The Age of Paradoxes by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE AGE OF PARADOXES by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Everywhere you turn on social media, there are graduation pictures with parents and grandparents proud and excited to see their kids growing up and becoming successful. One thing that is relatively new with regards to the graduation attire are decorating the graduation caps. Here are some interesting ones that I came across: “Bye Buddy hope you find a job,” “This was nothing like high school musical,” “Did everyone see that? Because I will not be doing it again,” “Bye Mr. Anderson, I’m graduating, tardy or not,” “Thousands of years later,” “I don’t even go here,” “Last minute like everything else I did in high school,” “Ya’ll hiring?” and my favorite “I is smart.” The last one is sort of an oxymoron, a contradiction. On one hand, the student is claiming to be smart because he/she is graduating. On the other hand, the student should not be allowed to graduate since they don’t even know basic grammar. In this message on Graduation Sunday, I would like to speak on paradoxes, which are much more than just oxymorons or contradictions. I’ll explain the difference in a few moments. We are still in our series through 1 Peter and this message is directed towards our graduates, but it is for all of us. Main point: Ours is the Age of Paradoxes, much more than at any other time in history. Especially in the post 2020 world, we are smarter and dumber, united and divided, bold and fearful, and woke and wicked, all at the same time. It is vital that we adopt those paradoxes that please God and fulfill his purpose in his world. It is vital that we adapt to our new setting but still maintain our old convictions.

1 Peter 3:13 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?”

Context: Keep in mind that that Peter had just quoted from Psalm 34, David’s psalm at the cave of Adullam. The previous verse, 1 Peter 3:12, said, “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” Here David was teaching the distressed, indebted, and dissatisfied people how to be ready for the bad days when it seemed that the wicked were winning. Peter was also telling the Christians that God can see what the wicked are doing and he will protect them from any who would try to harm them for living righteously. The conjunction “and” is more of an inference “then.” What an assurance! But, listen to the very next verse – 14 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” It appears that Peter just used a paradox – “No harm will come to you if you follow God, but when harm comes to you because you follow God, don’t be afraid.” Paradox often gets confused with contradictions. There’s a difference: Contradiction: Out of two things, one is true, and the other is false. For e.g., living death or poor rich girl. Paradox: A statement that appears contradictory on the surface but can be true on further examination. I don’t have to suggest examples. We are living in the Age of Paradoxes and the culprit is the Internet, especially social media. Don’t misunderstand: The Internet has brought tremendous benefits to our world, but it has also created the Age of Paradoxes. Here’s how:

  1. We are Smarter and Dumber at the same time.

We are living in the Information Age. People from poor and remote corners of the world can access knowledge at just the click of a button. Unfortunately, the Internet is also filled with loads of false information, especially on social media, which was the root cause of much panic and fearmongering through the 2020 crisis.

  1. We are United and Divided at the same time

The world has become smaller, faster, and easier as communications, transactions, and even shopping have been revolutionized. Social media platforms have connected us with old friends and helped us make new ones. Unfortunately, the various social media platforms that were meant to connect us have also become weapons to attack one another. It’s easy to be a “keyboard warrior” and fire off a post or a tweet against someone you disagree with. If you really don’t like someone, you can cancel and shame them out of your tribe without giving them a chance to explain themselves or apologize.

  1. We are Bold and Afraid at the same time.

Researchers claim that in some areas self-esteem is on the rise, as young and old are unafraid to post their photos and videos online, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, people are afraid of being called out online for some action or lack thereof. Concurrently, many decisions of 2020 were, and still are, made out of fear of being shamed. Also, false information has also caused a lot of fear, as mentioned in the first point.

  1. We are Woke and Wicked at the same time.

“Woke” is the catchword for awareness regarding social justice and racism, especially on social media. Now, it’s everything from LGBTQ+, women’s rights, immigrants, and everyone who is disenfranchised. With as much self-proclaimed righteousness, wickedness is still on the rise. Pornography that takes advantage of women and children is on the rise like never before. Hate and bitterness hasn’t gotten any better. We are fooling ourselves into thinking that we are better because we are “woke.”

This is the world in which our post-2020 graduates are entering! Add to all these paradoxes, the political chaos of 2020 and 2021, the terrible violence and destruction of our major cities, the toxic cancel culture and censorship on social media, and the increasing attack on our Constitution and our values? As a result, we are now trillions of dollars in debts, divided as a people across racial, religious, and political lines, and facing an uncertain future. Things are no different across the globe – due to the shutdowns, people are struggling like never before, ISIS is back, Israel is under attack, and so much more. If our post-2020 graduates are to survive this Age of Paradoxes, they will have to seek a new set of paradoxes. They will have to learn to live the paradoxical life that Peter described in these verses. Listen again to 1 Peter 3 again – 13 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” On one hand, we have to live knowing that no harm will come to us if we live for God. On the other hand, we will have to accept the possibility that harm will come if we live for God. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be afraid. Peter was now quoting from Isaiah 8:12. This was the promise God had given to Isaiah the prophet when Judah had turned to Assyria for help instead of turning to God. In time, the southern kingdom was also gone forever. It took going into exile for them to learn what it means by literally “Their fear do not fear.” Initially, it was, “don’t fear what they fear,” and then it became, “don’t fear what they threaten you with.” In other words, “nothing will harm you, but if harm comes, don’t fear.” Even though the people of the southern kingdom failed to follow this paradox, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lived by this paradox in Babylon. They had to adapt to their new setting but still maintain their convictions:

  1. They complied but resisted every step of the way.

The complied when they were given Babylonian names, but they resisted when it came to eating unclean food. Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.” At the end of the 10 days, Daniel and the other three were 10 times in better shape than the others. You will also have to learn to comply and resist. I know that seems so contrary to our thinking, but, as a minority, if you don’t, you will lose your identity. In 2020, many of us only complied when we should have also resisted. In the post-2020 age, people will flock around those who can make sense out of the chaos, display a sense of discernment, and know when to comply and resist.

  1. They looked to the past but lived in the present.

A plan was hatched to trap Daniel. Everyone in the land was to pray to King Darius for the next 30 days. If not, the offender shall be cast into the den of lions, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians. What was Daniel’s response? Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” We quickly focus on prayer, but did you notice the direction of his prayer? Daniel did not forget where he came from. There has been an attempt for quite some time to rewrite our past as a nation and a people. I won’t say that everything in our nation’s past has been perfect, but let’s never forget the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation. You will have to go back and rediscover how we came about as a people. What did our founding fathers believe? Why did they think the way they did? Having said that, we are not to live in nostalgia. We are to live in the present.

  1. They worked as if it depended on them but prayed as if it depended on God.

Daniel 2     48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. Can you imagine the workload of these 4 young men! Can you imagine the burden of the entire Babylonian Empire on their shoulders!

Nowadays, people don’t want to work. I was at a restaurant the other day. They had a hiring sign as well as a table setup with flyers and applications. So, I talked to the person, and she said, “People come by and apply and then they are back on the unemployment list. They rather collect free money than work.” How long can we do that? As someone once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Nonetheless, repeatedly, it is claimed that Daniel prayed every step of the way. Daniel 9      20 “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, 21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.” Many are collapsing in our world right now. Prayer will help you resist temptation, maintain your integrity, and refocus your life. Daniel prayed even though he was thrown in the lion’s den.

  1. Ultimately, they were aware of the hopelessness but remained hopeful for the future.

Daniel 9      16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

In that prayer, you can sense both Daniel’s hopelessness in the present and his hopefulness for the future. Our best days as a nation and as a people are ahead of us. It will require repentance. It will require redemption through Jesus Christ. It will require you to live the life of paradoxes apart from the Internet and dedicated to Jesus Christ.

Post-2020 graduates, as you approach the new age of paradoxes, you will have to craft an identity that is distinct from your social media persona.

Ultimately, it comes down to the great paradox Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Do you know him? If you do, he will be with you no matter what age comes or goes.

Royal – Our Universal King by Pastor Shah

OUR UNIVERSAL KING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Our Universal KingIntroduction: One of my favorite Disney movies is Robinhood, the animated version. Of course, you have familiar characters like Robinhood, Little John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham but one of the funniest characters is “Prince John.” He is the “Phony King of England” who hates Robinhood for looting his royal coach. So, he puts a bounty on his head and tries to catch him. Of course, he can’t. In the end, King Richard, the good and rightful king comes to claim his rightful throne. So also, 2000 years ago, a phony king was ruling God’s people until King Jesus came to claim his rightful throne. In fact, his own failed to recognize him but magi from the east came looking for him. Jesus was not just the king of the Jewish nation but of all peoples. He is the true Universal King.

Matthew 2      1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heardthis,he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Question: Herod thought that he was the king of the Jews but he was a false king. Who is the false king ruling your life? Jesus is the Universal King. He wants not just a part of you but the whole of you. Have you given your whole life to him?

Pray: Holy Spirit – Let the true King Jesus rule our hearts. Those who are lost, open their eyes and their hearts that they may receive him today and be saved.

Context:We’re in our Christmas series called “ROYAL.” Repeatedly, the Bible portrays Jesus as our king. As I’ve mentioned before, this is hard for us to understand because we’ve never lived under the rule of a king but most of history has been ruled by kings. That’s why the Bible uses regal language in referring to God. We’ve already looked at Jesus as “Our Creator King,” “Our Good King,” and “Our Humble King.” Today, we will see him as “Our Universal King.” 3 questions we need to answer in this passage:

I. WHO WERE THE STRANGERS? 

1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem.”

Background:The word is not “wise men” but “magi.” Who were the magi? The Greek historian Herodotus tells us that the magi were one of the 6 tribes of the ancient Medes. They were a priestly caste of people who were experts in divination (interpretation of dreams) and star-gazers, astronomers, astrologers, dream interpreters and sorcerers in Persia. That’s where we get our English word “magic” and “magicians.” They were also known for their wisdom and counsel. Some of them must have made their way in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. First time we hear about them in the Bible is in the Book of Daniel:

  • Daniel 2 1 “Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was sotroubled that his sleep left him. 2 Then the king gave the command to call the magi, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams.”
  • Daniel 2:9“if you do not make known the dream to me, there is onlyone decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.”

When the Persian King, Cyrus, captured Babylon, many more of these magi must have come into Babylon. As before, they didn’t always have a good reputation. Sometimes they got involved in political power and got into a lot of trouble for it. Jewish people looked down on them with suspicion and disdain. Even the Romans did not like them and kicked them out of Rome and Italy several times.

What’s the point? Somehow, they got on God’s mailing list. No one is too far from the grace of God. It doesn’t matter who you are and what family you belong to or don’t. God’s grace is available to you.What is interesting is that the wise men in Jerusalem failed to recognize the king but these magi saw him. Matthew 20:16“So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

By the way, how do you think they got on God’s mailing list? Maybe Daniel told them.Daniel 5:11There is a man in your kingdom in whom isthe Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magi, astrologers, Chaldeans, andsoothsayers.

Application:Are you on God’s mailing list? Are you telling the least of them?

II. WHAT WAS THE STAR?

2saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

Background:There have been a lot of speculations about the star: A supernova, a new star, a comet, alignment of the planets, etc. We don’t know for sure. There are no records about this star in any historical document. Maybe God created the star just the way he created the big fish to swallow Jonah. God has power over the celestial bodies:

  • Joshua 10 12Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” 13. . . So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to godownfor about a whole day. 14And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.
  • 2 Kings 20 10And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.”11So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the LORD, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.

What’s the point? The entire universe belongs to King Jesus. If he wants to create a star to point to his coming, then he has the power to do so. Listen again to Daniel 12:3“Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel could have been the star from centuries ago who pointed the magi to Jesus from 700 miles away. The Jewish leaders around Herod had the Word and they missed him 6 miles away. They didn’t even take the time to investigate.Matthew 2      3When Herod the king heardthis,he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;For out of you shall come a RulerWho will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”7Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have foundHim,bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

Application: Whom are you pointing to Jesus? Whom are you sending in the wrong direction?

III. WHY THE GIFTS?

Matthew 2     9When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Background: Again, there are a lot of suggestions as to the meaning of the gifts. Bottom line: They represent gifts for a king. Maybe it was a fulfilment of the prophecy in Psalm 72     10The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. 11Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him.” Isaiah 60:6“The multitude of camels shall cover your land,the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall proclaim the praises of the LORD.”

Application:What are you offering him today? What are you holding back from him? Is he your Savior and King? Are you pointing others to him?

The Soul-Winner’s Prize by Abidan Paul Shah

THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul-Winner's PrizeIntroduction: Imagine if sports had no goals and no finish lines. Imagine a basketball game without any baskets. You just dribble and pass the ball around but there’s no hoop and no scoreboard. Imagine a soccer game without any goals. You just do all kinds of tricks with the ball and run around on the field but there’s no goal and no scoreboard. Imagine a 100 meters dash without a finish line. You just run at any speed, anywhere, for any length of time but there’s no end. How many of you would love to play basketball or soccer or run? It would be meaningless. Now let’s go a step further. Let’s say you did have goals and finish lines but there were no medals, trophies, and rewards. It was totally unprofitable. How motivated would you be to practice and train for the game? Even if you did play for the love of the game, you’ll give your time and energy to those things that actually bring you some benefit. Today’s message will help us understand the goal and the prize of every Christian. It is titled, “THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE.” This is the third message in our series “Alive: What Jesus’ Resurrection Means For Us.” As we go further it’ll become clear how the Soul-Winner’s Prize is connected to the Resurrection.

Daniel 12   1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Context: If you ask people “What is the goal of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To get to know God, to study the Bible more, to pray more…” If you ask people “What is the prize of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To be more like Jesus, to be a better person, to use my spiritual gifts…” In today’s message we will learn that the goal for every Christian is to be a soul-winner and our prize is the glory waiting for us at the resurrection.

Question: What do you think is the goal and the prize of every Christian? What are you aiming for? What are you running towards? What are you looking forward on the other side? If you’re not saved, you’re not even in the game. To get in the game, you have to receive Christ as your Savior.

First, the goal and then the prize of every Christian:

I. THE GOAL OF EVERY CHRISTIAN 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: In this passage God is giving a prophecy and a promise to those who are wise and to those who turn many to righteousness. In fact, the Hebrew construction there really means that the wise and those who turn many to righteousness are one and the same. Listen carefully – In God’s judgment, wisdom is turning people to righteousness. In other words, a truly wise person is a soul winner. Now we do know that Daniel was a wise person. If you remember, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken in exile young men from Judah who were without blemish, good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.” Daniel was one of those wise young men.

But did you know that Daniel was also a soul winner? To me, in some ways, what Paul is to the New Testament, Daniel is to the Old Testament. I’m talking with regards to soul-winning. If you remember, in the New Testament, Paul was the ultimate soul-winner. He first went to his own people, the Jewish people, but when they rejected him, he didn’t get discouraged but moved on to the Gentiles. He went on three missionary journeys and planted several churches. He suffered terrible persecution because of his passion to take the gospel even to those who would harm him. He became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. So also Daniel, maybe not quite to the same extent and same manner as Paul, was also a soul-winner. He was away from his people in a foreign land. He tried to live a life that was pure and holy in a culture that wasn’t. God gave him the insight to interpret dreams and visions and when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, Daniel interpreted it for him. As a result, this pagan king confessed the Living God as the true god. Daniel prayed in the midst of persecution and was thrown in the lions’ den. God protected him and the next day the Mede King Darius was so moved by Daniel’s faith that he also confessed the Living God and sent a decree to the whole empire that Daniel’s God is the true god. Both under the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians, Daniel was a soul winner.

Here’s a principle: “Wise people are soul winners. Wise people make it their goal to save souls.”

Think again about the Apostle Paul for a moment – he was one of the smartest men who ever lived. What was the goal of his life? To win souls. Listen to what he said in several passages in the Bible: I Corinthians 9:22 “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Romans 10:1 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

Don’t misunderstand: You don’t need a high IQ in order to be a soul winner.

Application: Are you a wise person? Are you a soul winner? What is the goal of your life?

II. THE PRIZE OF EVERY SOUL-WINNER 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: Before we look at what the “brightness of the firmament” and “shining like the stars” means,” let’s see when this will happen. To understand this, we have to back up to the previous verses. 1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people…” Which time are we referring to? We are referring to the end of time. Now I don’t want to get into a big discussion over the timetable of the end-times but this will be sometime after the Great Tribulation. “And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.” Here we are referring to the Book of the Life. Revelation 20 12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. …15 “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Paul talks about this Book of Life in Philippians 4:3. The point is this – To get the benefit coming to soul winners, your soul has to be won first. You cannot save souls if your soul is lost!

Now verse 2 “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Now comes the Resurrection of the Dead. Again, this is not a time to create a timeline of how things will turn out. This is simply a reminder that every human being will be resurrected one day but not everyone will have the same resurrection. Now there’s a special prize for those who win souls – 3 “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.” This does not mean that we will become stars in the sky like some myths and superstitions talk about. Daniel 8:10 gives us a clue – “And it (little horn) grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.” The hosts of heaven are the angels and they are sometimes referred to as stars. What Daniel is saying here is “Those who are soul winners will at the Resurrection shine with the same glory like the angels.”

Many times I’ve heard people say – “We need to win souls because that’s what Jesus has commanded us to do.” That is true but there’s a reason people are not motivated is because they are not looking forward to anything coming up in their future. What motivated Paul? Philippians 3:14 “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Let’s look at the whole context for a moment. Philippians 3   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 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; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead…” Then in verse 17 he contrasts his ministry of soul winning with those who are in for an earthly benefit and then listen to verse 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.”

Don’t think that this means that Billy Graham will be as bright as an exploding star and all of us will be like a tiny candle.

For e.g. The poor street preacher who baptized my dad. My dad was far more educated than him but this ignorant man was wiser. With every soul I win, he has a part!

Application: Are you looking forward to the prize coming on the other side to soul-winners?

Invitation: Are you saved? What is your goal? Is it soul-winning? Are you looking to the prize of a glorified body like Christ one day

LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT

LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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We are in our series on the life of Christ from all 4 gospels and this morning we are in Matthew 2 for our message titled – “LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT.” All of us are comfortable around people who are just like us in background and likes/dislikes but when we get around people who are different, we feel awkward, threatened, and we even try to avoid them. God wants us to step out of our comfort zone and reach people no matter who they are.

Matt. 2 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him….9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Overall Background: In a few weeks Nicole is going to pull out our Christmas decorations. It’s our family tradition to come together and put up Three Wise Men The Nativity Storythe Christmas tree, ornaments, wreaths, candles, and especially, the nativity sets. One goes on the piano and the other on the table behind the couch. Just like the passage we read, both the sets have the three wise men with gifts in their hands, dressed like medieval kings with purple, blue, and green robes and crowns on their heads. In fact, some Christmas songs even refer to them as the three kings. Only problem – it’s not the truth! The actual words are “magi from the east.” The magi were nothing like what we have made them out to be. They were from Persia (modern day Iran). They were star-gazer, astronomers, astrologers, dream interpreters and sorcerers. Our English word “magic” actually comes from the word magi. They did not have the best reputation. Jewish people looked down on them with suspicion and disdain. Even the Romans did not like them and many times they were kicked out of Rome and Italy. In short, the magis were different and, yet, for some reason, they were on God’s guest list for the birth of Jesus. Why did God do that? To remind us that Jesus came not just to save one group of people but all people. His sacrifice on the cross was not just for the insiders but also for the outsiders. We like to reach out just to our own types but the Great Commission is to go to all types of people and make disciples.

Application: Let me ask you a question – How do you respond to people who are different? Do you avoid them? Do you look down on them? Do you ridicule them or try to intimidate them? We are never more like God than when we forgive and when we love people who are different than us.

To understand the magi and who told them about Jesus and why they came, we have to go back about 600 years to the time of Daniel. It is Daniel who holds the key to the mystery of the magis. As we look at the interaction between Daniel and the magis, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to love people who are different.

1. LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT DOES NOT MEAN COMPROMISING YOUR CONVICTIONS.

Daniel 1:8   But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Background: You remember Daniel – how Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonians, had taken him along with other young men from Judah into exile. They were gifted and wise and they were placed in a three-year training program for the service of the king. They were to eat from the king’s table and drink his wine but Daniel along with the other men remained firm in their convictions. They had made up their mind that they would not eat the food from the king’s table. Why? Because it had been offered to false gods. They challenged the head of the program to let them eat just vegetables and drink water for 10 days and see if it made any difference. At the end of the 10 days, they actually looked better than the rest.

Three years later, their training was completed. Listen to verse 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. Daniel and the other young men stood firm in their convictions and, in the end, they were 10 times better than the other magis.

Sometimes we think that loving other people means we need to compromise our convictions or water down the truth. Daniel and the other young men honored God and God honored them. Our world needs to see people who are firm in biblical convictions. We believe there is only one God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that the Bible is the only Word of God. We believe that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life. We believe that this nation was founded upon biblical values. We still believe that this is a Christian nation. Loving people does not mean we need to compromise.

Application: Are you a person of biblical convictions? Do you stand for the truth? Do you speak up for the truth? 

2.  LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT MEANS LETTING GOD OPEN OPPORTUNITIES TO WITNESS.

Daniel 2:2 Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams.

Background: King Nebuchadnezzar began to have nightmares. They were so bad that he couldn’t sleep. So he called the Chaldeans and gave a strange command – “tell me my dreams.” Their response – “Tell us your dreams and we’ll give you the interpretations. We can read your palms or watch the pattern of birds flying or look at the position of the stars or examine the liver of a special sheep or chicken.” The King said, “You’re a bunch of liars. You’re trying to buy time.” Listen to verse 10 The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean.” What is the king’s response in verse 12-13 “…the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar DreamDaniel went to God in prayer and God revealed to him the dream as well as the interpretation. So Daniel went before the king and listen to what he said in verse 30 “But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living…” Meaning: Daniel did not use this as an opportunity to attack the Chaldeans. He could have said – “Kill them. They are a bunch of liars. They are crooks.” Instead, he knows that God has a greater purpose in mind.

Sometimes we have a wrong attitude towards people who are different. We say things that should not be said. We act in ways that we should not act. In the process we lose all opportunity to witness to them.

Daniel explained the dream to the King and as a result verse 48 “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.”

Later Cyrus diverted the water of the Euphrates River that entered and his soldiers literally walked under the walls of the city in ankle-deep water. The Babylonian empire became the Medo-Persian empire overnight.

Next, you know how the new king under Cyrus, King Darius was deceived into throwing Daniel into the Lion’s Den. God shut the mouth of the lions. The king was so moved that he made a decree in Daniel 6:25-26 “ . . . To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, And steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His dominion shall endure to the end.

God made Daniel so influential that people all over the earth heard the gospel of the living God through him.

The priestly class of the magi now joined in with the Chaldeans.

WOW! Can you imagine how Daniel used this opportunity to tell them about the coming of the Messiah?!! Have you ever read the book of Daniel?!! It is filled with Messianic prophecies. In fact, he prophesied the exact time of the death of the Messiah in Daniel 9.

Daniel 9:24-27 24Seventy weeks (the word for weeks is actually seven. Literally this should read “seventy seven-year periods are determined for your people.” Seventy seven-year periods is 70X7 = 490 years.) are determined For your people and for your holy city (Jerusalem), To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. (when will this prophecy begin) 25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem (this command was given on March 5th of 444 BC by King Artaxerxes to Nehemiah) Until Messiah the Prince, (490 years starting in 444 BC. Keep in mind that they are using a 360 day year calendar along with leap years and it all works out perfectly.) (Prophecies are like riddles. Not all will be accomplished at one time.) There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; (69X7=483 years) The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself (483 years from 444 BC Jesus the Messiah will be go to the cross for our sins. Would you like to guess where that falls? It was March 30, AD 33 when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. And then Jesus died on the cross on April 3, AD 33); (I know it is hard to follow all this – And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, . . .” (This corresponds perfectly with the 7 year period of the Great Tribulation in the end times.)

What does this have to do with the seeing a star in the east? More than likely the magis had converted the information in Daniel 9 to correspond with the movements of the stars. Generation after generation since Daniel they were waiting for the star to appear that would signal the birth of Jesus. At the right time when the star appeared, they left their homes in the east and set out to locate the king of the Jews!

What if Daniel had refused to witness to the magis? What if Daniel had got them killed? We would have never had the three wise men in the nativity.

Don’t be afraid of people who are different. Stand firm in biblical convictions and let God open the opportunities for you to witness to them. 

3. LOVING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT MEANS BEING FAITHFUL IN WITNESSING AND TRUSTING GOD WITH THE RESULTS. 

Daniel 12 8 Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?” 9 And he said, “Go your way, NativityDaniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end…12 Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. 13 “But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days.”

Almost 600 years later the magi came. All in God’s timing!

Matthew 8:11 11And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 13:29-30 29They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”

Are you sharing Jesus with those who are different? Do you know Him as your Savior?

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