As we approach Easter, it is so important that we focus our minds and our hearts on the cross and what God has done for us through Christ. This weekend, we will begin a new series within 1 Peter that will take us all the way to Easter as we focus on the cross, the resurrection, and the atonement for our sins.
This weekend, we will dive into Peter’s examination of the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 53 is only mentioned a handful of times in the New Testament, but Peter’s use of the passage is the one of the most significant. We will take a look at Jesus’ death on the cross and its effect on our lives. The title of this series is “ATONEMENT.”
As we approach Easter, how do you see Jesus and the cross? Do you understand that impact of Christ’s death on your life? Are you saved? This series will change the way we think about Easter and the cross. Invite your friends and family to worship with us this weekend!
LIVING HOPE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Have you ever been disappointed? You were hoping for something but it didn’t turn out that way. As a kid, I remember when my mom would make my favorite desert. Before I would leave for school the next day, I would slide it behind the milk carton in the fridge. I was hoping that no one would find it until I got home. The moment I got home, the first thing I would do was to go look for it. Many a time I walked away so disappointed because someone got to it before I could. We all get disappointed over various things – friends, family, politics, culture. Today we will learn what the Bible has to say about a hope that doesn’t disappoint. We are in our series on 1 Peter and our message is titled LIVING HOPE. Please turn to 1 Peter 1:3. Main point: Unlike earthly hopes, the hope that comes from God never disappoints. Biblical hope is not based on earthly expectations and fears. It is based on the solid foundation of God himself. In other words, the hope that God gives is much more than the anticipation of something in the future. It is a deep personal trusting relationship with God.
1 Peter 1 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Context: As you may remember from last weekend, Peter was writing to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Most of them were probably Jewish background believers who had lived in that part of the world for centuries. As Jewish people, they had already been ostracized; but now, because some of them had become believers in Jesus, their own communities had also ostracized them. Not only that, but many of them may have also lost their inheritance. I can only imagine how hopeless they must have felt. Also, based on the rest of the letter, some of them were probably locals who had converted to Christianity and they were also facing similar treatments. I think of my own dad who lost his inheritance when he became a Christian. I have often thought about the hopelessness he must have felt. Peter was writing to encourage such people to stay strong in their faith. He wanted them to know that even though the world and their own were rejecting them, God had chosen them. He wanted them to have their hope in God. He had a special inheritance for them in the future.
Let’s read verse 3 again. By the way, as we walk through this passage, notice how all the fundamental building blocks of our faith are tightly put together in these 3 verses – 3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” The Greek word for “Blessed” is “eulogetos.” This is different from the Greek word for “blessed” in the Beatitudes – “Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are the merciful.” The word there is “Makarios,” which means “happy” or “to be envied.” Here the word blessed is actually translated “praise.” Keep in mind that “eulogetos” gives us the English word “eulogy,” which comes from the compound Greek words “eu” (well/good) and “logos” (word). The word “eulogetos” means “to say a good word about someone.” Peter was calling on his readers to say a good word about God. By the way, this was not a good word about some generic God, but very specifically – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The point is that Peter was calling on his readers to praise the living true Triune God in the midst of their difficulties.
Principle: If you find yourself overwhelmed by your situation, turn your attention away from the situation and yourself and start praising God. Take time to praise God for who he is and what he has done for you. Listen to David in Psalm 61 1 “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Application: Are you overwhelmed by your problems? Are you overwhelmed by what’s happening in our world? Are you praising God right now?
Now Peter gives the reason for this praise – 3 “…who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The pilgrims of the Dispersion had been rejected by their own families. They had been cut off from their family trees. Peter was reminding them that God had brought them into his family by his abundant mercy. The word he used was “anagennaw” (begotten us again), which means “to give new birth.” It is similar to “gennaw” in John 3 where Jesus told Nicodemus in verse 3 “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This rebirth does not just happen. It requires resurrection life, the power that brings life into a dead person. I Corinthians 15:45 “And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”God compassionately chose to rebirth us into his family through the resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. God the Father delivered his Son out of the clutches of death and thus made the way for all sinners born dead in trespasses and sins to be delivered from the clutches of sin and death as well. This begins with spiritual rebirth and is completed with our own resurrection one day.
Application: Have you been born again? Have you experienced the resurrection life of Jesus? If you prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King, you have. Do you know that there is a resurrection coming for you in the future?
What is the result of this rebirth? 3 “…who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope…” Something very interesting here about that word “hope.” It has an adjective “living.” Where does this concept come from? The world offers hope but it can be conditional or uncertain. The hope that Peter was talking about was living because it was rooted in God himself. This is the biblical understanding of hope. Here are some examples from the psalms in the Old Testament – Psalm 38:15 “For in You, O LORD, I hope;You will hear, O Lord my God.” Psalm 71:5 “For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;You are my trust from my youth.” Psalm 130:7 “O Israel, hope in the LORD;For with the LORD there ismercy,And with Him is abundant redemption.”Paul talks about this as well – Romans 5:5“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Here’s the point: God’s hope is not rooted in some human expectation or fear. It is built on the character of God himself. In other words, hope is not just what may happen or what may not happen. It is a deep personal trusting relationship with God. Because we are part of Jesus’ resurrection life, we have this living hope.
Application: What is hope to you? A better life? Your party in power? Streets of gold? Mansions in heaven? All that is fine to desire, but, ultimately, our hope should be God himself. It’s not that you cannot hope for those other things. You can but only if the ultimate source of your hope is God. Is God your hope?
It’s about to get even better – 4 “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”
Background: This living hope is leading us to an inheritance. In this life, the pilgrims had lost their inheritance, but there was a real inheritance waiting for them that was indescribable.By the way, Peter was reaching in the Old Testament tradition to find the true meaning of inheritance. Listen to Psalm 16:5 “O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.” Peter describes it in negative terms because nothing compares to it in this life. Paul would whole heartedly agree with Peter here. Listen to Paul quoting from Isaiah 64 in 1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
Incorruptible (aphthartos) – In this life everything faces corruption because of sin, even our bodies.
Undefiled (amiantos) – In this life everything is tainted by sin.
Unfading (amarantos) – In this life everything fades. The second law of thermodynamics (entropy) is constantly working to pull things down.
Philippians 3 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
This does not mean that we cannot fight for the incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading in this life. We can and we should because we know what it looks like. Having said that, we know that it is available on the other side.
What is the guarantee that all this will happen? 5 “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
God is responsible.
We need to trust him.
It will be revealed in his time.
Invitation: Do you have this living hope? Are you looking forward to the inheritance? Are you born again?
TRUE GAINS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Before the COVID-19 shutdown, our Clearview staff would meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at our local Y to workout. One of our codewords was “It’s time for some gains.” By that we meant, “It’s time for us to gain some muscles.” Some days, it was tough to get up early on a cold morning and drive to the gym. It was such a good feeling to sleep in, but, compared to the good feeling of working out, it was loss. By the way, one of us did a lot of looking in the mirror and admiring his gains but we’re not going to talk about that! So also, in the Christian life, we have to decide what really matters. What are the true gains in the Christian life? True Gains for a believer are knowing Christ and being found in him. Unfortunately, we substitute these gains for things that only lead to self-righteous pride and disunity. Our message today is titled “TRUE GAINS” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Philippians 3 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
Question: What things do you consider as gains in your life? What would you be willing to give up in order to gain Christ? Before you can gain Christ, you have to find Christ. Have you found Christ? Are you saved?
Context: So far, in this series on Philippians, we have learned that the Christians in Philippi were struggling with both internal and external problems. Internally, they were struggling with disunity in the body. Externally, they were facing persecution from their neighbors. This was very detrimental to their existence. Paul wrote this letter both to settle their disputes and to strengthen them. His answer to their situation was “have the mind of Christ.” Philippians 2:5, “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” In other words, if they were going to get along and survive the persecution, they needed a mind-renewal to match the mind of Christ. Developing a mind like the mind of Christ was another way of saying, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13). So, how should they behave if they’ve had this mind transformation, this working out of salvation? Here’s a checklist in Philippians 2 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, (Do you do all things without complaining and disputing?)15 that you may become blameless and harmless, (Have you become blameless and harmless?)children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Are you a child of God without fault, shining as lights in the world?)16 holding fast the word of life, (Are you holding fast the word of life?) so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Are you giving others opportunity to rejoice in the day of Christ?)
But, Paul didn’t stop here. He went on to address the source of their conflicts. If there is a crack in the wall, we can keep patching it or we can find the problem and do some real fixing so the crack doesn’t come back. Paul wants to fix the problem under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not just for the Philippians but for all of us. Let’s look at how he does that, one verse at a time:
3 1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. It seems that Paul is about to end his letter, but wait!2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Between verses 1 and 2, there is a radical shift in tone. Scholars have debated this section to no end. Some have even said that there must be some other letter by Paul that got inserted here. I believe that this is one and the same letter. You have to read it in its rhetorical context. Remember, Paul was trained by the best of both Jewish and Greek worlds. What is the purpose for the shift in tone?Paul wants to deal with root problem of disunity among the Philippian Christians—Pride through self-righteousness. Paul doesn’t just come out and accuse them of pride and arrogance. That would be too much in your face or misjudging the wrong person, which we often do.
Instead, Paul lays out the example of those who demonstrate pride through self-righteousness: the Judaizers. These were people who were claiming to be Christians but still wanted to practice the Old Testament practices like circumcision. They contradicted and opposed Paul’s ministry, and they must have infiltrated the Philippian Church. Listen again to how he describes them in verse 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” The Greek word for dog “kuon” is the word from which we get our word “canine.” In Latin, it would be “Cave Canem” = “Beware/Watch for Dog.” Was Paul being hateful?Here Paul is using the word that was reserved for the Gentiles. Also, mutilation is the word “katatome.” Here again the word was used to describe those Gentiles who tried to practice circumcision (peritome) but they were only mutilating themselves. There was no covenant with God in their ritual. Unfortunately, the Judaizers had the same attitude even in the church towards those who were not circumcised. They would act uppity with them, as if they were privileged. What a sad thing to do? It could very well be that some of the people in the Philippian church had some Jewish background or they may have picked up some of these bad behaviors.
Principle: All pride is bad but spiritual pride is the most destructive. It is nauseating to the lost world; it demoralizes younger believers; and it angers God.
Listen to Paul’s response: 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
Application: Are you worshipping God in the Spirit? Are you rejoicing in Christ Jesus? Do you have confidence in the flesh? Is it about how long you’ve been in church? Is it about your spiritual pedigree? Is it about your Bible knowledge?
Paul now gives his own example: 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Instead of taking pride in any of this—7 But what things were gain (“kerdos”) to me, these I have counted loss (“zemia”) for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” The word for “rubbish” is “skubalon,” which refers to “unspeakable filth” or “dung.” Keep in mind: Paul did not say that these things are rubbish. But, compared to gaining Christ, they are rubbish.
What did Paul consider as his gains now? 3 things:
His Justification (that event by which we are set or declared to be in right relation with God): 9 “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
His Sanctification (that event that God is daily working in our lives to make us more like him): 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Grammatically, to know Christ is to experience the power of his resurrection and to join him in his sufferings.
His Glorification (that event that God will one day welcome us into what he has prepared for us): 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Here are the true gains? Justification – saved from the penalty of sin; Sanctification – saved from the power of sin; and Glorification – saved from the presence of sin.
Invitation: How are your gains? What do you think of your justification, sanctification, and glorification? Are you saved?
Introduction: “The best things in life are free.” True or false? True. How about “There’s no such thing as free lunch.” In other words, there’s nothing truly free in this life. Somebody has to pay for it. True or false? True. Which one is truer? Both are just as true. So also, when it comes to our salvation, it is a free gift. It doesn’t cost us a thing to be saved but it cost Jesus his life. No, you don’t have to pay anything for your salvation but salvation means that now you are a disciple of Jesus and everything you have belongs to your Master. Have you counted the cost of discipleship? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we will try to understand the cost of discipleship and that is the title of our message today–COST.
Luke 14 25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Question: Do you have an unfinished spiritual tower? Are you way over your head in a spiritual battle? Are you truly saved? Are you a disciple or just an uncommitted, wishy-washy fence-sitter?
Context: How do you picture Jesus 2000 years ago when he came the first time? Do you see him as a solitary figure praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? Do you see him with his 12 disciples? Maybe walking through the fields or sailing on the Sea of Galilee? Maybe you see him sitting on a mountaintop with a small crowd seated on the side of the mountain preaching the beatitudes. Listen once again to verse 25 “Now great multitudes went with Him.” Can you picture that? Imagine walking with the huge crowds of people at the state fair. It’s overwhelming to say the least! Now imagine that ten times worse and everyone is trying to get to one person! Why were they following Jesus? Of course, some like the disciples were committed to him. They had accepted the call to discipleship but many had not. They were following him for Food (Walking/Talking Cafeteria), Miracles (Mobile E/R), and Preaching (New and Different). Jesus being God knew that and he stopped, turned around, and declared—26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Does it mean that we have to literally hate our family in order to follow Jesus? Of course not. In Greek, when influenced by Hebrew and the Old Testament, the words “love” and “hate” can mean “choose” and “not choose.” For example: Malachi 1 2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” So also, Jesus wants us to pick him over any earthly relationship. By the way, this is not the first time that Jesus had made such a statement. In Luke 9 someone told him 57 “…Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air havenests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Illustration: My father’s testimony of leaving his family to follow Christ.
Application: How about you? Is some relationship getting in the way of discipleship? Why do you go to church? Will you sacrifice your spiritual life for friendship?
Something else in verse27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” There is an immediacy to this call. It doesn’t mean that you follow flippantly. It means go now. Just like the passage from Luke 9“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” and “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Illustration: Again, my father left that very night. If not, he would’ve stayed.
Application: What is keeping you from committing your life fully to Christ? Are you waiting for things to settle down? Are you waiting to have all your fun and then give what’s left over to God? Listen to what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12 1 “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: 2 While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain.”
Now Jesus gives 2 parables to show what lack of counting the cost and following fully looks like:
1. Tower Builder: We’re not told why the individual decided to build this tower. Maybe it was for agricultural purposes to watch over the fields or maybe it was for military purposes to watch the enemy. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this awkward unfinished structure is standing now in the front yard that does nothing. Now it is a monument to shame. Listen to verse 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” They were probably saying things like “Are you going to hang clothes on it?” “Maybe you can tie your goats in it,” or “You should sell it. Oh wait, you can’t move it, can you?”Why did this happen? Because he didn’t count the cost of building—28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—”
Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a tower going nowhere! Is that you? To give another analogy, they have these half-baked, soupy, uncooked, and unfinished Christian life.
2. King on a Warpath: Unlike the last parable, the consequence of failing to count the cost in this parable is deadly. This king thought that he was big and bad with his 10,000 soldiers only to find out that the other side had 20,000! You’re about to get a whooping! Again, why did this happen? 31 “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.”
Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a defeated army. After all these years of playing Christians, the promises in the Bible still don’t work. Unfortunately, people blame God for those defeats. Is that you?
Question: Have you considered the cost of following Christ? Are you willing to follow him in order to be saved? Some people may ask at this point—“Isn’t this works salvation?” Don’t misunderstand. Following Jesus is always the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. Listen toPhilippians 2 12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
We need to rethink what we have believed about getting saved. Listen to Ephesians 2 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.Are you willing to lay aside your old ways and step into the good works that God has prepared beforehand for you?
Invitation: Are you willing to get saved? Are you ready to be a disciple? Maybe you are already saved but you haven’t become a disciple, today is the day. Maybe you are lost, are you ready to do it the right way and be his disciple right from the start.
THE PLAN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Game Plan.Meal Plan. Health Plan. Floor Plan. Master Plan. What’s the plan? Man with a plan. Let’s go to plan B. There is no plan B. We need to plan ahead. It’s amazing how much we use that word “plan” in our daily lives. But, there is a plan that far exceeds any plan we may have and that is “The Gospel Plan” or “The Plan of Salvation.” Our plans may fail. Our plans may get disrupted. Our plans may have to be revised. But, God’s Gospel Plan does not fail, will not get disrupted, and it’s not open to revision. The Plan of Salvation is the only hope for every man, woman, boy, or girl. Today it can happen for you and change your life forever. (Circle 3 key words in our passage below.)
Mark 1 14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent,and believein the gospel.”16And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17Then Jesus said to them, “FollowMe, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18They immediately left their nets and followed Him. 19When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the sonof Zebedee, and John his brother, who alsowerein the boat mending their nets. 20And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.
Question:Which plan are you trusting in for your salvation? Your Plan? The Church Plan? The Denomination Plan? The wrong plan of salvation will cost you your soul. Are you truly saved? Repent, Believe, and Follow Jesus Christ.
Context: As many of you know, we’re about to start a new series on the parables of Jesus. Today’s message is to lay the foundation for those messages coming up. But, before we start looking at the Gospel Plan or the Plan of Salvation, let me clarify an important point: As we examine the passage we just read, it’ll become evident to you how some people have the wrong plan of salvation. They have the wrong elements or they are missing some elements. This should not to make us feel superior to them but it should motivate us to reach out to them in love and humility. But, let me clarify something – don’t think that everyone has the wrong plan of salvation if they don’t use the exact words and phrases like we do or understand every detail as we do. Let me give you an example:Imagine if you announced to your family that you are all going to Disney World. Dad, what’s going through your mind? Do I have enough vacation? If driving, do I need to get the oil changed? If flying, what flights are available? Mom, what’s on your mind? I need to get some clothes for the kids. Are we going to hop parks? How much food should I pack? If working, who can I get to cover my shift? What is little Johnny thinking? I’m definitely taking Buzz Lightyear with me. What is little Susie thinking? I’m wearing my Princess Jasmine T-shirt. Dad and Mom, are you going to expect Johnny and Susie to understand how your vacation days work and how many frequent flyer miles you can use before you can take them to Disney World? Of course not. So also, when it comes to salvation, people may not use the same words or understand on the same level as you but the main elements are there. But, let me take that illustration a little further. What if on the day you’re about to leave, little Johnny gets in his little ride on truck and says “I’m going to Disney World!” What do you do? “That’s great buddy but you have to get in my truck.” What if he says, “No, I’m going in my truck!” Now you have a problem. So also, the main elements of the Gospel Plan are non-negotiable, doesn’t matter who you are and how sincere you are.
The Gospel Plan or the Plan of Salvation has 2 parts:
Mark 1 14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee…”
Before we can gaze at Jesus, we have to take a quick glance at John the Baptist.He symbolized the fulfillmentof the prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus. Listen carefully: The Gospel Plan did not drop out of the sky 2000 years ago. It was repeatedly promised throughout the Old Testament. Something else: John the Baptist is described as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The wilderness represented hope and new beginnings. Just like God met Israel in the wilderness and made them his people, God was about to make a new people through his Son, Jesus.
14 “…Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
Many times, we ignore the kingdom aspectin the gospel. The gospels record over 100 times where Jesus talked about the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven.” What is this kingdom?It was not some earthly political kingdom or some imaginary fairy kingdom. This was an internal spiritual kingdom. Luke 17 20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” It is visible only to the those who have a spiritual birth. John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Back to Mark 1:15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”
What time is being fulfilled? The time for Jesus Christ, the Messiah, God’s Anointed Kingto take his rightful throne.His kingdom will not be inaugurated through some royal decree or some earthly battle or takeover. His coronation will come by way of the cross. As prophesied in the Scriptures, Jesus died on the crossfor the sins of the whole world. He was buriedbut roseagainon the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by many. Listen to Paul’s definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 1Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once…” And on and on.
Application:Do you understand the declaration of the gospel? Do you believe that God’s spiritual kingdom has come? Do you believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise? Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son, the Anointed King, who died for your sins, was buried but rose again, and was seen by many?
15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent,and believein the gospel.”
REPENT– The Greek word is “metanoia,” which has the core idea of a “change of mind” or a “change of thinking.” There are 2 common errors here:Some think that it means sorrow or regret. This may have come in through the Roman Catholic translation of “penance” and “penitence” but it’s incorrect. There may be some tears involved in repentance but crying, feeling sorry, or feeling ashamed do not guarantee salvation. Neither does it mean to “turn and return.” People turn, return, and turn back all the time. The key here is that there’s a change of mind and thinking regarding Sin, Self, and Savior. Prior to repentance, sin was okay but now you hate sin. Prior to repentance, you were at the center of your life but now God is at the center. Prior to repentance, you didn’t think you needed a Savior but now you want a Savior who can save you. Have you truly repented?
BELIEVE– The Greek word is the verb “pisteuein” or the noun “pistis,” which is much more than just our common belief or believe like “I believe it’s going to rain today.” It has the idea of “trust” like trusting in a life jacket or a safety harness. It is total confidence that Jesus can remove the guilt of sin and give you eternal life.Listen to John 1:12“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believein His name.” John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believesin Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”John 3:36“He who believesin the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believethe Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 8:24“if you do not believethat I amHe,you will die in your sins.” Are you truly trusting in Jesus?
FOLLOW– This is the major missing ingredient in today’s gospel presentations. Back to Mark 1 16And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. (This is not the first time that Jesus encountered them. John the Baptist had already introduced them to Jesus. Also, in Luke 5, Jesus did the miracle of many fishes for Peter and he proclaimed, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” The point is that they did believe in Jesus but they were not completely following him.)17Then Jesus said to them, “FollowMe, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Same thing happened with James and John. Here’s the point: The call to follow is included in the gospel. If you claim that Jesus is yourKing, you have to follow him, no matter the cost. You may struggle at times but if the desire to follow is not there, there is no true salvation. Matthew 10:38“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”“Followship does not determine salvation but true salvation will initiate followship.”
Application:Do you understand the decision of the gospel? Has there been a change of mind? Are you fully trusting in Christ for your sins? Are you willing to follow him no matter the cost? Come today. The Holy Spirit is here to help you.
HUMILITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: How many of you know a proud or an arrogant person? How many of you know someone who thinks he/she is humble when they’re really not? How many of you would say that you are a humble person? All of us tend to think that we are humble and someone else is proud—when in reality, we all have the same spirit of pride. It reminds me of that man to whom they gave the badge of humility but they had to take it away when he tried to wear it. There’s only one who was/is truly humble and his name is Jesus. In fact, he humbled himself to the point of death, even the death of the cross. He is our model and source of true humility. That’s our message today titled – HUMILITY in our series from Philippians 2called MIND (RE)SET.
Philippians 2 5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore 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, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.
Question: Are you a humble person? Do you have the spirit and the heart of Christ? Have you come in humility before him and received him as your Savior and King?
Context: Last weekend, we learned that Jesus chose to come into this world as a “doulos,” as a slave. He didn’t stop being God. He didn’t give up any of his divine attributes. He gave up by taking on the mind of a slave, the mind of humility and obedience.Listen again to verse 8“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient…”If you read the gospels carefully, he’s constantly serving and humbly inviting people to come to him so he could serve them. Matthew 11 28 “Come to Me, allyouwho labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yokeiseasy and My burden is light.” Multitudes thronged to him. They understood what he meant. They felt that he could help them. They also knew that they could approach him. After all, who is afraid to come to a slave!
Application: 2000 years later, men and women, boys and girls are still coming to Jesus and exchanging their burdens for his. They are laying down their sorrows, regrets, guilts, shame, struggles, fears, worries, and doubts and taking up his cause and living a life of peace and joy. Have you made the exchange?
But Jesus came for much more than just to serve people and lighten their load.Listen again to verse 8“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross.” In other words, Jesus didn’t just live the slave’s life, he also died the slave’s ultimate death. The cross was a slave’s ultimate punishment. Let me explain what that means (My information is coming from scholarly books and articles, especially Martin Hengel’sCrucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross):
1. Crucifixion was widespread in the ancient world. I’m sure you’ve heard that the Persians invented crucifixion. That may be true but we don’t know for sure. There have been citations from ancient sources that it was practiced by the Indians, Assyrians, and Scythians (modern day Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan). Even the Celtic, Germanic, and Brittani people practiced it. The Greeks with all their high ideals of human dignity also practiced crucifixion. At one time, Alexander the Great had 2000 people crucified for rising in rebellion against him. The Carthaginians (Punic people, ancient Phoenicians) were known for brutally crucifying people. More than likely the Romans learned it from them. Men and women were crucified, probably more men than women.
2. Crucifixion among the Romans was for the lower classes of people – slaves, violent criminals, and rebels. The Persians and Carthaginians used it for high officials and commanders and the Greeks used it for state criminals but the Romans used it primarily against slaves and those who were free but not Roman citizens. It was called a servile supplicium. A slave could be crucified if he was found with a weapon (a shepherd was crucified for defending himself against a bear) or if the owners were not capable of controlling their slaves. It was especially utilized against rebellious slaves. This was seen during the Third Slave Rebellion led by Spartacus in the first century BC when the Roman General Crassus had 6000 slaves crucified and lined them all along the Appian Way leading to Rome.
3. Crucifixion was very effective. There were 3 reasons for this:
First, it satisfied the human thirst for revenge, especially against rebellious slaves. One ancient writer called it “resentful rage.” It means torture and scourging would happen before the crucifixion. Jesus was flogged.
Second, it spread fear among the onlookers. Crucifixion did not end in 6 hours like Jesus. Many times, the victims would hang there for 3-8 days.
Third, it was set up at a high traffic place like a crossroad, theater, high ground, and even the place of the crime. Jesus was crucified on the hill called Golgotha or Calvary. Golgotha is Aramaic and Calvary is Latin for skull. It was outside the city (Hebrews 13:12) and by the main road (Mark 15:29). People were shaking their heads and even taunting him – “Didn’t you say that you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. How about saving yourself and coming down from the cross!” By the way, the victims were never buried. The scavengers would come and eat on the corpses. That’s the worst form of humiliation and dishonor.
4. Crucifixion was not discussed. Ancient Roman writers did not like to talk about crucifixion. They just mention it and move on. It was horrible sight. Some leaders and philosophers would talk about the heinousness of the crucifixion but they knew it had to be done. The only time crucifixion was ever discussed was in drama and theater. Even here, the hero would end up escaping the cross. The people in Philippi to whom Paul is writing may have seen plenty of crucifixions. It’s horrible but part of life. Just don’t have anything to do with it.
5. Crucifixion was accursed to the Jewish people. The Hasmonean kings had practiced crucifixion. Alexander Jannaeus had crucified 800 Pharisees and another one had crucified 70-80 sorcerers at one time. It was very shameful, especially because of Deuteronomy 21 22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you asan inheritance; for he who is hangedisaccursed of God.”
Why did Jesus choose a slave’s death? It was God’s plan of redemption. Listen to Isaiah 53 3He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, ourfaces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But He waswounded for our transgressions, He wasbruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peacewasupon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. 8He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9And they made His grave with the wicked—But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, norwas anydeceit in His mouth.
Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin of 71 leaders, the highest ruling body in Jerusalem, presided by the High Priest) secretly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus and Pilate gave him the permission. Nicodemus (another member of the Sanhedrin) also met him and brought a big bag of mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint his body. Then they put him in Joseph’s tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Why was he not left to rot on the cross or placed in just any old tomb? Yes, he was a slave but he was much more than just a slave. Plus, it was also a fulfillment of a prophecy we will see in a few moments.
So also, the thief on the cross got it. He rebuked the one who was taunting Jesus and said in Luke 23 41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”42Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” By the way, it’s not just these two Jewish men who got it but think about the Roman centurion standing by the cross. Mark 15:39So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”
Are you humble like Jesus your Savior and King? Do you know him? He is humbly calling you. Isaiah 53:10“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Himto grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall seeHisseed, He shall prolongHisdays, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.”
ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Today I’m starting a brand new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” For those of you who are new, we’ve been studying the life of Christ from all 4 gospels. We began this series about 2 years ago and we’re not even half way through. Somebody asked me when do you think we will get to the crucifixion and resurrection? Maybe when I’m ready for the nursing home!
John 2 23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man…5 34 “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 “I do not receive honor from men.”
Bridge: Have you ever said – “I wish I knew how to reach so and so but I don’t” or “I wish I could understand how this person thinks or what it’ll take to win them to Christ but I’m at a loss.” In this series we’ll learn how Jesus engaged individuals with the gospel.
Context: The passages we just read are like brackets. The first bracket is John 2:24-25 which says, “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” 2 things are underscored here about Jesus. First, Jesus knew all men (plural). Meaning: He knew every single human being, their nature, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and deepest darkest secrets. Second, Jesus knew what was in man (singular). Meaning: He knew what was inside human beings. He saw the darkness of sin within. Immediately following the first bracket, 4 individuals have an encounter with Jesus – a religious man, a woman with a horrible past, a brash rich person, and a sick hopeless person. Jesus met each of them where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. Then comes the second bracket in John 5:34 where Jesus Himself says, “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 I do not receive honor from men.” Meaning: Jesus was not interested in their endorsement or their adulation. He simply wanted to save them.
Some of y’all are looking at me thinking – “What does this have to do with my life?” Daily God brings individuals in our lives that need to be engaged with the gospel. They’re all unique. They have their abilities and accomplishments. They have their quirks and curiosities. But one thing they all have in common is sin and the need for a Savior. It is our responsibility to engage them with the gospel and bring them to Christ.
Question: Are you engaging people around you with the gospel? When was the last time you actually encountered someone you knew needed Christ? What did you do? Did you run from them? Did you condemn them, maybe in your heart? Or did you engage them? Are you praying for them? Do you pray that God will bring lost people into your life? Are you that individual who needs an encounter with Christ?
In this 4-part series we will meet 4 characters that had an encounter with Jesus, starting with man named Nicodemus:
I. WHO WAS NICODEMUS?
John 3:1 “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night…”
Background: Right there we have more than enough to construct his profile.
Pharisees – There is considerable debate in current scholarship over who were the Pharisees. From my studies I’ve found that the Pharisees were a popular sect of the Jewish people that had been around for a couple of hundred years by the time of Jesus. Some say that their name came from the Hebrew “paras” which means, “to separate,” as in separation from the sinners, the compromisers with the world. Along with the Torah (the Pentateuchal Law), they also had an interpretive tradition (oral and written) that had been “paradosis,” or “handed down” from their fathers. When you read the gospels you notice that they were particularly strict about purity issues, such as proper hand washing before meals, laws about food, and tithing. According to Josephus, the Pharisees were a lot more popular with the people than the Sadducees or the Essenes. Maybe, it was because they accepted the entire Old Testament (Law, Prophets, and Writings). Maybe, its because they believed in the resurrection of the dead, angels, and fate and free will. Maybe, it was because they challenged the people to live a godly life but also found loopholes to help them get around the system. Even though the Sadducees controlled the temple, the Pharisees also had a lot of say in the matter. Many of them were very wealthy and influential.
Ruler of the Jews – influential, powerful, and wealthy.
Came to Jesus – Sent to Investigate, Clarification, or Win Jesus over.
Came by Night – Maybe he was busy all day. Maybe he didn’t want to be disturbed. Maybe he was afraid of what someone might think. Maybe it was all of the above.
First Words – “and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’” Maybe he was trying to flatter Jesus. Maybe he was being genuinely honest. I think he was being honest because a Jewish person would have been very reluctant to use God’s name in vain.
Many people around us are like Nicodemus. They are moral but empty. They are powerful but weak. They have what they want but not what they need. They are willing to check it out but leery and suspicious of charlatans and fakes. They are searching but guarded. They are not bad people just lost people. How does the church typically respond to such people? Either we condemn them or we ignore them.
Question: Do you know some Nicodemus in your life? Can you see below the surface? How are you engaging him or her? Are you praying for him or her?
II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Typically people think that Jesus was blowing Nicodemus off by ignoring his complement and saying – “Stop flattering me. You’re lost and you need to get saved.” Not true. In actuality, Jesus accepted Nicodemus’ complement. Remember his first words – “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” How did Jesus reply? “Most assuredly, I say to you” which is actually “Amen, Amen.” What Jesus was saying was – “You’re right Nicodemus. Just as it’s impossible for me to do what I am doing unless God is with me, it’s also impossible for you to see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.” You cannot insult people into the kingdom of God.
John 3:4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Again, people assume that Nicodemus was just being sarcastic. Yes and no. Yes, he was pointing out the impossibility of being born again. No, he was not being just sarcastic. He truly did not understand what it meant to be saved. You cannot assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo.
John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Once again, “Most assuredly, I say to you” is actually “Amen, Amen.” But listen to how Jesus adapted to Nicodemus’ words – “Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Now Jesus used the word “enter” – “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”You have to adapt to the level of your Nicodemus. Not only that but Jesus also brought up another imagery that Nicodemus was familiar with – “water baptism.” Please don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not implying that you have to be baptized in water to be born again. He was saying that just as “John’s baptism” was the sign of a new beginning, so also Nicodemus will have to step into a new beginning. But, this is not an ordinary new beginning. It has to be one led by the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is not on water baptism but on the Spirit’s work.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.’ Something is lost in translation here. It’s not “You Nicodemus must be born again” but it’s “You (plural) must be born again.” Jesus was referring to all those people who believed in His name because of the signs He did but they did not believe in Jesus. Meaning: There was a detached belief there. It was more faith in His deeds than in His person. They were lost. You cannot assume that just because a person says he/she believes in Jesus that they are saved.
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” This is a very interesting statement. The Greek word for wind and spirit is exactly the same. Jesus used play on words to tell Nicodemus that he cannot rationally understand how the new birth happens but it happens. You have to remind people that salvation may be mysterious but it’s real.
John 3:9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…” Here Jesus brought up the imagery from the OT when God sent fiery serpents in the Israelite camp because the people had spoken against God and Moses. Many died. But when they pleaded, God in His love also provided the remedy. Moses had to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. If anyone looked at the serpent, they lived. Jesus was giving Nicodemus a preview of how He was going to be lifted up on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” A Salvation without a cross is no salvation at all.
Finally, here come the most famous verse of the Bible – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus reminded Nicodemus that God loved him.
Illustration: D. L. Moody was probably the greatest soul winner who ever lived. About the same time as Moody was preaching a young man from England named Henry Moorehouse got saved, began preaching and God began to use him mightily. Moorehouse came to America to preach and offered Moody to preach for him. Moody didn’t think that Moorehouse could preach and just put him off. Moorehouse sent another letter and another letter. Finally, Moody had to be out of town and allowed Moorehouse to preach. When Moody returned, the church was powerfully moved. Moody’s wife told him that he had preached 2 sermons and both were from John 3:16. She added, “He preaches a little different from what you do. He tells sinners that God loves them.” Moody replied, “Well…he’s wrong.” She answered, “You’ll agree with him when you hear him because he backs everything he says with the Word of God.” Moody reluctantly agreed to go and hear Moorehouse. Sure enough, Moorehouse turned to John 3:16. Later Moody said, “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out, and I could not keep back the tears.” Moorehouse preached for several more nights from the same passage and Moody’s ministry took on a softer deeper turn. Henry Moorehouse is best remembered as the “man who moved the man who moved millions.” You can never underestimate the power of God’s love.
Are you engaging people with the love of God shown in Christ on the cross?
Have you received the love of God shown in Christ on the cross
I’m standing atop Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. The view is mind blowing! Before me lies the city whose history goes back to over 4000 years. Jerusalem has bewitched both conquerors and pilgrims through the centuries. Even today, it is the most contended ground on the face of the earth. Someone called it – “the hottest piece of real estate on the planet.” But my view is different. I don’t find any magical lure or spiritual power in her presence, just lessons of deep significance. Three such landmarks stand out for me:
The Temple Mount – the gleam of the golden Dome of the Rock immediately draws my attention. It’s the site of Mount Moriah, where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed as a test of his faith. God accepted his willingness and gave him the glimpse of His Son
to come. Later David purchased the site from the Jebusites and Solomon built the temple on the very ground. On the third day I actually visited the Temple Mount for the first time. Although it was breathtaking, I could also sense the tension all around. As much as I loved the experience, I’m grateful that through Christ no longer is my access to God limited by a plot of land but we can come “boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16)
The City of David – between the Tyropoeon Valley on the west and Kidron valley to the east is the place that David chose to be his
capital. It is actually outside the walls of Jerusalem. I couldn’t help but visualize David walking on the terrace of his palace while his army had gone into battle. Down below he saw Bathsheba bathing. Instead of walking away, this “man after God’s own heart” gave into the sin of adultery. But he didn’t stop there. He even had her husband brutally murdered. Although David had to suffer the consequence of his sins, God still showed him mercy and grace. It reminded me that no one was immune to the temptation of sin and I resolved to God – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Unfortunately, this structure does not outshine the surrounding buildings. In fact, one really has to search for the most important site in Christianity – the place where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Inside, it is
gaudy and stale and I never cease to be amazed at the blind devotions of the tourists, kissing the ground and attempting to gain some divine favor. If that’s not enough, it’s always fascinating and revolting to watch the different groups trying to control their piece of the shrine. It’s tragic…but a great illustration of human nature. We cling to our blind rituals. We remain divided over trivial stuff. We lose sight of the heart of the gospel. To me, the ground is historical not sacred. Only Christ and His work for us deserve our utmost devotion. Peter offers a stark warning, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.’” (1 Peter 2:7)
As I’m about to walk back to our van, I turn to catch one last glimpse of the gorgeous panorama of the capital of the world and I’m reminded that one day all of it will be remade. Revelation 21 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” What a glorious hope!
HAVE YOU RECEIVED GOD’S ETERNAL LOVE? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This morning is part 2 in our series – BEFORE THE MANGER: HOW CAN A BABY CHANGE MY LIFE? Today’s message is titled – “HAVE YOU RECEIVED GOD’S ETERNAL LOVE?”
Revelation 13 1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name…6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Overall Background: If there’s one book in the Bible that’s the most challenging to understand, it’s the Book of Revelation. There are as many views on this book as there are people reading it! I have studied this book for years and preached on it but I confess that there’s so much I still don’t know. But, in my opinion, the one theme that stands out over everything else in this book is this – “for every truth that God has given to us, Satan has tried to offer a counterfeit, especially when it comes to Jesus Christ.” In verse 8 we just read, people are worshiping the beast/Antichrist instead of the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” My purpose today is not to preach prophecy, maybe another time. My purpose is to tell you that Jesus Christ alone is the true Lamb of God. He is not some afterthought. He is not some last-ditch effort to rescue humanity. He is not some contingency plan drafted at the last minute to help us. Jesus was not brought in at the last moment as the ship was sinking. “Would you please be our lifeboat, our life jacket and save us?” Jesus was the “Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.”
Question: Who is Jesus to you? Is He just one of many ways to God or is He the Lamb of God? Is He just a good thing to have along with many other things or is He your only hope of salvation? Do you understand the eternal love of God for you and me even before time began? Are you saved?
Today we will try to understand the eternal love of God for us in Jesus Christ. First, we will see what a counterfeit looks like and then, we will see the true savior.
I. THE COUNTERFEIT SAVIOR
Listen again to verse 1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. What exactly is going on here? First, what is this sea? Revelation 17:15clarifies that “The waters which you saw, . . . are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” The sea is the “sea of humanity.” Out of the millions of faces in the sea of humanity there will rise the beast who will grow in prominence and power. Some think that this beast will be a religious organization. Others think it’ll be a king or a kingdom. Either way, the source of this beast will be this world. By the way, the source of Jesus is not this world. He made this world but He is from above.
Verse 2“The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” The Dragon of course is Satan who will offer the beast all this. Do you remember the last time Satan offered someone all the kingdoms of the world and authority and glory? It was to Jesus when He was fasting in the wilderness. Jesus refused but the beast will receive it.Verse 3“And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Do you see what’s happening here? Satan is creating a counterfeit savior! The beast will die and then he or it will be resurrected just like Jesus died on the cross but rose again on the third day. Verse 4 “So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” Just as God the Father receives the worship through God the Son, the devil will receive worship through the beast. Then he will blaspheme God and use charming words to draw people away from Christ and even war against God’s people and overcome them.
Verse 7 “And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” Who does that remind you of? Jesus! As He was taken up into heaven He said in Matthew 28 18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Now Satan is trying to counterfeit the glorified and ascended Christ.Will all this counterfeiting work?Verse 8“All who dwell on the earth will worship him.” The world would rather worship the beast, the Antichrist, or the false Christ instead of Jesus Christ. But listen to the words following – “whose names have not been written in the Book of Life.”
Throughout the history of this world, Satan has been trying to counterfeit the true Savior. He tried with Cain by getting him to bring an offering of fruits and vegetables. He tried it with children of Israel by getting them to worship the golden calf. Satan is not interested in take us away from worship. He just wants us to worship some false substitute.
Application: Whom are you worshipping? Is it the counterfeit or is it the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world? The counterfeit doesn’t have to be a scary beast or Antichrist. It can be self. It can be religion. It can be a false idea or view of God. If it’s anything or anyone other than Christ, then you are lost?
II. THE TRUE SAVIOR
Let’s go back to verse 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life.” Meaning: The names of true believers are in the Book of Life. Who does this book belong to? “the Book of Life of the Lamb.” Meaning: The rightful owner of this book is Jesus Christ. Why is He the rightful owner? “the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Because Jesus resolved to give His life for us even before He created this world. Yes – 2000 years ago Jesus died on a hill called Calvary outside a city called Jerusalem. But before there was a hill or a city or this earth or this universe, even before a single atom or molecule was even created, the work of redemption was as good as done. This is why in Ephesians Paul calls the salvation of God His “eternal purpose.”(Ephesians 3:11)
Since the beginning of time the world has been waiting for this Lamb to come. In the Old Testament the big question was “Where is the Lamb?”
Remember when Abraham was told in Genesis 22:2“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” On the way there, Isaac asked his father in verse 7 “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” 9 “…And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.”…13Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The–LORD–Will–Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Jehovah Jireh literally means “Jehovah will see.” This was a foreshadow of the Lamb of God.
Remember in the Book of Exodus the Hebrews where in slavery in Egypt. In Exodus 2:24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. He sent Moses to redeem His people. Pharaoh kept hardening his heart and God sent one plague after another. Then came the final plague – death of every male firstborn. God told Moses in Exodus 12 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel… “…every man shall take for himself a lamb…5 Your lamb shall be without blemish…6…Then…kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses…” 23 For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike Just as God had told them, it happened. This was a foreshadow of the Lamb of God. In I Corinthians 5:7 Paul says, “…For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” So also Peter in I Peter 1 says 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
In Isaiah 53 it says 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
While the question in the Old Testament was “Where is the Lamb?” the answer in the New Testament was “Behold the Lamb.” John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Again inJohn 1:36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Everywhere Jesus went and everything He did He was allowing the people to examine Him and to see that He was indeed the spotless Lamb of God.
While the question in the Old Testament was “Where is the Lamb?” and the answer in the New Testament was “Behold the Lamb,” the focus in the rest of eternity will be “Worthy is the Lamb!” In the Book of Revelation 29 times Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God.
Revelation 5 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
Will you part of those who praise Him? Do you know the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world? Are you saved
THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH by Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on March 28, 2015)
Now that I have your attention, let me confess – it is no secret. In fact, it’s been lying in plain sight for two thousand years! History shows that whenever men and women, boys and girls actually put it to use, churches were filled and the kingdom of God grew by leaps and bounds! But before I reveal it, let me clarify what IT IS NOT:
It is not the Programs – Programs are wonderful but they all have a life cycle. Sooner or later they become dated and end up in the church storage room.
It is not the Location – Although location helps, many churches are sitting empty at some of the best locations in their community!
It is not Money – Some churches have empty pews but full bank accounts. Hudson Taylor said it best – “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”
It is not the Children and Young People – We need to reach the next generation. That’s the goal not the secret to reaching the goal.
It is not Friendliness and Fellowship – Sometimes they only result in superficiality and cliques.
It is not the Organizational Structure – Some people endlessly debate over deacon led versus elder rule, as if the missing link to the next Great Awakening is in how you run the business meeting!
It is not Discipleship – It is essential to help people grow in spiritual maturity. Sadly, many just become well-adjusted people with a lot of bible trivia.
Let’s go a step further—
It is not the Preaching – As much as I believe in the importance of expository preaching and life application, I know many guys who are doing it with no growth in their churches.
It is not Prayer – Those you know me will testify to the fact that I believe in the power of prayer. But there are many praying saints of God in declining and dying churches.
It is not the Pastor – God has ordained the pastor to lead the church but it’s foolish to think that the church rises and sets on any one man.
It is not the Holy Spirit – It is vital to live a life surrendered to Him but I know many wonderful Spirit-filled Christians in empty churches.
And, oh yes—
It is not even the Style of Music – Many sincere people actually believe that if they just went to contemporary worship, it will fill their church up. Don’t misunderstand – we definitely need an upgrade in our worship styles. I am shocked when people think that one musical style is more sacred over another. If you really want to try biblical music, how about giving your choir a shofar, a harp, a lyre and a sistrum this Sunday?!! Bottom line: Music matters but it’s not the answer.
So what is it? Jesus said it plainly in John 12:32, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Peter applied it on the Day of Pentecost when he preached, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-37) Paul explained it best in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Isn’t it obvious that the cross of Jesus is God’s open secret to growing His church?!! It’s no secret that when the message of the cross is preached and shared in everything we do, the Holy Spirit uses it to draw people to salvation and the church grows. Every major revival and awakening in history can be traced to Calvary.
“O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me.”