HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on October 14, 2017)

How to handle toxic people - Abidan ShahMy last article, “How To Handle Toxic People,” drew more responses than any of my pervious articles! Evidently, it touched a nerve and God used it to meet a real need. Thank you for all the words of appreciation! Some of you raised a question that I feel the answer may benefit others as well – “Daily we go through minor toxic encounters that leave us feeling upset to one degree or another. Does that mean that for each of those incidents we have to go through the same process of praying for 20 days until we are free of the toxin?” Of course not. Toxic people and minor toxic encounters are two different things. The first are individuals who perpetually cause us to feel miserable and the second are chance happenings that inject just enough toxin in us to ruin our spirit. Although the latter are not as harmful as the former, don’t assume that they are completely harmless. If left untreated, those emotional fender-benders can cause us to ruin others’ spirits as well. Let me explain below.

Imagine several scenarios: a kid at the drive-thru messes up your order; someone cuts you off on the freeway; someone fails to thank you for your hard work on some project; and you wave at a friend who doesn’t wave back with the same energy. Or, how about the big one: You put a post on Facebook that you think should go viral and only 3 people like it…What do you do next? Each of those encounters have the potential to initiate an unhealthy conversation within you. For the kid at the drive-thru: “Kids these days are so disrespectful.” For the person who cut you off: “I hope he/she gets caught.” For the friend who didn’t seem that excited to see you: “I’m looking the other way next time.” For those who failed to appreciate your hard work: “I am not appreciated.” And yes, for Facebook, one of those: “If you are my true friend, you’ll comment below and repost.” Such negative self-talk will surely ruin your attitude and keep you from living up to your potential. Unfortunately, such unhealthy conversations don’t stay locked inside for long. Sooner or later they spill over on to the unsuspecting individuals in your lives. In other words, your quest for justice will not rest until someone is convicted, sentenced, or punished. Since you cannot prosecute the original perpetrators, you will substitute those innocent, weak, and docile individuals in your life. Your kids, your husband, your wife, your church family, your neighbor, and your best friend will pay for a crime they did not commit.

What is the solution? First, recognize when your spiritual equilibrium has been disturbed. In other words, acknowledge the gnawing feeling that some wrong may have been committed against you. Second, immediately take charge of your internal conversation. 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us that we should be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” A runaway thought is like a runaway train. There will be casualties. Third, refrain from judging the motives of others. 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” Ultimately, only God knows the true intents of each human heart. Fourth, pray for that individual. Nothing will neutralize hate and anger faster than sincere prayer. Follow the example of our Savior: Luke 23:34 “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Don’t misunderstand. There may be situations where more than prayer is called for but there’s a big difference between restitution and retaliation. Fifth, practice the lost art of the unsent angry letter. Abraham Lincoln would often write his “hot letter” but postpone sending it until he had cooled down. He never sent most of them.

 

ENCOUNTERS 4 (CLEARVIEW FOLLOWUP)

ENCOUNTERS 4 (Clearview Followup) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Here are some key points to remember from the message:

  1. A Historical Fact to Learn: For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. Maybe the pool was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple.
  2. A Theological Truth to Believe: Many different views have been advanced for Jesus’s final words to the crippled man – John 5:14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” I don’t think that Jesus was bringing up original sin or some generational sin. Instead, He was simply demonstrated that He knew the man’s past. Apparently, the crippled man had done something bad that caused his paralysis. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. Jesus was warning him not to return to his old lifestyle.
  3. A Biblical Principle to Apply: “…And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Downtrodden) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters4Introduction: For the past 3 weeks we’ve been in our series through the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” In this 4th and final message we’re about to meet a man who had been sick for 38 years, desperately waiting for someone to help him find healing. By the time Jesus found him he had given up all hope.

John 5   5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

Bridge: Do you know someone who’s in a hopeless situation? Humanly speaking there is no way out for them physically, mentally, or emotionally. Maybe its because of some decision or choice they made earlier in their life or maybe its through no fault of their own. It doesn’t matter. When you think of hopelessness, your mind immediately goes towards this person and you say something like – “I feel so sorry for him or her…”

Context: In this message we will meet such an individual – a sick downtrodden person who had been in a debilitating situation for almost 4 decades and had lost all hope in life. You know by now that we have been looking at 4 individuals between the two bracket passages in the gospel of John – John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 & 41. In these passages Jesus describes the sinful and fickle nature of human beings and how He did not need their endorsement. He only came for their salvation. He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. I do need to point out that unlike the previous 3 encounters, this one has an unusual ending.

Question: Do you believe that there’s hope for the hopeless? Do you believe that Jesus has the power to bring life where there’s death? Do you know someone who has lost all hope in life? Are you that someone? Are you saved?

2 questions again. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your life.

I. WHO WAS THIS CRIPPLED MAN?

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. What was the purpose of this pool? Maybe it was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple. Either way, whether the sheep went by the pool or went into the pool, you can just imagine how filthy this area would’ve been. Upper class people would’ve avoided this pool but not Jesus.

Application: Sometimes you have to cross your personal boundaries and go into areas that may not be quite clean or up to your standards in order to reach people.

But there’s something special about this pool. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. What does that mean? 4 “For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” Some translations claim that this was not part of the earliest manuscripts. My research indicates that it should be included in the text. John is giving us a folk belief about the pool from that period. Personally, I think it was some kind of a hot spring or mineral bath that gave it some health benefits. In fact, after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, they turned into a healing sanctuary to the god Asclepius.

5 “Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.”

There’s enough in that statement to create a profile of this person:

  • How old was he? Sometimes people automatically assume that he was born this way and must be 38 years old. 38 years is how long this man had been sick. There’s nothing in the text that indicates that he was born this way. I think that he must’ve been an adult at the time of this permanent injury or sickness. We’re going to see in a moment that he had actually done something bad to cause his infirmity. If I were to guess his age, it would be somewhere in the late 50s to early 60s bracket.
  • What was his infirmity? It must’ve been some kind of a paralysis because he could not get himself into the pool fast enough. You can imagine the pain and the filth he was in.
  • What caused his infirmity? Maybe he got injured at work. Maybe someone hurt him. Based on Jesus’s final words to him, I think it may have been a very different reason. 14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” “Worse” indicates that his condition was a result of some sin. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. So it was not just the physical pain of the infirmity that he was dealing with. More than likely he was also dealing with a mental pain of the infirmity – lot of regret and shame over his bad past.
  • What was his condition when Jesus found him? “When Jesus saw him lying there…” Sometimes people assume that he was lying at the pool 38 years. There is nothing in the text that supports that. He may have been at the pool for 30 years or 3 years or 3 months. We don’t know for sure. One thing we do know is that he was all by himself. Listen again – “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Maybe his parents brought him there. Maybe his siblings brought him there. Maybe his wife and children brought him there. But, for some reason they had all left him to fend for himself. Why? Maybe they were embarrassed of him. May be that they had given up on him. Maybe they got tired of trying to help him. We can only conjecture but I picture him angry, bitter, and frustrated. Maybe like a prison inmate he had become institutionalized.

Do you know people like this? Something painful has happened in their life. Some kind of a trauma has happened in their life. Maybe they are even responsible for their predicament but now they are bitter, angry, and frustrated with life. They are all alone, cynical, and pessimistic.

Application: How do you treat such people? Do you show mercy to them? Are you compassionate to people around you? You never know what people are going through.

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?

6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” Jesus not only noticed him but also treated him with dignity. Not only that but Jesus saw the hopelessness in his eyes and offered him hope. Just like Jesus Christians should be hope carriers in this world. Listen to Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

What was the man’s response? 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” He did not answer the question he was asked. Jesus had not asked him – “So, how does all this work?” Here’s the point: Don’t expect lost people to immediately understand the meaning and the power of the gospel.

What was Jesus’ response? 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” The Bible does not say it but based on Jesus’s previous interactions, the man more than likely believed that Jesus was able to heal him. There’s something very important I need to point out: Can you hear the authority in Jesus’s words? If there’s one thing that is definitely lacking in the church and Christians today is authority. We have plenty of gimmicks and gadgets. We have plenty of books and knowledge. We just don’t have the boldness to say with Peter and John when they said to the lame man sitting by the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem in Acts 3:6 “…Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

What was the result? 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

Now there’s a twist to the narrative: And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! What was his answer? 11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.

Unlike the other miracle narratives, there’s another twist here14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” This man did not know Jesus but He believed in His miracle giving power. The Bible does not say that he got saved. Did he or did he not get saved? I believe that he did because he did not just run home or back to his old life. He went to the temple and Jesus came looking for him. Jesus being God knew this man’s past and warned him not to return to that life again. 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

Jesus had a higher purpose in His encounter with the crippled man. He not only wanted to heal this man physically, emotionally, and spiritually but He also wanted to expose the sinfulness and the hard heartedness of the religious leaders. The punch line of the account is not that the man believed but that the religious leaders didn’t believe. They did not care for the lost and the hurting.

Illustration: Sometime back a little boy was born. Six months before his birth his father died and then 6 years later his mother died. His paternal grandfather raised him for 2 years and then he also died. Now 8 years old, his uncle had custody of him. Between the years of 9 and 12, he travelled with his uncle on many business trips and had the opportunity to see many churches. He even met and talked to a pastor but never truly heard the gospel. Unfortunately, the state of the church at the time was very schismatic and sectarian. Christians were arguing and fussing about everything imaginable. In fact, later this boy got married and began having n ightmares, which he wrote down in a book. In the same book he also wrote about his misguided understanding of Christianity. He thought the Trinity was Father, Son, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. He even talked about how the Christians “vainly dispute.” (Sura 19:34) and how the “people have cut off their affair (of unity) between them, into sects: Each party rejoices in that which is with itself.” (Sura 23:53) Long story short – this boy was Mohammad. The religion he founded was Islam and the book he wrote was the Koran. What would have happened if those Christians and the pastors had focused on the pain of this boy and shared the gospel with him?

Are we bringing hope to the hopeless? Do you need hope through Jesus Christ?

ENCOUNTERS 3 (CLEARVIEW FOLLOWUP)

ENCOUNTERS  (Clearview Followup) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Here are some key points to remember from the message

  1. A Historical Fact to Learn: The nobleman went from Capernaum to Cana, which is about 16 miles, a day’s journey. It was uphill because Capernaum was about 700 feet below sea level. Maybe, he walked or maybe he rode his horse. Why? Because his boy was dying with some kind of fever. He may have been a bad person working for a bad man but he was a good father who loved his son and would do anything for him.
  2. A Theological Truth to Believe: You cannot come to Jesus with unbelief in your heart and expect Him to listen to you. Listen to Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
  3. A Biblical Principle to Apply: Crisis is the perfect opportunity to bring people to Christ, to turn their doubts into faith. Do you know someone like that? Pray for them. Are you that someone who is struggling with doubts? Bring your struggles to Him and try Him.

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Outcast) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

encounters2_outcastIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner had an encounter with Jesus.

John 4   3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

Bridge: Have you ever been thirsty, I mean “really thirsty?” Maybe it was after cutting grass on a hot day or after a long walk or playing a sport, you were parched! People drink all kinds of drinks to quench their thirst but there’s no substitute to a glass of cool water.

Context: In the passage we just read, Jesus used the imagery of thirst to convey the gospel to a woman of Samaria. Keep in mind that in this series we’re looking at 4 individuals between the two brackets in John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 and 41. The first individual was a religious man named Nicodemus (we met him last weekend), the second individual was a woman of Samaria with an embarrassing past (we’re going to meet her today), the third individual was a brash rich man, and the fourth was a sick hopeless patient. Four very different people from different walks of life and Jesus, the Master soul winner did not use some one size fits all approach with them. Instead, He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel in a way they could understand, and left all four of them transformed. Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner woman from Samaria had an encounter with Jesus that changed her destiny forever.

Question: How do you see people? Do you only notice their skin pigmentation or the kind of clothes they wear or the background they come from? Or do you take the time to see below the surface, try to understand them, and meet them where they are? Do you see the thirst in their hearts for the Living Water? Are you the one who is thirsty for the Living Water? Are you the one who needs an encounter with Jesus?

In this message we will meet the woman of Samaria. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

I. WHO WAS THE SAMARITAN WOMAN? 

3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.

Background: On the map of Israel, Judea is in the South and Galilee is in the North. There has been much debate over why Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Was it for theological reasons or geographical reasons? Was it because He wanted to reach out to the Samaritans with the gospel or was it because it was the easiest, quickest, and safest route through a Roman territory? I personally think that it was simply for geographical reason. By the way, you often hear things like – “The Jewish people back then would not have gone through Samaria.” That’s not true. We have plenty of evidence that they did.

Here’s the point: Sometimes we expect God to direct us through some supernatural impulse and intuition. That’s not always the case. Many times God simply uses the ordinary, mundane, and common sense decisions of life. Don’t always be talking about how you had this feeling that you had to do this and that and God showed up. Many times it is just the simple choices of life that God uses to do the amazing.

5 “So He came to a city of Samaria…”

Background: Right there we can begin constructing the profile of this woman:

  • Samaritans – Just like the Pharisees, there is considerable debate over who were the Samaritans. If you were to ask the Samaritans (only about a thousand exist today in Israel), they would tell you that they are the direct descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that Israel began to depart from God during the time of Eli, the high priest. Remember Eli who saw Hannah praying and thought that she was drunk but God blessed her with a child named Samuel? This Eli, they claim, messed things up by moving the worship center of Israel from Gerizim to Shiloh. They’ll tell you that they, the worshippers at Gerizim, are the original Israel.

But if you read the Bible you get a different account. It’s found in 2 Kings 17 when God sent the Assyrian Empire against the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples under which they would take the people from the conquered territory and move them to another part of the empire and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Listen to 2 Kings 17:24 “Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel…” These people somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were not resettled. So the Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. You can sense the tension between them in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah when the Jewish people tried to rebuild the temple and the city walls. The Samaritans tried to sabotage their building projects. There’s more that I can go into but if this woman was a Samaritan, she has a historical religious chip on her shoulder.

  • Verse 5 “So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” Meaning: This was not just any part of Samaria but a special place in Samaria. She probably had a sense of spiritual pride. Do you know people like that who have spiritual pride but they still haven’t encountered Jesus?
  • Verse 6 “Now Jacob’s well was there…” Archaeology takes us to a deeper level of understanding here. Jacob’s well is a deep well near Shechem. It is still there to this day. But Sychar, the best archaeologists can tell, is probably near the modern day Arab village of Askar, which is 1 mile from Shechem. Ancient sources tell us that there was a spring there in Sychar. So the question is why did she come to Jacob’s well if there was one right where she lived? 6 “…Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Noontime is not the time to draw water. Could it be that she was searching for the God who met Jacob in the wilderness?
  • Verse 7 “…Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. She is an outspoken, fearless woman, and truthful!
  • By the way, later we will also learn that she had been through 5 marriages and was working towards number 6 now! I think if she hadn’t met Jesus, she would have gone beyond Elizabeth Taylor’s record of 7 men, 8 marriages! This means she was an independent woman who didn’t care what anyone thought of her. By the way, don’t think that she was a prostitute. They were her husbands.

Application: Do you know some Samaritan women or men? Do you judge them or pray for them? Do you like Jesus try to reach them with the gospel or do you run the other direction from them?

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HER? 

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Again, what’s amazing to me is that Jesus used His surroundings as a lead in to the gospel! She’s at the well and Jesus offered her the living water. Also, He did not get offended by her tone. Be prepared for people to lash out at you. Love them anyways.

What’s her response? 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir…” Now she’s talking to Him with a little more respect. “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” Just like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman has no clue what Jesus was talking about. Once again, don’t assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo. 12 “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Now she turns into a lay theologian and even defensive over her people’s beliefs. Don’t underestimate people’s personal beliefs.

John 4:13   Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Meaning: Jesus is talking about a whole different kind of thirst, not physical but soul thirst. Not only that but that Jesus is offering is not just running water but a fountain of water. Later in John 7 Jesus gave the identity of the spring, this fountain 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive. All this will lead to the same eternal life that Jesus promised Nicodemus. But even more than what He told Nicodemus – this life will be abundant, continuing, and self-replenishing!

Listen to her response – 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Either she still does not understand or she is being sarcastic or she is just being skeptical. 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” Don’t misunderstand – Jesus was not talking down to her. He was simply revealing to her His omniscience. When you draw closer to the light, you will see the blemishes in the light. But please don’t mistake this for salvation. Here’s a greater point: If the Christ you’ve met does not know you through and through, you’ve got the wrong Christ. Listen to the woman’s response – 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Meaning: Now she has elevated Jesus’s status from a common Jewish man to a prophet.

Listen to Jesus’s response – 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” What’s her response? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. Many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus. Listen to what they said to her – 42 “…Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

ethel-waters-and-billy-graham

Ethel Waters and Billy Graham

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters

Conclusion: When I was preparing for this message, I couldn’t help but think of Ethel Waters, Black singer from the early part of the twentieth century. Her mother was raped at knifepoint at the age of 13. Of her childhood she said, “No one raised me; I just ran wild. I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” She went through extreme poverty, daily hunger, stealing, and shuffled from one place to another. She got married at 12 and that was a very abusive relationship. But by the age of 17 she entered show business as a singer and dancer. She won awards and sang on Broadway. She was the first black singer on a coast-to-coast radio show and even made it into the movies. In 1929, she was making $1250 a week! But something was missing in her life. One day in 1957 she walked down the aisle at a Billy Graham Crusade in Madison Square Gardens, New York City. She began to sing for the Billy Graham Evangelist Crusade. Her most famous song was “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” But one thing she often said – “I know I’m somebody because God don’t make no junk.”

Are you bringing people to Jesus, the Savior of the World? Have you had an encounter with Him? Are you still thirsting for something?

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Intellectual)

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

encounters1Introduction: Today I’m starting a brand new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” For those of you who are new, we’ve been studying the life of Christ from all 4 gospels. We began this series about 2 years ago and we’re not even half way through. Somebody asked me when do you think we will get to the crucifixion and resurrection? Maybe when I’m ready for the nursing home!

John 2   23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man…5 34 “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 “I do not receive honor from men.”

Bridge: Have you ever said – “I wish I knew how to reach so and so but I don’t” or “I wish I could understand how this person thinks or what it’ll take to win them to Christ but I’m at a loss.” In this series we’ll learn how Jesus engaged individuals with the gospel.

Context: The passages we just read are like brackets. The first bracket is John 2:24-25 which says, “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” 2 things are underscored here about Jesus. First, Jesus knew all men (plural). Meaning: He knew every single human being, their nature, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and deepest darkest secrets. Second, Jesus knew what was in man (singular). Meaning: He knew what was inside human beings. He saw the darkness of sin within. Immediately following the first bracket, 4 individuals have an encounter with Jesus – a religious man, a woman with a horrible past, a brash rich person, and a sick hopeless person. Jesus met each of them where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. Then comes the second bracket in John 5:34 where Jesus Himself says, “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved…41 I do not receive honor from men.” Meaning: Jesus was not interested in their endorsement or their adulation. He simply wanted to save them.

Some of y’all are looking at me thinking – “What does this have to do with my life?” Daily God brings individuals in our lives that need to be engaged with the gospel. They’re all unique. They have their abilities and accomplishments. They have their quirks and curiosities. But one thing they all have in common is sin and the need for a Savior. It is our responsibility to engage them with the gospel and bring them to Christ.

Question: Are you engaging people around you with the gospel? When was the last time you actually encountered someone you knew needed Christ? What did you do? Did you run from them? Did you condemn them, maybe in your heart? Or did you engage them? Are you praying for them? Do you pray that God will bring lost people into your life? Are you that individual who needs an encounter with Christ?

In this 4-part series we will meet 4 characters that had an encounter with Jesus, starting with man named Nicodemus:

 I. WHO WAS NICODEMUS?

John 3:1 “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night…”

Background: Right there we have more than enough to construct his profile.

  • Pharisees – There is considerable debate in current scholarship over who were the Pharisees. From my studies I’ve found that the Pharisees were a popular sect of the Jewish people that had been around for a couple of hundred years by the time of Jesus. Some say that their name came from the Hebrew “paras” which means, “to separate,” as in separation from the sinners, the compromisers with the world. Along with the Torah (the Pentateuchal Law), they also had an interpretive tradition (oral and written) that had been “paradosis,” or “handed down” from their fathers. When you read the gospels you notice that they were particularly strict about purity issues, such as proper hand washing before meals, laws about food, and tithing. According to Josephus, the Pharisees were a lot more popular with the people than the Sadducees or the Essenes. Maybe, it was because they accepted the entire Old Testament (Law, Prophets, and Writings). Maybe, its because they believed in the resurrection of the dead, angels, and fate and free will. Maybe, it was because they challenged the people to live a godly life but also found loopholes to help them get around the system. Even though the Sadducees controlled the temple, the Pharisees also had a lot of say in the matter. Many of them were very wealthy and influential.
  • Ruler of the Jews – influential, powerful, and wealthy.
  • Came to Jesus – Sent to Investigate, Clarification, or Win Jesus over.
  • Came by Night – Maybe he was busy all day. Maybe he didn’t want to be disturbed. Maybe he was afraid of what someone might think. Maybe it was all of the above.
  • First Words“and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’” Maybe he was trying to flatter Jesus. Maybe he was being genuinely honest. I think he was being honest because a Jewish person would have been very reluctant to use God’s name in vain.

Many people around us are like Nicodemus. They are moral but empty. They are powerful but weak. They have what they want but not what they need. They are willing to check it out but leery and suspicious of charlatans and fakes. They are searching but guarded. They are not bad people just lost people. How does the church typically respond to such people? Either we condemn them or we ignore them.

Question: Do you know some Nicodemus in your life? Can you see below the surface? How are you engaging him or her? Are you praying for him or her?

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM? 

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Typically people think that Jesus was blowing Nicodemus off by ignoring his complement and saying – “Stop flattering me. You’re lost and you need to get saved.” Not true. In actuality, Jesus accepted Nicodemus’ complement. Remember his first words – “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” How did Jesus reply? “Most assuredly, I say to you” which is actually “Amen, Amen.” What Jesus was saying was – “You’re right Nicodemus. Just as it’s impossible for me to do what I am doing unless God is with me, it’s also impossible for you to see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.” You cannot insult people into the kingdom of God.

John 3:4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Again, people assume that Nicodemus was just being sarcastic. Yes and no. Yes, he was pointing out the impossibility of being born again. No, he was not being just sarcastic. He truly did not understand what it meant to be saved. You cannot assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo.

John 3:5   Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Once again, “Most assuredly, I say to you” is actually “Amen, Amen.” But listen to how Jesus adapted to Nicodemus’ words – “Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Now Jesus used the word “enter” – “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” You have to adapt to the level of your Nicodemus. Not only that but Jesus also brought up another imagery that Nicodemus was familiar with – “water baptism.” Please don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not implying that you have to be baptized in water to be born again. He was saying that just as “John’s baptism” was the sign of a new beginning, so also Nicodemus will have to step into a new beginning. But, this is not an ordinary new beginning. It has to be one led by the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is not on water baptism but on the Spirit’s work.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.’ Something is lost in translation here. It’s not “You Nicodemus must be born again” but it’s “You (plural) must be born again.” Jesus was referring to all those people who believed in His name because of the signs He did but they did not believe in Jesus. Meaning: There was a detached belief there. It was more faith in His deeds than in His person. They were lost. You cannot assume that just because a person says he/she believes in Jesus that they are saved.

8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” This is a very interesting statement. The Greek word for wind and spirit is exactly the same. Jesus used play on words to tell Nicodemus that he cannot rationally understand how the new birth happens but it happens. You have to remind people that salvation may be mysterious but it’s real.

John 3:9   Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…” Here Jesus brought up the imagery from the OT when God sent fiery serpents in the Israelite camp because the people had spoken against God and Moses. Many died. But when they pleaded, God in His love also provided the remedy. Moses had to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. If anyone looked at the serpent, they lived. Jesus was giving Nicodemus a preview of how He was going to be lifted up on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” A Salvation without a cross is no salvation at all.

Finally, here come the most famous verse of the Bible – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus reminded Nicodemus that God loved him.

Illustration: D. L. Moody was probably the greatest soul winner who ever lived. About the same time as Moody was preaching a young man from England named Henry Moorehouse got saved, began preaching and God began to use him mightily. Moorehouse came to America to preach and offered Moody to preach for him. Moody didn’t think that Moorehouse could preach and just put him off. Moorehouse sent another letter and another letter. Finally, Moody had to be out of town and allowed Moorehouse to preach. When Moody returned, the church was powerfully moved. Moody’s wife told him that he had preached 2 sermons and both were from John 3:16. She added, “He preaches a little different from what you do. He tells sinners that God loves them.” Moody replied, “Well…he’s wrong.” She answered, “You’ll agree with him when you hear him because he backs everything he says with the Word of God.” Moody reluctantly agreed to go and hear Moorehouse. Sure enough, Moorehouse turned to John 3:16. Later Moody said, “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out, and I could not keep back the tears.” Moorehouse preached for several more nights from the same passage and Moody’s ministry took on a softer deeper turn. Henry Moorehouse is best remembered as the “man who moved the man who moved millions.” You can never underestimate the power of God’s love.

Are you engaging people with the love of God shown in Christ on the cross?

Have you received the love of God shown in Christ on the cross

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