When the Body Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN THE BODY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When the Body Grows

Introduction:  Back in 2009 our family decided to take a trip out west. We were all able to get in my truck with our luggage under the bed cover. We all had plenty of room. It was a trip of a lifetime! The other day I said to Nicole – “That was so much fun! Maybe we can do that again one day.” To which she replied – “If we all tried to get in your truck and ride 5000 miles, we would kill each other.” So also with our church body. There was a time when 20 people on a Sunday morning was a good Sunday. The children’s ministry had 2 kids, that’s Rebecca and Abigail. We would count anything that breathed. Things have changed since then. God has truly blessed us and our church body keeps growing. If were not careful, we would kill each other. With that said, let’s turn to the book of Ephesians for our message titled “WHEN THE BODY GROWS.” We will do a series through this book soon but for now just a few verses from chapter 4.

Ephesians 4   14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Question: How do you relate with others in the body? What is your role in this church body at Clearview? Are you helping to edify this body in love? To be a part of this church body, you have to be saved. Are you saved?

Context: Before we can understand the meaning and application of the passage we just read, we need to first ask “Why did Paul write this letter to the Ephesians?” Although there is no clear consensus, most scholars believe that Paul’s main purpose was to promote unity and love among the Ephesian Christians. He wanted them to love one another with the same deep love with which they love God and Christ. Those two are interconnected. Why did he feel that this was important? Maybe because he sensed that they were losing their grip on love. Was he right? Yes. Just a few years later, listen to what John wrote in Revelation 2   1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: (that’s Jesus) 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” What will people say of our church a few years from now?

With that in mind, let’s return to the passage but let’s begin in Ephesians 4 verse 1 to truly understand what we read. 1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord…” Meaning: He is bound to Christ. He goes where Christ goes, does what Christ tells him to do, and says what Christ tells him to say. In other words, he is not writing on his own authority but Christ’s. What does Christ demand? 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” Paul begins this section by urging the Ephesians to remember the Christian graces. They are given in 2 Peter but some are here as well. Lowliness means humility. Nothing will destroy unity faster than pride. Gentleness means meekness. It is not weakness. Instead, it is knowing when to be angry and when not. Longsuffering means patience. It means don’t say what comes to your mind and your mouth. Bearing with one another in love means learn to tolerate each other and do it with “agape” love. Don’t resent the other person. What’s the goal? 3 “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It makes a difference in how you treat and interact with each other.

Application: Are you marked by Christian graces?

Now, if I were to end the message here and tell you to remember the Christian graces and be nice, kind, and loving to each other, it probably won’t last 10 minutes. Our Christian graces are linked to our foundational beliefs. We stand upon a 7-layered foundation:

  1. One Universal Church – 4 “There is one body…” Paul was dealing with issue of Jews and Gentiles coming together. So also today, there are many churches and denominations but if you are willing to receive Jesus Christ as your only Savior and God, then we are part of that one body.
  2. One Spirit4 “There is one body and one Spirit…” The same Holy Spirit indwells you who indwells me.
  3. One Hope – 4 “…just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” We have the same expectation that God will work his plan out for us and this world and Christ will ultimately come for us (the blessed hope and glorious appearing).
  4. One Master – 5 “one Lord…” The same second person of the godhead who became man and died for me and rose again on the third day is your master as well.
  5. One Faith – 5 “…one faith…” There is one settled body of truth which Jude calls 3 “…faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
  6. One Baptism – 5 “…one baptism…” This refers to the baptism Paul talks about in Romans 6 where we “were baptized into His death,” “buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised with him to “walk in newness of life.” The water baptism is the demonstration of this inward spiritual baptism.
  7. One God and Father – 6 “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Through Christ we have the same God the Father and we belong to the same family. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my father” but “our father.”

If you are willing to stand on this 7-layered foundation, we can work out any other disagreements we may have. If we step off any of these layers, no amount of pretend niceness is going to hold us together.

Application: Do you know our foundational beliefs?

Remember our Christian graces. Remember our Foundational Beliefs.

Remember our role in the body.  7 “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, (established churches along with signs and wonders and miracles. Today we don’t have this gift but we do have missionaries) some prophets, (communicated the divine revelation of God. Today we don’t have this gift because we have the New Testament but we do have revivalists) some evangelists, (preach and explain the good news of salvation like Philip the evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch but today Billy Graham) and some pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping (katartismos = “mending” restoring, putting things right) of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (This is my goal as the pastor/shepherd of Clearview) 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” It’s like a spiral. The more it turns the deeper the unity grows.

Our church body is growing but we need to be aware of our Christian graces, our foundational beliefs, and our role in the body.

Are you doing your part in the body? Are you in the body? Are you saved?

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.

Salt and Light: The Myth of a Secular Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If we want God’s blessing in our lives, it has to be the way of holiness and righteousness. We can’t go around that. In fact in Matthew 5:20 Jesus says to them, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees and the scribes at a high standard but Jesus said – “Your standard better be higher then theirs if you want to get to heaven.” Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon on the Mount

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN

THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Christian_CitizenFor the next couple of weeks we will be in Romans 13 for a miniseries, titled, “The Christian Citizen.” Sometime back I was riding with a couple of guys and we began to discuss the role of Christians in government and politics. I was not prepared for all the negatives I heard – “Christians should stay out of politics.” “We’re not of this world.” “It doesn’t really matter how you vote.” “We need to only focus on the gospel” “This world will soon burn up anyways.” Needless to say, it was very disheartening for me. This morning let’s see what God’s Word has to teach on this subject.

Romans 13:1-5   1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

The passage we just read has puzzled scholars for a long time. Why did Paul include chapter 13 in his letter? All of chapter 12 deals with our interaction with fellow Christians. All of chapter 14 and beyond again deals with our interaction with fellow Christians. But chapter 13 in the middle focuses on our interaction with the government and rulers and authorities. It appears to be out of place. But the more you study it you realize that Paul through the Holy Spirit had a very good reason for this.

Paul has been teaching us a lot about love and forgiveness and showing hospitality and not taking vengeance and not being overcome by evil but overcoming evil with good. All these values and principles are wonderful for our individual lives and personal relationships but when it comes to society in general, we need certain rules and boundaries and obligations and consequences. Without them our society will fall apart. Furthermore, you can have all the rules, boundaries, obligations, and consequences but if you don’t have godly rulers and authorities and government to enforce them then it will not work.

This message is vital for us living in this great nation in 2014. Let me ask you:

–       Would you agree that we are living in a time when people have lost faith in government and have for a while?

–       Would you agree that it does make a difference who is in authority?

–       Would you agree that majority of our young people have no clue about the issues that are taking place?

–       Would you agree that we are loosing our cherished freedoms because we haven’t spoken out as we should have?

Paul is teaching the Christians in Rome what it means to be good Christian Citizens.

3 important points we will see in this passage:

I. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD SEEK GOD’S WILL IN THIS WORLD.

Before we jump in to Romans 13, we need to backup to Romans 12:2 for a moment. That is the verse that sets the tone for the entire application section. It says, “And do not be conformed to this world (age). Meaning: The people of this world have their set of beliefs and values. Don’t let them squeeze you into their mold. Instead, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Meaning: Let there be an individual mind transformation. What next? “that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God – the GAP Test. Meaning: As you resist this world and are being transformed in your mind, go out and prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Most of us only think of God’s will in our personal context – work, relationships, health, etc. But the passage does not limit God’s will to only our personal lives. It also extends into the world.

God has a will for our world. Do you remember how Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6? “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Meaning: In heaven God’s will is always done. Our prayer is that God’s will would also be done on earth. That means that God’s will is not always done on earth. Some people like to say – “God’s will is always done.” That’s not true. If it were so, Jesus would not have asked His disciples to pray for it. Let me ask you a question – “Is it God’s will for babies to be aborted?” “Is it God’s will for people to loose their jobs?” “Is it God’s will for the institution of the family to be torn down?” “Is it God’s will for someone to rob you and get away?” Of Course Not!

When our mind is renewed, we will not only prove God’s will in our personal lives but we will also prove it in our community, our nation, and our world. We will become a Catalyst for proving God’s will on the earth. No wonder Paul put Romans 13 right in the middle. He is telling us “Don’t run from the world but go into the world and help prove the will of God for the world.”

What will this world look like then? Good and Acceptable and Perfect.

Declaration of IndependenceOur Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

Application: Do you think the world around you is good, acceptable, and perfect? Do you think our neighborhood is good, acceptable, and perfect? Is our nation and our government doing what is good, acceptable, and perfect will of God? Don’t blame the community, government, and the world for it. Let’s look into the mirror. The reason we are in a mess is because we as Christians have failed to make a difference.

Are you willing to take the blame for failing to prove God’s will in our community, our nation, and our world?

II. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE THAT GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL AUTHORITY.

1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Meaning: God is the source of all authority and order and He has placed every ruler in that position.

This was perfectly demonstrated in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. This King was ruthless and had taken the Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar DreamJewish people into exile. What Nebuchadnezzar did not know was that God had chosen him for that. (Jeremiah 27:6-7) Through Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego he had come to know the living and true God. He had acknowledged that there was no other God than the god of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But one day, he was walking in his royal palace and in pride he said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” 31 While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!  32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” The Bible says that very hour God’s word was fulfilled.

At the end of the 7 years, Nebuchadnezzar repented and he was restored and he made a commitment to always follow the King of heaven.

Another example comes from the New Testament when Jesus stood before Pilate as the chief priests and the scribes kept instigating the crowd to crucify Him. Jesus stood silent and Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:10-11 In other words, Jesus was saying, “You’re trying to help me? You are powerless. I gave you that scepter.”

Paul goes on to say in verse 2, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. At this time, Christians were not a majority. They were a growing minority where the governing authorities were pagan. Paul is instructing the Christians to submit to those in authority since God is the real person in authority.

What does that mean for us who live in America in 2014?

–       We need to make sure we elect people in authority who will represent God the best.

–       We need to respect all those in authority and teach our children to do the same.

–       We need to pray for all those in authority and encourage them whether local, state, or national.

III. AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, WE SHOULD SUBMIT AS UNTO THE LORD.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.

Background: Paul explains here that submission to authority is based on certain assumptions. The rulers are not to be a terror to good works. Their purpose is to encourage the good and punish the bad.

Eisenhower at Ohrdruf Concentration CampFor e.g. Immediately our mind goes to someone like Adolph Hitler who not only killed six million Jewish people but he also massacred other nationalities and even his own people.

Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  Hitler was a terror to the good people and raised the evil in power.

4 For he is God’s minister to you for good.

Paul uses the title God’s Minister to describe the person in governing authority.

Application: When you elect somebody are you looking for someone who comes the closest to being God’s Minister?

But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Meaning: There is something called evil. The ruler, whether born again Christian or not, can recognize that its evil, wrong, bad for society, and bad for our future.

5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

Application: When you elect somebody, will it be good for your conscience to obey them? Do what they believe line up with the Word of God?

Government, Politics, and Authorities have a major role to play in our spiritual life.

How seriously do we take that? Every time I hear someone say, I don’t care about politics, I don’t pick parties, I don’t vote, I think how ignorant and how reckless and how spiritually immature.

Christians should be involved in the political process because conscience is at stake.

I. As Christian Citizens, we should Seek God’s Will in this World. 2. As Christian Citizens, we should recognize that God is the Source of all Authority. 3. As Christian Citizens, we should evaluate our Authorities based on God’s Standards.

Application: Are you praying for our local authorities, state authorities, and national authorities? Are you seeking to glorify God in being a good citizen? Are you a citizen of the heavenly city?

HOW LONG, O LORD? – REMEMBERING THE PERSECUTED CHURCH

HOW LONG, O LORD? – REMEMBERING THE PERSECUTED CHURCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

(Click on each picture to link to a ministry dedicated to helping Christians facing persecution across the world.)

Remembering_Persecuted_ChurchMost Christians in America live in a world that is detached from other Christians in other parts of the world. We fail to realize that we have brothers and sisters in other countries that are facing persecution and even death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Everyday thousands are living in fear and anxiety while we are enjoying the blessings of freedom and security. God wants us to care about others, especially those of the household of faith.

Rev. 6:9-11  9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.  10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read, John describes a very disturbing scene. Listen to verse 9 again – When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 

What exactly is going on here? Who are these people under the altar? Why were they slain? Keep in mind that John, the writer of 2013-christian-persecution-world-watch-listRevelation, is being given an exclusive look into the future. He has been given the privilege of seeing what will happen in the end time. Along with the catastrophic events—famine, plagues, earthquakes, volcanoes, war, and death—he is also seeing how God’s people will be mistreated and persecuted in the future. These souls under the altar are the martyrs of the first half of the Great Tribulation.

Many of you have a confused look in your eyes so let me give you the CliffsNotes on the Book of Revelation—We are living in the Age of Grace. The next event on God’s prophetic calendar is the coming of Jesus Christ for His church. Once the church is removed from this world, two things will happen. First, there will be the Great Tribulation – where all hell will break loose and God will pour out His judgment on this world. Second, God will begin to work with the people of Israel, as prophesied in the Bible, and there will be a worldwide revival. Through this revival thousands of Gentile people will be saved. But these new believers will face terrible persecution, even death. Because of their faith in Jesus Christ, they will be killed. John sees these martyred Christians crying out from under the altar.

What does “under the altar” mean? This does not mean that these martyrs are peeping out from under the altar. In the Old Testament, when the priest would sacrifice an animal, the blood was poured at the base of the brazen altar as a sacrifice unto the Lord. In this passage, the “souls of the martyrs under the altar” means that the blood of these persecuted and martyred people has come up as a sacrifice unto the Lord. All of us will die and will be before God, but because these Christians were killed during a very difficult time, they will have a special place before God. Their sacrifice will be precious and acceptable to God.

What’s more? These martyred souls are crying out to the Lord. Listen to verse 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” They are asking God to avenge their blood. Here’s another question – “Is it right for them to pray for vengeance?” Didn’t Jesus say – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) And, didn’t Stephen the martyr pray – “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” (Acts 7:60) Why are these martyrs crying for revenge? These martyrs are not crying out for personal revenge but for God’s justice upon those who have opposed the gospel. They are praying for God to stop those who are harassing Christians and stopping the spread of the gospel. Keep in mind – these are new Christians who haven’t matured in the faith.

What will be God’s response? 11 “Then a white robe was given to each of them.” Meaning: They will no longer be wearing blood stained clothes but clean white robes to symbolize that their troubles are over. They are declared faithful and godly in the sight of God. God is pleased with them. What else?“and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” Meaning: God is not unaware of their suffering. Instead, He has already ordained how many more will die for their faith.

Is that it? Thank you for your service. Here are your discharge papers. Clean out your bunk. Of course not! Listen to Rev. 7:9-17  9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”….“These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.  16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;  17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Meaning: In the life to come, these persecuted and martyred Christians will have a special place right by the throne of God and Jesus Himself will lead them.

So, what is the message for us who are living right now? The Book of Revelation is not just for the “Curious George” types; it’s not just a sneak peak of what will happen sometime in the future, when we will have the window seat in heaven. The Book of Revelation was written to give us a glimpse of the future in order to change our priorities in the present. What can we learn from the coming martyrs of the Great Tribulation?

#1.WE ARE TO BE AWARE OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH.

Syrian Christians facing persecutionDid you know?

–       Throughout history millions upon millions of Christians have faced persecution and even death. But did you know that in the past 100 years as many as 35 million Christians have been killed? This was the worst century when it comes to hate against Christians.

–       As many as 100 million Christians are persecuted every year. As many as 150,000 Christians are killed every year due to persecution.

–       According to the World Watch List – North Korea ranks number 1 in persecution against Christians, then Saudi Arabia, and then Afghanistan. In recent months attacks against Christians in Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan have intensified.

Coptic Church destroyed

–       In Syria, over 2 million people (mostly Christians) have been forced to leave their homes and go to refugee camps.-       In North Korea, there is the infamous labor camp called Yodok, where as many as 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are enslaved.Prisoners look like walking ghosts.

–       In Egypt, the Christians are facing the worst attacks since the 14th century.

–       In Iran, on October 6, 4 Christians were arrested in a house church and were sentenced to 80 lashes for taking the communion. They are charged with consuming alcohol.

Pakistan church bombing

–       In Pakistan, on September 22, as Christians were leaving their Sunday services at All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar Pakistan, two suicide bombs went off killing 85 Christians and injuring about 120.

–       I grew up in India and even though we didn’t have any such terrible persecution, we faced some. Our electricity was cut for about a year.

God is aware of the persecuted church and He wants us to be aware of them as well.

#2. WE SHOULD DO WHATEVER WE CAN TO RESCUE THE PERSECUTED CHURCH.

Christian girl from Orissa, India

Christians in America have the false idea that persecution purifies the church and grows the church. That’s not always the case. In fact, the Middle East was saturated with churches until the coming of Islam. But now, it is a small minority. Most Christians who die are not the Apostle Paul and Peter, they are just average people – mothers, sisters, children, and young people. They don’t die glorious deaths. They cry and get angry; they feel betrayed and lose hope; they wonder why Christians in the West, especially in America, are not coming to their aid.

We need to pray, lobby our politicians, raise awareness, and even send relief to our persecuted brothers and sisters.

#3.WHEN WE HELP THE PERSECUTED CHURCH, WE PLEASE GOD.

Christians in India protesting

We the church are the hands and feet, the eyes and ears, the mouth and head of God. He works through us. He wants us to stepforward and help them in His name.

Matthew 25:31-43  31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me 

food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked 

Pakistani Christians Protesting

and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

#4. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE DON’T LOSE OUR HOME BASE.

Are we doing all we can do to lead all people in America into a life changing ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ?

WHILE THE CHURCH SLEEPS

WHILE THE CHURCH SLEEPS by Pastor Shah

(54th Annual 2012 Fall Session, Cullom Baptist Association, Henderson, NC)

To watch this message, please click here.

 “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”

Aldous Huxley (writer and thinker)

I want us to go back in time and look at what happens when the Church looses sight of the mission and the vision and gets caught up in the trivial. The results can be devastating.

THE RISE OF ISLAM & THE STATE OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE 7TH CENTURY

The year is 582 AD – a 12-year old boy is with his uncle on a business trip to Syria. While there he sees churches and even meets a monk but he never hears the true gospel.

The year is 589 AD – a council is held in Toledo, Spain, known as the “The Third Church Council of Toledo. Three reasons for this council – First, the conversion of the Gothic King to true Christianity;  Second, 23 condemnations against anybody who followed Arianism (an old heresy); and Third, restrictions on Jewish people.`
The year is 632 AD – that same 12-year-old boy is now 63 years old. He met many Christians and he saw many churches; but he   never heard the true gospel. What he did see was contention and division. Instead he began a religion called Islam. In the process he killed many and even executed 600-700 Jewish people and had an army of 10,000. His last words on his deathbed were “Allah destroy the Jews and the Christians.”
A year later in 633 AD – Fourth Church Council of Toledo. The reason to meet – “How can we punish the baptized Jewish people   who have gone back to Judaism.”
The year is 636 AD – Arab armies under the flag of Islam have captured the areas which are modern Iraq (Mesopotamia) and   modern Iran (Persia).
In the same year (636 AD) – Fifth Church Council of Toledo. One of the decrees at the council is that if anyone were to curse the king or plot against him, they would be excommunicated from the church.
The year is 638 AD – Arab armies under the banner of Islam have captured Syria, Jerusalem, and they are getting ready to capture Armenia
In the same year (638 AD) – the Sixth Church Council of Toledo meets. The reason to meet is to affirm the decrees of the Fifth Council and once again cursed anyone who would plot against the King. Also, some more restrictions against the Jewish people.
The year is 646 AD – A lot has happened. Arab armies have captured Egypt and Armenia and Asia Minor (Modern-day Turkey).   These were all Christian nations. Cosmas Indicopleustes (Alexandrian merchant and traveler) writes in his book that in the 6th century churches were scattered all over these areas.In the same year (646 AD) – the Seventh Church   Council of Toledo met. Once again treason was punishable by excommunication and if any pastor were to speak out – he would be disgraced and the only way he would get communion is if he were dying.
The year is 653 AD – Arab armies have entered North Africa (modern-day Libya, Tunisia, Algeria).
In the same year (653 AD) – the Eighth Church Council of Toledo met. Once again, the king wrote a book of all things he wanted the pastors to tell the people.
The year is 655 AD – Arab armies are busy capturing the Island of Cyprus.
In the same year (655 AD) – the Ninth Church Council of Toledo met. This was an interesting one – if any priest were to have a child by a woman (slave or free), that child would automatically be a slave of the church where his father served. Also, anybody who got converted had to pass the test of Christian festivals in the presence of the bishops to prove their faith. If they failed, they could be flogged or made to fast – depending on their age.
The year is 681 AD – Arab armies under the flag of Islam have captured most of North Africa, Island of Rhodes (near Turkey),   parts of modern-day Afghanistan, and even parts of modern-day Pakistan.
By now there have been 3 more Church Councils of Toledo – 10, 11, and 12. Tenth (656 AD) – cannot sell Christian slaves to the Jewish people and one pastor had freed his slaves and distributed his money to the poor in his will – that was unlawful. Eleventh (675 AD) – bishops cannot buy their positions. If they did, then 2 years exile but they can keep their position. Twelfth (681 AD) – Jewish people could be persecuted by confiscating their things and you could use violence against your slaves.
The year is 702 AD – the Muslim armies (mixture of Arabs and North Africans) have destroyed the North African church –   Christians have been killed or enslaved. The Arabs claimed that they had to fight 10 wars to eradicate Christianity among the Berbers. There were as many as 3 million Coptic Christians and 5 million Berber Christians. Now the Muslim population is now 1 percent of the total population of the world. Since the last Church Council, there have been 6 Church Councils of Toledo (13-18). Topics of discussion have included treason against the King, doctrinal matters need to be believed and not discussed, and whether Christ had one will or two. Oh yes – Jewish people – we still don’t like them.
The year is 711 AD– Would you like to guess where the Muslim armies are standing? At the gates of Toledo.If it were not for a man by the name of Charles Martel who stopped the Moors at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD, all of Western Europe would have fallen into Muslim hands.

Why did I give you this history lesson?

  • To tell you that Islam is a threat? Not really
  • To tell you that we shouldn’t have Church Meetings? Not really.

What is the lesson from history?

  • When the Church loses sight of its mission and its vision, the repercussion can be devastating.
  • When the Church gets involved in the trivial and the frivolous, the consequences can change the course of history.
  • When the Church gets stuck in a rut and becomes complacent, lives are sentenced to Hell forever.

Did you know that it took over 700 years to retrieve the portion of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) back into Christian hands. Thousands upon thousands went to an eternity without Christ—to a place called Hell—because the Church failed to make a difference. Even after the Christians gained control back, it still does not mean that everyone was now saved.

We are standing at the place where the Church of Toledo stood 1400 years ago. We are at the same spot in history. Is Radical Islam the threat to our nation? I don’t think so. As long as we vote for a President who will build up our military and not cut it back, we will be fine.

What is the Biggest Threat to our Nation? LOSTNESS. Everyday men and women, boys and girls are driving past our churches and saying “Church is not for me.”

For e.g. At one time we used to hear – once young people go to college, they walk away from the church; then, we heard – once they become teenagers, they walk away from the church. Do you know the latest report? I was at an Apologetics conference and the latest statistic is that kids 9-12 years old are walking away from the church. Why? Because the church is no longer answering the questions they are asking. At school they deal with the real issues and, at church, they hear stories.

What is the Answer? Listen to what Paul said to the Church in Rome and to the Churches of all ages.

1. We need a sense of urgency.

Romans 13:11-14 11And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

We do not have the time to waste on the trivial. Some of the things that church people fuss about—no wonder we haven’t seen any lost souls saved in months. Our children and our grandchildren deserve better. We should be doing whatever it takes to win the new generation to Jesus Christ. We cannot afford to sit back and criticize the culture; we cannot afford to sit back and reminisce about the past; we need to get busy reaching our neighbors in Christ-honoring and relevant ways to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. We need to walk in Holiness.

12The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

There is no substitute to a life of holiness before God. We have become so much like the world that there is no difference between the church and the world. By the way, it has nothing to do with your hairstyle or music style. It is about your lifestyle. We get caught in the superficial and fail to deal with the seriousness of sin. God demands “truth in the inward parts.” We need to deal harshly with sin in our own lives.

3. We need to put on Christ.

14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Meaning: When we receive Christ as our Saviour, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ; but daily we put on Christ. Daily we remember that we are dead to ourself; it’s no longer we who live but Christ lives in us.  Let the world see Christ in and through us. Only Christ has the power to change lives. Jesus said in John 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”

Application: People often say to me or ask me – “Do you think we are living in the last days?” Friends – I am not as concerned about whether we are living in the last days as I am about what if the world goes on! What if Christ does not return for another hundred or five hundred or a thousand years, what will our nation look like? Are we doing all we can to lead our children and grandchildren to face the challenges that our facing them? Are we leaving this world in a better state than we found it? Will our children and grandchildren thank us in heaven that we did all we could to help them come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, to have the Bible and Church vibrant, to have Biblical values and ethics intact for years to come. Will they look back at us and praise God that we were not asleep in the face of rising godlessness in our nation.

God has a secret weapon to handle this rise of godlessness in our nation.  They are all around us – on every street corner. They are the medium – small churches of our nation. What if every one of these medium-small churches come alive with gospel of Jesus Christ. What if our pastors make a commitment to burn their ships and stop running to the “greener grass churches” and plant themselves into their communities! We will have revival!

We are afraid of “sleeper cells” in our country. The real “sleeper cells” are the medium to small churches all across our land. Can you imagine what will happen if they wake up!

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