Fearless Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

FEARLESS LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fearless Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the spotlight comes back around on each of them:

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

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

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

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

Do you love Jesus at all? Are you saved?

Senseless Obedience by Pastor Abidan Shah

Senseless Obedience by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Senseless Obedience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heart Search by Pastor Abidan Shah

HEART SEARCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Heart SearchIntroduction: Couple of years ago we visited “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of it or probably been there with your family. It is considered to be hallowed ground because interred below are soldiers from the various wars that were never identified. On the Western Panel of the tomb are the words, “Here Rests in Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But to God.” The Honor Guard keeps watch over the Tomb 24/7 even through bad weather. The soldiers who “walk the mat” are held to the highest standard of behavior. If they do anything that is considered disrespectful to the Tomb, their badge can be taken away if they’re no longer serving at the Tomb. Thousands upon thousands of people come each year to watch the changing of the guards. But if they get loud or sit during the ceremony, the guard will immediately step off the met and call them out – “It is requested that all visitors maintain an atmosphere of silence and respect at all times.” Why such respect? The Tomb is a reminder of the price that was paid for our freedom. It is a time for self-reflection to see if we are living up to the sacrifice that was made for us. We need a similar understanding and self-reflection when we come to the Communion. Our message is called “HEART SEARCH.” It’ll make more sense as we go further.

1 Corinthians 11   23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Context: Usually we tack on the Communion at the end of every Easter service. We fail to understand the true meaning and serious consequence of sin in our lives towards each other. The true understanding of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ changes the way we treat people.

Question: How are you treating each other in your life? Do you see others through the lens of the cross? When did you last search your heart? Are you saved?

In today’s message, we will see why and how we need to do a heart search:

1 Corinthians 11:18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

Background: When we went through our series on love from I Corinthians 13, we learned how Corinth was a Roman colony and it’s population was made up of former slaves, army veterans, business people, and laborers. Yes, there were people there who were original Greeks but most were Roman citizens. We have documentary and archaeological evidence that the Corinthians of the time were known for their pride, arrogance, and self-importance. Unfortunately, this attitude was also creeping into the church. Now they were treating each other with condescension and selfishness. They were divided into groups of haves and have-nots and spirituals and super-spirituals. They were even mistreating each other during the Communion service. Paul wrote the letter to rebuke, to correct them, to instruct, and to bring them to a proper understanding of how believers in Christ should treat each other.

Application: Is there a difference between how you lived before Christ and how you live now in Christ? Has there been a change in attitude and behavior in you treated others before you got saved and how you treat people now?

20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

Background: The early church used to have a love feast (fellowship dinner) every week along with the Lord’s Supper. They used to have a “better room” known as the triclinium (lit. three couches), which was a formal dining room in Roman buildings. Some of the Christians would get there early to beat the rush and get the better seat in the dining room while the latecomers had to crowd into the Atrium. “…and one is hungry and another is drunk.” While people were in the Atrium waiting to get in, many of them were taking their time eating and drinking and actually getting drunk! In essence, they had lost the true meaning and purpose of the Communion.

It’s very interesting how Paul deals with this kind of a behavior. He does not just tell them to grow up or be unselfish or be kind to one another. Instead, he takes them back to the fateful night when Jesus gave the institution of the Communion. 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread…”

Before we go any further, here’s an important principle: Nothing is more life changing and behavior altering than the cross. There’s something about the cross that has the power to bring us to our knees. It has the ability and potential to bring things into perspective. If I may add, if the cross doesn’t do it for you, either your heart is too hard or you’re lost.

Now Paul wants these Corinthians to really understand the meaning of this meal. Keep in mind that most of them did not have a Jewish background. All many of them were used to was going through their temples and taking part in the sacred food offered to the idols. Paul is giving them a crash course in what the Lord’s Supper really means. Listen again: 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;

Background: People have argued over whether or not this was a Passover Meal because John talks about Passover being the next day. I believe that Jesus chose to make the meal of Thursday evening into a New Passover meal. This is important because when the Hebrews or the people of Israel or the Jewish people celebrated the Passover, they were told to include themselves in the events that took place on the night when God led the Hebrews out of Egypt. The Passover Haggadah says, “In every generation a man must so regard himself as if he came forth himself out of Egypt…‘What the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.’” The lesson here for the Corinthians was – “Don’t just do the Lord’s Supper. Picture yourself there in the upper room, watching, and listening to Jesus speaking.”

Application: What goes through your mind when you take part in the Lord’s Supper? Do you picture yourself in the upper room, sitting across from Jesus? Can you see the stress on his face, knowing that in just a few hours he would be brutally nailed to the cross for the sins of the whole world?

What’s next? 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you.” Jesus gave a whole new radical meaning to the Passover Meal where He became the bread. Then he said – “do this in remembrance of Me.” What does that mean? It has several levels of meanings: remember in gratitude; identify with the crucified Christ; return to where it all began for you; and look forward to what God has in store for you. There’s one more – remember how guilty you are in the sight of God and how much you need his forgiveness and grace in your life. The Corinthians were so focused on status and pride, this was the farthest thing on their minds.

Application: What will help a husband and a wife to forgive and love is Christ on the cross. What will help loved ones get along is Christ on the cross. What will help a divided church find healing is Christ on the cross. Have you turned to him yet?

25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.

Background: Going back to our Passover imagery, this Cup of Blessing came at the end of the meal and Jesus also recast it and called it the New Covenant. What Paul was telling the Corinthians is that under the New Covenant even God set aside his rights and was willing to pour his blood for sinful human beings. If they claim Christ, they were part of a whole new community where personal rights and free choice to treat people any way they want to is also over. Under the New Covenant, they were obligated to act the way Jesus did. And again – “This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Application: Do you believe that you are part of this New Covenant in Christ? Do you actions match the actions of Christ?

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Meaning: Don’t use my name if you don’t live by my example.

For e.g. Parents reminding their children, “Don’t forget. You carry our name.”

What needs to happen? 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For the Corinthians it meant, remember that you are standing on hallowed ground. Don’t forget that someone died for your freedom. Meaning: Do a heart check and see if you are truly in Christ. Have you truly died with Christ, buried with him, and risen to walk in the newness of life in him?

What if you don’t? 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

People ask me – “Does God take the lives of people if they take the communion with sin in their hearts?” I remind them of Ananias and Sapphira in the Bible. God struck them dead after they lied about how much they had given. If that were happening today, we would need funeral directors at every service in every church across the world! They were set as an example for us to know that God takes lying and stealing very seriously. So also with how we treat each other in the Body of Christ. God takes it seriously.

Are you saved? Have you done a heart check? Are you somber and treating others in light of the cross?

Alive: What Jesus’ Resurrection Means for Us

ALIVE – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

aliveIntroduction: Have you ever had a bad day? I mean, a really really bad day! There are so many funny pictures on the web of people having a bad day. Sometimes you have to be careful because they can be raunchy and some are even photo shopped. But there’s only one man I know who had the worst day of anybody in the entire history of our world and it was definitely not funny…One morning, a gang of thieves raided his farm, killed all his workers, and stole all his farm equipment. On the same day, a fire burned up his dairy farm and killed all his employees. On the same day, a rival business stole all his vehicles and killed all his drivers. On the same day, his children and their spouses were having a party at the older brother’s house and a big tornado tore through the house, destroyed it, killing his entre family. If that wasn’t enough, a couple of days later, he was struck with horrible sores all over his body like poison ivy and poison oak on steroids. He was so miserable that he went outside, sat on the ground, and scratched himself with a piece of dried pottery just to get some relief. To make matters worse, his wife told him that the only way out of his misery was to commit suicide. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I am referring to Job in the Old Testament. In this message we will learn that in the midst of his trials Job found hope in the resurrection of his Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Job 19   23 “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! 24 That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, 27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Trials have a way of clarifying what we really believe about God, life, and the future. Difficult seasons of life have a way of giving us a deeper understanding of God’s plan, grace, and hope in our lives.

Question: How do you see the trials in your life? Do you lose heart? Do you get angry? Do you become cynical? Do you run out on your marriage and your family? Some people start playing the blame game when trials come into their lives. They blame themselves. They blame their past. They blame someone in their lives. They even blame God. Do you see the Resurrected Christ in your trials like Job did? Do you see hope in Christ at all? If not then you need to be saved?

2 things you need to do:

I. REJECT FALSE VIEWS 

Job 2:11 “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.”

Background: Word began to travel about what had happened to Job. His friends connected with each other and decided to visit Job in order to comfort him. Thank God for true friends who come to us when we are down. But in this situation each one of them came with their opinion about why Job was going through all these trials. Unfortunately, their opinions hurt Job more than help him. Let’s look at them briefly:

  1. Eliphaz the Temanite: He was the oldest one of the bunch and seemed to have more sense than the others. Even though he showed Job respect, he didn’t have much compassion on him. In his wise view, his friend Job was a good man who had lost his way and that’s why bad things were happening to him.
  2. Bildad the Shuhite: In his view, Job was committing blasphemy by questioning the justice of God against him. He told Job that his family got what they deserved and if he keeps running his mouth, then he will also get what he deserves from God, which is more pain and suffering.
  3. Zophar the Naamathite: Out of all three of Job’s friends, he was the most caustic, abrasive, and hateful in his tone. In his view, Job should either repent or die because that’s what happens to wicked people. In others words, Job was a wicked man who was getting his due from God and needed to repent immediately.

Question: Which kind of friends are you listening to in your life? Do they bring only pain, shame, fear, and guilt to you? Sometimes they are not friends but family members. It is time to cover your ears from such false counselors. By the way, such people don’t have to be currently present in your lives. Sometimes they can be people from your past who have since moved on or even died but you are still listening to them. Sometimes they can be people on a TV program or in a book who are giving you wrong advice. It is time to purge your board of advisors. They are not bad people just bad counselors.

II. REDIRECT YOUR FOCUS

How does Job respond to his false advisors? After trying to defend his integrity and innocence in vain, Job redirects his focus. Let’s carefully examine his words in Job 19   23 “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! 24 That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever!” Two things here: First, Job wants people to remember forever what he is about to say because it is very important. Second, Job knows that what he is about to say might not happen in his lifetime. He may be 6-feet under the ground before it finally happens. In other words, Job is saying – “Put this on my tombstone.”

Principle: Some of you want justice in this life. Like the woman who was abused told me, “I feel like he’s going to get away with it.” She felt that death would end all hope of vindication. Don’t forget: Death is only a temporary interruption of your physical existence but your story is not yet complete. The final chapter is still to be written for those who know God.

What is the final chapter? 25 “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” Now begins one of the most disputed sections in Job or even the whole Bible. Job is saying here that even though he will die before he gets justice, vindication, and defense of his character, someone will speak for him. Job tried but his friends told him that he was biased. Job argued but his friends out argued him. Now Job’s only hope is to look to someone who would be willing to stand for him, who would be capable of speaking for him. Someone who would declare with authority, “Job is innocent. I have rock solid proof.”

Who is this someone? Job calls him “my Redeemer.” The word in Hebrew is “goel.” It had 2 meanings in the Old Testament. First, it had a criminal meaning. If someone were to kill a person, the nearest family member was responsible for bringing justice (not revenge) to that person. Second, it had a civil meaning. If a person died and lost their inheritance, the nearest family member was responsible for buying back and retrieving the property. If you remember, how Boaz married Ruth to save the family of Naomi because Elimelech her husband and their two sons had died. This “goel” had taken on a very special meaning for the people of Israel throughout history. God had become their Redeemer, the nearest family member who would bring justice to them and retrieve what was lost for them, even if they were not there to see it. Listen to these verses: Exodus 6:6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: “I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” Proverbs 23   10 “Do not remove the ancient landmark, Nor enter the fields of the fatherless; 11 For their Redeemer is mighty; He will plead their cause against you.” Psalm 103   2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction…” Isaiah 43:1 But now, thus says the LORD…O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” Jeremiah 50:34 “Their Redeemer is strong; The LORD of hosts is His name. He will thoroughly plead their case…”

Listen again to that line – “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” “Lives” here is much more than being alive. It has the idea of permanent existence. In other words, death cannot stop this Redeemer. There’s only one Redeemer who has conquered death. His name is Jesus. Listen to Peter in Acts 2   22 “…Jesus of Nazareth…24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Listen to Paul in 2 Timothy 1   8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling…10…who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”

But Job is not through yet – 25 “…And He shall stand at last on the earth…” Literally, it can be read as “in the end he will stand on the dust.” Which dust? The very dust that covers the grave of Job. What right does Jesus have to stand at my grave? Acts 20:28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock…to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood.” Ephesians 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” I Peter 1   18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…19 but with the precious blood of Christ…” Revelation 5:9 “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…”

Now comes the climax 26 “And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God…” Meaning: Job will be present at his vindication! He will be there at his final trial and the first face he will see is that of his Redeemer God. How awesome to think that Jesus will be present at the resurrection of every one of his children! Isn’t it awesome that on the day of resurrection he is personally going to call each one out of the grave! When life comes back into our decayed decomposed body, the first face we will see is the face of his Redeemer God Jesus! Finally – 27 “Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job is eagerly anticipating this day!

Folks, we have moved past the need of vindication that Job had. Now we have a great commission given to us. 2 Corinthians 5   14 “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again…17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we are no longer looking for vindication but reconciliation. We are no longer victims of our circumstances but ambassadors for Christ.

Are you saved? If you are the victim, have hope. If you are the perpetrator, seek forgiveness. Instead of anger, bitterness, and defeat, have hope, confidence, and ministry.

Heaven Here and Now Part Three

HEAVEN HERE AND NOW – 3 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

heavenhereandnow3Introduction: This morning we are in part 3 of our series titled “Heaven Here and Now.” The goal of these messages is to understand that heaven is not someday in the future in some distant land beyond the blue but it begins the moment we are saved. By the way, this is the final message and maybe next year during Easter we can go further.

1 Corinthians 15   22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power…58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Overall Background: So far in this series we learned that when we receive Jesus as our Savior, we receive a spiritual resurrection. Our soul comes alive and we are made to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In other words, when we get saved, spiritually, we’re already in heaven. But that’s just the beginning because one day Jesus is coming again and He’s bringing the rest of heaven with Him. He will not only transform this creation into the New Heavens and the New Earth but He will also transform our physical body into a glorious body like His. What all this means is that we’re not waiting to go to heaven when we die but heaven is coming here to us. What if you die before Christ comes? Then you will also come alive at His appearing with a glorious transformed body. This morning we will go one step further – if you want to know what our future and the future of this world looks like, look to Jesus. He is not only our sample but He is also our source of heaven. He is not only our model but He is also our means to heaven. He is not only our pattern but He is also our pathway to heaven. Jesus is everything.

Question: How important is Jesus to you? Do you look to Him with hope and anticipation? Is He just your fire insurance or is He also your future hope? Are you pressing towards Him? Here is another question: Are you saved? Is Jesus your Savior?

There’s a lot packed into 1 Corinthians 15. We don’t have time to look at every detail. We’re only going to see 2 things about Heaven Here and Now:

I. JESUS IS OUR FUTURE SAMPLE.

1Corinthians 15   20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Background: What are “Firstfruits?” = That word comes from the Old Testament. God had commanded His people Israel that each year before they harvested the crops, they were to bring a sample of their crop or their flock to the priest as an offering to the Lord. In fact, the full harvest could not be made until the firstfruits had been offered. It was a promise that more just like it was coming.

For e.g. For our culture, a better term would be “sample.” When you go by the food court at the mall, they offer samples. It means there’s a lot more of what you just tasted. If you liked it, there’s much more behind the counter.

So also Jesus is our firstfruit, our sample. 22 For as in Adam all die…” So far, Adam was our sample. He fell under the curse of sin and all of us have fallen with him. “…even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. There’s something more here regarding “firstfruits” than just being a sample. There’s also a divine order of things. When I go to the food court, I don’t have to eat the sample in order to buy the meal. In fact, many times I just get in line because I know exactly what I am getting. That’s not allowed here. You have to get the sample before you can get the meal.

Let me say it as clearly as possible – Unless you have received Christ as your Savior, there’s nothing waiting for you on the other side but judgment and hell. There’s a divine sovereign order to things – first Christ and then you.

So what does this sample taste like:

  1. It will be an ever-improving body.

42 “…The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.” All translations fail to capture the true meaning of these words. It’s not just that we won’t die. The idea here is decay. Daily our bodies are going down hill and one day we die and immediately we begin to decay. The new body will anti decay, go backwards. It will get better and better – “ethically, aesthetically, and psychosocially.”

  1. It will be a sin free, shame free, Christ like body.

43 “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory…” Again, “dishonor” should be translated “humiliation,” which has the idea of weakness, grief, sinful struggles, and old burdensome habits. “Glory” here means without the burden of sin, guilt and Christ like.

For e.g. Spring is here and soon we will see caterpillars. Ever seen one crawling – puts down his front end, lifts up his back end to his front end, makes a big arch in his back and then he straightens out by pushing his front end forward. Starts all over again. Looks quite painful and tiresome. There he is – a tiny little creature, crawling in the dust and we run over them with our vehicles or walk over them. I imagine he often looks to the sky and says to himself “Oh I wish I could fly. If only I had wings, I would catch the wind and go from garden to garden, plant to plant, and flower to flower. But that is not for me. I am just a caterpillar – crawling around.” One day he realizes that his days on earth are done – his instincts take over and he realizes that his days on earth as a caterpillar are coming to a close. He begins to build himself a coffin. He crawls inside and pulls down the lid. Now it dies to the only life it had known. There it hangs to a branch. Then all of a sudden something begins to happen – he hears a voice and feels a strange movement in his body. Again, impulse (after years of evolution! Not really.) tells him it is time. He went in a caterpillar but he comes out a butterfly.

  1. It will be an ever-energizing body.

43 “…It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” “Weakness” represents the lack of ability to do things the way you want to or the way you were used to. It represents the growing frustration throughout life. Recently we met someone who was struggling with a sickness. In his younger days he was very strong and virile. Even though his mind now was just as sharp as back then his body was no longer cooperating and it was very frustrating for him. The new body will be powerful, which actually has the idea of every increasing in power and capacity and competency. We will have more and more energy.

  1. It will be a Holy Spirit indwelt body.

44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. This is probably the most misunderstood of all the descriptions. Typically, people translate this as physical versus non-physical. That’s where people are misguided into thinking that we will be like spirits in long robes, sitting on puffy clouds, and playing the harps. The correct translation implies that in the coming body we won’t have to pray – “Holy Spirit – please fill me today and control my life.” It will be completely filled by the Holy Spirit and always in His control.

Application: Is Jesus your sample? Have you ever received Him as your Savior? Are you looking to Him? Are you looking for His return? Are you looking forward to the new you to come?

II. JESUS IS OUR VICTORIOUS KING.

24 Then comes the end…

Background: There’s so much we still don’t understand about the end of the world. I preached a series for about a 1 ½ year through Daniel and Revelation but there’s so much I still don’t understand and I am still learning. Here it is enough to say that our world is under the control of a structured system of sin and evil, both demonic and human. Just like us, the world is also under decay, shame, weakness, and ordinary existence. Jesus will fight and defeat this organized anti-god system. He will do for the world what His Father did for Him and what He will do for our lowly bodies. The result will be a new creation. This world is beautiful but you can only imagine what it will be like once Jesus sets it free and remakes it! Then 2 things will happen 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. In other words, He will free this world, remake it, and turn it over to the rightful owner, His Father.

What else? 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. Martin Luther explained this the best for me (I’m paraphrasing) – We are living in the kingdom of faith where Jesus is ruling through His Word. He is invisible. It’s like seeing the sun through the clouds. The light rays tell us that the sun is there but you really can’t see the sun. But, there’s a day coming when the clouds will part and both light and sun will shine together. In this phase 2 Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled – Psalm 110:1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” And Psalm 8:6 “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Now here comes verse 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. The actual translation should be “The last enemy is being annihilated, which is death.” Every time we drive past a funeral home or cemetery it reminds us that death is still claiming its victims. This verse promises us that Jesus already began the process of killing death 2000 years ago but there’s coming a day when he will finally destroy death forever. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. Meaning: Here’s the doctrine of the eternal functional subordination of the Son. Now, God will be the source and goal of everything and everyone.

When will this final end be? Jump over to verse 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… Nicole’s dad had this verse framed and put by the nursery door!52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you know Jesus? If not, you are still under the grip of death.

Knowing that Jesus is our future sample and Jesus is our victorious King, how should we live here and now? Paul tells us 3 things:

  1. Stand firm and do not shift – 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable…” It’s the same thing that he told the Colossians and Philippians. Don’t let your circumstances shake you.
  2. Keep working more and more for God. “…always abounding in the work of the Lord…” Ask yourself – “Is what you are doing counting for God?” Then do more.
  3. Remember, you are building the kingdom to come – “…knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” In other words, there is continuity between this life and the life to come. What you do matters. Everything is ministry. Minister where you are.

Are you saved? Are you living here and now with your eyes on the future? Are you doing all things for the glory of God? Do you know people who are lost? Are you reaching them?

Heaven Here and Now Part Two

HEAVEN HERE AND NOW – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

heavenhereandnow_2Introduction: This morning we are in part 2 of our series titled “Heaven Here and Now.” We are trying to understand what the resurrection of Jesus does for us now and not just some day in the distant future.

Philippians 3 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Overall Background: Last week we learned that we are already resurrected in Christ. We died with Him, we were buried with Him and we rose to walk in the newness of life with Him. All that is left for us to do is to start living the resurrected life, the life from above. This morning we will go one step further – We’re not waiting to go to heaven someday when we die. Heaven has already begun in us here and now. We are waiting for Jesus to come and not only transform this place into the new heavens and the new earth but also transform our body into the glorious body fit for the new world. Listen to verse 20 again – “For our citizenship is in heaven…” What is the tense? Present tense. It’s not our citizenship “will be” in heaven but it “is” in heaven. But listen carefully – “from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus is coming here to meet His citizens. And what will He do when He comes? 21 (He) will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” Some of us may die before He comes but then we are coming back down here with Him and also getting our transformed bodies.

Let me ask you: What do you believe about heaven? Is it just some place you’ll go some day when you die? Or, has heaven already begun for you? What you believe about heaven will change how you live on earth. Are you looking forward to the coming of Jesus? Are you looking forward to the transformation of your body? Are you saved? Are you a citizen of earth or citizen of heaven? Have you been resurrected?

3 questions we will ask in this message about Heaven Here and Now:

 I. ARE YOU GROWING IN CHRIST AND HIS RESURRECTION?

20 For our citizenship is in heaven…

Background: To understand what Paul is talking about here we need to understand the context in which he wrote those words. Let’s back up to Philippians 3 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Once again, just like in Colossians, false teachers had infiltrated the Philippian church. They were compelling them to go back under the Old Testament dietary laws, Sabbath rules, purification rituals, and circumcision. Paul calls them dogs, which is one of the worst things you could ever say to a Jewish person. He also calls them “evil workers,” not just “poor misguided folks.” Then Paul tells them 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Meaning: In Christ, all the requirements have been fulfilled. Look to Jesus and don’t return to old rules and traditions. Paul even lists his old credentials – 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews…a Pharisee; and a persecutor of the church. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. The word “loss” is a mistranslation. The word is “zemia” in Greek, which should be translated “damaging” or “disadvantageous.”

Question: What is damaging your spiritual growth? Man-made traditions? Old rituals? Listen – they are keeping you from worshipping God in the Spirit? They are killing your spiritual growth. They are keeping you from growing up.

Illustration: Until I was 4 ½ years old, I was still drinking from my milk bottle. We had many nurses in our church through the local Railway hospital. One of them saw me with my bottle and immediately got on to my mom and told her to take it away from me. It made me so mad! I glared at her throughout the service. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is trying to pry that milk bottle from some of your hands and it’s a fight!

Then Paul declares in 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss (disadvantageous, damaging,) for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. 9 “and be found in Him…” Having the “knowledge of Christ” is not information about Christ. It is another way of saying “I am one with Christ.” I died with Christ; I was buried with Christ; and I have risen to walk in the newness of life with Christ. If you look for me, guess where you’ll find me? In Christ! And, what do I look like in 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.” Meaning: My life is now in Christ where I am covered in His righteousness. How do I know that? By faith. But Paul’s not done – 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” Meaning: I am not satisfied yet. I want to know what else the resurrection of Christ can do for me. Oh yes – there’s one more thing it will do. 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Meaning: I know the resurrection has brought me the invisible spiritual resurrection but I also want the visible physical resurrection.

I can hear some of y’all saying – “But that’s too deep! Take us back to the shallow end.” You need to go in the deep to learn how to swim. The reason many of y’all can’t swim is because for years you’ve been playing in ankle deep water. You come to the swimming pool every day and head straight to the kiddie section. It’s time you stepped into big pool. What if I drown? The Holy Spirit is the Lifeguard and the Bible is the floatation device. You’ll be all right.

Application: What is damaging your spiritual growth? Would Paul put you in the category with dogs and evil workers? Are you growing in the knowledge of Christ? Are you found in Christ? Are you looking forward to the resurrection to come?

II. ARE YOU PRESSING TOWARDS THE TOTAL TRANSFORMATION TO COME? 

11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

Background: Typically, these verses are quoted as an encouragement to keep moving forward in life. I have preached on it as well, especially on New Year’s Sunday – 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Although we can apply these verses in the context of leaving our past behind and moving forward to greener pastures ahead, there’s much more implied here. Paul is referring here to pressing forward to the resurrection from the dead, which is the physical transformation of the body. The upward call is the total resurrection of the body as well. What about those who have no interest in this transformation? Listen to Paul in 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. “Earthly things” here does not materialism. In the context, it means people who get stuck in man-made traditions, old rituals, dietary rules, circumcision, etc. To the contrary – 20 For our citizenship is in heaven…” Again, Paul does not say – “I can’t wait to get to heaven” or “Wonder, how will it be in heaven?” Instead, for all practical purposes, he is already a citizen of heaven, at least spiritually speaking. But something is missing – “…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…” Paul reminds the Philippians that we are to look forward to the day when Jesus comes to complete the rest of the resurrection. In other words, Paul has his letter of heavenly citizenship but he wants to go through the swearing in ceremony too and become a full-fledged citizen of heaven.

Let me illustrate: When I began the process of my citizenship, I had to go through a lengthy process of paperwork and test on US History/Politics/Geography and then there was an interview. Finally, I received the document certifying that I had become a US citizen and they gave me a date for the swearing in ceremony. For all practical purposes I had all the rights and privileges of being an American citizen but I was still not declared an American citizen until I went to the swearing in ceremony. It was a very special day for me when I became a full-fledged citizen of these United States. Nicole was there. I remember walking out of the building with a little spring in my step.

Application: There are 3 kinds of people here today: First, are people who are content with playing with rituals and traditions. These are the evil workers. If that’s you, then you are lost. You need to get saved. Second, are people who are saved but they are simply satisfied with their spiritual resurrection? I love Jesus and I’m looking forward to going to heaven someday. Its time you realize there’s more. Third, are people who are spiritually resurrected in Christ but they are not satisfied. They are looking forward to the physical resurrection to come. Heaven is not some place far away. It has already begun. We are just waiting for our new clothes to arrive. Which one are you?

III. HOW ARE YOU LIVING NOW IN LIGHT OF THE FUTURE? 

So far all this is wonderful. I am spiritually resurrected in Christ and one day I will be physically resurrected as well. How awesome is our future! But here’s a deeper question – Does your future transformation transform how you live in the present?

  1. Stand firm in the truth. Phil 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
  2. Be a peacemaker and not a pot-stirrer. 4   2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel…”
  3. Rejoice in every situation. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
  4. Be gentle when people fail you. 4:5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
  5. Don’t panic, just pray. 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
  6. Focus on the good. 4   8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
  7. Be content. 4 11 “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Are you looking forward to the transformation coming? Has your future transformation transformed your present life? Are you a citizen of heaven? Are you saved?

Heaven Here and Now – Part One

HEAVEN HERE AND NOW – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

heavenhereandnow_1Introduction: With Easter 2 weeks away, I am preaching a short series starting this Sunday called – “HEAVEN HERE AND NOW.” The focus of this series is on the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for us now, not just some day after we die.

Colossians 3   1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Overall Background: Typically during the Easter season I preach first on the cross and then on the Resurrection. Although both are very important for believers, I place special emphasis on the cross. Why? Because the cross is the emblem of Christianity. Without the cross, there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the cross, we have no hope of redemption. Without the cross, we are doomed. As the song goes – “At the cross, At the cross, I surrender my life. I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You. Where Your love ran red and my sin washed white. I owe all to You, I owe all to You Jesus.” The cross is central.

But this time I’ve decided to do a series solely on the Resurrection, not because I think it’s more important than the cross. It’s because we have a very limited understanding of the Resurrection. If we truly understood the implications of the resurrection of Jesus, it would change the way we live in this life. It would change the way we see our world. It would change the way we think about heaven. Once you get a glimpse of what the resurrection of Jesus has done already and once you get a taste of God’s Resurrection power in us, you’ll be like the first disciples – unafraid, full of joy, and God’s agents of transformation in this world.

Question – What do you believe about the resurrection? How do you see yourself? Weak, defeated, just surviving, and waiting to get out of this world. How do you see this world? Worthless, hopeless, depraved, and only fit to be destroyed. But before we go any further, let me back up and reiterate – There is no resurrection without the cross. Before you can run to the empty tomb, you have to stop by way of Calvary. Are you saved? Before you can celebrate Easter, you have to observe Good Friday.

Today we will learn 2 things from Colossians as to what Resurrection means for us:

I. YOU ARE ALREADY RESURRECTED IN CHRIST. 

1 If then you were raised with Christ,

Background: Before we jump into that verse we need to understand a little bit of the background here. The Christians in Colossae were not saved under Paul’s direct ministry but under the work of one of his co-workers, probably a man by the name of Epaphras. This man of God taught them the truth of the gospel to the best of his ability. Paul describes him in Colossians 1:7-8 as “our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.” These were Spirit filled believers. But, lately, it appears that some false teachers and false teachings were infiltrating the church. Maybe, Epaphras could not handle some of their arguments and philosophies. Maybe, he wasn’t as educated and trained as Paul and he must have asked Paul for some help. Paul says, “Not a problem. I’ll write to them.”

Application: Be teachable. Sometimes people come with the attitude of – “I already know.” Just because you read 2 books and went to Google University does not mean you know it all. God wants to teach you through His Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe these false teachers were taking the Colossian Christians back to the rules and regulations of the Law. Maybe they were compelling them to be circumcised. Therefore Paul says to them in Colossians 2 11 “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism…” In other words, in Christ, you died and in Christ, you were buried. That’s what baptism is all about. It symbolizes my death and burial in Christ. But Paul does not stop there – “in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” When you come out of the water, it symbolizes your resurrection with Christ. Isn’t that beautiful?!!! Baptism doesn’t get you saved or clean your sins. It tells the world that you are one with Christ. So now don’t try to go back to the old religion and do what has already been done for you in Christ.

Colossians 2 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle…” Please don’t misunderstand – “Daily we have to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. But this death is not circumcision, Sabbath keeping, or dietary regulations. This cross is simply a reminder that I have chosen a life that imitates the life of Jesus.”

Now we return to Colossians 3:1 “If then you were raised with Christ…” Did you know that you are already risen with Christ? Paul says the same thing in Romans 6:11 “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Again, in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: Do you believe that you are already resurrected in Christ? Do you believe that you are already alive in Christ? You wouldn’t think so talking to some people. The Colossians were struggling with it. Are you struggling with it? Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes.

II. START LIVING THE RESURRECTED LIFE. 

Colossians 3   1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

Background: What a powerful jolting truth! There’s nothing more that needs to be done for you. Start living like you are already in heaven sitting next to Christ at the right hand of God! Paul has talked about the same truth in Ephesians 2 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Did you know that physically speaking I’m standing before you but spiritually speaking I’m sitting in the heavenly places in Christ? Manley Beasley would say, “One of the surprises we will get when we get to heaven is to realize that we have already been there!”

Now, someone is bound to say – “All that is well and good but it’s nothing more than wishful thinking. It’s just like Peter Pan. If you want to fly to Neverland, all you need is faith and trust, a little bit of pixie dust, and think of the happiest things.”

Paul anticipated this objection. Listen to what he says 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. But I cannot see it. Paul replies in verse 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Meaning: Until you can see with your eyes, you will have to walk by faith.

So do we just sit here and look up? The rest of the letter is instructions on how to have heaven here and now.

  1. Take your sin seriously.

Colossians 3   5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

  1. Put on your new nature

Colossians 3   12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

  1. Please God in your home.

Colossians 3   18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20   Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

  1. Please God in your workplace.

Colossians 3   22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. 4:1 Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

  1. Pray continually.

Colossians 4   2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

  1. Walk wisely.

Colossians 4   5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

This is Heaven Here and Now.

Invitation: Are you ready to come out of Hell? Do you claim to have love in the Spirit? Are you in heaven now? Are you saved?

How To Beat Death

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HOW TO BEAT DEATH? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtobeatdeath-page-001Today we are celebrating Easter Sunday. It commemorates the day Jesus rose from the grave. With that in mind, I am preaching a message titled “HOW TO BEAT DEATH.” Unless Jesus comes for us first, death is coming to all of us.

Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Overall Background: If you ever want to kill a conversation, mention death. If you ever want people to avoid you, bring up the subject of death. Most people are afraid of death. One evidence of that is the number of euphemisms we have come up with for death – Bite the dust, kicked the bucket, passed away, is in a better place, R.I.P., etc. Bottom line: people don’t want to face the great unknown, the great beyond. The Bible has the most balanced view of death. On the one hand, it deals with the reality, finality, and brutality of death but, on the other hand, it also reminds us that death doesn’t have to be an enemy, it’s not final, and it is in fact the beginning of another life that never ends and its wonderful! It does that not by giving us cute euphemisms but hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that through Jesus we can beat death.

Application: Are you afraid of death? If you don’t know Jesus, you should be. Saying – “What will be will be” is not enough because God has provided a way to decide how you will spend your life on the other side. To ignore what God has to say about life after death is to insult Him, reject His work, and bring His judgment upon us. Are you saved?

Three questions we will answer in this passage that will teach us how to beat death.

I. DID JESUS ACTUALLY BEAT DEATH?

Background: When you start talking about the resurrection of Jesus to people who don’t believe the Bible, you get the following responses:

  • It’s an ancient myth found in various religions (Gnostic redeemer, Mithras, or fertility cult) and Christianity is no different. The problem with that is that there is zero parallel in ancient history of a human being to have died and come back to life and reappeared to people who knew him.
  • Some since the nineteenth century have claimed some rationalistic explanations for Jesus’ resurrection – Jesus never truly died. He just swooned. When someone says that, I like to say “How about if we were to flog you 39 times and then drive nails through your hands and feet, hang you on the cross which would dislocate your shoulders and you go into a hypovolemic shock. Then after you die pierce your side with a spear and break your legs. Then take you down and wrap you in a burial cloth, place you inside a tomb, and roll a big stone over it. What are your chances of getting out?!!”
  • Yet others claim that it’s a bunch of stories the disciples made up to cope with Jesus’ death or the church is behind it? The disciples themselves stole His body or they went to the wrong tomb or it was just a case of mass hallucination or it was just a spiritual experience. How do we answer that? Let’s just read the text and see if there are any clues that prove that the Bible is telling the truth and the disciples didn’t make this up and that Jesus actually did beat death. There are many.

Let’s look at a couple:

  • Luke 23   50 “Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member…”
Garden Tomb 3

Garden Tomb Outside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

This is referring to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem – the supreme court of the Jewish people made up of 70 members and one High Priest.

“…a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, (Maybe Northwest of Jerusalem) who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before.”

What a great risk? Not just for Joseph of Arimathea but for the gospel writers to mention this man’s name, position, and the town he came from! All I have to do is prove that he is not a member or from the town of Arimathea.

  • Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them…

If I were making up the story of the resurrection, I would have chosen the high priest who happened to be in the area or Pilate who was out for an early morning ride or even one of the male disciples who were the first to witness the empty tomb. Instead, verse 10 “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.” Women were not considered a legitimate and credible testimony.

  • Luke 24 1 “…came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.”

The disciples were not even expecting the resurrection. They came early to probably avoid any confrontation with those who had killed Jesus. They brought spices to embalm Him because as far as they were concerned, it was over.

  • Luke 24 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. And Matthew adds in Matthew 28  2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

Earthquake? It means everybody in the vicinity felt it. You are setting your self up big time if it didn’t happen.

We can go on and on from other passages but the point is clear – something extraordinary happened to the dead body of Jesus. It came back to life. The proofs are too many! The evidence is leaning heavily towards the fact that Jesus beat death. The disciples died believing that Jesus had risen. Nobody does that for a hoax, not a group.

Application: Do you find it hard to accept that Jesus beat death? Is it because you have examined the evidence or are you just repeating what you heard on TV or in a class or read in some magazine article? It’s too important to dismiss casually.

II. COULD JESUS ACTUALLY BEAT DEATH? 

Background: This is a deeper question. Although the written evidence shows that Jesus beat death and came back to life, the greater question is – “Is this even possible?” “Can human beings come back to life?” The overwhelming evidence says “No.” People die and that’s final. That’s why we have cemeteries and graveyards. Muslims have their “kabaristans,” Hindus have their “shamshan ghats,” Parsis have their “Tower of Silence,” and Native Americans have their “Burial Mounds.”

Death is universal unless you’re not human. Then, you’re not bound by death.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Who was Jesus? We know that He was a human being because He died. But He was more – Listen to verse 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. (Matthew tells us that they were angels.) 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

The key phrase here is “Son of Man.” Some people think that Son of God refers to Jesus being God’s Son, fully God, and Son of Man refers to Jesus being Mary’s Son, fully Man. Although, that sounds pretty good, there’s more in that title than that. You have to go to the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament to understand the true meaning of that title. Daniel 7  13  “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man. What He was claiming was deity. He was claiming that He was God. Just a few chapters earlier in Luke 21:27 Jesus said, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” When Judas came to betray Him, He said in Luke 22:48 “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Then in Luke 22 66 As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, 67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 68 And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. 69 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” 70   Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” 71   And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

Here’s the point – If Jesus was the Son of Man, then He was God and as God who created life and gives life and sustains life, death has no power over Him.

On the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached, He said in Acts 2 that even though they had crucified Him, God raised Him – 24 “…having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Then in Acts 3:15 he called Him the Prince of life.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of Man? If so, then the Resurrection is not a problem, the Virgin birth is not a problem, and walking on water is not a problem. Miracles are not a problem. By the way, the greatest miracle is none of them. It is the resurrection of a dead soul to life everlasting. Have you been resurrected?

III. WILL I BE ABLE TO BEAT DEATH? 

Let’s go back to verse 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Garden Tomb 2

Garden Tomb Inside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

When did Jesus say that? Luke 9:22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Was this just casual information? Luke 9:44 “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” Meaning: He really wanted them to get the reality of the resurrection. Why? It had a tremendous implication for their life! When we receive Jesus as our Savior, His life begins to flow through us. It’s the life of God. It’s the life that death cannot conquer. When I die, because of the life of Jesus in me, I am coming back to life just like Him. In other words, I am going to beat death like He did.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 14:19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

1 Corinthians 15 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is an old folk tale titled as the “Appointment in Samarra” (retold by W. Somerset Maugham [1933]) – “There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

Invitation: Are you ready to beat death? Through Jesus you can!

No Turning Back

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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.

EASTER MEANS YOU GET A SECOND CHANCE

EASTER MEANS YOU GET A SECOND CHANCE

John 21:1-7  1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is one of my most favorite passages in the Bible. It takes place after Jesus rose from the dead. He had already shown Himself to His disciples—some individually and some in a group. For all practical purposes, His work on earth was done. The only thing left for Him was to send the Holy Spirit to energize and empower the church to go out and share the good news of salvation. John could have ended his book in chapter 20 but he goes on to chapter 21 for one reason – Simon Peter. Peter had denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion.

You remember the story – on the night of the crucifixion Jesus had told His disciples that it was time for Him to give His life for them; that He had to go away for a little while and where He was going, they couldn’t come. You remember Peter’s response – “Even though the rest may fall away, I won’t. I’ll even lay down my life for you.” (Paraphrase) Mark in his gospel tells us that he was insistent that he wouldn’t betray Him.

For e.g. Like a child who insists upon going with his father. “I promise I won’t fall asleep.”

Peter weeps bitterly

We know the result. Just as Jesus had prophesied, Peter denied his Master at least three times and the rooster crowed twice. Luke tells us that right then Jesus turned and looked at Peter and Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him and he went out and wept bitterly. Those were tears of shame, disappointment, guilt, failure, and self-condemnation.

Application: I believe there are many here this morning that are crying the same tears of shame, disappointment, guilt, failure, and self-condemnation. They may not be visible but they are there. You promised God that you would do better; you promised God that you would obey Him better; you promised God that you would never turn your back on Him; and then you failed. Easter means you get a second chance.

There are 4 things we find in this passage that will give you hope.

I. SELF-CONDEMNATION IS A MISERABLE LIFE.

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

Background: Keep in mind—Peter knew that Jesus had risen from the dead. In fact, Jesus had already personally visited Peter. He knew his calling. Jesus had called him to be a fisher of men but he had gone back to being a fisherman. Why? Because he was living in self-condemnation. I failed Jesus. I just don’t have what it takes.

For e.g. Things are going on at church—come join us. I can’t. I can’t do my devotions right now; I can’t pray right now; I can’t sing right now; I can’t serve right now. Why? I am living in self-condemnation. We don’t say it but we think it. Self-condemnation is behind more backsliding than anything else.

The problem with self-condemnation is that it is contagious. They said to him, “We are going with you also.” 6 more disciples followed Peter. Misery loves company. Show me a person who is down on their circumstances, failures, mistakes, and I will show 6 more around him/her who are also down on their circumstances, failures, and mistakes. What’s the result? They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. Maybe they had forgotten what their Master had told them in John 15:5 “without Me you can do nothing.” A Self-condemning life is a fruitless life. Nothing seems to work out. No prospect in sight. No hope. No joy. No peace. No vision. There was a time in my life when I was in this very place. No matter what I did, it didn’t prosper.

Application: May I ask you a difficult question—Is what we are talking about sound familiar to you?

II. JESUS COMES TO US IN GRACE NOT CONDEMNATION.

But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Background: You would expect Jesus to come with anger and disappointment. Instead He comes with forgiveness and grace. He does not condemn them for going fishing but helps them find fish. That is the nature of God. Just when we think we don’t deserve grace, we receive grace; just when we think we have been discarded, He comes to restore us. Just when we think that He won’t help us. He does.

Someone might say, “You don’t know how bad I have been.” Listen to Romans 8:33-34 33Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Meaning: We not only have the Holy Spirit interceding for us but we also have Jesus praying for us. Jesus, who knows our every weakness, is the one who is interceding for us.

Application: Why do we listen to the enemy? Why do we only think of negative thoughts?

III. ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THOSE WHO LOVE GOD.

tissot John 21John tells Peter “It is the Lord!” and Peter puts on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunges into the sea. When the rest come to the land, they see fire of coals and fish laid on it and bread. Jesus says to them “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” How beautiful is that passage? Jesus not only had the breakfast prepared for them but He even asked them to bring some of the fish they had just caught and included it. Altogether, they had 153 fish. Peter pulled in the net and it didn’t even break.

The beauty of the Christian life is that God uses even the broken and shattered pieces of our lives to bring something good. Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say, “God is the greatest junk dealer in the history of the universe.” He will take whatever is there and bring something good.

Application: Are you done with your broken and shattered pieces? Give them to Him.

IV. HE ONLY ASKS US TO LOVE HIM.

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.

Background: Why did John put that in here? They knew what Jesus looked like. Was that His glorified body? If it were, the Bible would have said something about that? Why this distance? In fact, they spoke only one word to Jesus so far. “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.”

They felt very unworthy. What does He want from us? We are nothing. We cannot do anything for Him but disappoint Him. He is God!

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth

Would care to know my name

Would care to feel my hurt?

Who am I, that the bright and morning star

Would choose to light the way

For my ever wondering heart? 

Not because of who I am

But because of what You’ve done

Not because of what I’ve done

But because of who You are

13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

You can imagine the disciples, especially Peter, wondering what does He want.

Do you love me more than these

Then comes the well-known conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asks Peter – “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter replies, “Yes Lord;you know that I love you.” Then, “Feed My lambs.” “Tend My sheep.” On the third time Peter was grieved and he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Then “Feed My sheep.

Meaning: Peter – I’m not through with you. I still need you. I still have work for you. You were not supposed to follow me to the cross. I was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. I had to die. I had to fulfill the prophecies.

Application: Let me say this as clearly as possible. You and I cannot go down that path. We cannot die for our sins. We cannot earn our own salvation. All you can do is step back and see Jesus walking to the cross, being nailed to the cross, and dying on the cross for your sins. All you can do is accept His sacrifice for your sins and thank Him for walking that path for you. Have you done that?

Application: There are many people here this morning for whatever reason you feel God is through with you but He is not.

Personal Example: I thought for sometime that I had disappointed God and that I was no longer worthy. Everything I attempted was fruitless until I met Nicole’s dad. Just a handshake showed me that he loved me. You may not see Jesus face-to-face but you can feel His love in the smiles and the handshakes in this place.

Have you received His love? Do you love Him?

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