a “rod and a staff” but they comfort me. Your rod and staff beat people over the head.

Thistles

Thistles

What did Jesus do? He switched the analogy and gave them the litmus test for such false prophets. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Meaning: Look at their lives. See if their teachings are working in their own lives. Jesus was not implying that you have to wait the whole season until harvest time to figure out what the fruit is. “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” If it’s got thorns, then it’s not a grape vine. If it has prickles and spikes, then it’s not a fig tree. 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Here’s the point: Is their message changing their own life first? They are the test, not you. If they are not walking towards Christ, then stop following them. If they are not obeying Christ, then stop following them. If you don’t see Christ in them, then stop following them.

Application: Whom are you following? Is it Jesus or is it someone or something else? Are you drawing closer to Christ or further away from Him?

III. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE TO OBEDIENCE. 

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Background: Can you imagine the reaction in the crowd when Jesus said those words? 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” There’s Brother “Amen” and there’s Sister “Hallelujah.” There’s Mr “Praise God” and there’s Mrs “Bless Jesus.” They’re sitting right up close to Jesus. Every time Jesus pauses for a breath, they are ready to chime in with a spiritual anecdote. They are always ready to quote some bible verse. Even though they are addressing Him with the double vocative “Lord, Lord,” which is the LXX reference for “Yahweh,” the name for God, they don’t really mean that. Jesus can see their hearts and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him. They’re saying all that not to please Him but to impress Him. Because, if they truly believed that He was God, they would obey the “will of His Father in Heaven.” Jesus calls them out because pretend spirituality cannot substitute obedience.

But, there’s something else that cannot substitute obedience – 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ There’s Brother “Gift of prophecy.” There’s Sister “I know everything about the end times.” There’s Mr “Bind Satan.” There’s Mrs “Seen miracles everyday.” They’re also in the crowd and they’re always telling the same worn out, clichéd stories. They even add the phrase “in Jesus name” to legitimize their accounts. Jesus can see their hearts as well and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him either. They’re saying all that not to praise Him but to prove themselves to Him. What’s His reply? 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Jesus calls them out as well because spiritual activities cannot substitute obedience.

Application: What are you substituting for obedience? Spiritual lingo, Spiritual knowledge, or Spiritual experiences. What will Jesus say to you on the Day of Judgment – “I never knew you,” “Depart from Me” or “Well done good and faithful servant”?

IV. TRIALS PROVE US NOT DESTROY US.

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

Background: In conclusion, Jesus gives a parable of two men who built homes, one on the rock and the other on the sand. The Rock represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus and obey Him. The Sand represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus but disobey Him. Both of them face a hurricane with rains, floods, and heavy winds. Trials are not selective. They come to all of us, to the saved and the unsaved. But what is the result? The house built on the rock stood but the house built on the sand fell and “great was its fall.” What is the point? Following Jesus will not exempt you from trials in life but it will prove your faith in trials.

In other words, your choices will lead to happy endings.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you taking the road less travelled? Are you guarding yourself against false teachers? Are you obeying Christ and His Word? Do you doubt His care in your life? “Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to Trust and Obey.”

The Propulsion Engine of the Church by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE PROPULSION ENGINE OF THE CHURCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

thepropulsionengineofthechurchIntroduction: This is our final message in our series – NO BENCHWARMERS – designed to encourage and challenge each of you to find a place of service in the church. Today’s message is called – THE PROPULSION ENGINE OF THE CHURCH.

Acts 6   1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Bridge: I’m not a sailor or a navy expert but from what little I know – every fast moving vessel on water has some kind of a propelling device. Sometimes it is as simple as a paddle wheel and other times it is as complex as a steam, diesel, or gas turbine. Warships and icebreakers even use nuclear reactors to produce this propulsion. How does it all work? The water surrounding the ship keeps it from moving forward and even drags it wherever the current wants it to go. These propellers thrust the water column away from the ship, which produces a reactive force that thrusts the ship forward.

Context: What does all that have to do with the message? The church is also surrounded by a water column – it’s the culture. It keeps the church from going forward and, if it moves, it’s usually by some crisis or problem that pulls the church away from its destination. God has given the church a propulsion engine. When it’s turned on, it creates a velocity against the column so strong that it actually causes a reactive force, a thrust, which moves the church forward. We think the column may sink the church but it’s actually instrumental in helping the propeller move the church forward at a rapid speed. Today we will learn what the propulsion engine of the church is.

Question: What do you believe about the church? Do you think it can move forward? Some people are so used to sinking ships or ghosts ships that they think it’s impossible for the church to move forward. Do you know what the propulsion engine of our church is? In the face of crisis, are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution? Before you can even talk about this engine, you need to be on the ship. Are you saved?

This is a unique message that will challenge you to change what you believe about the church. Instead of standing on the deck and complaining, it’s time you find your place of service. 3 things about the propulsion engine of the church:

I. THE CRISIS COLUMN IN THE CHURCH

1 “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying…”

Background: Which days is Luke referring to? He’s referring to the earliest days of the church, maybe within the first 5 years or so after the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in all His power and the Jerusalem church began to grow rapidly. Thousands got saved, miracles began happening, and the people were in one accord. Awesome isn’t?! Then it happened.“…there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists…” Who were the Hebrews and who were the Hellenists? The Hebrews were the local Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christians. Their ancestors either never left during the exile or they came back when Cyrus set them free and resettled in their homes. They had been living in Jerusalem for hundreds of years. The Hellenists were those Jewish people whose ancestors did not come back immediately after the exile. They settled wherever they were – Babylon, Persia, Egypt, Macedonia, etc. Maybe because of persecution or longing to be back in their ancestral homeland, they returned. Since they grew up outside Israel they had different ways of doing things – food, clothing, and traditions. Even their language was different. They mostly spoke Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic like the Hebrews. Ethnically, they were Jewish but culturally, they were Greeks. But here’s the beautiful thing – in spite of the differences, both the Hebrews and the Hellenists were together as one church. Isn’t that wonderful?! That’s how the church should be – different people serving the same Christ together.

But there was a problem: “…there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” What’s going on here? In Jewish society widows and orphans were first the responsibility of their own family and, if they didn’t have any family, then they were the responsibility of the community. As I mentioned, the Greek-speaking widows were part of those families that had moved to the Holy Land, Jerusalem, in their twilight years to die. Most of the time the men were the first to die and their wives did not have the support system they did back in their original home. Unlike the Hebrew widows, they were at the mercy of the synagogue or the local community. Maybe because of their high numbers or the language barrier or just oversight, the Greek-speaking widows felt overlooked. So what did these ladies do? They began to complain.

Ladies – Let me say a few things here: God has blessed you with certain abilities. One of them is observation or intuition. You can detect problems much faster than we men can. Sometimes we are too dense to notice. Another gift you have is empathy. You can feel the pain of others much better than we can. We have a one-track mind and many times we can be insensitive. But unless you filter your observation, intuition, and empathy through a sense of discernment, spiritual maturity, and self-control, you can cause great damage. Say for example, you see something wrong at church. What do you do? You can exercise discernment and overlook what doesn’t matter or have spiritual maturity and pray over the situation or just have self-control and say nothing. Unfortunately, what happens is this – you get home all upset and uptight. Your husband says – “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “Something’s wrong.” Now you unload. Guess what he tells you to do – “Just quit.” It’s a typical male response. “No! I don’t want to quit. You need to do something.” Depending on how much you fire him up or his personality, now he’s going to do something. By the way, this is a major reason why men don’t go to church or get involved at church. They don’t want to get caught up in some drama.

Please don’t misunderstand me – if it weren’t for the ladies, can you imagine what this place would look like? We men would not care about each other’s feelings and finally blow up this whole place. We need both men and women. Even Jesus had a group of ladies who assisted Him in His ministry. But, in this passage, the unity and survival of the first church was threatened because a group of widow ladies started complaining.

By the way, this passage has brought me a lot of hope through the years. If the early church – men and women who had been with Jesus, seen Him crucified and resurrected, received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, witnessed miracles every day – had problems, there’s hope for us. I used to get so discouraged in the early years when the church would have a problem and then I realized that it’s part of being a growing church.

Application: Do you see a problem? It’s normal. The question is – how should we handle that problem? Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?

II. THE PROPULSION ENGINE OF THE CHURCH 

2 “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples…”

Background: As the spiritual leaders of the congregation, they did not say – “We’re just preachers. We don’t do administration. This is beyond our expertise.” They took charge of the situation. This is the biblical model we follow at Clearview. As the pastor, I’m not here just to preach and visit. It’s also my responsibility to lead the administration and the management of this church. Let me clarify, I have wonderful help, especially in the financial management of the church. We have some very capable leaders that I trust with my life but I am called to lead. This is biblical. So, the twelve took charge but please don’t misunderstand – they weren’t the propulsion engine of the church.

“Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said…” “Let’s call a business meeting.” “Let’s take a vote.” Is that what they said? No. There’s a reason that small churches remain small. They are operating by an unbiblical idea that the church is a democracy where everyone has a say. Imagine if Moses had taken a vote – “How many of y’all want to leave Egypt?” Please don’t misunderstand – there’s a big difference between leading the sheep and driving the sheep, between bringing people along versus telling them what to do. The twelve did not order the people nor turn things over for them to decide because the congregation is not the propulsion engine of the church.

Listen to what they said – “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.” They were not saying that waiting on the Greek-speaking widows was beneath them. They were not saying that visiting people in need was not important. They were saying – We already have too much on our plates. We need help. Verse 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” Meaning: We need godly leaders from the Greek-speaking group to step up and help out. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. Their Greek names indicate that they were part of the Greek-speaking Jewish Christian group. Here’s a question: Why didn’t they see the needs of their widows? Why didn’t they do something about them already?

Question: Which ministry do you see struggling at Clearview? Is it affecting you? Why aren’t you doing something about it? “I guess I just won’t say nothing.” That’s not the point. You can be a part of the solution. Having said that, these seven were not the propulsion engine of the church.

So what is? Go back to verse 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” There’s your propulsion engine of the church – Prayer and Preaching and Teaching of the Bible. These propel the church forward. The propeller is not the goal. Prayer and Preaching and Teaching are not the goals of Clearview. They simply move the church forward. I’m blessed to pastor a church that understands this.

Application: Do you finally understand what moves this church? What are you doing to help this propulsion?

III. THE FORWARD THRUST OF THE CHURCH 

Stephen's stoning and Paul

Stephen’s stoning and Paul

Philip and the Ethiopian ruler

Philip and the Ethiopian ruler

7 “Then the word of God spread…” Meaning: The propeller of prayer and preaching and teaching of the Bible started spinning again. “…and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem…” Meaning: The column of crisis did not sink the ship but actually helped the ship to move forward with even more speed. But there’s more – “and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” There were as many as 8000 priests and 10,000 Levites in Palestine at the time. The temple was being run by crooks and they were not being used. They were barely surviving. But when they heard that the church was doing what the temple was supposed to do, they came to Christ and started helping the church. Crisis and problems are not the end. They are instrumental to propel the church forward.

But it’s not over yet. Remember the first two men they chose from the Greek-speaking Jewish group? The first one was Stephen. 8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. How did the opposition deal with him? They cast him outside the city to stone him and the young man watching their clothes was Saul, who later became Paul. How about the second one, Philip? He led the Ethiopian ruler to Christ. He opened the door for the gentiles, all of us, to come in.

Application: What are you doing to move the ship forward? Are you saved

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