Fulfilled: Time of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: TIME OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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Introduction:  Sometimes pastors get some funny letters! Here are just a couple written by kids – “Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there,” “Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister,” “Dear Pastor, Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class.” I get some funny letters too but sometimes I get some really thought-provoking ones, like the one I’m about to read from a young man in our church. I’ve asked for his permission. He wrote — “Hi Pastor Shah! …I greatly appreciated your message today. I’ve been working on several questions lately that I can’t seem to find an easy way to answer. Questions of faith, I have found, can’t necessarily be resolved by scientific journal databases! Your sermon today, on the other hand, helped me in getting one of those questions to an articulate state. Would you mind either helping me with one of these, or pointing me towards some reputable resources where I can research the topic? Thank you.” I answered, “Of course. I’ll do my best.” “Awesome, thank you! Alright, here’s my main question at the moment: What evidence is there for the supernatural?” Meaning: How do we know that there is a world beyond what we can see and touch? Tough question but a great reminder that our young people have not given up on Christianity. It’s just that they have questions that we need to answer. It’s not enough to say “We believe it and that settles it.” We also have to explain “why we believe it.” I’m preaching our Christmas series “FULFILLED” in the hopes that it will answer some of those questions about the supernatural birth of Christ. Our ultimate goal is to capture our young generation.

Matthew 1:17 “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.”

Question: That’s probably the oddest opening scripture I’ve ever read. Now, you may not know it but that verse is considered the John 3:16 of the Gospel of Matthew. One scholar called it “the gospel in miniature.” We’ll look at it in detail in just a minute but it gives us the timing of the gospel. If you notice, it begins with Abraham with whom God made his covenant promise to bless all the families of the earth. Then, it proceeds to David through whom God blessed the people of Israel. Then, it falls into the Babylonian exile because the people rejected God. Finally, in God’s timing, Christ came to save his people from their sins. Promise – Blessing – Rejection – Salvation. This is the story of God’s people in a nutshell. Is that your story? Is Christ your Savior?

Context: The passage we just read has been a thorn in the side for many evangelical scholars. In fact, many who are against Christianity have pointed to this verse to prove that the Bible has errors. Some of ya’ll are wondering what exactly is the problem in that verse. Listen to it again – Matthew 1:17 “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.” There are several issues here:

  1. To start with, the time between the three sections is not equal. Between Abraham and David, there was at least 1000 years. Now, from David to the Babylonian exile, the there was only 400 years, less than half the time between Abraham and David. Then, from the Babylonian exile to Christ, there was 600 years. So, the sections are 1000 – 400 – 600. If there were 14 generations in between each section, that would make the average generation in the first section about 70 years, the average generation in the second section 28 years, and the average generation in the third section 42 years. It’s all over the place. By the way, the average generation is typically only 25 years.
  2. In the first two sections (from Abraham to David and from David to the Babylonian Exile) there are 14 names but in the last section (from Exile to Christ) only 13 names. One seems to be missing unless you count the last one from the second list again in the third list, then it’s 14 again. It appears so subjective and contrived.
  3. When you compare Matthew’s genealogy with the genealogies in I Chronicles 1:28, 34; 2:1-15, and Ruth 4:18-22 and the list of the kings in I and II Kings, Matthew skips over certain names in his genealogy. In fact, he omits as many as 5 kings between David and the Exile. Plus, you can also compare with the genealogy in Luke 3 and notice several more names there than in Matthew.

What exactly is going on? Does Matthew not know how to count? Did he not have an accurate list from which to copy? Is he manipulating the list to fit his purpose? Does the Bible have errors? Of course not. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. It is given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is God-breathed. If God is perfect, then whatever he breathes out is also perfect. Plus, we have plenty of other places that stand true so we can say “Let’s look for reasons that prove that this one will stand true as well.” For e.g. What happens when a traffic light goes out? Do you reject the entire signal system everywhere? Of course not. They send someone to figure out what’s wrong and repair.

There are 2 possible solutions:

  1. The number 7 is a very important number in the Bible. Many many times it is mentioned: Genesis 2:3 “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 8:4 “Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.” Exodus 13:6Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord.” (Passover) Leviticus 4:6 “The priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle some of the blood seven times before the Lord, in front of the veil of the sanctuary.” Numbers 28:19 “And you shall present an offering made by fire as a burnt offering to the Lord: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish.” I don’t have time to look at every mention of 7, here’s just a couple more. Psalm 12:6 “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.” 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.”

Seven is the number of completion. So, 7 + 7 = 14 means double completion. In the first section, there are 1st 7 and 2nd 7. In the second section, there are 3rd 7 and 4th 7. In the third section 5th 7 and 6th 7. With the coming of Jesus we now have 7th 7 which is total completion. He is it! There’s no one else.

  1. The number 14 is also a very important number in the Bible. Many time it is also mentioned: Numbers 28:16 “On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the Lord.” Numbers 29:13 “You shall present a burnt offering, an offering made by fire as a sweet aroma to the Lord: thirteen young bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs in their first year. They shall be without blemish.” 1Kings 8:65 “At that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days and seven more days—fourteen days.” There is a reason why I focus so much on the Old Testament. Because, the New Testament is grounded in the soil of the Old Testament. Without a proper understanding of the OT, we will misunderstand the NT.

Something else under 14, David’s name, according to a system called Gematria (where each Hebrew letter has a numeric value – A = 1, B = 2, G = 3, D = 4, H = 5, V = 6; An example is 666 in Revelation 13:18 – “Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” Probably, Nero Caesar) had the numeric value of 14 where D = 4, V = 6, and D = 4. If you remember from last week, David is very important in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew begins his gospel by saying Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Even though Abraham was chronologically first, David was as Jewish as they get. Remember the illustration of John Smith and George Washington. The second is far more American. Also, in the list of the genealogies, David is number 14. Bottom line: Matthew is not trying to give us the biological genealogy of Jesus. You can go and find that out like Joseph did when he went to register in Bethlehem. He is far more interested in giving us the dynastic genealogy of Jesus. Matthew wants us to understand that Jesus came from the line of David to claim his rightful throne. He is the true fulfillment of the promise that God had made to David. Jesus is the true king of Israel, the true king of the Jews. Where David messed up, Jesus won’t and didn’t. By the way, we need to remember that those kings who were omitted were all cursed. Read the rest of Matthew and you will realize how much emphasis there is on the title “Son of David” for Jesus!

Ultimately, what Matthew is trying to tell us is that Jesus is the completion of God’s plan of redemption. The true king has come in God’s appointed time. Is he your king or are you still living as if you are your own king? Is he your Savior?

Fulfilled: Family of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: FAMILY OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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Introduction:  We are a Christmas loving family! We look forward to Christmas all year long! In our home, Nicole starts playing the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving! One year she actually started in October and by the time December rolled around, we were all sick of Christmas. We put our collective foot down and told her that she can’t do that anymore. She tries but we keep an eye on her. Christmas should be the most exciting time of the year! It was on God’s calendar ever since the beginning of time. Throughout the Old Testament God promised to his people that His Son was coming. In fact, the first two chapters of Matthew repeatedly use the word “fulfilled” to announce that he has come and that’s the title of our new series for Christmas: FULFILLED.

Matthew 1    22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Matthew 2   14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Matthew 2   17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Question: The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. Ever since the beginning of time it was on God’s calendar and repeatedly he sent word through his prophets that “he was coming, he was coming, he was coming.” That’s why when Matthew wrote his gospel, he began with “it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled, it is fulfilled.” What does that mean for you and me? Jesus is God’s only promise of salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life. Has he fulfilled those promises in your life? Are you saved?

Context: Unlike the other gospels, Matthew began his gospel with Jesus’ genealogy. In ancient times, it was not unusual to begin the biography of a famous person with their genealogy. It was a matter of pride to be able to list one’s pedigree. But Matthew’s purpose was much deeper. He was not giving us just a pedigree of Jesus. Neither was he just trying to impress us with big names. In fact, listen carefully to how he began his gospel Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Both David and Abraham had been promised a son from God and Jesus was that Son.

How was Jesus the Son of David? 2 Samuel 7   12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, (We think Solomon. Yes and no.) and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (Solomon only ruled for 40 years.) 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. (Unfortunately, Solomon also messed up and God had to take it from him as well.) 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” This promise was made to David 1000 years before the coming of Jesus. Here’s another promise made to David after he was dead for 400 years. Jeremiah 23:5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.” This promised was made posthumously to David 600 years before the coming of Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of David.

How was Jesus the Son of Abraham? Genesis 12   1 “Now the Lord had said to Abram: (When God called him, his name was just Abram, “Exalted Father,” but he and his wife Sarai couldn’t have any children.) Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As you know, Abram obeyed God and in time God changed his name to Abraham, “Father of many,” and at the age of 100 he and Sarah finally had Isaac. Did Isaac become a blessing to all the families of the earth? Unfortunately, he was more interested in eating wild game than being a blessing. This 2000-year-old promise to Abraham was actually about Jesus. This is how Jesus was the true Son of Abraham.

By the way, why did Matthew say “Son of David” before “Son of Abraham”? Because Salvation is of the Jews. You cannot get anymore Jewish than David. For e.g. Who is more American? John Smith or George Washington. But then, he went back to Abraham who would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Never forget: Salvation was always for the whole world. Listen to Matthew 1:2 “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.” In this verse 2 names are mentioned that also received the promise that Jesus would be coming.

  1. Jacob: His older brother Esau despised his birthright but Jacob wanted it badly. So, he deceived his brother because he knew the significance of the promise. He even wrestled with God and had his name changed from Jacob to Israel. Listen to the promise God made to him in Numbers 24:17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” This promise was made about 1900 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is that Star in Jacob’s line and that Scepter (Rod or wand that signified royalty) in Israel’s (Jacob’s name given by God) line.
  2. Judah: He was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Listen to the promise God made to him through his father Jacob in Genesis 49 9 Judah is a lion’s whelp (cub); From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? Jesus is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5) 10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet…” Jesus is that Scepter and the lawgiver. “…until Shiloh comes; (Lit. Until he possesses that which belongs to him.) and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” This promise was made 1800 years before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, the scepter and the lawgiver, and his final words to his disciples were “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

What does all this mean? The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was not something out of the blue. It was not some unexpected, spontaneous, fortuitous, after the fact event. It was all according to God’s Providence. He supernaturally engineered the coming of his Son into this world. Thank God for his providence!

Application: Do you understand what God has done for you in Jesus? He has been preparing the plan of salvation for you since the beginning of time. It’s his Providence. In our own life, we can also see the Providence of God guiding us and giving us good parents, education, and a great nation to live in!

But, unlike typical genealogies, Matthew does something very odd. He lists 4 women in the genealogy and, may I add, women with a questionable past. All of us want to claim some royalty in our past but none of us want to admit that we also have some nuts hanging on our family tree. Someone said – “I shook my family tree and a bunch of nuts fell out!” Who were these 4 undesirables? I’ve preached a whole series on them. Besides being women of questionable past, they each had a gentile connection.

Matthew 1:3 “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar.”

  1. Tamar – She was a Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her because he had refused to let her marry his third son.

Matthew 1:5 “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab…”

  1. Rahab – She was an Amorite/Canaanite, a citizen of Jericho and a madam (rich prostitute) by trade. She had helped the spies and in exchange she asked for her family to be saved.

Matthew 1:5 “…Boaz begot Obed by Ruth.”

  1. Ruth – She was a Moabite (enemies of God’s people) whose husband was an Israelite. They lived in Moab until he died and then she followed her mother-in-law Naomi back into the land of Israel.

Matthew 1:6 “and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” Actual wording: “David the king begot the Solomon by the of the Uriah.” “Wife” has to be added and “the” has to be omitted twice.

  1. Bathsheba – She was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David forced her into committing adultery, had her husband killed, and got her pregnant. The punishment the child died.

Why did Matthew include the illustrious and the not so illustrious in the genealogy of Jesus? To show us that in the birth of Jesus we find both God’s Providence and God’s Grace working together. Jesus truly came to bring God’s salvation to the least of the least. No one can ever say that Jesus is just for the elite few. He’s for all.

Invitation: Has Jesus fulfilled the promises of God in your life? Are you saved? You feel undeserving. Jesus is for you as well.

Comfort and Joy by Pastor Abidan Shah

COMFORT AND JOY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

comfort-and-joyIntroduction: We’re in our final message in our Christmas series – BELIEVING IS SEEING. If you want to see Jesus, you have to believe in Him first and then you begin to see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and personal life. Jesus gave us a clue to find Him in Scripture when He said, “Moses wrote about Me.” We’ve examined two such passages already. Today we’ll look at a third one and the message is titled – COMFORT AND JOY.

Deuteronomy 18   15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Bridge: Everyone has a favorite Christmas carol. The one I like is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Unfortunately, many people don’t know what it means. To start with, it’s not about some merry gentlemen taking the time to rest. The comma should come after “merry” – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” What do those words mean? The word “rest” means keep/stay, like “rest assured.” The word “merry” means “joyful” and the word “gentlemen” does not refer to some Victorian gentlemen in top hats. It’s a generic reference to “people.” So the first line should read “God Keep You Joyful, People.” Why? “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay, Remember, Christ, our Saviour was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.” That is beautiful! We can have comfort and joy because Christ our Savior has come but I want to suggest a correction – “It’s not to save us from Satan’s power but from God’s power.” In today’s message we’ll learn about the real reason to have comfort and joy at Christmas.

Question: Before we go any further, what emotions come to your mind when you think about the coming of Jesus? Does His coming bring comfort and joy to your heart? Do you understand why Jesus really came into this world? Do you know that He has come to be the mediator between God and us? Do you realize that you cannot come to God on your own? Have you ever asked Jesus to be your mediator? Are you saved?

Today we’ll learn the biblical reason to have comfort and joy. 3 things to understand:

I. THE DREADFUL AND AGGRESSIVE HOLINESS OF GOD

Background: In the passage we just read from Deuteronomy 18 Moses is making a solemn promise to the people of Israel that after his own death God would raise up a prophet for them who would just like him be a Mediator between God and them. Why did they need a Mediator? Because of an incident that took place at Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb. To learn about this incident we have to turn to Exodus 19. The people had just left Egypt and they had made it to the foot of Mount Sinai or Horeb. It was time for them to come face-to-face with the God who had set them free. God spoke to Moses from the mountain and said, 4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” In other words, being set free from slavery is just the first step in where God wanted to take them as a people. He wanted them to be His special people. 6 “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Meaning: You are to represent me before the world just as a priest represents the people before God. But here was the key requirement – Holiness. Why? Because God’s holiness is His first and most distinctive attribute. If you’re going to be His special people and represent Him, you have to be holy as He is holy. Don’t misunderstand – holiness is not some puffy clouds or the sound of organ music or the smell of incense. Negatively, it is a “complete absence of sin” and positively, it is a “passionate desire for righteousness.”

God instructed Moses that before He would come down, the people had to consecrate and purify themselves. Furthermore, no one could approach the mountain except Moses. Then it happened on the third day – 16 “…there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. 20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Meaning: This was not some Hollywood theatrics. This was God the Holy Creator entering into His sinful creation. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Meaning: Not sure exactly what happened right then but there must’ve been some thrill seeking types who wanted to get as close to the fire without getting singed. God warned them that this was not some pull out your lawn chairs and enjoy the show time. They will die from this. 22 “Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” Meaning: Even the priests better be careful. This was the kind of holiness that would come after anyone who was unholy in its sight. How did the people perceive all this? Listen to Exodus 24:17 “The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Needless to say, the people of Israel were terrified of God. He was not someone to play with. Not even the priests could get near Him. His holiness was unbearable.

Application: What do you think about the holiness of God? Is it to you long dresses, three-piece suits, and hard straight back pews? Is it to you a long list of do’s and don’ts? Do you understand that God’s holiness is negatively a “complete absence of sin” and positively a “passionate desire for righteousness”? Do you understand that being saved means being saved from God’s holy wrath against your sin?

II. THE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING MERCY OF GOD

Exodus 20   18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. They were terrified and petrified of God. They were scared for themselves, their families, and their children. They stood far away. By the way, who told them to stay far away? God. As we just read, God had to send Moses down from the mountain to warn the people to stay away. If I were God, I would’ve let a couple of them turn extra crispy and that would’ve taken care of the rest! But God is so merciful, isn’t He? 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The people told Moses something that sounded like an affront to God. They told Moses that they would rather talk to him than to God. Again, if I were God, I would’ve said, “You don’t get to decide the terms of our communication.” By the way, these were the same people who later worshipped the golden calf at the foot of the mountain. I would’ve said – “Nope. People like you don’t deserve any breaks. You need to live under constant fear and an iron fist, that’s it.” 20 “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Meaning: God in His patient and understanding mercy allowed Moses to be the Mediator between Him and the people.

Application: Do you realize how merciful God is towards His people? Do you realize how without His mercy we would be consumed by His holiness? Do you realize how much He is willing to work with us even when we don’t deserve it? Do you realize how many chances He keeps giving to us?

III. THE FUTURE AND ULTIMATE PROMISE OF GOD

17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’”

Background: When God gave this promise, He intended a double fulfilment. On one hand, after Moses’s death, God sent many prophets through the centuries to His people to mediate for them. Some of them we know by their books – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and others. But there was another fulfillment that God intended – a much deeper, longer lasting, and ultimate fulfillment. One day God would send the Prophet who would have all the words of God in His mouth and He would be their Ultimate Mediator before God forever. God’s people were waiting for this prophet:

  • When John the Baptist came, the Jewish religious leaders questioned him – John 1   19 “…Who are you?” 20 He confessed…“I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “…Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
  • After Jesus fed the 5000, his own disciples said in John 6:14 “…This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
  • After seeing his numerous miracles, many in the crowd said in John 7:40 “…Truly this is the Prophet.”
  • When people were offended at him, Jesus himself said in Matthew 13:57 “…A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

Not only that but Jesus also repeatedly talked about having God’s Words in His mouth:

  • John 7:16 “…My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
  • John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”
  • John 17:8 “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”

I don’t have time to talk about how He prophesied about the future. The point is this – When Jesus said, “Moses wrote about Me,” He also had Deuteronomy 18 in mind where Moses promised the people that God would send them the Ultimate Prophet one day.

  • Just as Moses was a symbol of comfort and joy to the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate symbol of comfort and joy for us.
  • Just as Moses was a temporary mediator for the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate mediator for all who believe in His name.

But there’s something Jesus did for us that Moses could never do. Hebrews 10   19 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Whereas Moses told the people to stay away from the mountain of God, Jesus has invited us to boldly enter the Holiest by His blood.

Invitation: Does the coming of Jesus truly bring comfort and joy to your heart? Has he saved you from God’s holy power? Is He your Mediator?

Believing is Seeing by Pastor Abidan Shah

BELIEVING IS SEEING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

believing-is-seeingIntroduction: With the Christmas season here I’m preaching a short series titled – “BELIEVING IS SEEING.” During Christmas we are told to believe in the magic of Christmas, to see things with the eyes of a child and see fairy tales come to life. This series will show us that the real miracle of Christmas is Jesus. Once you believe in Him, He comes alive and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives.

John 5   39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life…45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Bridge: Have you ever said, “Seeing is Believing”? It means – “Before I can believe something I have to see it.” In other words, “Show me the proof/evidence and then I will believe or commit myself to that decision/action. Is that bad? Not really. To some extent, you do need to cautious before stepping out in the unknown. Imagine if people stepped out without first checking the traffic, financial investment, or medical procedures? It would be a disaster. But, when it comes to Jesus, believing comes before seeing. You have to receive Him by faith first that He is who He said He is and then you will begin to see how He is exactly everything He said He is.

Context: In the passage we will look at today, Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for refusing to believe in Him. They kept asking Him for more and more proof before placing their faith in Him. In fact, they were more interested in getting honor from each other than submitting to Him. They even took pride in the fact that they were studying Moses’ writings, the Torah. Jesus declared to them that if they believed in Him, they would realize that Moses’ writings are actually about Him. But before they could see that, they had to believe in Him. The reason they couldn’t is because they rejected Him.

Question: Are you having trouble seeing Jesus? You can see God. You can see Moses. You can see the Law/10 commandments. You can see David and Goliath. You can see Esther and God’s faithfulness. But Jesus…is hard to find. If you’re trying to see Him before believing in Him, let me save you the trouble because you can’t. Belief comes before sight. You have to receive Jesus by faith that He is who He said He is and then you will begin to see how He is exactly everything who He said He is. Are you saved? Once you are, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes and you will see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and in your life

Let’s walk through the passage and see how believing comes before seeing.

I. THE VAIN SEARCH

39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life…”

Background: In Judaism the Scriptures, especially the Torah, were considered to be the source of life. One of their main rabbis, Hillel, said, “the more study of the Law the more life.” He added – “If a man has gained a good name he has gained [somewhat] for himself” but “if he has gained for himself words of the Law he has gained for himself life in the world to come.” The Jewish religious leaders took pride in their study and knowledge of Scriptures. Jesus did not denounce or deride their study. He simply exposed their misunderstanding – “…and these are they which testify of Me.” Meaning: Yes, the Scriptures do tell you how to find eternal life but they point to Jesus as the source of eternal life. By the way, Jesus did not introduce this when He came. Those waiting on Him commonly believed this. John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Studying the Bible without Christ is no different than reading a cookbook and thinking that it will satisfy you. The Bible has the words of eternal life because it points to the one who is coming to bring us eternal life. His name is Jesus.

Application: If you’re seeking eternal life, do read the Bible but then come to the main subject of the Bible – Jesus. Some people study the Bible to find wisdom, others to find strength, and yet others to find peace. All that is fine but it is Jesus who is wisdom, strength, and peace. By the way, if you love bible studies without Christ, you will never be satisfied. After each lesson the question should be – “Now how does this bring me closer to Christ?” Are you searching in vain?

II. THE UNWILLING LIFE.

40 “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

Background: The Greek word for “not willing” is “ou thelete,” which is literally “you do not choose” or “you choose not to.” Meaning: This was not the “unwillingness of ignorance” but the “unwillingness of rejection.” They deliberately chose to reject Jesus.

What was keeping them from coming to Jesus? It was not serious questions from scriptures about the messianic prophecies or difficult passages. Jesus answered some of those already. For example, when Philip told Nathaniel – “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” he replied, 46 “…Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Meaning: Nathaniel was a sincere searcher. 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Meaning: Nathaniel was willing. He was waiting for someone to show him the way.

There are people who have all kinds of questions about creation, flood, miracles, problem of evil, problem of pain, salvation in other religions, etc. None of those are wrong as long as you are open to the outcome of giving your life to Jesus. But, if you’ve already made up your mind that you will not receive Christ for ulterior motives, then no amount of answers and bible studies will help you.

Application: What is your hang-up? Why are you unwilling to follow Jesus? Are you willing to be made willing?

III. THE SERIOUS CHARGE

Background: Just when you want to say – “Maybe…these people just didn’t understand who Jesus really was. Maybe…they needed a little more teaching and a little more time,” listen to how Jesus exposed them.

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. Meaning: These people were the opposite of God’s love kind of people. They had hate, anger, bitterness, and meanness in their hearts. Furthermore, 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. Meaning: Jesus said – “I’ve come with my Father’s authority” and they rejected Him but some others said – “I’ve come with my own authority” and they accepted them. In other words, they were willing to accept anyone but Jesus.

As a pastor, I come across people like that quite often. They are not lost people living in ignorance but lost people living in denial. Their meanness shines forth and their hatred cannot be covered up. They say one thing but they have something else in their hearts.

Now come some very sobering words in this passage44 “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” Meaning: Your unwilling heart is keeping you from believing in Me (Jesus).

45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.

How does Moses accuse them? The same Law that shows us our helplessness also reveals us our condemnation. You can either see the Law and look to the one who can redeem us by grace or we can ignore the Law and be crushed under its weight. John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Application: What is keeping you from turning to Christ? Can you see your condemnation? Are you willing to turn to the One who can bring you grace?

IV. THE LOGICAL STEP

46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Background: These are very deep words and we will study them in the upcoming week – “How did Moses write about Jesus even before He came into this world 2000 years ago?” For now – Here’s the simple understanding of that statement – “When you see yourself under the condemnation of the Law (10 commandments) and find yourself guilty, then next step is to fall helplessly before God. You have to admit to Him that you are guilty and that you cannot save yourself. You need His grace. At that moment, God will open your eyes and you will read Moses (Law/10 commandments) in a whole new light and see that Christ is all over the place.

The moment you are willing to believe, you will start seeing Christ.

My dad did and left Islam and gave His life to Christ.

Application: Are you willing to take the next logical step? Are you at the next logical step

What is Jesus Doing in Your Life? – Part Two

WHAT IS JESUS DOING IN YOUR LIFE? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

What is Jesus Doing 2Introduction: This is our last message in the miniseries “Before the Manger.” The purpose of this series was to understand that Jesus was not just some baby born in a manger 2000 years ago. He was also the Son of God, the King of Glory who had no beginning. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, who appeared throughout the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. Now we are in the second part of the message – “What is Jesus doing for you?”

John 5 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life…45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Overall Background: In the passage we just read, Jesus is chastising the Pharisees and the scribes for their failure to recognize Him. Listen again to verse 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. In other words, “You are so diligent in studying the Old Testament, but you’re so blind that you keep missing Me. Ever said that to somebody? “How can you be so blind? You missed the point completely!” Again he says in verse 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.” Listen carefully: If you try to study this book but ignore Jesus, you will miss the point of this book. I am not suggesting that He is in every syllable and every word but He is the focus and the fulfillment of this book.

Last week we learned that the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is the Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament. 1. He revealed God in the OT. He revealed God in the NT. He is still revealing God to His people today. You want to know more about God, go to Jesus. 2. He called and sent people in the OT. He called and sent people in the NT. He is still calling and sending people today. You want to know what God is calling you to do, look to Jesus. 3. He interceded for His people in the OT. He interceded for His disciples in the NT. He is still interceding for His people today. You want someone to pray for you, ask Jesus to pray for you. Question: What is Jesus doing for you? Is He revealing God to you? Is He calling you? Is He sending you to a task? Is he interceding for you before the Father? Are you saved?

This morning we will look at the remaining ministries of Jesus for His people. Let the Holy Spirit show you how central Jesus is to your life:

I. HE SHOWS COMPASSION TO US. HE ALWAYS HAS AND HE ALWAYS WILL. 

In the OT Jesus came as the Angel of the Lord to Hagar as she was running away from her mistress Sarah. He finds her sitting by the spring on the way to Shur, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. Listen to what He says to her in Genesis 16:10 the Angel of the LORD said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” He even picked the name Ishmael for her. By the way, here you find the seed of the conflict that’s going on in the Middle East. 12 He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” That’s exactly what’s been happening for centuries? Now listen to Hagar’s response to the Angel of the Lord in verse 13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You–Are–the–God–Who–Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Later He showed compassion to Hagar again when she and Ishmael left for good.

Feeding the 5000In the New Testament Jesus did the same thing. The multitude kept following Him from place to place. Listen to Matthew 14:14 “He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, His disciples wanted to send them away so they could find their own food. Instead, Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fish and fed 5000 men, besides women and children. In the next chapter, again, in Matthew 15:32 Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” This time He took 7 loaves and 2 little fish and fed 4000 men, besides women and children.

I can go on and on but the point is this – If you need compassion, turn to Jesus. That’s His job. He always has and He always will show compassion to you.

Question: Do you need compassion in your life? Whom are you turning to? 

II. HE DELIVERS US. HE ALWAYS HAS AND HE ALWAYS WILL.

In Exodus 3 the Angel of the Lord came to Moses in the wilderness and spoke to him through the burning bush. Listen to verse 7 And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. Jesus notices when people are in bondage but He doesn’t stop there – 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…” He is a God who delivers.

In the same way in the New Testament Jesus delivered people out of sin and bondage time and time again. In Mark 5 we read about a man in whom was an unclean spirit, He lived in a graveyard and no one could bind him down. Jesus saw his bondage and delivered him from the unclean spirit. This man sat before Jesus clothed and in his right mind. Again, He rescued Mary Magdalene out of whom he cast out seven demons. I can go on and on. The point is – Jesus has always been in the work of deliverance.

What’s He doing now? He is delivering us from the bondage of sin. Galatians 1:4 (Jesus) “who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age…” Again, Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom…”

Here’s the point – If you need deliverance, turn to Jesus. That’s His job. He always has and He always will deliver you.

Question: Are you in bondage? Do you need to be set free? Are you looking to Jesus?

III. HE PROTECTS US. HE ALWAYS HAS AND HE ALWAYS WILL. 

William-West-Israelites-passing-through-the-wilderness

Israelites passing through the wilderness by William West

In the OT Jesus came as the Angel of the Lord to protect the Hebrews as they left Egypt. Listen to Exodus 13:21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Where does Jesus come in? Listen to Exodus 14:19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, It’s one and the same. Listen to what God says in Exodus 23 20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. 21 Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. 22 If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. This is the same Angel of the Lord who protected Daniel in the lion’s den, as he says in Daniel 6:22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths.”

On the Sea of Galilee

On the Sea of Galilee (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

How about in the NT? In Matthew 8 we find the disciples in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. They’re about to drown and they cry out to Jesus in verse 25 “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replies in verse 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. There He is protecting His disciples.

Listen to Psalm 34:7 “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Here’s the point – If you need protection, turn to Jesus. That’s His job. He always has and He always will protect you.

Question: Do you feel vulnerable? Do you feel you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death? Are you looking to Jesus?

IV. HE JUDGES US. HE ALWAYS HAS AND HE ALWAYS WILL. 

In the OT we come across a very strange passage in I Chronicles 21:1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. Instead of giving God glory for his success, David began to measure his strength in numbers. God was displeased over this evil. It was judgment time. He gave David 3 choices: 3 years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.’ David chose the 3 days. Now listen to verse 15 And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. (70,000 men died with a plague.) Who was doing this disciplining? The Angel of the Lord. “But as the angel was doing so, the LORD saw it and relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the LORD was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 16 David looked up and saw the angel of the LORD standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown. Did you ever imagine Jesus in that role?

Henry Ian Cusick Visual Bible - The Gospel of JohnHow about the NT? At the Passover Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem. Instead of finding a place of worship, He found the temple filled with livestock and money changers doing business. What did He do next? John 2 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” He sounds very much like the Angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.

Did you realize Jesus as the one who disciplines?

John 5:22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.

In Acts 10:42 Peter says, “He (Jesus) commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Invitation: Do you know this Jesus? Bow before Him now or face Him in judgment later.

What is Jesus Doing in Your Life?

WHAT IS JESUS DOING IN YOUR LIFE? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whatisjesusdoinginyourlifeIntroduction: This morning is part 3 of our miniseries “Before the Manger” and today’s message is titled – “What is Jesus doing in your life?”

Luke 24   13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him…27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read, two of Jesus’ disciples were on their way to the village of Emmaus, to the west of Jerusalem. We don’t know the exact location of the road but Nicole and I were in the vicinity. These disciples were trying to make sense of all that had happened. Their Master had been brutally crucified and now His body was nowhere to found. Just then Jesus joined them but they didn’t recognize Him. He asked them why they were so sad and they were shocked – “Don’t you know that Jesus of Nazareth ‘a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people’ had been brutally killed by our leaders? We were hoping He was the One to redeem Israel but He failed.”

What is Jesus’ response? First, He gets on to them and then – 27 beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” In other words, “You think I failed to do what I came to do? Apparently, you don’t know me and you don’t know what I do.” What was their response after He showed them who He was and what He did? Luke 24:32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” I was going to title this message – “How to get spiritual heartburn?” but I figured y’all would misunderstand it. What they were saying is – “Didn’t it set us on fire when He explained to us who He was and what He did?!!”

Listen carefully: The antidote to spiritual dullness is getting to know Jesus like never before! Question: How is your spiritual fire? Is it raging or is it flickering? Do you think that some favorite song or book or series is going to light it? The only thing that will light your spiritual fire is getting to know Jesus like never before and recognize what He is doing in your life. If that doesn’t light your fire, your wood is wet! Are you saved?

First, we will understand who Jesus is and then, we will understand what He does:

I. WHO IS JESUS? 

15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him

Background: I think there is some irony here. These disciples were talking about Jesus but they could not recognize Him! No different than today! 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Wouldn’t you have loved to be in that Bible study?!! Jesus identifying Himself throughout the Old Testament! He is showing them every Christophany – His pre-incarnate appearances. For the next few minutes we will look at the most prominent Christophany – “the Angel of Yahweh/Lord.” Who is this Angel of the Lord?

  1. He is referred to as God. In Genesis 28 Jacob had a dream in which he saw a ladder set up between heaven and earth and angels of God ascending and descending on it. On the top stood God who blessed Jacob. When Jacob woke up he said, 16 “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” He set up a stone pillar and called the place Bethel. Meaning = house of God. Later he says in Genesis 31 11 Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, “Jacob.’…13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Angel of the Lord = God.

Another example: In Exodus 3 Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the back of the desert. Verse 2 the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The bush kept burning so Moses turned to investigate. Verse 4 So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” 6 …“I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. Angel of the Lord = God.

One more example: In the book of Judges we meet a man named Manoah and his wife. They couldn’t have any kids. Judges 13 3 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and promised them a child. When she told that to her husband, he prayed that God would reveal this person once again. So the Angel of God returned and Manoah asked Him His name. Listen to His answer – 18 “…And the Angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” This is the same name given to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given…And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace..” Later in verse 22 listen to what Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” I can give many other examples. The point is the Angel of the Lord is God.

  1. He is not Yahweh. Some people think that the Angel of the Lord is Yahweh. Not true. One clear example of that is Zechariah 1:12 Then the Angel of the LORD answered and said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” Here the Angel of the Lord is interceding on behalf of God’s people to God. He is God but He is talking to God. Can you see the hints of the Trinity here? Two individuals are God.
  2. The Angel of the Lord is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. Why not the Father? Because He never shows Himself visibly. John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Why not the Holy Spirit? Because He never shows Himself visibly. John 3:8 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.”

What is the conclusion? The Angel of the Lord is God but not Yahweh. He is one of the Trinity but not the Father or the Spirit. Who is left? Jesus Christ – the one who has always been there. He is the one who keeps coming to His people but they keep missing Him.

Application: Have you missed Jesus? Do you realize that He is the KEY to the work of God throughout history? Do you realize that He is central to our faith? Have you met Him before? If you haven’t, you may know a lot but you are still blind like the disciples.

II. WHAT DOES HE DO? 

Emmaus was not very far from Jerusalem. Time must have stood still. It always does when you truly begin to see God. They got to their destination and He kept on going but they begged Him to stay and He did. Luke 24 30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. Meaning: He came in as the guest but He became the host. How would you like that if you invited someone to your house and they walk in and take over! What He was showing to them was that He has always been the host! We are the guests. He is the doer and we are the receivers.

What does He do?

  1. He shows God to us. He’s always done that and He always will.

In the Old Testament He came as the Angel of the Lord to Moses in the back of the desert and said in Exodus 3:6 “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Later in the New Testament He is doing the same work. John 8 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Later in Matthew 11:27 Jesus said All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Question: Are you getting to know more and more about God through Jesus?

  1. He calls us and sends us. He’s always done that and He always will.

In the Old Testament He tells Moses in Exodus 3  9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” In the New Testament He is doing the same thing. He walks by the Sea of Galilee and sees two brothers Simon Peter and Andrew casting a net into the sea. Matthew 4 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Later He called Paul on the Road to Damascus. Acts 26 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you. Then at the end of His ministry on earth He gave the Great Commission – Matthew 28 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Question: Can you hear God calling you through Jesus Christ?

  1. He intercedes for us. He’s always done that and He always will.

We saw Him interceding for the people of Israel in Zechariah 1 12   Then the Angel of the LORD answered and said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” 13 And the LORD answered the angel who talked to me, with good and comforting words. In the New Testament we seem praying for His disciples in John 17 11 “…these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are…13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves…17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. Guess what He is doing for us today? Romans 8:34 “…It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Again in Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Question: Can you hear Him interceding for you?

Invitation: Have you come to Jesus? He is the Way, Truth, and Life. He has always been and will always be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. HE WAS BORN BUT HE ALWAYS WAS.

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

Bethlehem 1

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

Bethlehem 2

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

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

Bethlehem 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Transfiguration by Carl Heinrich Bloch

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

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

Do you know this King of glory, Jesus Christ?

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

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

How to Enjoy the Holidays

HOW TO ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtoenjoytheholidaysToday I’m preaching a message titled, “How to enjoy the holidays?” Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas is not too far behind. If your family is like ours, starting now, the next 2 months are crazy busy and stressful. We can’t wait for January to get here. This should not be the way.

Philippians 4   4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Overall Background: The central theme of the book of Philippians is joy. Paul mentions it about 16 times. Sometimes it is either the noun “chara” that means joy and other times it is the verb “chairo” that means rejoice. Here are some examples:

  • 1:4 in every prayer of mine (I’m) making request for you all with joy,
  • 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded,
  • 3:3 rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
  • 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown,
  • 4:4   Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Caesarea

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 2

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Caesarea 3

Caesarea – Possible location of Paul’s “I appeal to Caesar.” (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

The point is – Philippians is the letter to read if you want joy in your life. But there’s something more. Listen to Phil. 1:12  But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; Not sure if Paul is in Rome or Ephesus, or Caesarea. If Caesarea, then Nicole and I stood in the very room where Paul’s trial took place. Either way Paul is in prison writing a letter on joy! Here’s the point: Joy is not hinged on your circumstances.

Question: How is the joy level in your life? Here’s another question – would people around you call you a person of joy? Here’s a better question – do you bring joy or do you bring pain in the lives of people around you? Are you saved?

5 things we will learn from this passage about how to enjoy the holidays:

I. FIND JOY IN EVERYTHING. 

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Background: If you read this verse out of context, you will miss the reason why Paul stressed, “always” and repeated, “Rejoice.” Read the 2 prior verses – Phil. 4:2  I implore Euodia and in the church I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Meaning: There was a conflict between 2 women. Who were they? 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Meaning: These women loved the Lord and helped Paul in his ministry. For some reason, they were in a conflict and it was tearing the Philippian church apart. It was stealing their joy. Hence Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

Would you agree that life has many unexpected joy stealers? Relationship conflicts, health, finances, crime, morality, bad news, and the list goes on and on.

For e.g. As I was typing this message, all of a sudden the word file closed. It does that once in a while. Only problem – I hadn’t saved it in the past 5 minutes. It was frustrating because now I had to remember what I had written and retype. Such is life.

Here’s the bottom line: You have a choice. You can either choose to be hateful, painful, or sorrowful or you can choose to be joyful.

Application: What is your choice this holiday season? What joy killers are lurking in your life? Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because joy is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of joy and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

II. FOCUS ON BEING GENTLE.

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Background: The word for gentleness can also be translated “kindness” or “tolerance.” It has the idea of being willing to bend. Bending does not mean compromising. It means learning to get along. In other words, don’t be rude, hateful or impatient but be kind, gentle, and patient. What is your motivation? “The Lord is at hand.” In other words, Jesus is near you and watching your behavior. You better be nice.

Illustration: Remember that old joke – Children were lined up in the cafeteria for lunch. At the head of the table was a basket of apples with a note – “Take only one, God is watching.” Moving through the line, on the other end of the table was a tray of chocolate chip cookies. Some smart aleck wrote a note and put it next to the cookies – “Take all you want, God is busy watching the apples.”

Bottom line: God sees everything. He sees when were being judgmental rather than gentle. Live every moment as if God is watching you because He is.

Application: Are you a gentle person or are you a judgmental person? Beware of self-righteousness. Is your heart full of the Holy Spirit? Because gentleness is also a fruit of the spirit. Show me a person who is void of gentleness and I will show you a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit.

III. FIGHT ANXIETY WITH PRAYER. 

Be anxious for nothing,

Background: The Greek word for anxious is “merimnao.” It’s origin is from two Greek words – “merizo” = divide and “nous” = mind. In other words, anxiety is a mind divided. Another synonym for anxiety is worry, which comes from the German “würgen.” It means to strangle or to choke.

Listen to what Chuck Swindoll said about worry – “Stress and worry break us down. They are the unseen source of our headaches, backaches, heartaches, and belly aches. They produce everything from obesity to obscenity, from constipation to diarrhea, and from impatience to impotence. They give us knotted stomachs, sleepless nights, high blood pressure, low morale. They make our tempers short and our days long. They cause indigestion, irritation, chest pain, and muscle strain. “You do not get stomach ulcers from what you eat,” said one doctor. “You get ulcers from what is eating you.”

What’s the solution? It’s not enough to say – “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Listen to what Paul says Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Meaning: The antidote to worry is prayer. What will happen? 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Once again, an old illustration: Frederick Handley Page of England was one of the pioneers in the early days of aviation. The story is told of how once he was flying and he heard the sound of gnawing. It was a rat. This was before autopilot so he could not do anything. He knew one thing – rat is a rodent that is not bad for heights. He began to climb higher and higher until it stopped.

Anxiety is also a rodent that cannot live in the secret place of the Most High.

Application: How is your prayer life? Are you daily grateful for what God has already done for you? Are you making your requests known to God?

IV. FIX YOUR MIND ON WHAT’S POSITIVE.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Some people think that Christian life is simply a list of don’ts, all negative. Christian life is also positive. We have to focus on what is good. You’ll become what you focus on.

For e.g. One time this lady came to me and complained about how she constantly had bad dreams. I told her to read her Bible and pray before she goes to bed tonight and see if it makes a difference. She thanked me and as she leaves she tells her friend – Can’t wait to watch “The Evil Dead” or some movie like that!

Then Paul adds in verse 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Meaning: If you need help finding positive things to focus on, copy me.

Application: What are you focusing on right now? Is it on Christ? Is it on the good that God has done in your life? Is it on the positive? Who are you copying?

V. FILL YOUR HEART WITH CHRIST.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This is one of the most misunderstood and misquoted verses in the Bible. Paul is not saying – “With Christ I can take over the world.” He is saying – “With Christ I can face the ups and downs of life, the time of abundance and the time of hunger.

Illustration: Several years ago I was in Mexico on a mission trip. We were up in the Yucatan peninsula where they still didn’t even have electricity. The people lived in these tiny homes and had hardly anything. All day long we had activities for the kids and in the evening we had songs, movies, and message for all the people in the village. On the last day we had a final activity in the morning and we were going to leave after that. As we were breaking things down, I thought came to my mind – “Is this worth it? Yeah…we spent all that money and came, went somewhere we’ve never been, learned a new culture, grateful for all we have back home, gave these kids something to do for a week but is this worth it?” As the thought was still in my mind, a man approached me. I had seen him several times in the week. He had a wife and couple of little kids. He asked me something in Spanish, thinking I knew the language. I asked the translator to help. The man was asking for a Bible. Of course, we had bought a bunch from the church. I opened my bag and gave him some. No sooner had I done that, 3 more people asked me for one. By the time we left, all were given.

The point is – those people didn’t have much but they were not hungry for stuff. They were hungry for the truth.

When your heart is full of truth, you will be content no matter your circumstances.

Are you ready to face the holidays? Are you saved?

MISTLETOE IN A MINUTE

MISTLETOE IN A MINUTE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

What does kissing under a mistletoe have to do with Christmas? In ancient times mistletoe was considered a miracle plant. When everything was dead in the harsh winter, this rootless parasitic plant was still flourishing. It symbolized life, hope, and fertility. mistletoe-sprig1
Mistletoe OldMistletoe - Norman Rockwell

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Druids and Vikings thought this plant was so sacred that they would marry under it. When they became Christians, the mistletoe took on a deeper meaning. It reminded them of God’s power to bring life where there was death. Later on in England, when a couple passed under the plant, they had to stop and kiss and if they did, God would bless them with an everlasting love. So next time someone points out “Hey! You’re under a mistletoe,” think about the undying love of God in Jesus Christ and oh yes, pucker up! Merry Christmas!

office christmas party, Churchill pub, Kensington Church St

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Two Gifts Worth Opening

 This morning in our series on the Life of Christ we come to John 1 for our message titled – “TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS.” All of us at some point have received a gift from a loved one that has been a let down and a disappointment. We were hoping for this but we got this.

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. 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.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read John tells us twice about two gifts that were given in Jesus. Listen again to verse 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.” Now listen also to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Twice the two gifts that came in Jesus are mentioned – Grace and Truth.

But now here’s an important question: When John says in verse 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,” is he just talking about himself and the first disciples and the early church? Were the gifts of grace and truth just for those among whom He dwelt physically? Too bad for us who were not born in the first century. Wish you could’ve seen Jesus. You would’ve received grace and truth. The answer to that is earlier in verse 12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Meaning: In the context, the gifts are for everyone who has ever received Jesus as Savior and has become a child of God. If that wasn’t clear, John makes it clear in verse 16“of his fullness we have all received.” “All” even includes some who will receive Jesus this Sunday morning. Your gifts are waiting for you to open!

Application: Question to those who claim to be Christians – “Have you opened your gifts?” Of course, I’m not talking about what’s sitting under the tree. I’m talking about the gifts of grace and truth. “Are you helping others open their gifts?” Question to those who’ve never received Jesus – “Do you realize the wonderful gifts God has wrapped for you in Jesus?” My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will make these gifts so appealing that you will not wait even a single moment but tear into them!

Let’s open these gifts –

 1. PREPARATION FOR THE GIFTS

Listen to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

What was the Law of Moses? The Law (nomoj) in this context refers to all the rules and regulations in the Pentateuch that God had given to his people Israel through Moses.

Why did God give the Law? Initially, he gave the law to temporarily protect his people from the Canaanites. In Genesis 15, it talks about the Moses by Gustave Dore“iniquity of the Amorites.” He gave His Law so that Israel would not become like its neighbors (Galatians 3:19). If you want to know what the Canaanites were like, just read the Old Testament law backwards. But there was another reason why God gave the law. It was to help them realize that they could never live up to God’s standards. The law was a measuring stick. The people were to stand against the measuring stick of the law and every time they did they realized they were still far from God’s standard of holiness. They needed help. The law was never the final destination. It was only a reminder of how sinful they really were and how much they needed a mediator. That’s why every law came with some sacrifice when broken. Some animal had to pay the price because the people couldn’t keep the law.

Paul says the same things but he takes it a step further – Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. Romans 7:8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. I Corinthians 15:56 “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” What is Paul saying in these verses? Not only is the law a temporary protector and a measuring stick but it’s also an instigator to sin.

For e.g. Put up a sign that says “Fresh Paint Do Not Touch.” What do people do?

For e.g. Imagine a glass filled with dirty water. If that water has been sitting still for some time, it appears clean until you stir it. Now what happens? It shows all the dirt.

Don’t misunderstand – Laws are good for society. They keep people in check. But they cannot change people.

In other words, the law was a good thing but also a house arrest, a nice prison. It was also a constant reminder of our inability to reach God. It was a Pot stirrer. In all, the law only brought a constant feeling of inadequacy, guilt, burden, and frustration.

What did the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees, do? They failed to understand the real intent of the law – temporary protection, measuring stick, and stirring of more sin. Instead, they pretended to keep the law with integrity. They compared their righteousness with each other and became self-righteous. They made many more laws of their own with plenty of exceptions and exclusions. This only brought hypocrisy.

Someone might say – okay, the Law for the Jewish people. How about the non-Jewish people? Even though we’re not Jewish, we have the law of our conscience. Romans 2:12 says, “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.” This has the same effect as a Law of Moses. It also brings condemnation, guilt, burden, frustration, and hypocrisy.

Application: Are you trusting in the Old Testament Law (10 Commandments) or in the law of your conscience or in the law of society to justify you before God? It will only result in guilt, burden, and frustration. It will never save you nor set you free.

2. PRESENTATION OF THE GIFTS 

17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Background: John shows a contrast between the giving of the law and the coming of Jesus Christ. Grace and Truth came with Jesus.

woman-caught-in-adulteryWhat is Grace? In Greek the word is carij. It is found 155 times in the New Testament of which hundred are in Paul’s writings, some in Peter’s writings, and just 30 in the Gospels, mostly in Luke’s writings but never in Matthew or Mark. In fact, grace in John is used only four times and just in these four verses. Why is grace not mentioned more than that? Listen carefully – the reason the idea of grace did not have to be mentioned is because Jesus is Grace. Listen to verse 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.” To see Jesus in his glory is to see Grace. We try to define grace with trite phrases like “unmerited favor” and “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” All those are fine but if you want to define grace, define Jesus. He was perfect and yet he received imperfect sinners. He was God’s Son and yet He became like us. He committed no sin and he laid down his life for our sins. That’s grace.

What is Truth? The word alhqeia for truth is used 100 times in the New Testament and, in contrast to grace, more than half of them are found in John’s writings. While Grace has to be lived out, truth has to be spoken. Jesus told the truth – about God, about sin, about righteousness, about the cross, about heaven and hell, and so on.

PhariseesHow did the Jewish people respond to Jesus being the truth? They accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath and other laws. He told them the truth about their hypocrisy in keeping the law. Listen to John 5 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” He told them the truth about the real condition of their hearts. Listen to John 8 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Then He declared without hesitation, qualifications, or apology in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Then they said – “Let’s kill Him.”

Application: Do you want to be set free? Come to Jesus. Only he has the grace to forgive you unconditionally and only he has to truth to set you free completely. Grace is not just an idea and truth is not just a fact. Grace and truth are one person and His name is Jesus.

3. POURING OVER OF THE GIFTS

So far we have seen that the law prepared us for the gifts of grace and truth and Jesus presented Himself as the gifts of grace and truth but that’s not the end. In fact, that’s just the beginning.

16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Background: I went to look up the meaning of that phrase “grace for grace” carin anti carin and this is what a key reference book said – “the precise sense of the phrase is uncertain.” I want to say, “Thanks a lot!” So what does it mean? Let’s look again to verse 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. As the Son of God, Jesus is full of everything the father is. To receive of his fullness is to be connected to everything that God is.

Some of you are thinking – “Yep, that’s interesting. What does that have to do with me.” Don’t miss this. It has profound significance to our Christian life. Some people think that once you are saved by the grace and truth of Jesus that now you need to go back and keep the law, maybe not the Old Testament law but just have a list of rules as a Christian. What would Paul say to that? Galatians 2:21 “…if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” In fact, if you do that, it will actually produce the opposite effect! Listen to Galatians 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

What is the solution? Verse 16 “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” Here’s what it means – in Jesus Christ you have everything given to you. You have God Himself. Stay connected to Him. Keep looking to Him. Keep obeying Him. Keep trusting Him. And He will make Grace abound in your life. Grace upon grace for your daily Christian life. It’s not a list you need. It’s Jesus you need. And who helps you – the Holy Spirit.

Listen again to Paul in Romans 5:21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Meaning: Where sin once controlled us, now grace controls us.

Application: Are you ready to open your gifts this morning? Grace and Truth in Jesus

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