The Witness Stand by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE WITNESS STAND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Witness Stand

Introduction: How many of you remember watching legal shows on TV? Let’s say that you were falsely accused of murder but everything pointed in your direction, which TV attorney would you like to fight for you in court? How many of you would hire Perry Mason? How about Ben Matlock? Mason was a prosecuting attorney and Matlock a defense attorney. I remember how Matlock would cross-examine a phony witness and before long he/she would blurt out “Ok, fine, I didn’t see it!” The Bible repeatedly uses the language of the courtroom, especially in the New Testament. Every believer is a witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The first disciples were eye-witnesses. We are faith witnesses and we have an obligation to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. That’s the message today called “The Witness Stand.”

Acts 26     12“While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It ishard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16But 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.

Question:If Matlock were examining you today on the witness stand, would you turn out to be a true witness or a phony witness? Are you truly saved? Are you sharing your witness? Are you telling people what Christ has done in your life?

Context:This is our final message on the foundational beliefs of Clearview Church. A major foundation of our church is that all of us are called to be witnesses. We are called to tell the world what we have seen and heard about Jesus. Our motto is “Making Christ Visible.” In fact, the mission of our church is “to lead all people into a life changing, ever growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” This is based on Jesus’ final words to his disciples in Acts 1:8is “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This command was not just for the first eye-witnesses but also for all faith witnesses who would come later. The passage we just read is about the conversion of Paul and the call that he received from Christ himself. Listen again –16But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witnessboth of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.” The key word for us is the word “witness.” What does it mean?

Witness – That word comes from the Greek word “marturia” or “martureo,” which is found in various forms around 200 times in the New Testament. It has a legal meaning. It refers to someone who can certify facts, especially in a court of law. Of course, Greek writers like Homer, Pindar, and Plato used it in this legal way, the legal idea behind that word depends heavily on its use in the Greek Old Testament. It is used when God is called as a witness in his covenant with Israel or when Israel is called to be a witness to the nations for God. The witness is not just a reporter of what they have seen or heard but they are also responsible to bring the other person around to the truth. In other words, a witness is more than just a reporter of facts in a court, they also have to be convincing. In the New Testament, that word is used again and again to verify and authenticate the person and work of Jesus. I don’t have the time to look at all the references, but here are just a few:

  • John 1 6There was a man sent from God, whose namewas 7This man came for a witness, to bear witnessof the Light, that all through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, butwas sentto bear witnessof that Light.
  • Luke 24 46Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And you are witnessesof these things.”
  • Acts 4:33And with great power the apostles gave witnessto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
  • 1 Peter 5:1“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witnessof the sufferings of Christ…”
  • Revelation 20:4“Then I sawthe souls of those who had been beheaded for theirwitnessto Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image…”

As witnesses we are called to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. Are you?

Before Paul became a witness, he had been several other things:

  1. Spectator – Acts 7 57Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58and they casthimout of the city and stonedhim.And the witnesseslaid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen as he was calling onGodand saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
  2. Accomplice –Acts 8:1“Now Saul was consenting to his death…”
  3. Criminal –Acts 8  1“…At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2And devout men carried Stephento his burial,and made great lamentation over him. 3As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committingthemto prison.
  4. Mastermind – Acts 9 1Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
  5. Most Wanted – Acts 9 3As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.4Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It ishard for you to kick against the goads.”

Jesus took him from the Most Wanted Criminal to becoming a Chief Witness to the gospel. Has he done that in your life?

Some people are occupying other spots in the courtroom:

  1. Judge – Questioning other people’s motives and casting judgment.
  2. Prosecutor –Always attacking and condemning people.
  3. Defense Attorney – Always defending people instead of witnessing to them.
  4. Spectator –doing nothing, just enjoying the show.

Are you a witness? Are you saved?

Joint Impact by Pastor Abidan Shah

JOINT IMPACT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Joint Impact

Introduction: Back in the summer, several of the men in the church asked me if they could come by and help me with my yard. I was ecstatic! I’m not much of a yard guy. I can mow the grass but that’s about it. One Saturday morning, a bunch of them and even a couple of ladies descended on our house and took down trees, dug up roots, trimmed the hedges, hauled away all the limbs, spread out the mulch, cleaned the gutters, and more. It seemed as if everyone who came had a different talent and ability. They did in 4 hours what I could not have done in 4 years! It was unbelievable! I’m hoping they’ll come back next year! The point is that it was a joint impact. So also, when people in the church come together, they can make a joint impact which is far greater than anything we can do on our own. In fact, that’s how God has designed the church. It brings glory to God when we work together through Christ in worship, nurture, and witness.

Ephesians 4    11“And He Himself gave someto beapostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. . . 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

Question:What is your role in this church body? What gift has God given to you? Are you saved? If so, what’s holding you back from jumping in?

Context: This is again one of those messages that we prayerfully decided should be preached in the first few weekends in this new sanctuary. One of the foundational beliefs at Clearview is that God has given each of us in this church body a particular gift through Christ that is meant to help us grow together in Christ and win the world to Christ. Until each of us actively seeks, recognizes, and uses the gift as God has intended it to be used, we will never live to our full potential as a church. The passage we just read comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Let me say something that will help you understand this passage better. Scholars have long argued over what is the true purpose behind Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Is it to clarify some misunderstood doctrine? Is it to confront a particular sin? Is it to bring unity between the Jewish and Gentile believers? Is it to warn against evil powers in the heavenlies? In some sense, all of those things but none of them in particular. His purpose was to call the Ephesians to come together as a body with Christ as the head and work together in ministry and so bring glory to God and make a joint impact in worship, nurture, and witness. In this passage, Paul does this by reminding them of:

I. OUR COMMON BOND – We stand upon a 7-layered foundation:

  1. “There is one body…” We belong to One Universal Church but this could be applied to a local church as well.
  2. “…and one Spirit…” The same OneHoly Spiritindwells you who indwells me.
  3. “…just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” We have One Expectationthat God will work out his plan for us and this world and Christ will ultimately come for us (the blessed hope and glorious appearing).
  4. “one Lord…” We have One Master, the same second person of the godhead who became man and died for us and rose again on the third day. He alone is our Master and King.
  5. “…one faith…” There is One Faith, one settled body of truth which Judecalls 3“…faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” For us, they are the foundational doctrines coming from the Word of God. Read our Statement of Faith.
  6. “…one baptism…” This refers to the One Baptism Paul talks about in Romans 6 where we “were baptized into His death,”“buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised with him to “walk in newness of life.” The water baptism is the demonstration of this inward spiritual baptism.
  7. “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Through Christ we have One God and Father and we belong to the same family. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my father” but “our father.”

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

Application: Are you part of a local body? Do you appreciate other local bodies?

II. OUR INDIVIDUAL GIFTS – We each have received a particular gift/gifts from Christ. Don’t confuse gifts with talents. Gifts are supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit but talents are natural through genetics, experience, and training. God may use your talents but there will be an extra element of his grace that will bring him glory. In Ephesians the gifts are also the office but there are many other gifts. See Romans 12and I Corinthians 12. Also, there is no comprehensive list. Ephesians 4 7“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, (established churches along with signs and wonders and miracles. Today we don’t have this gift but we do have missionaries) some prophets, (communicated the divine revelation of God. Today we don’t have this gift because we have the New Testament but we do have revivalists) some evangelists, (preach and explain the good news of salvation like Philip the evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch but today Billy Graham) and some pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping (katartismos = “mending” restoring, putting things right) of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 

Each of us has a gift. What is your gift? Unless you seek that gift from the Lord, recognize it through His Word, and start using it, we as a church will only move along on a donut tire. We will move but it won’t be fast, far, efficient, or safe. Unfortunately, many churches are content with moving along on a donut tire. In fact, they feel that if they get the donut replaced with the right tire, it may go too fast, get farther than they want it to go, and actually reach the destination! If I could subtitle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, it would be “How the church can get its donut fixed.”

Application:What gift has God given you? Are you using it in the body?

III. OUR JOINT IMPACT

13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

To summarize, our joint impacted is reflected in our Joint Worship, our Joint Nurture, and our Joint Witness. Our candle lights together are far brighter than our individual candle lights. Are you part of the body? Are you saved? Are you serving?

Why We Need Community – Part Two

WHY WE NEED COMMUNITY? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whyweneedcommunity2Introduction: Today we’re going to look at part 2 of the message titled – “Why We Need Community?” Sometimes people have a false impression about community. They think that getting into small groups means losing all your freedom and letting others control your life. That’s not true and today we will learn what is and is not community.

Acts 2 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Overall Background: The Book of Acts gives us the history of the first church. It tells us how the church grew by leaps and bounds after Jesus ascended into heaven. There are things in this book that we are supposed to copy and then things that were not meant to be copied. For e.g. In chapter 2 we read that the Holy Spirit came as a rushing mighty wind and rested as tongues of fire over the disciples. We cannot replicate that today. It was a once-for-all event. Such things belong to what John Stott called the “honeymoon period” of the church. Then there are things from the early church that can be copied. For e.g. 46 “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” Meaning: the first church not only met at the temple for worship but they also fellowshipped from house to house. And what was the result? 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. In other words, the lost world saw the love among these Christians and they were drawn to them.

Listen carefully – there’s a reason why Christianity is struggling in America. It’s not because there is less preaching or worship or the Holy Spirit. It’s because most Christians in America are living in isolation. Somehow they have the false idea that Christianity is only about coming to church on Sunday mornings and then – we’ll see you when we see you. Community is a non-essential. It’s a headache. It’s a burden.

Question: What do you think of community? Are you afraid of community? Do you realize how important it is for your own life and the growth of the church? Are you willing to connect with others in the body of Christ? Are you saved?

Unfortunately, many people have a lot of misunderstandings and fears about community. In this message we will understand what community is not and what true community is. Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the truth about the Body of Christ.

I. WHAT COMMUNITY IS NOT.

Here are the three things it’s not:

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS NOT COMMUNISM.

Acts 2  44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Some people have misunderstood what this means. They think that it means we are to take from the rich and give to the poor. They think that it means we have to reduce everyone down to the same level, something like communism. That’s not true. Sure – in the early church, they had to resort to pulling their resources together to help each other. This was to help the new movement get on its feet. People had lost their homes and jobs because of their faith. Hence they had to sell “their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” But nowhere is this prescribed for all Christians through the ages. God is not against people working hard and getting rich or creating a better world for their children. God loves the poor but He also loves the rich.

Illustration: In London’s Hyde Park, at the Speaker’s Corner, a communist stood up to make his speech. He went on and one and then pointed to an poor elderly man in the crowd and said – “When the communists are in charge, they will put a new suit on that old man.” To which a pastor in the audience shouted back – “When Jesus is in charge, He’ll put a new man inside that old suit.” Couple of years ago I was speaking at a retreat for Chinese scholars from a big university. They were sent here for their education. They were the cream of the crop. I spoke to them on “Why Jesus is the most popular person of all times?” After the second night, they challenged me saying communism was better. So I gave them that same line. They didn’t know what to say.

Community means we need to take care of each other. When we see someone in the body in need we are to come together and help them. Listen to Deuteronomy 15:11 “therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’” Again, 1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

But let me caution – this does not mean that you can sit on your blessed assurance, make bad decisions, and expect everyone to take care of you. That’s called taking advantage of the generosity of your church family. I’ve seen some of that too.

2.  TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS NOT A CAGE.

46 So continuing daily

Some people mistakenly think that being in a community means being stuck in a cage – you can no longer do what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you want to live. Now you are obligated to everyone else. That’s just not true. Sure – in the early church, they had to come together and stick to each other because they were all baby Christians. They needed each other 24/7. But nowhere is this prescribed for all Christians for all ages. God does not expect us to start a commune and build high fences and shun each other if we get out of line. God loves variety. He loves how we are different in the body of Christ.

What this does mean is that we are to come together and build relationships with others in the body of Christ. Listen to what Jesus said in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Again in 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Community is not controlling each other’s lives. It’s coming together because we have the same blood running through us – the blood of Christ. It’s being family.

3.  TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS NOT A CLICK.

Some people have misunderstood what this means. They mistakenly think that community is some kind of an exclusive group of the chosen ones. They think that somehow they are better than others. That’s just not true. It is true that Christians have a whole new perspective on life. It’s true that now they live under the direction of the Holy Spirit, which is very hard for lost people to understand. Having said that, community is not a click. God wants us to connect with each other in such a way that the world would see us and want to join in.

Listen to John 13:35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” When the lost world sees our community, they should want to join us. When they see the way we care for each other, help each other, encourage each other, hold each other accountable, they should want to join us.

II. WHAT IS COMMUNITY?

Here are the three commonalities that hold a Christian Community together.

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY MEANS HAVING A COMMON FAITH.

Acts 2 44 Now all who believed were together,

The basis for our community is what we believe. It is our common faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. You take that away and we are no different than any worldly club. As long as we keep Christ at the center of our lives and seek to help each other draw closer to Christ, we are a true community of faith. This is why community is not about controlling each other. It is about leading each other to trust Christ more each and every day. When we are together in our faith, we grow in our faith. This is how it was always meant to be. Are you growing in your faith? If you noticed, I didn’t ask – “Are you growing in your knowledge?”

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY MEANS HELPING EACH OTHER IN OUR COMMON STRUGGLE.

and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Even though community is not communism. It is communal. We help each other out through our common struggles in life. All of us have physical struggles (we get sick or have unforeseen circumstances), emotional struggles (we feel sorrow, regrets, guilt, shame, loss, doubts, fears), financial struggles (money is not everything but it’s a very important thing), and spiritual struggles (past failures, present mistakes, future doubts). For this and more, God wants us to stick together. Listen to Galatians 6   1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY MEANS HAVING COMMON GOALS.

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people.

Community is not just about personal growth or the growth of those in the community but it is also about those who are outside the community. Christians began to have favor with their neighbors. Meaning: the world began to look at the church with a sense of admiration and longing. Won’t that be something if we could have that today?

And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Meaning: The church kept on growing by leaps and bounds.

Are you saved? Are you connected?

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