Discipleship 1: Witnesses by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP 1 – WITNESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship 1

Introduction: How many of ya’ll remember playing “Simon Says”? “Simon Says, ‘Clap your hands.’” “Simon Says, ‘Hop on left leg.’” “Simon Says, ‘Waddle like a Penguin.’” You had to do everything that the leader told you to do. In the Christian life, Jesus is our leader. We are to do everything that he tells us to do. Unfortunately, when it comes to the commands of Jesus, Christians have a very different response. Jesus says, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” We respond with “I know that’s the Golden Rule.” Jesus says, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” We respond with “I heard a great message on that the other day.” Jesus says, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” We respond with “Oh, I memorized that back in Sunday School.” The goal of this series is to learn what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus and it’s much more than coming to church once a week and memorizing a few verses.

 

Matthew 28    18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go 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, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, evento the end of the age.” Amen.

Question: A disciple by definition is a follower, a learner, and a doer of everything the master says and does. Are you truly following, learning, and doing what Jesus tells you to do? Before you can be a disciple, you have to receive him as your Savior. Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read is known as the Great Commission. If you grew up in church, you may have heard it before. The Great Commission is important for 3 reasons:First, they are the final words that Jesus spoke to his followers before he ascended to his Father. Final words are critical. Second, they are Jesus’ instructions for us until he comes again. It’s his list of to-dos for us. Third, they apply to all Christians at every place, in every time and situation. They are non-negotiable. They begin with a Claim and end with a Promise and in between the Claim and the Promise are the Instructions.

What is the Claim?18“…All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” This was not some random statement. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy made in Daniel 7   13“I was watching in the night visions,and behold, Onelike the Son of Man,Coming with the clouds of heaven!He came to the Ancient of Days (Here God the Father),and they brought Him near before Him.14Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.His dominionisan everlasting dominion,which shall not pass away,And His kingdomthe oneWhich shall not be destroyed.” Because Jesus rejected the offer of Satan and obeyed his Father even to the cross, he was given universal sovereignty. Paul says in Philippians 2    9“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.”

What is the Promise?lo (Old and Middle English shortened form of look), I am with you always, evento the end of the age.”It was the assurance that his spiritual presence would be with his disciples as they carried out his instructions.You need both the Claim and the Promise to give the Instructions. A Promise without a Claim is Powerless. It’s like if I were to walk up to you and demand the keys to your vehicle. “By what authority?” A Claim without a Promise is Intimidation. It’s like if I were to demand you to do something you didn’t want to do with no promise of help and support. Keep in mind that we already have the Holy Spirit.John 14   16“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Also, Acts 1:8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The Promise here is that, along with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be with us in his spiritual presence, guiding, guarding, and giving us what we need to keep his instructions.

What is the Instruction? 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, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” In that entire statement, there is only one main verb – Make Disciples. The rest may sound like verbs but they are participles. To start with, “Go” is not a verb. It is a participle. It assumes that you are already going, moving out. It may be across the street or across the seas. The other two participles are “baptizing” and “teaching.” They tell us the process of making disciples. This is where many Christians bring in their ideas and opinions rather than what Jesus told us and what the early church did for many centuries. I believe that we need to let the Word of God speak for itself and let the chips fall where they may. What some Christians have done is that they have turned baptism which was enrollment into graduation. They come with a personal list of what they feel is necessary to learn and understand before they will consider graduation/baptism. Here are 2 problems with that way of thinking – First, that’s not what the text is saying; second, you never graduate in the Christian life. I know what some people will say – “I don’t want the person to get the false impression that they are saved because they got baptized. Getting into the baptistry doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” That sounds like a great analogy but actually it’s mismatched. Here’s a better one – “You can self-educate yourself as much as you want but that’s not going to earn you a degree unless you enroll in a college.” That’s a much better analogy. Baptism is enrollment in God’s academy from which you will never graduate.

Question: Have you been baptized? What is holding you back?

Another Objection: I know people who got baptized but they only got wet. My answer – I know some of those too. 2 things here: First, they never truly understood the gospel. What is the gospel?“God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins according to Scripture. He died and rose again according to Scripture. When we believe in him, not only are our sins forgiven and God’s wrath lifted but we also have eternal life and become part of God’s family!” Second, the problem is not with baptism but with what comes after baptism.

This is the heart of our series – 20“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Unfortunately, most churches, including Clearview drop the ball here. We do a very poor job in teaching new believers how to follow Jesus and obey his words. Our kids and youth ministries are the strongest anywhere I know but our adult teaching ministry is not where it needs to be. That’s why many churches seem to have a revolving door where people leave just as fast as they enter. We have to find ways to keep people from slipping away. Some have called this closing the backdoor of the church.

How does it all work?We have come up with an acronym WATER. I guess to represent baptism as the starting point. W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING.My goal today was to cover the first one – WITNESSES – but as I began to prepare my sermon I realized that unless the foundation of the Great Commission is properly laid, this will not be effective. How does it really work? When we do ministry the way Jesus did ministry. How did he do ministry? He moved people through 3 concentric circles.To start with was the CROWD.This is the vast majority of people that were not necessarily following Jesus but he encountered them. They were outside the first circle. For us, they are people in our neighborhood, workplaces, grocery stores, restaurants who we come in contact with. Then comes the first circle – The CONGREGATION.These are the vast multitudes that followed him, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Matthew 15    30“Then greatmultitudescame to Him, having with themthelame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31So the multitudemarveled when they sawthemute speaking, themaimed made whole, thelame walking, andtheblind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.” Sunday morning is the Multitude, the Congregation, who hear the truth and walk away amazed. Then comes the second circle – The COMMUNITY. These are the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 here if you would like. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Matthew 13:36“Then Jesus sent the multitudeaway and went into the house. And His disciplescame to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” This is the weekly Sunday Sunday School and Wednesday Evening Bible Study. Finally comes the third circle – The CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. Mark 9:2 “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.” Mark 5:37“And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James.” Mark 14   33“And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, evento death. Stay here and watch.’” Some of ya’ll are thinking, “I cannot add one more thing to my schedule.” Here’s answer, “Circle is about getting into a smaller setting right where you are. It has set times after which it has to replicate. We’ll talk about that later.

The goal of discipleship is help people, once they have entered from the Crowd to the Congregation, move from the Congregation to Community to Circle. Where do you fall?

Are you truly a disciple of Jesus? Are you saved? Have you been baptized?

Drifting Allegiance by Pastor Abidan Shah

DRIFTING ALLEGIANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Drifting Allegiance

Introduction: What does it mean to drift? There are many meanings. If you’re a NASCAR fan, you know what drifting is. I can say, “Do you get my drift?” which means, “Do you understand what I am saying?” You can also drift off to sleep (as some of you will in a few minutes). There’s another kind of drifting which means “get off course or lose your way.” It happens often in the Christian life. We start out strong in the right way with all the right intentions but then we drift away for one reason or another. Today’s message titled “DRIFTING ALLEGIANCE” will help us get back on track and finish what God has begun in our lives. Here’s the message in a nutshell – “When we drift away, God doesn’t abandon us. Instead, he comes to us in grace and lovingly but firmly he steers us back.”

John 21   15So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, sonof Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, sonof Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, sonof Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

Question: Christ came to Peter because he had drifted away. Have you drifted away? Have you lost your zeal for the things of God? Have you lost your first love? Have you ever received God’s love in your heart. Are you saved?

Overall Background: The Gospel of John could have ended at chapter 20. Jesus had finished his earthly ministry. He had died on the cross. He had risen from the grave. He had revealed himself to his disciples. It was time for Jesus to ascend back to his Father and send the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to empower the disciples to share the gospel with the world. Everything that needed to be said had been said. Everything that needed to be done had been done. But, before he left, one more thing had to be done. In fact, it was one more person who had to be visited. Even though Jesus had already met him after the resurrection and proven himself to him, he knew that this person needed a one-on-one time with him. It was Simon Peter. Things were still not right with him ever since he had denied Jesus that night. You remember – he denied him 3 times and then the rooster crowed just the way Jesus had warned. Peter was still not over it. He was still plagued with guilt, shame, disappointment and self-condemnation. If you are drifting today, here are 5 things to help you return to God:

1. RESULT OF DRIFTING

John 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.”

Background:On the surface, nothing was wrong with that statement. People fish all the time and many times they return emptyhanded. But the next verse tells us that this was not an ordinary fishing trip – But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. You have to read between the lines.Jesus was not just “happened to be” hanging out by the shore. I believe that it was Jesus who made sure that every fish in the Sea of Tiberius was safe that night. The angels had to put on their snorkelers and fins and work extra hard that night! Jesus knew that Peter had lost his focus and he wanted him to remember what he had taught them back in John 15:5 “without Me you can do nothing.” You may still go about your daily activities but you are no longer empowered by God. No matter how much profit you make or achievements you have, you still feel empty.In fact, listen to verse Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.”

Application:Is that you today? You’ve lost your focus. You may still be doing things but you come up empty. Your heart remains empty. A drifting life is a fruitless life.

2. RESPONSE OF THE SAVIOR

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Background:You would expect Jesus to come with anger and disappointment. Instead He came with forgiveness and grace. He did not condemn them for going fishing but helped them find fish. That is the nature of God. Just when we think we don’t deserve grace, we receive grace; just when we think we have been discarded, He comes to restore us. Just when we think that He won’t help us. He does. Someone might say, “You don’t know how bad I have been.” Listen to Romans 8   33 “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It isGod who justifies. 34Who ishe who condemns? It isChrist who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Meaning:We not only have the Holy Spirit interceding for us but we also have Jesus praying for us. Jesus, who knows our every weakness, is the one who is interceding for us.

3. RESPONSE OF THE DRIFTER 

John 21:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put onhisouter garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. John has intentionally placed this information here for us. He wants us to learn from Peter’s example. It matters how we respond when the Savior calls us. It matters how we respond when the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts.

Application: How do you respond when God convicts your heart? Do you wait, deliberate, debate, procrastinate or do you immediately run towards him? Hosea 6:1“Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”

4.  RESTORATION BY THE SAVIOR

What happened when they all got to the land?They saw fire of coals and fish laid on it and bread. Jesus says to them “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”Jesus not only had the breakfast prepared for them but He even asked them to bring some of the fish they had just caught and included it. He indeed “works all things together for good to those who love God.” Altogether, they had 153 fish. There is a reason for this huge catch. It was a restoration of the call that Jesus had given to them when he first called them – “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19. Now began a heart to heart conversation between Jesus and Peter. Three times Jesus asked him if he loved him. Why? To convey to him that he had lost his first love. Also, each time Jesus told him to get back to the task that he had given him of taking care of the disciples. In other words, Jesus was telling Peter that he was not through with him.

Application:There are many people here this morning for whatever reason you feel God is through with you but He is not. He is calling you back to love and to the ministry. Have you lost your first love? Are you ready to get back to serving?

5. RELAPSE OF THE DRIFTER

In verse 18 Jesus tells Peter how he would be martyred for the gospel and reminded him to “Follow him.” But listen to Peter’s response– 20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”21Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, whataboutthis man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, whatis thatto you? You follow Me.” This is why Peter fell the first time. He wanted to make himself look better than others. He is still doing the same things! Old habits and sins do not die easily.

Personal Testimony: I thought for some time that I had disappointed God and that I was no longer worthy. Everything I attempted was fruitless until I met Nicole’s dad. Just a handshake showed me that he loved me. You may not see Jesus face-to-face but you can feel His love in the smiles and the handshakes in this place. That’s what Clearview is all about – “Making Christ Visible” – so that the saved will return to their love and ministry and the lost will be saved.

Have you drifted in your allegiance? Have you lost your first love? Are you doing things but coming up empty? Have you ever received His love?

Doubtful Faith by Pastor Abidan Shah

DOUBTFUL FAITH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

doubtful

Introduction: Have you ever heard the statement, “I have to see it to believe it.” Parents of teenagers – “He cleaned up his room! I have to see it to believe it.” Employees – “We’re getting a day off! I have to see it to believe it.” Church folks – “The pastor ended on time! I have to see it to believe.” It actually comes from the Bible where one of Jesus’ disciples was reluctant to believe that Jesus was alive. He said, “I have to see it to believe it.” There are a lot of people who live with that mantra. They consider themselves sophisticated, scientific, and rational. Today’s message titled “DOUBTFUL FAITH” will help us with this problem, even in the Christian life. Here’s the premise – “Faith is not the absence of doubts. Doubts, apprehensions, and skepticisms are normal and even good. Faith is overcoming doubts based on the evidence already received and moving forward knowing that more evidence will follow.”

John 20   26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.”

Question: Do you have trouble believing that someone who died 2000 years ago on a cross has the power to change your life today? Get ready! God is about to open your eyes to the truth. Christian – do you struggle with doubts? I do. Let the Holy Spirit through God’s Word teach you to walk by faith and not by sight.

Background: Listen again to verse 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.” That was not a complement but a reprimand. Why did Jesus reprimand Thomas? Because eight days earlier Thomas had a very different reaction when the disciples told him that Jesus had just visited them. 25“…he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Why would Thomas say something like that?

I. THE REALITY OF DOUBT

Let’s look at it from Thomas’ perspective– Three days prior on Friday Jesus was unjustly accused and brutally nailed to the cross. The disciples watched helplessly as their Master breathed his last breath in physical pain and emotional agony. All they could do was betray, deny, and desert him. Then he was taken down from the cross and placed into a tomb. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, put him in a new tomb that he probably had hewn for himself and Nicodemus, another rich man, brought 100 pounds of spices and wrapped Jesus’ body in it with linen strips. The spices were meant to control the odor and help the decomposition process. All this is to say that Jesus was really dead. It was really all over. He was a wonderful man who spoke wonderful words and did wonderful things but now he was a dead man lying in some grave in the Judean hillside. He was not coming back to life. Plus, three days had passed. If anything was going to happen, it would have happened by now.

Can you imagine the range of emotions that Thomas and the other disciples were feeling?Shock, Trauma, Sadness, Grief, Anger, Fear, Disappointment, Confusion, Questions, Blame (Self and Other), What ifs, Back to the old life, Looking for a new normal, etc. But just then, on the third day, reports start circulating that people had seen him – “He’s alive!”A group of women went by the grave this morning and saw him, Mary Magdalene even talked to him, Peter saw him, two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and Jesus walked with them and explained the scriptures to them. Then that same evening Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples who were hiding in a house in Jerusalem. He even showed them his nail pierced hands and his spear pierced side. Guess what Thomas! We’ve seen Jesus! His response – “I have to see it to believe it!” That was his natural reaction. That would be my reaction.

Listen carefully – Doubts are natural. They’re not sins. It’s our natural response to extraordinary events. Don’t be ashamed of them. I have doubts too. Os Guinness, famous author and Senior Fellow at the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, once said, “The shame is not that people have doubts but that they are ashamed of them.” Why do people have doubts?Many reasons – your personality (skeptical), your experiences (disappointments with God over pains, hurts, and unanswered prayers), exposed to other views (questions unanswered), afraid of commitment. If you struggle with doubts, don’t be ashamed. Seek out answers. Trust me when I say to both Christians and non-Christians – “There are answers to every doubt that you are facing.”

II. THE MERCY OF CHRIST

John 20    26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

This is such a comforting passage to me. Jesus did not abandon Thomas because he had doubts but he came and found him. Jesus was under no obligation to do that. This was only because of his mercy. He saw the spark of hope in Thomas’ heart and he was not going to let it extinguish. Matthew quotes Isaiah the prophet in 12:20“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” In other words, even though the hypocritical Pharisees were plotting against him, he was not going to quench out the hope of them being able to find life. If he would do that for those Pharisees, how much more towards us. The point is this – “If you are struggling with doubts, Christ will not abandon you. He will meet you where you are.” Just like a mother that picks up a child that falls while running away from her, so also Christ comes and picks us up.

 

III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF FAITH

Listen again to verse 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.” First, Jesus was talking about the generations who will come and not have the privilege of seeing Jesus physically walk on the earth, heal the sick, feed the hungry, preach the gospel, die on the cross, and raised from the grave. They will not have the privilege of being firsthand witnesses to Christ. They will have to take God’s Word for it, believe, and be saved. All of us fall in that category. Although that’s true, I believe that Jesus had something more in mind when he made that statement. He was talking specifically to Thomas. He was telling Thomas that he had lost out on the blessing of faith. There is a blessing that comes when you take God at his word and refuse to give in to doubts. There is a blessing that comes when you say, “I have enough proof to step out in faith. In time, God will give me more proof but I will not wait on more proof in order to step out in faith. Faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is affirming that if so far there is solid ground under my feet, God will keep the solid ground coming even if I can’t see it right now.”

Did Thomas have this solid ground to believe that Jesus rose from the grave without having seen him?John 14    1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it werenotso,I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.4And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”Thomas had every reason to believe without seeing.

Illustration: Unlike Charles Templeton, Billy Graham chose to believe God and his Word.

Invitation: You say I believe in this religion or that philosophy or nothing. Are you sure you’re standing on solid ground? Are you ready to take the step forward? What if there is bottomless pit waiting for you?Are you willing to place your doubts before the living God and take him at his word? This is to Christians as well as non-Christians. Just like a train moves forward and the light keeps shining, so alsoGod will guide you. Come to Christ and be saved. Pray like that father did whose son was tormented by an evil spirit. Jesus told him in Mark 9  23“If you can believe, all things arepossible to him who believes.” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Fearless Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

FEARLESS LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fearless Love

Introduction:  How do little kids react when they see their parents? They come running when they see you. They jump into your arms and hug you. They’re not afraid to show you and the world that they love you. What happens when they get a little older. They may still be glad to see you but there’s no more running and jumping. Then they become teenagers. There’s definitely no more running and jumping. Sometimes they don’t even acknowledge you in public. They’re too cool for that. In this message we will see how the disciples of Jesus ran towards him when they found out that his body was missing. They were FEARLESS in their LOVE for him.

John 20   1 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

Question: Mary Magdalene ran. Peter ran. The other disciple ran. Just like little kids, they didn’t care what anyone thought of them. They ran because their loved one was missing. Would you have done that? Have you received his love in your life? Are you saved?

Context: John’s description of the resurrection is a little unique compared to Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s description. In fact, if you try to set the resurrection account of all 4 gospels side-by-side there seem to be several contradictions. They don’t always appear to synch very well. You can go home and try it out – how many women went to the grave, who were the women who went to the grave, what time did they go to the grave, how many angels were at the grave, were they inside the grave or outside the grave, were they standing or sitting, what exactly did they say to the women, where did Mary Magdalene see Jesus, what exactly did he say to her, and there’s more. Some people have taken these contradictions as proofs that the Bible has errors. Others have taken these contradictions and tried to fit them in a timeline to prove that the Bible has no errors. Although I believe that the Bible has no errors, I also believe that it is not helpful to force a timeline. The question we need to ask is “What is the purpose for which John recorded the resurrection?” John’s purpose in recording the resurrection was to put a literary spotlight on 3 individuals who followed Jesus and their reactions on resurrection morning. All of us who follow Jesus fall in one of these 3 reactions.

Spotlight #1 – Mary Magdalene: Popular culture has created an image of her that is nothing like how the Bible describes her. Both Mark and Luke tell us in their gospels that Jesus had cast out 7 demons from her. Growing up in India I have seen people who were demon possessed and it’s a very scary and a sad sight. If they are poor, they are left to wander the streets. They are treated like animals. People even throw rocks at them to keep them from coming into their neighborhood. They are abused by other people on the streets. Sometimes they are even abused for religious reasons. I personally believe that she came from a well-to-do situation because Luke tells us in 8:3 that she belonged to a group of women who followed behind Jesus and his disciples and “provided for Him from their substance.” Somehow, she got caught up in demonic activity. Maybe they had to lock her away. But, Jesus came and set her free. All she wanted to do now was follow Jesus. When he hung on the cross, listen to John 19:25 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” What happened after they put Jesus in the tomb? Matthew 27   60 “…he (Joseph of Arimathea) rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.” What if you were to tell her, “Mary, it’s over. Jesus was all wonderful but they killed him.” She would say, “I don’t care. I still love him. I know what he did for me. I’m not leaving.” She had an adoring love for Jesus. This may be hard for our culture to understand where everything is seen as creepy and lustful.

Now listen again to what happens on the day Jesus rose from the grave – 1 “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early while it was still dark.” How many of y’all would like to go to a graveyard early in the morning while it is still dark? Creepy. It’s not just Mary Magdalene but a few other women as well. But that’s not the only thing to be scared about. Just 2 days earlier, their Master had been false accused, brutally beaten, and unjustly crucified by the Romans. They had even put a guard outside the tomb. Matthew tells us that there was a great earthquake. But, none of this mattered to Mary Magdalene. Mark even tells us in his gospel 16:3 they (the women) said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” Meaning: They didn’t even try to consider who would roll away the stone. What happened when she and the other women saw the stone rolled away 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Do you have this kind of adoring love for Jesus that defies reason and logic?

Spotlight #2 – Peter: He doesn’t need much of an introduction. He’s always the first one to jump up and follow Jesus. He’s also the one who says things without thinking. In fact, leading up to the cross, he has made a lot of poor choices – He didn’t understand the purpose for the foot washing. He had chopped off the high priest’s servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also promised to lay down his life for Jesus but then just as Jesus forewarned, he denied him 3 times with cursing before the rooster crowed. It had gone from bad to worse for Peter. He was guilt ridden. But what happened when Mary Magdalene told him about Jesus? 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.” What slowed Peter down? Maybe the guilt. Do you have this kind of love that runs but is slowed down by guilt and shame?

Spotlight #3 – Beloved Disciple: he is usually referred to as “the one whom Jesus loved.” He was the one leaning on Jesus at the Supper Table and who asked Jesus who would betray him. Jesus clearly explained but he didn’t get it. Then he was in the courtyard of the High Priest watching what was happening to their Master but he failed to do anything. Then he was at the cross with the Mother of Jesus when Jesus turned her over to him. You can only imagine how helpless he might have felt. He was helpless but when he heard the news, he ran too.  4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. What kept him from going in? Was it fear? Was it doubt? Do you have this kind of love that stops at critical moments?

Now the spotlight comes back around on each of them:

#1 Peter – 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

#2 Beloved Disciple – 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

#3 Mary Magdalene – 11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

Which one are you? Are you the love that runs in the face of reason and logic? Are you love that slows down by guilt and shame but goes all out? Are you love that stops at critical moments but is the first to believe? Each is fearless.

Do you love Jesus at all? Are you saved?

Senseless Obedience by Pastor Abidan Shah

Senseless Obedience by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Senseless Obedience

Introduction:  Would you agree that parents say some crazy things? Things like “Don’t look at me with those eyes,” “Quiet down, I can’t even hear myself think,” “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” “So, if everybody jumps off a bridge, will you jump too?” and my favorite – “Because I said so, that’s why.” In other words, “Obey me even if it doesn’t make sense.” That’s the premise of our message today – “Sometimes our Heavenly Father expects us to obey him even if it doesn’t make any sense.” That’s the title of our message – “SENSELESS OBEDIENCE.” It doesn’t mean Mindless Obedience. It doesn’t mean that God tells us to do things that are illegal or immoral. It means that sometimes God asks us to do things that in our earthly mind do not make sense. But, if you remember that God has the best in mind for us and that he is doing something big that may not make sense now but if we trust him and are patient, we will know one day, all we need to do at the present time is be patient, just trust and obey.

Matthew 21    1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. All four gospels record this event.

John 12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him…”

Question: The disciples obeyed Jesus even when it didn’t make any sense. Are you obedient to God even when it doesn’t make any sense? How do you obey him? Quickly, completely, joyfully? Are you saved? Obey the voice of the Holy Spirit and be saved.

Context: As you know, today is Palm Sunday. It’s the Sunday before Easter that marks the beginning of the Passion Week or the Holy Week. On this day 2000 years ago, Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. He knew why he was coming into Jerusalem. He had prophesied and forewarned his disciples of the things that were about to happen. They didn’t understand. He who knew no sin was about to become sin for us. He who was perfect was about to die for our sins. As he came in, a large crowd welcomed him with palm branches. Then they laid their clothes and palm branches on the ground for him to ride in on and cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) That word “Hosanna” comes from Psalm 118:25 where it is the combination of 2 Hebrew words – “yasha” = deliver or save and “anna” = beg. It is literally “Please save/deliver us.” They didn’t understand the depth of what they were saying! A big revolution was about to happen.

But, let’s back up a little bit and focus on the interaction between Jesus and his disciples. 1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.” I don’t know about you but I would be really concerned about this command. I would have made some excuse right about now and got out of it. Jesus even told them what to say if they were stopped – 3 “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” Scholars have said that the word “Lord” or “kurios” in Matthew always refers to Yahweh God. We don’t know who the two were who went but they did. Maybe Judas! Either way, can you imagine the conversation among them as they walked away with that donkey. The point is that the disciples did what they were told even though it didn’t make any sense.

Application: Sometimes we also have to obey God even when it is senseless. Forgive, help, speak to, etc. In time God will show you the plan. If you wait for God to show you the plan before you obey, you will never see the plan.

What was God’s big plan in this situation? Matthew 21    4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” Where is this coming from? Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” What is the meaning of this passage? Zechariah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah who exhorted the people to come back to God. He prophesied of the day when God would restore the beauty and grandeur of Israel. How would he come? Imagine a king riding into a town. What image will come to your mind if he came on a tank? I am the conquering hero who will crush you. Now what if he rode in in a station wagon? I am just a humble lowly citizen. So also, instead of riding in on a horse, Jesus rode in on a donkey.

Application: By the way, one day he will come riding in on a white horse with his robe dipped in blood and the armies of heaven behind him! Meet him now as he is coming in on a donkey. If not, you will face him as he rides in on a horse.

But there’s much more here. There’s a lot of symbolism here. There are several critical prophecies that are fulfilled here. To start with, Matthew mentions the Mount of Olive. For those who knew the Scriptures, this was a clear communication that someone in the line of David had come. 2 Samuel 15:30So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up.” This was at the time when David was running from his own son Absalom. This is the same David who killed Goliath and thousands of Philistines and many other things. At this time, he’s a humbled king running for his life. Jesus is also a humble king but he is not running for his life.

There’s more – 2 Samuel 16    1 When David was a little past the top of the mountain, there was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, one hundred summer fruits, and a skin of wine. 2 And the king said to Ziba, “What do you mean to do with these?” So Ziba said, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who are faint in the wilderness to drink.” Meaning: David was not coming to fight. Neither was Jesus.

There’s more. Listen to what Jacob says about his son Judah. Genesis 49    10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. 11 Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. The emphasis is on the colt of a donkey and not a mule.

One more – 1 Kings 1    38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and took him to Gihon. 39 Then Zadok the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound. Jesus is the real son of David.

Bottom line: When Jesus told his disciples to get the donkey, they had no clue about any of this. This has always been God’s way with his people. Senseless Obedience.

  1. Abraham and Sarah
  2. Joshua and Jericho
  3. David and Goliath
  4. Esther go before the King
  5. Mary, Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” How can this be, since I do not know a man?” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
  6. Feeding the 5000
  7. Peter making a big catch of fish
  8. Mary of Bethany pouring her expensive perfume at the feet of Jesus and wiping it with her hair
  9. Paul, go to Macedonia.

This is the same principle in our daily lives. My Dad gave up a big pulpit to go to a small church because God told him to. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have existed!

Getting saved doesn’t make any sense but we have to obey. Are you saved?

Training Part Two by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRAINING Part 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Training 2

Introduction:  I don’t usually use movie illustrations but just for today, can you identify which movie this line comes from – “No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” How about “Wax on, wax off.” It’s from the popular 80’s movie “Karate Kid.” I love that line because it truly explains why kids do what they do. You could say, “No such thing as a bad kid, only bad parents.” Last week we looked at Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” We focused on 4 things in that verse: Child, Way, Training, and Promise. In today’s message we will focus on the fifth element that we briefly touched on – the Trainer, the parent.

Psalm 50    16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you?”

Question:  You cannot hate God’s word and disobey it and tell your kids to love God’s Word and obey it in their lives. They will do what you do. Do you love and obey God’s word? Have you received the Word of God, Jesus, as your Savior? Are you saved?

Bridge: Last week I briefly touched on the character of the trainer. I even gave the example of King David and how he failed to be a good father. In today’s message, I want to step back and try to understand why and how David lost his way. This is important because a parent cannot train the child in the way if he/she has lost the way. To understand this, we have to turn to Psalm 50. You may not know this but scholars in recent years have come to realize that the Book of Psalms is not just a random collection of the songs of Israel. There is an order to them. If you want to know why David sinned and had to repent in Psalm 51, read Psalm 50. How do we know that? To start with, there are many similarities in words and concepts between Psalm 50 and 51. But, there’s something more. Psalm 50 begins with the title “A Psalm of Asaph.” Asaph was a worship leader appointed by King David and a wonderful composer. In fact, he composed Psalms 73-83. What’s really interesting is that Psalm 50 is not in that collection. It appears that someone took it and placed it before Psalm 51. I believe the Holy Spirit did that. Why is that? To give us an insight into why and how David lost his way. I don’t have time to go into the whole psalm. Asaph addressed 2 groups of people in this psalm. First, he addressed the righteous people and reminded them of God’s blessings and promises. Then, he addressed the righteous who had turned to wickedness and reminded them of God’s discipline if they didn’t repent. This is what happened to David.

Starting in verse 16 But to the wicked (righteous) God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? God is confronting those wicked righteous who declare his words and speak his truth but lately they have come to despise his word and disregard his truth. God is telling them that unless they have the right attitude towards his word, they have no right to declare his words. In other words, I lose the right to preach God’s word and demand obedience if I reject it in my life. David was the sweet psalmist of Israel who had an incredible love for God’s word. Listen to Psalm 19   7 “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. 13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Wow! For whatever reason, lately he hasn’t had the same love for God’s word. When we begin to lose our love for God’s word, it’s a sign that something is horribly wrong. By the way, this is how sin entered the world when Adam and Eve questioned God’s Word and disobeyed him. That old adage is still true – “This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.”

How does this apply to training our children? Imagine if I were to take my children to my favorite restaurant and tell them that it’s awesome and they need to try this dish or that but when the food came, I made the ugliest face and as I was walking out, I threatened them to eat it all! How do you think they’d respond? Confused, frustrated, and angry. There are people who want their children and grandchildren to go to church, Sunday School, Blaze, AWANA, children’s camp, youth retreats but they themselves could care less about God’s Word, preaching, Sunday School, Bible Study, and all of that. What do you think is going through their kids minds?

Let’s go back to Psalm 50. When you turn away from God’s Word, it opens the floodgate to sin. Listen to the list of sins that follow. By the way, they are a clear violation of the Ten Commandments, especially 7-10.

  1. Sin of Stealing – 18 “When you saw a thief, you consented with him…” Stealing is a violation of the 8th commandment in Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.” With no word in your life, you start “consenting,” the Hebrew word “ratsa” means be accepting, be pleased, get along very well with people who steal. Stealing doesn’t have to be pickpocketing or holding up a bank. You can steal money or time from your employer, employees, family, friends, and even God.
  2. Sin of Adultery – 18 “…and have been a partaker with adulterers.” This is a violation of the 7th and the 10th commandment in Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery” and Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” With no word in your life, you start “partaking,” the Hebrew word is “khalak,” which means “common ground.” Adultery never starts out with an outright affair. Many times, it starts out with being with people who condone and even justify adultery. They watch adulterous shows and read adulterous books and admire adulterous lives. All because the standard of God’s word is absent from your life.
  3. Sin of Slander – 19 “You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son.” This is a violation of the 9th commandment in Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” I think we can add to this the 6th commandment in Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.” The word for “slander is the Hebrew word “dopeh,” which means you sit there finding faults in everyone. Some people may not do any physically assassinations but they do plenty of character assassinations. They gossip against others. They spread rumors against others. They spew bitterness towards others. You cannot be saved and be forever bitter and unforgiving towards others.

What will God do about it? 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent…” Just because God does not immediately deal with your sin does not mean that he approves it. Silence is not approval. When we are silent, we are approving. When God is silent, he is extending mercy. But listen to what God concludes – 21 “…You thought that I was altogether like you…” This is the sin of misrepresenting God because it suits your purpose and your love for your pet sin. Think about it – Parents are like gods to children. When we start making God in our image, imagine the confusion that it causes for the children.

Application: Do you twist the Bible to justify your behavior, your sin? The worst thing you can do to any person is misrepresent him/her. Yet, people do that to God to justify their sinful action and lives. This is especially dangerous when it comes to our children.

What is the consequence? 21 “…But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.” If you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit will not let you off easily. He will convict you and expose to you the error of your ways. What if you still don’t change? 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:” Now it’s no longer private but public exposure. The old principle is true – “You uncover your sin and God will cover it. You cover your sin and God will uncover it.”

Here’s the solution – 23 “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” What will you do? True praise cannot come from a contaminated, sin-filled heart.

Invitation: What kind of a trainer are you? Do you love God’s Word? Do you obey God’s Word? Are you saved?

Training by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRAINING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Training

Introduction:  I appreciate our basketball coaches. It’s amusing to watch them, especially when the kids are not doing what they’re supposed to. A psychology professor asked his students, “What do you call someone who one-minute walks back and forth screaming at the top of his lungs, and the next sits in a chair crying uncontrollably?” Someone in the back answered, “A basketball coach.” So also, in life, there are many parents who walk back and forth on the sidelines screaming one minute, crying the next, and wondering why their children are doing what they’re doing in the game of life. Hopefully, today’s message titled “TRAINING” will help us. The basic premise of the message is this – “God has ordained parents to be the primary coaches in a child’s life. How you (parents) train your children is how they play the game of life.” Please don’t misunderstand – the goal of this message is not to cause you more pain if your children are not where they need to be. Instead, it’s to help you understand them and pray for them better. Also, I am not preaching as an expert but as a fellow coach in the game of child-rearing.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.”

Question: “You cannot show the way unless you know the way.” Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” The true way of life is Jesus. Do you know him?

Context: Before we dive into this message, there are 2 things I want to clarify:

  1. Some people think that proverbs are not promises. They’re just general observations, common sense tips, or practical suggestions for everyday life. I disagree. Solomon begins this book by pointing out in Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Then 13 more times throughout the book that phrase “fear of the Lord” is found. There are many proverbs in the world and some may even sound like the ones in the Bible but the reason those in the Bible are in the Bible is because God chose them as his Word. They are God’s truth that have stood the test of time. They are promises.
  2. Some people claim that the traditional understanding of Proverbs 22:6 is incorrect. In recent years, it has been claimed this proverb and it’s not about a child’s moral and spiritual upbringing. I have studied this proverb in Hebrew and in its context, it is exactly what it has always meant. Basically, there are 4 parts to this simple proverb:

1. Child – “Train up a child.” The Hebrew word is “nahar,” which can mean anywhere from an unborn child to a young man. However, in this context, the emphasis is on training early. Psychologists and educators are divided over the age at which a child’s behavior is set (4, 7, or 18 years). Children to me are like sweet gum trees. The longer you let them go, the more nuisance they cause. You can try to cut them down but not before you break a few blades and even chop off your own hands. The sooner you begin with your children, the better are your chances to train them in the right way.

2. The Way – “Train up a child in the way” Repeatedly, in Proverbs, Solomon talks about 2 ways – God’s Way and the Sinful Way. The first one comes from the Bible, and the second one comes from the world. The first one leads to blessings and the second one leads to destruction. Listen to these proverbs — 1:15 “My son, do not walk in the way with them (sinful men), Keep your foot from their path.” 3:31 “Do not envy the oppressor, And choose none of his ways.” 4:11 “I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths.” 10:29 “The way of the Lord is strength for the upright…” 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” 23:19 “Hear, my son, and be wise; and guide your heart in the way.” Parents – You have been ordained by God to lead your children in the right way, God’s way, the way of truth. Most parents misunderstand what this means. They look at a child’s life like a pie with each slice representing a key aspect of their lives – education, athletics, music, relationships, career, and faith. Unfortunately, in time, the other slices take over the faith slice. Here’s a better way – faith is the dough of the pie which then gets divided into the athletic slice, education slice, music slice, relationships slice, and career slice. The Way is not a balanced life with a dash of God. It is the heart, the center, from which everything flows out. It is a lifestyle. Your child is not a good student, a good athlete, a good musician, and, oh yes, a good Christian. Instead, your child is a Christian who is a good student, a good athlete, a good musician, etc. Training the child in the way is leading your child in lifestyle, a mindset, a worldview that is godly.

3. Training – The Hebrew word is “chanok,” which is a rare word found only 4 times in the Old Testament. It refers to the dedication of a building. Just like a house is dedicated to living, a temple is dedicated to worshipping, and an altar is dedicated to sacrificing, the child is also dedicated by the parents to walking in the right way. But unlike an inanimate building, the child grows and has a personality, feelings, will, desires, and temptations. That’s why a child has to be dedicated daily, which is another word for training. Deuteronomy 6 gives us a good model for how to do this dedication/training – 6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Here are some points:

  • Training is not a one-time event but a 24/7 job. Cannot train if you’re always gone.
  • Training is not accidental but intentional. Seek every opportunity, especially meals.
  • Training is not authoritarian but empathetic. Their world and struggles are tougher.
  • Training is not irrational but logical. Don’t say “Stop asking dumb questions.”
  • Training is not cherry picked but balanced. Not just the bad. Give Law and Grace.
  • Training is not harsh but firm. Age appropriate discipline. Spanking vs losing things.
  • Training is not disheartened but patient. Tell it, tell it again, and keep telling them.
  • Training is not just taught but caught. Not “do as I say, not as I do.” It’s not enough to drop your kids off at church. You have to go as well. You have to receive Christ as your Savior as well.

4. Promise – “and when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.” Now comes the tough question – “Why do children depart even when the parent has trained the child from the early age in the right Way?” There’s a lot of misunderstanding here. There are actually 2 kinds of departing:

Losing Their Way Rebelling Against Your Way
Behavior: Pushing the limits, Peer pressure, Experimenting, Lust, Secretive Behavior: Anger, Hate, Bitterness, Pain, Unforgiveness
Source: Lures of the World, Deceitfulness of Life, Wrong Crowd, Freedom Source: Hypocrisy, Legalism, Harshness in Parents, Church, and Religious Institutions
Attitude towards Parents, Church, & Authority: Shame, Conviction, Avoidance Attitude towards Parents, Church, & Authority: Disrespect, Belligerence, Anger
Example: Solomon – from David’s adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah murdered, death of a newborn. Became the wisest man, wrote Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes but had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He did not rebel but lost his way. Secret – David’s repentance in Psalm 51. Example: Absalom – 3rd son of David through Maacah (8 wives, adulterous), killed his brother Amnon who had raped his sister and David didn’t do anything, set himself as judge, David had to flee, mourned his death but never reconciled. No Psalm 51.
Return: They’ll be back! Hang on to the Promise. Return: Chance are low because of their impression of the Way.

Note: There is another group that I need to bring up. They are neither “Losing Their Way” nor are they “Rebelling Against Your Way.” They are just “Confused About Your New Way.” Where you were spiritually when you were raising them is not where you are spiritually today. You raised them with a dash of spirituality, a dose of Christianity. You took them to a church where faith was dead, lukewarm, ritualistic, and full of doublespeak. Now you are in a church where your faith is focused upon Christ, grounded in the Word, led by the Spirit, and full of spiritual fire. Your kids are wondering – “What happened to mom and dad? Did they join a cult!” What is needed is for them to catch up with Your New Way.

What do you do for these 3 groups?

  • “Losing Their Way” – Show Love and Forgiveness, Be Patient, and Pray that they will Return to Christ Soon
  • “Rebelling Against Your Way” – Ask God’s forgiveness, Ask Your Children’s Forgiveness, and Pray that they will Meet Christ
  • “Confused About Your New Way” – Invite them to get to know your New Way but be Patient with them, Pray that God will use your example to show them Christ.

Invitation: Do you know the Way? Again, in John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Here’s what happens when you receive Jesus as your Savior – I Corinthians 1:30 “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

Have you lost your way? Prodigal Son – “Give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” Journeyed to a far country, wasted everything, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you”, When he was still a great way off, his father was waiting!

Steadfast by Pastor Abidan Shah

STEADFAST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Steadfast

Introduction:  A little boy was trying to sell his horse at the county fair. The horse was no good except for eating oats. An old farmer came by. He could tell the horse was no good and he teased the boy saying, “Son, can that horse run fast?” The boy replied, “No sir, but he can sure stand fast.” In the message today, we’re going to learn how to stand fast or be steadfast as a Christian. But, more specifically we’re going to learn how to be steadfast along with other Christians. There’s a difference.

Philippians 1   27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Question: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Before your conduct can be worthy of the gospel of Christ, you have to receive the gospel of Christ. The word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good and “spell” means story or news. What’s the good news? “You and I are stuck in sin with God’s judgment of ultimate death waiting for us. But God sent his Son to take our sins upon himself and die in our place. All you and I have to do is ask him to be our Savior. He not only forgives us our sins but just as he came alive, we are also made spiritually alive in him.” Have you received this gospel?

Context: The passage we just read begins with the word “only” – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel.” It has a tone of warning in it. Think of this warning as a caution not a threat. So far Paul had nothing but good to say about the Philippians:

  • 4 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” The Philippians were a faithful church.
  • 6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The Philippians were an inspiring church.
  • 7 “…you all are partakers with me of grace.” The Philippians were a gospel supporting church.
  • 9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…” The Philippians were a loving church.
  • 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ…” The Philippians were a worshipping church. I can go on.

But, here’s a caution – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Meaning: You have a lot of good but don’t neglect your conduct. To understand what Paul meant by conduct, we have to go the original Greek. He used a verb here that he did not use anywhere else in his letters. It is the verb “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Keep in mind that the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were still trying to live by their Roman standards. They would have understood very well what Paul was implying – “Just as you are Roman citizens living in Greece trying to maintain your Roman values, you are also Gospel citizens living in this world, don’t neglect to be a Gospelian.”

For e.g. When I became an American citizen, I had to take a test on American history. I read our foundational documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Those became the values by which I was going to live. So also, when you became a Christian, there are certain values that go with that citizenship.

What are those standards? 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ (live out your citizenship to the gospel), so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” Paul told them that he will check up on them, in person or through others, regarding their conduct. Then he lists 2 major ones, one positive and the other negative:

Positive – “that you stand fast…” We immediately think that this “standing fast” is my personal individual steadfastness. Not really. Here standing fast is “hoti stekete” which is a Roman military term that describes a unit forming a line together in the face of the enemy. “Come what may, stand fast. Don’t break rank.” “that you stand fast in one spirit…” People have debated if this is just the spirit of unity or is it the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is similar to what Paul said in I Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” and Ephesians 2:18 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” It’s the same Holy Spirit in me and you that creates a bond between us that is much greater than any superficial likes or dislikes. Few verses down in Philippians 2   1 Paul says, “Therefore if there is…any fellowship of the Spirit…2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” Paul continues in verse 27 “…that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” “Striving together” is literally “striving side by side.” It is an athletic term that implies being of one soul. Paul was telling the Philippians to be “souls together for the gospel.” A mark of a Gospelian is that we strive for unity in the Holy Spirit and seek to be of one mind. If I may add, being a Gospelian is not an individual sport but a team sport.

Application: Do you understand how critical unity in the Holy Spirit and being of one mind is to the church family? There are 3 natural born killers of this unity – Lostness, Isolationism, and Divisiveness. Titus 3   10 “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” Bottom line: If individually we are not right, it will affect our unity.

Negative – 28 “and not in any way terrified by your adversaries…” The word terrified here is the Greek word “pturomai,” which is again a verb that Paul does not use anywhere else. In Classical Greek it was used to describe a horse getting spooked in battle. It would get startled by loud noises or shrieks and it would bolt through the battlefield, stampeding anyone in his path. A mark of a Gospelian is not to spook or get spooked but stay calm and help each other stay calm and united in the Holy Spirit. Who are our adversaries who spook us? Anything or anyone who is opposed to the gospel. It may be people or policies. How should you respond other than stand fast? “which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” Remember that it proves that they are headed for destruction and you are saved by God.

Somethings more Paul said here – 29 “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Don’t misunderstand. This is not individual personal suffering. Although, that is also true. In this context, it is collective group suffering. Not only that but we are to look upon suffering just as we look upon salvation. It is a gracious gift of God. Ultimately, suffering, and, more specifically, collective suffering is proof that we belong to God. 30 “having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” Meaning: Even though we know this, it doesn’t make sense at times.

Be steadfast together in the Holy Spirit with one mind. Be steadfast together in the face of suffering, refusing to be intimidated. It is a mark of the greatest believers. Are you saved? Are you steadfast together?

Immortal by Pastor Abidan Shah

IMMORTAL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Immortal

Introduction:  What do these expressions mean? Assume room temperature, go belly up, bite the dust, bite the big one, cash in one’s chips, become food for worms. They’re all referring to death. Here are some more – go to the happy hunting ground, kick the bucket, push up daisies, take a dirt nap, take the last train to glory, croak, buy a pine condo, go into the fertilizer business, be stiff as a board, kick the Oxygen habit. Even we Christians have our own idioms for death – to be with the Lord, crossing the Jordan, going to a better place. These are all verbal tranquilizers meant to soften the reality of death because no one wants to deal with that subject. The believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel. Question: Before we read this passage, question – Are you afraid to die? Are you afraid to live? As a believer, what are you living for? Are you saved? Our message is titled IMMORTAL in our series through Philippians.

Philippians 1   21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

Context:  21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two…” Why was Paul so conflicted between living and dying? Listen carefully – Paul was not as conflicted as it may appear. It was really the Philippians who were conflicted. If you remember from last week, I briefly explained that much of what Paul wrote was not for Paul but for the Philippians. Let me explain a little more on that: You may not be aware of this but scholars have identified 2 ways of interpreting Paul’s letters: Epistolary Analysis and Rhetorical Analysis. Epistolary Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters like a typical letter from ancient times with an opening, a middle, and a conclusion. In fact, it’s not much different than letters today, except that through the Holy Spirit, Paul’s letters became the Word of God. Rhetorical Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters more like a speech, an oratory, or, what we would call, a sermon. We know that Paul was a brilliant man, well trained in Hebrew scriptures but what many don’t realize is that he was also well educated in Greek-Roman rhetoric and he used rhetorical techniques in his writings which again through the Holy Spirit became the Word of God. The full impact of Paul’s letters is truly felt when you actually hear them, not just read them. Some people take this too far but, in moderation, this understanding is very helpful in studying Paul’s letters. One such technique that Paul often used was imitation. Instead of telling the listeners what and how to change, the speaker would tell his listeners how he struggled with the same situation and changed and the listeners would get the point. Seneca (Roman Philosopher, Rhetor, and Statesman) said “The way is long if one follows precepts, but short and helpful if one follows patterns.” Philippians 3:17 “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Word to the wise, especially parents – “If you want someone to change, stop telling them what’s right and what’s wrong and start telling them how you struggled between right and wrong and chose what’s right. That will make a far greater impact.”

With this knowledge in mind, let’s re-read these verses21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If you read this verse without thinking, you will misunderstand what Paul really meant. You may think that Paul is just struggling between living and dying. You may even walk away thinking – “A Christian cannot lose in life or death. In this life, we have Jesus and when we die, it just gets better!” Sometimes people even quote 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Although, there is truth in the fact that a Christian cannot lose in life or death, that is not the real point of either Philippians 1:21 or 2 Corinthians 5:8. In reality, Paul was using a rhetorical technique to help the Philippians. Apparently, they were facing some difficult challenges, maybe persecution, maybe financial problems, maybe relationship struggles, or maybe health issues. They were saying things like – “I’m ready to go. I’m tired of this old world. I’m ready to walk the streets of gold. I know we have Jesus here but it will be so much better on the other side!” Does that sound familiar? You might be surprised to know that, as a pastor, I have encountered more people who are just waiting to die than those who are sacred to die. You might say, “That’s not true! No one wants to die.” Don’t misunderstand – “No one wants to suffer before they die but dying is not a problem for many people. Living is.” They are not as good looking as they used to be, strong as they used to be, too many health problems, too many children problems, too many bills, too many bad decisions they’re reaping, just too many problems. When I first came to this church, I went visiting the people on the roll with one of our deacons. We came to this one house and this elderly lady came to the door. The deacon introduced me to her. Her response – “Oh Good. Now we got somebody to bury us!” I believe that this was the same problem with the Philippians – “Living with Jesus is great but dying is better!” Paul is saying to them – “Yeah, I’ve struggled with that too but let me tell you how I handled it.”

22 “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor…” What fruit was Paul talking about? He used the same word in Romans 1:13 “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you…that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.” The fruit that Paul was talking about is the fruit of the gospel. He wants to see souls saved. Listen carefully: When you die, the possibility of fruits end. You cannot evangelize in heaven. Neither can you evangelize in hell. Basically, for the same reasons. Neither place has unbelievers. Except that, in hell the hearts are still wicked. 22 “…yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” Remember Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in verse 10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent…” It meant “learning to choose between the good, the better, and the best.” It is “far better” to depart and be with Christ but “best” is to stay here and help you.

Application: How do you see others in this life? Do you care about those around you? You say, “I care but I’m ready to go.” Can I ask you, “Are you really eager to see Jesus or are you just trying to run away from your problems? God has a sense of humor and he will leave you here till you’re 150! It’s best to remain and help others.

25 “And being confident of this…” Paul has used that word “confidence” twice already: 6“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” He will use that word again several times. That word can mean “trust” but also “conviction.” What is Paul’s conviction? 25 “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith…” It’s Paul’s conviction to stay and help the Philippians continue in their growth and joy of the Christian life.

Application: We all have doctrinal convictions about the Bible, Trinity, Salvation, Person of Christ, Holy Spirit, etc. We may also have moral convictions about marriage, unborns, sexuality, drinking, etc. That’s all wonderful but it’s time we also have some relational convictions where I am responsible for your spiritual growth and joy in the Christian life and you are for mine. When you’re not here, I care. When I’m not here, you care. Sadly, most of us have the same response that Cain did when God asked him – “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Finally – 26 “that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.” The word “rejoicing” is “kaukhemai” which means “boast. Paul is not saying “You will boast of me even more when I come.” He is saying, “You will boast in Jesus even more when you see me come to you.” In other words, “Your worship will become even more powerful because you see God setting me free and sending me to you.” Some of us have a very poor worship experience because we only focus on doctrinal precepts (God is great, Jesus is wonderful, Salvation is awesome). When we change it to “God is great because of how he has worked in Pastor Shah’s life,” “Jesus is wonderful because of what he is doing at Clearview,” and “Salvation is awesome, look at that young man who just gave his life to Christ.” Now worship takes on new meaning and enthusiasm! 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Again, you see the priority of the gospel.

Illustration: I used to work in an automotive plant back in Georgia. Sometimes people would quit work an hour before they were supposed to quit. Then the supervisor made it a point to come by about 15 minutes before quitting time. It wasn’t good.

As I said in the beginning, “the believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel.” We are immortal in Christ. Let’s live like it! Are you saved?

Perspective by Pastor Abidan Shah

PERSPECTIVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

PerspectiveIntroduction:  Growing up our kids loved watching Disney’s “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” There are 2 characters in that story who are polar opposites: Eeyore the donkey and Tigger the tiger. Eeyore is always pessimistic, gloomy, and glass half-empty kind of character and Tigger is always optimistic, bouncy, and glass half-full kind of character. When you meet Eeyore, he says things like “If it is a good morning, which I doubt” or “Thanks for noticing me.” But, when you meet Tigger, he says things like “Hello! I’m Tigger!” or “Tiggers never get lost!” They have two very different perspectives on the problems in life. I’m sure there are some Eeyores and Tiggers in this room or at least we know some! When we as Christians talk about perspective in the Christian life, we’re talking about something much more than being a spiritual Tigger. That’s our message today titled PERSPECTIVE in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 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; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Question: Paul refers to being in chains. He is using that word as a figure of speech known as synecdoche which implies that he was in prison. Why was Paul in prison? For preaching the gospel. How did he deal with that? Instead of seeing it as a setback, an obstacle, or as abandonment by God, He saw it as an opportunity to further share the gospel. It’s his perspective on life, problems, and God’s sovereign will that helped him to do that. We all have certain chains in life. How do you see your chains in life? Do you see them as setbacks, obstacles, abandonment by God, or as opportunities to keep sharing the gospel? What is your perspective? Are you saved?

Context:  Listen once again to verse 12. Paul says “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me…” Which things was Paul referring to? As I just mentioned to you, Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians. Now, don’t immediately assume that he was in some dark dungeonous prison with rats, filth, and feet in stocks. The fact that he was able to write this letter tells us that more than likely he was in a house arrest type situation awaiting trial. When Paul talked about “the things which happened” to him, I believe that, he had more than just his house arrest in mind. In Romans 15 Paul had shared with the Roman church his ultimate plans with the gospel 28 “Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.” Paul had great plans towards the end of his life to take the gospel further out west into Europe. He had big hopes to take the gospel to the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. When Paul was put under house arrest, his great plans had sort of failed. If you read Acts 25, it appears that now he was at the mercy of a corrupt court system. No doubt, he must have been disappointed, discouraged, and even disillusioned.

Application: In life, we have many plans, some very good, noble, and even godly plans, but they don’t always work out. “Things happen.” What is comforting to me is that even someone like Paul who walked very close to God had “things happen to him.” Here’s my encouragement: Don’t interpret your failed plans as some hidden sin or as an abandonment by God. Trust him and his sovereign plan even more.

Listen to how Paul handled his failed plans? 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…’’ In other words, what Paul thought was the end of the road had actually turned out to be just a bend in the road for the gospel. How is that? 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” In order to truly appreciate this, you need to have some basic understanding of the Roman army. The Romans developed the most effective army ever known in history. At the bottom level was the contubernium, a unit of 8 men. Ten contubernia made one century, that’s 80 men. Six centuries made one cohort, that’s 480 men. Ten cohorts made one legion, that’s 4800. Later in the first century, the first cohort got expanded to twelve centuries, that’s 960 men, making a legion about 5,280 fighting men. Keep in mind that there would be 120 horsemen in a legion and slaves for transportation, doing menial labor, and guarding the camp. I don’t want to get into all those details but you can imagine how vast this enterprise was. Altogether, Emperor Augustus had about 25 legions. The commander of the legion was a senator in his 20s or 30s who was previously a magistrate and had to be appointed by the Emperor.

Where do the palace guards fit in? They were the “praetorian,” the emperor’s personal troops and bodyguards. They were the best of the best. They had to be from Italy. They had significantly higher status than the normal legionaries and had much higher pay and got a lot of special bonuses. They were the ones who made and unmade Emperors. Augustus had 3 cohorts of 480 each around him, that’s about 1500 of the most elite fighting men, and about 6 more cohorts in nearby towns. Out of these elites, there was a higher elite group known as the speculatores Augusti who were on horseback, clearing the way before the emperor when he went through the streets. According to some sources, there was a camp at the northeastern edge of Rome with as many as 9000 praetorians. By the way, they only served for 16 years. What then? They took on high level positions in the legions. Listen again to verse 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” Paul is now witnessing to the top brass in the Roman army who have the ability and power to influence so many thousands more! Wow! God works in mysterious ways!

Application: If a believer looks at life only from an earthly, selfish, and fleshy perspective, he or she will get depressed. But, if you look at the things that have happened to you or happening to you from a heavenly, selfless, and spiritual perspective, you will realize that the Holy Spirit has set you up perfectly to further the gospel! The Gospel is the true perspective changer for the believer. This does not mean that you need to just settle for whatever people hand to you. Work to improve your situation but don’t lose sight of why God has allowed you to get to where you are at the moment.

Now that’s just from inside the prison. How about on the outside? 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” What’s going on now? Word is getting out of how God is using Paul to share the gospel with the elite troops and bodyguards of the Emperor. So, now other believers feeling emboldened by Paul’s position, start sharing the gospel with courage. Billy Graham once said “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”

For e.g. Nicole and I just watched the movie “Darkest Hour.” Typically, I don’t use movies as sermon illustrations but this one was different. It’s about Winston Churchill and the Nazi invasion of Western Europe. In the face of fear, doubt, skepticism by even his own party, Churchill boldly said, “We shall never surrender!” Thank goodness he did! If not, the world map would be a very different today.

Just when you think that Paul is a glass half-full kind of guy, listen to verse 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What’s going on? In an agonistic culture where people used every opportunity to self-promote and advance their position in society, some were using Paul’s imprisonment as an opportunity to further their position in church and society! How crazy! Guess what? It happens even today as people compete in ministry. What’s Paul’s response? 18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” You have to be close to Jesus to be able to do that!

Now Paul lists 2 things that he needs in a time like this – 19 “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.Also, the deliverance is not just about coming out of prison, as Paul says in verse 20 “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” What an awesome perspective!

Why did Paul say all this to the Philippians? Was it just to reassure them that he was okay? Was it just a cathartic experience, trying to let it all out? Paul was encouraging the Philippians to imitate him as they faced similar trials. He was reminding them to change their perspective regarding their circumstances. He was teaching them how to see life through the gospel lens.

Invitation: How do you see your job loss, your health problem, your relationship struggle, your financial difficulty? Can you see it through the gospel lens? It is not about glass half-empty vs glass half full. It is about taking the gospel and offering it to some dying thirsting sinner in your path. Are you saved?

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