Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Intellectual)

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters1Introduction: 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

JERUSALEM – THREE LESSONS, ONE GRAND VIEW (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah,

JERUSALEM – THREE LESSONS, ONE GRAND VIEW – Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 6, 2016)

Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel

Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

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:

  1. 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
    The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel

    The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    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)

  2. 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
    City of David, Jerusalem, Israel

    City of David, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    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)

  3. 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
    Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel

    Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    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. 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. 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?

HAVE YOU RECEIVED GOD’S ETERNAL LOVE? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

haveyoureceivedgod'seternalloveIntroduction: 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 17:15 clarifies 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 in John 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 (ARTICLE)

THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on March 28, 2015)

Secret to Growing a ChurchNow 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:

  1. 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.
  2. It is not the Location – Although location helps, many churches are sitting empty at some of the best locations in their community!
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. It is not Friendliness and Fellowship – Sometimes they only result in superficiality and cliques.
  6. 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!
  7. 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—

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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—

  1. 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.”

No Turning Back

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

NO TURNING BACK – by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

noturningbackToday we are celebrating what is known as Palm Sunday. It commemorates the start of the final week in the life of Jesus. The time had come for Him to do what He had come to do – go to the cross. With that in mind, I am preaching a message titled “NO TURNING BACK.”

Isaiah 50 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away. 6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. 7 “For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.

Luke 9 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

Overall Background: The two passages we just read are about 800 years apart but they are both describing the same final stage in the life of Jesus. They are both talking about His final journey to Jerusalem – the journey that would take Him to the cross. This was why He had come. He was God’s Lamb slain before the foundation of the world and the time had come for Him to give His life on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins and save us from the wrath of God. All we would have to do is believe on Him and we would be safe.

What is interesting at this point is that both Isaiah and Luke talk about His face. Isaiah 50:6 says, “I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” and again in 7 “Therefore I have set My face like a flint.” Then in Luke 9:51 – “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” and 52 “and sent messengers before His face” and 53 His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

Our face says a lot about how we are feeling inside. There are all kinds of faces: happy, sad, content, angry, defeated, confused, tired but here it says that His face was like a flint, which is a hard sedimentary rock used to make tools, sharpen knives, and start fires. Meaning: It was an intense, determined, resolute, unafraid, unflinching, unwavering, unshakeable face. In our contemporary language we would say – “He had His game face on” but it really doesn’t do justice to it.

What’s the point? There was a seriousness, intensity, and urgency to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that we have lost. Somehow we have turned this “battle imagery” into a walk in the park or a Sunday afternoon drive or a little window-shopping at the mall. No wonder that we have watered down the gospel to this casual, non-essential and non-urgent option. Jesus didn’t see it like that.

Application: Do you realize the seriousness of the cross? Have you considered the battle Jesus went through for your soul 200 years ago? What’s keeping you from getting saved? If you are saved, how are you following Him? Have you set your face like a flint towards God’s purpose? Why do you keep turning back?

Two major things we will see in this final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem: Destination and Distractions. Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to your spiritual condition and the spiritual condition of those around you.

I. DESTINATION 

Luke 9 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,

Jerusalem

Jerusalem (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Jesus did not set His face to go to Galilee or Rome or Memphis but to Jerusalem. As you know, we were in Jerusalem just two months ago. I’ve seen many cities in my life – Bombay, London, and New York but none of them can compare to Jerusalem. The first thing that gets you are the walls of the city. They are big but they are not intimidating. As one writer put it – “the city is not a fortress and its walls are not a barrier but a veil.” (Jerome Murphy-O’Connor) The next thing that gets you is that everything is limestone, even the newer structure. When the British controlled Jerusalem between 1917-1947, they made a law that all buildings had to be faced with the Jerusalem stone. It was to maintain its ancient look and it’s heavenly glow.

Eastern Gate

Eastern Gate (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

We’re not sure exactly what the city looked like when Jesus came to Jerusalem but He wasn’t admiring the walls or the Jerusalem stone like us. He was seeing something else. In fact, he saw 3 views of Jerusalem:

  1. HOSTILE view of Jerusalem – He saw the faces of the Pharisees and the scribes, the Sadducees, the high priests, and the religious leaders. He saw the faces of the people who were waiting to killing Him. He saw the face of Pilate and Herod, archenemies but would become friends over Him. He saw the faces of the multitudes gnashing their teeth at Him and shouting, “crucify Him.” He had preached them and did signs and wonders and healed their sick but it did not matter.

Luke 13 34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ”

Application: Have you ever been in a hostile environment? Have you ever been in a place where you knew that you were not wanted? Some of us are afraid to step out and speak out for the gospel. We are afraid of hostility. If you are lost, do you realize that you are hostile to Jesus? Do you see the end of people who keep refusing Jesus?

  1. DESTROYED view of Jerusalem – He not only saw the present of Jerusalem but also the future. He saw the impending judgment that was going to come over Jerusalem.
Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts

Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts

Luke 19 41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez

The fulfillment of this prophecy began in AD 66 when the taxes were running low and the Roman procurator Gessius Florus decided to steal the silver from the temple. The Jewish people were obviously angry and revolted. So he sent his troops and killed about 3,600 citizens. The Jewish people reacted by stopping their sacrifices to Caesar and killed some Romans. So Nero sent General Vespasian against them. Nero died and Vespasian became the emperor and appointed his son Titus to continue the fight. After a siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, his soldiers broke through the walls of Jerusalem and killed over a million people and captured and enslaved 97,000 more. Josephus, the Jewish historian wrote that, “The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.” The Roman soldiers were so angry that (some say in spite of Titus’ orders) they burned down the temple of Jerusalem. Josephus writes again, “Jerusalem … was so thoroughly razed to the ground…that nothing was left that could ever persuade visitors that it had once been a place of habitation.” In fact, in AD 131 the Roman emperor Hadrian turned the Roman colony into a city by the name of Aelia Capitolina.

Is it any wonder that Jesus wept when He saw Jerusalem? He saw what was coming. How? He was fully God as well as fully man and as fully God He was not bound by time but as fully man He was living out the drama of the cross.

Application: Do you see the destruction of people who reject Christ? Can you visualize what happens to people (men, women, boys, and girls) who reject the gospel? Does that move you to tears?

  1. GLORIFIED view of Jerusalem – He not only saw the present rejection and the future destruction of Jerusalem but also the ultimate glorification.

Revelation 21 1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 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…11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel…22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light…”

We don’t have time to deal with all the details of prophecy here but this much is clear – God is not through with Jerusalem. There is a day coming when He will build a city with His own hands. He Himself will lay the foundations. He Himself will erect the walls. He Himself will build homes for us. But, the name will still be Jerusalem – New Jerusalem.

Application: What a promise of hope! What a promise that He will make all things new! Have you received that promise in your life? Are you saved? Do you see that hope for others? Do you see that hope for our community? Do you see that hope for our nation?

II. DISTRACTIONS

Background: As Jesus headed to Jerusalem, several distractions stood in His path but He did not lose His focus. Isaiah helps us to see these distractions.

  1. FAME AND FRIENDS

Isaiah 50 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away.

The multitude wanted to take Him by force and make Him their King but He did not consent to them. It would have been so much easier but that wasn’t God’s plan. Neither did He let His only disciples talk Him out of it, like Peter.

Application: Are you letting fame and friends keep you from following God’s will?

  1. PAIN AND SHAME

6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.

He knew that His back would be torn to shreds. He knew that He would be falsely accused, mocked, and spit upon.

Application: Are you letting the fear of pain and shame keep you from following God’s will?

  1. SIN AND SEPARATION

7 “For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.

The biggest distraction was the fame or shame or pain. It was the burden of sin being put upon Him. It was the separation from the Father that He experienced. You hear that when He cried from the cross – “My God My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

Application: What is keeping you from following Christ? Why do you keep turning back? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Receive Him and follow Him today.

HAVE YOU HEARD THE TRUE GOSPEL?

HAVE YOU HEARD THE TRUE GOSPEL? by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Have You Heard The True Gospel-Sincerity means nothing. Truth is everything. Let me illustrate in a way that will connect the best at this time of the year when people are changing their screen savers to some beach scene from the Caribbean. You can put on your tropical shirts; you can spray your house with Ocean surf scent; you can even buy some tropical fruits; but unless you save up some money, make your reservations, get on that plane and fly there, you’re only daydreaming. Oh by the way, God forbid if you did save some money but bought the wrong ticket.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 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, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

Overall Background: The passage we just read comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. Paul founded the church in Corinth. He stayed there 18 months and had a powerful impact – rulers, aristocrats, and the wealthy got saved; middle class, working class, and poor got saved; people with horrible lifestyles got saved – adulterers, drug abusers, alcoholics, thieves, hoodlums, and roughnecks got saved. Then Paul moved on to Ephesus. While there, he began to hear that things were not going well among the Corinthian believers. They were slipping back into their old sinful lifestyles; there were sharp disagreements between people in the church; they were confused about certain important doctrines; but, most importantly, they had forgotten the gospel – the very thing that had saved them. Paul wrote this letter to bring them back to the fundamentals.

Listen to verse 1 – “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel…”

Background: What is this word “gospel?” It comes from two English words “good” and “spell.” We know “good” but the word “spell” is the old Anglo-Saxon word that meant “news.” So good spell = good news. For some odd reason, the translators did not translate the Greek word euanggelion into “good news” but left it as “Gospel.” It should be the Good News of Matthew, the Good News of Mark, and so on.

What does this Good News do? Listen again to verse 1 – “Moreover, 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. The Good News is what saves you.

Application: This morning only you and God truly know where you are. The Holy Spirit has brought you to this place so you can hear the Good News. If you have never made the decision to receive Jesus as your Savior, you are lost. You need to be saved. If you are truly saved, then this message will help you appreciate the Good News and you can share it with others.

So what is this True Gospel?

I. IT WAS NOT CREATED BY HUMAN BEINGS. 

3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: 

Background: Paul understood the gospel very well. Paul used the word “gospel,” in its various forms, 84 times in his letters. He preached the gospel everywhere he went. But he acknowledged right from the start that he did not create the gospel. He was just a recipient of the gospel.

Whom did he receive it from? Now someone might say – Oh Paul must have received it from Jesus’s disciples. Listen to what he said to the Galatians in 1:11-12 “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Meaning: Jesus Himself gave him the Good News.

For e.g. People often say to me, “I guess that’s what Baptists believe.” It’s not about Baptists or Methodists or Pentecostals or Presbyterians or Episcopalians or Catholics or Orthodox. There is only one Gospel and it transcends all denominations and churches.

II. IT BEGINS WITH THE BAD NEWS FIRST.

Listen again to verse 3 “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” There is the Bad News – Two words: “our sins.” What is sin? Sin is going against God. It is our tendency towards evil. No matter how much we try to be good, we do what is bad and displease God.1. It was not created by human beings.

Where did we get this nature? Listen to Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” Meaning:Sin was passed down by Adam to everybody in the race. It is hereditary.We are all infected by the same germ of sin. We came into this world defective.

For e.g. You can see the evidence of that in a toddler. No matter how nice the parents are and how wonderful is their surroundings, let another toddler go after their toys and they will leave whatever they are playing and snatch it away and scream “mine.”

Because of our sin nature we do sinful things. Even the best people lie, cheat, get angry, get envious, jealous and on and on.

What is the outcome of being a sinner? Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death” Meaning:Because of Sin, every human is born spiritually dead. We cannot connect with God. Then one day physical death comes which brings with it eternal death. Now we are forever separated from God. We are headed to a place of punishment for sins and eternal separation from God. It’s called Hell.

Why doesn’t God just pardon everybody? Because that would lead Him to compromise His holiness. If He did that, there will be no more perfection. For God to be god, He has to be perfect.

Application: If you are a human being, then you are spiritually dead. One day you will be physically dead and then you will be eternally dead in a place of punishment and separation from God.

III. IT IS GOD KEEPING HIS PROMISE TO SAVE US.

Listen again to verse 3 onwards – 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, 1. It was not created by human beings. 2. It begins with the bad news first.

Background: Did you notice that twice it says – “according to Scriptures.”? What Paul is saying is that the plan of salvation was God’s idea, promised, initiated, executed and completed by Him.

First, Jesus died as God promised in His Word.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin,

According to God’s promise, Jesus was to become an offering for our sin. The only way God’s wrath against sin could be satisfied is the soul that sinned would die. Someone might say – “that’s too harsh.” Then, you don’t understand how holy God is. Holiness cannot tolerate even a speck of sin. Every sin is worthy of death. But God knew that we couldn’t die for our own sins. Our body, soul, and spirit cannot handle it. The only one capable of taking this death upon Him is God Himself. Hence, Jesus Christ became my substitute.

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.”

Jesus took my penalty of sin by shedding His blood to satisfy God’s wrath.

What happened next? Jesus was buried but He came alive on the third day, as God promised in His Word.

Psalm 16:9-10 “…My flesh also will rest in hope. 10For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

Why did Jesus have to come back to life? Listen to Peter describing Jesus’ resurrection in Acts 2:24 “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”

#1. Jesus was Holy. #2. Jesus was and is God.

DEATH TRIED TO HOLD DOWN JESUS FOR THREE DAYS. IT GAVE UP. IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO HOLD DOWN THE PRINCE OF LIFE.

If Jesus remained dead, history would define His life in just 2 words: HE TRIED. Jesus was a Nice Guy, Great Guy, a Well-meaning Guy, but a Dead Guy. Same thing that will one day kill us, killed Him. Thanks for trying.

He rose again and as He was leaving the grave – “By the way, Death – that sting belongs to me.” Revelation 1:18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

The Gospel –

  • It’s NOT the Bible. The Bible contains the Gospel but the Gospel is more specific.
  • It’s NOT the 10 commandments or the Beatitudes or the Golden Rule.
  • It’s NOT going to Church, getting baptized, and feeling sorry for all the bad you’ve ever done.
  • It’s NOT trying to be a better person, better husband, better wife, better neighbor, better citizen, better worker, and giving your time/money to help others.
  • It’s NOT giving all your problems to God and trusting Him and praying to Him to help you.
  • It’s NOT believing in God, Angels, and Satan.

The Gospel is Jesus Died on the Cross for my sins. He was buried and rose again on the third day to give me victory over death.

Application: Which gospel are you trusting in?

IV. IT HAS TO BE BELIEVED TO BE EFFECTIVE.

5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.1. It was not created by human beings. 2. It begins with the bad news first. 3. It is God keeping His promise to save us.

Why did Paul give this list of witnesses? Were these the only ones who heard that Jesus was alive? These were the only ones who believed that He died for their sins, was buried, and rose again to bring eternal life.

The gospel demands a decision. Listen to Paul’s answer to the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30-31   30And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Some people say:

–       I need to be a better person – NOT GOING TO SAVE YOU.

–       I need to turn everything over to God – NOT GOING TO SAVE YOU.

–       I need to read the Bible and pray every day – NOT GOING TO SAVE YOU.

–       I need to give up all my bad habits – NOT GOING TO SAVE YOU. (You can’t change without the Holy Spirit.)

–       I need to repent of all my sins; feel sorry for all the bad I have done – NOT GOING TO SAVE YOU. Nothing wrong in feeling bad for what you’ve done but that’s not going to save you.

SALVATION IS A GIFT THAT HAS TO BE RECEIVED BY FAITH.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”

Application: There are people sitting here this morning who are trying to work for this gift. You are in for a rude awakening on the other side because you are trusting in your own self to save you. Satan has you fooled. You are lost. You are trying to give up your bad habits, turn over your life, make Jesus your Lord – none of that will work because it is you doing the work. All that comes after you get saved. The Holy Spirit helps you.

Listen again to Romans 10:9-10 9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

YOU WANT TO BE SAVED? BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE WORK OF SALVATION. ALL YOU CAN DO IS RECEIVE THIS GIFT BY FAITH.

Don’t I need to repent for my sins? Doesn’t Peter say in Acts 2:38 38Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”Both the OT and NT meaning of the word “repentance” is “to change one’s mind.” Peter is telling the Jewish people that they had just crucified their Messiah and they needed to repent – change their mind about Jesus Christ. They had just crucified the King of Kings.

All of us have some idea about who Jesus is. When you come to Christ – you have to change your mind about Him and accept Him as YOUR GOD AND SAVIOR.

THE MOST URGENT MINISTRY FOR EVERYONE IN CHURCH

THE MOST URGENT MINISTRY FOR EVERYONE IN CHURCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Running From God  (1)This morning we will conclude our series on the Book of Jonah titled, “Running From God.” Our last message comes from Jonah chapter 4 titled, “The Most Urgent Ministry For Everyone in Church” – Whether you’ve been in church all your life or got here sometime back or this is your first time. Many of you have asked me – “what is this ministry that is so urgent?” Is it preaching or music or prayer or youth or children? It is the SOS ministry. It stands for – “SLIDE OVER SOME” MINISTRY.

Jonah 3:10 – 4:3 10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

Overall Background: If I had written the Book of Jonah, I would have ended in chapter 3. What a great way to end with Jonah 3:10 “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them (Nineveh), and He did not do it.” What better way to end than on a high note – bad people became good, trusted God’s grace and God was forgiving and merciful as always. In other words, “And they lived happily every after. The End.” But, oh no, listen to Jonah 4:1 “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.” The verb for anger comes from the Hebrew word that literally means – “to burn.” In other words, it burned Jonah up.Instead of rejoicing over God’s grace towards the Ninevites or helping lead the Ninevites into discipleship, Jonah gets angry. Listen to his prayer again 2 …“Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Why does Jonah want God to kill him? Because now the pagan Assyrians are on the same level as Jonah. Because now the barbaric Ninevites are just as much a part of God’s family as the children of Israel.

Before we shake our heads at Jonah, we need to examine our own hearts and churches. How hard it is for people to slide over and let others in. The one ministry that is desperately needed among American Christians and churches is the SOS Ministry = Slide Over Some Ministry. I’m not talking about just sliding over in your pew. I am talking about sliding over in our thinking and our acceptance of others in the body of Christ. This message is critical because if this does not happen, American Christianity is drawing its last breath. You may think – how does this apply to me. Don’t check out yet. You’ll be surprised how much you need it.

Let’s see what happened with Jonah:  5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city.

Background: Last time he ran west, this time he runs to the east. Won’t you too? Last time he went west, he got swallowed by the great fish. So he goes east and “There he made himself a shelter (“sukka” = hut shelter) and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. In other words, he is pouting and waiting for God to pick.

Christians pout. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking we don’t. Camera phones and selfies did not invent pouting. It’s been around for thousands of years.

Application: How do you respond when things don’t go your way? We are talking about in the church but also in your home and marriage and at your work.

What is God’s response? 6 And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. The same God who prepared the great fish now prepares a plant and it provides shade for Jonah. God is trying to deliver him from his misery. The word for misery is the Hebrew word “ra’a” = misery/evil/disaster. When you are pouting you are miserable and you make everyone else miserable around you. Misery loves company.

So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. Literally: “Jonah rejoiced over the plant with great joy.”What’s next? 7But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm. The same God who prepared the great fish and the plant prepares a worm.“And it so damaged the plant that it withered.” God showed mercy to Jonah by providing a shade over his head and now God took it away for the moment. What’s next? 8And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement (cutting) east wind and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Where is God going with all this? 9Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

I cannot help but think of another time in the Bible a similar thing happened. It’s in the Gospels. We’ve all heard the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 – A father has two sons and the younger says to the Father“Give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” He takes his share and goes to a far away country and wastes everything. Then, a severe famine hits the land and the only job he could find was in working with swine. All he could eat was what the pigs ate. Don’t mistake this with pig farms in America. Finally, he comes to his senses and says to himself – “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to share and I perish with hunger.”18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’

Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni

But you know the story – Luke 15 20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. As he is trying to seek his father’s forgiveness, his father interrupts him and commands his servants to, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

Now, I’m sure that you’ve heard some wonderful messages of the grace of God towards us when we turn towards Him. I’ve preached some myself. But did you know that it’s not the main point of the story. In fact, the whole section begins with this statement in Luke 15 1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them. Because the Pharisees and the scribes complained to Him about the tax collectors and the sinners, Jesus gave this parable of the Prodigal Son.

The real point of the parable is not that the Prodigal Son came home but read how the elder brother reacted to it. He heard the noise of the music and dancing and he was angry. Listen to Luke 15 28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. Just like God came out and pleaded with Jonah. 29 So he answered and said to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

Doesn’t that sound like church people? Preacher – just cause you have some new people coming, you’ve forgotten about the old. He doesn’t care for us any more. We’ve been there all along but now He has found others. How did the Father respond? 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”

Application: Do you see others as a threat or as a trophy of God’s grace?

Back to Jonah 4 10 But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons (Nineveh proper) who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” What’s the point? Jonah has more compassion over a plant – a plant that he did not put in the ground or even take care of. But, he could care less for people who are made in the image of God.

It is amazing to me how people can get tickled over seeing their azaleas blooming! But God forbid if someone sits in their favorite spot in church. Some people can get so excited over finding 99-cent grapes but it tears them up to see more people or different people come to church.

Application: Let me ask you something – Do plants or animals or things matter more to you than people? Extend that a little – what is the value of one soul to you? The other day I was driving down the street with my boys in the back. I was listening to them making plans for their weekend. “Okay – first, were going to play the Wii, then, we’ll go outside, and then, we’ll watch a movie and eat cookies.” Just then I saw this rough looking guy walking. I don’t know anything about him. He might a horrible criminal who could kill me without thinking twice. Right then a thought crossed my mind – “The same God who made my boys also made him.” He values that person just as much as he values them.

Let me switch gears here – the burden for “sliding over some” is not just for the people who have been here for a while but also for people who are new.

In the Book of Acts, there is a great illustration of this. Acts 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

Background: The Hebrews were the first Christians and the Hellenists were the next to arrive. It wasn’t long since Jesus had left them. It wasn’t long since they had the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But already, there’s a division in the church. This time the tables have turned. Those who came in after are complaining about those who have were there first because they felt neglected.

The church is a home. How do you act when you go to someone’s home? Do you walk in demanding your way? Of course not. You come in with humility.

At the end of the day, none of us deserve to be here. It’s only by the grace of God that we are what we are. Why do we judge others? John Bradford, the English preacher, when he would see criminals being led to the scaffold, would often say – “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.”

This Church is about Jesus Christ. Do you know Him who bought our salvation by His blood?

WHAT JESUS DID TO SAVE YOU

WHAT JESUS DID TO SAVE YOU by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Many of us who are saved have never truly grasped the magnitude of suffering that our Savior went through on the cross for us. If we did, there would be a radical change in how we live. Many of you who are lost – if you truly understood how much Jesus suffered for you, you will respond to His love and be saved.

Running From God  (1)

Running From God (1)

Jonah 2:1-6 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. ‘Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice. 3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me. 4 Then I said, “I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ 5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head. 6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.

Overall Background: Anytime we study a biblical passage, we have to first look at it in its original and immediate context. In other words, we need to understand it as the people who first read it understood it. Then, we can take step back and look at it from the larger and fuller context. So far, we have seen what the life of Jonah teaches us from its original context. It teaches us to obey God, accept God’s discipline, and trust His faithfulness in our lives. Now we need to step back and see it from the larger context. What does the rest of the Bible say about Jonah? How does it fit into God’s plan of salvation?

Well, Jesus mentioned Jonah at least twice in His ministry. When the scribes and Pharisees came to test Him and demanded a sign from Him. Jesus said in Matthew 12:38-41 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

Jesus compared His death, burial, and resurrection to Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish. In a sense, if you want to understand how Jesus felt on the cross, read how Jonah felt inside the fish. This morning I want us to look at Jonah 2 and understand what Jesus went through on the cross for us. Is all this just to teach you something interesting and novel? No. It is help you realize how much Jesus suffered for us. If you are saved, this should motivate you to live a godly life. If you are lost, this should motivate you to get saved immediately.

3 important truths about the cross from the story of Jonah:

I. THE CROSS IS GOD’S ANSWER TO SIN.

2:3 “For You cast me into the deep.”

Background: Jonah is saying “God – you threw me into the sea.” There’s a little problem there. In Jonah chapter 1 God sent a storm to discipline him (not punish him) because Jonah was running from God. Once the sailors figured out that Jonah was the cause of the storm, they asked him in verse 11 “…What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?” Jonah responded in verse 12“…Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you…” At first the sailors refused but then, as it became worse, they asked God’s forgiveness and then…1-2-3…tossed him overboard. So, is seems that Jonah suggested and the sailors implemented. But now Jonah says – “God – you threw me into the sea.” What’s that all about? Listen carefully—

–       It is true that the chief priests and the elders plotted against Jesus to kill Him.

–       It is true that Satan incited Judas to betray Jesus was 30 pieces of silver.

–       It is true that the crowd shouted crucify Him.

–       It is true that Pilate passed the sentence and then washed His hands.

–       It is true that the Roman soldiers brutally nailed Him to the cross.

But the cross was from start to finish the work of God.

–       Listen to Peter on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth…23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

–       I Peter 1says, 18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things…19 but with the precious blood of Christ…20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world.

–       Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

Albert Schweitzer said that the cross was Jesus being crushed under the “unyielding wheel of history.” Not true. Jesus said in John 10:18 “No one takes it (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.”

It is true that human beings crucified Jesus, the Son of God, in a cruel, heinous, and evil way. Nonetheless, it happened just as God intended for it to happen. The cross was not an atrocity. The cross was not an accident. The cross was not an afterthought. The cross was God’s answer to your sin and mine.

Application: What do you think about the cross? Jesus took your punishment upon Himself so you don’t have to suffer in Hell one day.

II. THE CROSS IS GOD’S PUNISHMENT FOR OUR SINS.

2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. ‘Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice. In his affliction Jonah cried out to God. The pressure was too much for him.

How about Jesus? So also Jesus, in His ultimate affliction, cried to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:42-44 41 “…He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

That condition is called “Hemidrosis,” where a person is under such severe stress that the tiny capillaries in the sweat glands break and blood and sweat flow down together. Jesus was under extreme affliction because He knew what was coming. Jonah’s affliction was his own doing. Jesus’ affliction was because of our doing.

Back to Jonah 3 “For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods (Literally: river swirled about me) surrounded me; “All Your billows (breakers) and Your waves passed over me.” We know what that meant for Jonah – he was in belly of the fish and the fish was deep in the sea but inside the water was like a raging river. He was being tossed back and forth.

How about Jesus? On the night of the crucifixion Jesus was jerked back and forth.

  1. Arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  2. Taken before Annas the ex-high priest and questioned.
  3. Taken before Caiaphas and condemned for blasphemy
  4. Taken before the Sanhedrin and condemned and beaten.
  5. Taken before Pilate and accused of treason
  6. Taken before Herod and mocked.
  7. Taken back to Pilate and scourged with 39 lashes. His back was probably in shreds.
  8. Then He had to march up the hill to Golgotha. He was bloody, bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted.
  9. Finally, He was nailed to the cross between two common criminals. The nails are not what you use to hang picture frames.
  10. But the worse was the sin of every human being put upon Him and God’s wrath was poured upon the Son. This spiritual suffering was the worst.

Back to Jonah 2 4 Then I said, “I have been cast out of Your sight; Jonah felt abandoned by God.

How about Jesus? Matthew 27   45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” As Jesus feels the emotional, physical, and spiritual suffering of the cross, He feels abandoned by His Father.

Back to Jonah 25 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head. I find this interesting – Jonah had weeds wrapped around his head.

How about Jesus? John 19, 2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.

Back to Jonah 2 6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; Jonah is saying that he has gone as low as any human being could possibly go.

How about Jesus? For 3 hours Jesus hung on the cross for our sins. He went as low as possible for us.

Back to Jonah 2 6 “…The earth with its bars closed behind me forever.” Jonah felt like he has

How about Jesus? Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.

Let me clarify – Jonah was disciplined for his disobedience. Jesus was punished for our transgressions.

Application: Did you ever realize how much Jesus suffered for us? By the way, you and I have no right to tell anyone that they will go to heaven without Jesus Christ. It is as if saying – Jesus, you really didn’t have to go through all that.

III. THE CROSS IS GOD’S PROMISE OF A NEW BEGINNING.

Jonah 2, 6 Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God…9 Salvation is of the Lord.10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

How about Jesus? Listen again to Peter in Acts 2:24whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.

Praise God! Jesus did not remain in the grave. He came back to life on the third day. Why? Because He was God. He was sinless. He had finished the task of paying for our sins.

Why did I preach this message? Because it is Palm Sunday? No. Because it is Interesting? No. Because the cross demands a decision. Is Jesus your Savior?

For e.g. There was once an artist named Steinberg. He was using a young gypsy girl as a model for one of his paintings. Sometimes she would just come and watch him paint. One time Steinberg was painting his masterpiece “Christ on the Cross.” One day she said to him – “He must have been a very wicked man to be nailed to a cross like that.” Steinberg replied – “Oh no. Actually, He was a very good man. The best man who ever lived. He gave His life for others.” The gypsy girl asked him – “Did He die for you?” Steinberg stepped back and thought to himself – “I don’t even know the one I am painting.” He gave His heart to Christ. Why? He moved from the color, canvas, and palette and He moved into the story.

Have you ever moved into the story?

LEARNING TO LOVE PROPERLY

LEARNING TO LOVE PROPERLY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

My wife’s dad would often say, “The reason many people cannot love properly is because they’ve never been loved properly.” To understand true love you have to first receive it.

Learning_to_Love_ProperlyRom. 8:35-39  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Here comes Adrian Rogers’ favorite verse in the Bible. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Overall Background: We often hear that we need to love God and that’s true. But the point here is not whether we love God but rather does God love us. Listen to Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? And, again in Romans 8:39, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Do we truly understand that – “God through Jesus Christ loves me unconditionally, in spite of what my physical or spiritual problems might be.” Do you understand this love that God has for you in Jesus Christ? Have you ever received this love in your life?

This question has two very important implications: Unless you receive God’s love properly in your life, you cannot love yourself properly. Unless you love yourself properly, you cannot love others properly. The reason we have trouble accepting our self the way God has made us and the reason we have trouble accepting others the way they are is because we have not accepted God’s love in our hearts. The world’s idea of love is selfish. It is based on what you can do for me. As the girl asked the boy – “Do you love me?” Boy – “Of course!” Girl – “Would you die for me?” Boy – “No – mine is an undying love.”

Let me add this as clearly as possibly – “Only the Holy Spirit can help you receive this love of God through Jesus Christ.” Keep in mind that Romans 8 is the chapter of the Holy Spirit. It mentions the Holy Spirit 19 times—that’s more than any other chapter in the whole Bible. The point is that we cannot understand and experience God’s love for us without the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. Then we can love our wife, husband, children, church, and the world properly.

First, there are two major things that we need to understand:

I. GOD LOVES US THROUGH JESUS CHRIST IN SPITE OF PHYSICAL PROBLEMS.

 

People think that problems in life are an indication that God doesn’t love them. Listen again to Rom 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Now Paul lists 7 physical hazards that appear to separate us from the love of Christ:

#1.Shall tribulationThe word for tribulation means, “strong pressure.” It is the same word that is used for the treading of grapes, when the grapes are pressed down, they burst and juice comes out. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “…In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” What does that mean? Christ’s love for me will overcome any pressure that will come into my life. How do I know that? The first part of verse 33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” Even if you are pressed down to the point of being burst, my love for you will keep you intact.

For e.g. The world does not understand that concept of love. Ask someone why they love so and so. The answer is typically – “how they make me feel.” No wonder people walk out when it gets too hard. As someone said, “Love is blind—and marriage is an eye-opener.”

#2.or distress – This word has the meaning of a narrow cramped space. It means when you are in a situation where you can’t go to the right or to the left. You are in a holding pattern. Many of you are in a situation where it seems like there is no answer; God’s love for you has not ended.

#3.or persecution – This is not about being blamed for doing what’s wrong. Getting a ticket for doing a 65 in a 35 is not persecution. It means being mistreated because you believe in Jesus Christ, because you stand for the truth. In John 15:20 Jesus said, “…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

Pastor SaeedFor e.g. There are Christians who are living all over the world facing terrible persecutions. There’s one right now in Iran – Pastor Saeed. He is an American pastor who is serving an 8-year prison sentence in Iran’s toughest prison for sharing his Christian faith. He came to Iran to work with orphans. Click on the picture or link below that will help you sign this petition and send it to the new Iranian President.

http://beheardproject.com/saeed#write

#4.or famine – It means hunger.

For e.g. One of our kids sometime back wanted a snack after school and Nicole told them to hold off until they finish their homework. Their reply – “you don’t love me.”

If I may add – there are children all over the world who are hungry for a morsel of food. We have a responsibility to help them.

#5.or nakedness – It means a lack of clothes because there is no means to buy any.

#6.or peril – It means danger. It means risk.

#7.or sword? – It means execution.

There are people all over the world who live in such difficult situations and yet they never doubt that God loves them. The Holy Spirit reminds them that God’s love for them in Jesus Christ is intact, in spite of their circumstances. What’s the result? Rom. 8:37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Many people conquer but they do it without the love of Jesus.

For e.g. There were two Kentucky farmers who owned racing stables and they were always competing with each other. As always they both entered a horse in the local steeplechase. One of them was so bent on winning that he went looking for the best professional rider to outdo his neighbor. The race began and the two horses of those two farmers were neck to neck with a large lead over the rest of the pack. As they were crossing the last fence, both fell off the horses. The professional quickly got up and remounted and finished the race, winning it. As he made it back to the paddock, the farmer was fuming with rage. He asked, “What’s wrong? Didn’t I win?” The farmer replied, “You won all right, but you crossed the finish line on the wrong horse.” In his determination and hurry, he had remounted the wrong horse.

Application: May I ask you – are you facing some difficult times in your life? Do you believe that God is punishing you? Do you believe that right now you are out of favor with God? If so, no wonder you are out of favor with yourself and others are with you. You can be more than a conqueror if you receive the love of Christ in your life.

God loves you through Jesus Christ, in spite of what our physical problems might be.

II. GOD LOVES US THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, IN SPITE OF SPIRITUAL MYSTERIES.

38 For I am persuaded

Background: Paul is saying that he is completely convinced. There is no doubt here. The Holy Spirit has so enlightened his heart that his will has been won over. Once again he lists 10 spiritual hazards that appear to separate us from the love of Christ:

#1. neither death nor life – Meaning: neither the fear of the great beyond or the fear of tomorrow. If I have to die, God loves me. If I have to live, God loves me.

#2. nor angels nor principalities nor powers – Meaning: Good Angels who are perfect or bad angels who are evil or any other power can separate me from the love of God.

#3. nor things present nor things to come – Meaning: Neither the cares of today or the calamities of tomorrow can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ.

#4. nor height nor depth – This is somewhat strange. What it means is nothing in the sky above or in the earth beneath can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

#5.nor any other created thing – Meaning: Just in case, somebody comes up and says, “Paul you missed this one thing that has the potential to make God stop loving us,” Paul adds this last item.

Bottom line: Nothing can make God love you less through Jesus Christ.

How did Jesus love you? He went through every one of those hazards for us on the cross – He went through tribulation and distress as they falsely accused Him, spit in His face, tore out His beard, put a crown of thorns on His head. He was nailed to the cross and cried out I’m thirsty. He was naked the whole time. Finally, he gave His life for us. The Holy Spirit helps us see His love for us.

True love requires a source that is deeper and higher than anything we can produce on our own. We have to be plugged into someone who can love us consistently, unconditionally, and satisfyingly. Then only can we love others consistently, unconditionally, and satisfyingly.

For e.g. When I started college, I dropped out of church because when I went to church, I felt unwelcome. Then I met Nicole’s dad and in just one handshake I knew he loved me.

Do you have this love in your hearts?

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