Identity by Dr. Abidan Shah

IDENTITY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Everybody wants an identity. We want to belong to a group that will include and affirm us. We see this early in life at school – the popular kids, who have the latest clothes and styles, the jocks who live for sports, the brains/nerds, who are more concerned about their grades than they needed to be, the goths, who always wear dark clothes and crazy hair; the country kids with trucks high enough to walk under; then there are the loners, the different ethnic group kids, the floaters, and the potheads, who are usually very friendly. This doesn’t change as we grow up. We still want an identity, a sense of belonging. As we begin our series on the actual text of 1 Peter, we will learn what should be the ultimate identity of every believer. Please find 1 Peter 1:1. Main point: Our identity should be ultimately rooted in God and his salvation in our lives through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:1 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…”

Context: For the past 3 weeks, we have been focused on Peter’s character. The reason for this is because the more we understand Peter, the better we will understand his letter. Of course, the Holy Spirit was behind the letter, but he used the personality, the experiences, and the gifts of Peter. Peter begins his letter by identifying himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ,” which means a “representative” of Jesus. This did not happen overnight! Jesus had to do a deep, painstaking, and unrelenting work in Peter’s life:

  • Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, from being religious to rock-solid.
  • Jesus took him from being a fisherman to becoming a fisher of men.
  • Jesus took him from being the impulsive one to becoming a pillar of the church.

Is it any wonder that he stood up on the Day of Pentecost full of the Holy Spirit and preached his first message and 3000 men, not counting women and children were saved, altogether 10-15,000! Is it any wonder that even his shadow could heal people! Is it any wonder that he could go toe-to-toe with the religious leaders and chief priests and not back down! By the way, Peter was not perfect. If you remember from last weekend, Paul admonished him openly when he messed up. But, Peter was spiritually mature enough to receive the admonishment and not become bitter. Now, he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Here’s an interesting point: The higher you climb in your spiritual life, the more concise your identity becomes. You don’t have to list your entire resume of accolades and accomplishments. For e.g. Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.

Application: What has God done in your life? How will you identify yourself at the end of your life? The first step towards that journey is to move from a sinner to a sinner saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. Are you saved?

Let’s go further. Peter now identifies the recipients of his letter. 1 Peter 1:1 “…To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Where are these places in the world? All of them are located in modern day Turkey, a vast area of approximately 129,000 square miles. That’s as big as California or North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia combined. The history of this region goes back to thousands of years to the Hittites, the Phrygians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, the Goths, the Celts, the Byzantines, etc. This was a very diverse part of the world with regards to land, ethnicity, cultures, religions, and languages. There were big cities and small towns. There were Roman colonies to the South and more Celtic people to the North, generally speaking. I can go on and on.

Who were the pilgrims of the Dispersion? The word for “pilgrims” is “parepidemos,” which means someone who does not hold citizenship where he lives. They may have been born and raised there. They may dress like their neighbors. They may eat like their neighbors. They may even look like their neighbors. But, they are outsiders. Peter even qualifies their identity with “foreigners of the Dispersion.” The word “dispersion” is coming from the LXX and Jewish literature. It referred to the people of Israel who had been scattered away from their homeland of Israel. This dispersion goes back to the time of Solomon when some moved there because of trade. A major dispersion came with the Assyrian exile when the Northern kingdom of Israel was forcibly relocated by the Assyrians. Couple centuries later came the Babylonian exile when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was also temporarily exiled but some came back but many didn’t. They were foreigners and outsiders wherever they went. Even though many generations were born and raised there, dressed like their neighbors, and ate like their neighbors, they were never totally accepted. Hence, they would return to Jerusalem for their Jewish festivals. Maybe some of them were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2     5 “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia…” Peter was now writing to encourage them as they were not only Jewish people scattered abroad, but they were now Christians, which means they were also being ostracized by their own Jewish community. Peter understood how it felt since he grew up in Bethsaida, a minority Jewish town. He even understood how it felt when his own people rejected him because he was now a disciple of Jesus. I believe all this may be true, but I also believe that Peter was referring to all Christians (Jewish background and Gentile background) who were scattered as a minority all over that region. Even Gentile background believers were now like the Dispersed Jewish people. Even though they were citizens, they were now being treated as foreigners. We will see that as we go further in this letter.

Application: Have you been ostracized because you are going to church? Has your own family and friends left you out because your priorities have shifted? I think of my own dad. His own family kicked him out because he followed Jesus Christ. In fact, we were all cut off from the family tree.

How do you encourage people like that? So, Peter gave them a new identity—2 “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” There are 3 prepositional phrases here that connect to each member of the Trinity. This is deep!

  1. “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” – “Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” The culture around them may have rejected them but God had chosen them through his “prognosis” to include them in his family. That’s the first person of the Trinity.
  2. “in sanctification of the Spirit” – “Chosen by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.” Yes, they had a choice to receive Christ as their Savior, but the Holy Spirit was stirring their hearts, opening their understanding, and drawing them to salvation. He actively does that for everyone who is open to Christ. That’s the third person of the Trinity.
  3. “for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” – “Chosen for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” This was not some election to walk around flaunting your new religion. This was an election unto obedience. What is the “sprinkling of the blood” mean? This is referring back to Exodus 24  7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”Even though they said the words, they couldn’t follow through. But, we can through the blood of Jesus Christ. We have been set free from the power of sin. Sin is still present but through Christ, we can conquer. By the way, that’s the third person of the Trinity.

These people really got the message. These people reached their culture and that entire region became the cradle of Christianity. This is where we find Constantinople, Nicaea, and Chalcedon. Here were held the famous councils were the deity of Christ and the Triunity of the Godhead was affirmed! Unfortunately, these parts have been lost because Christians failed to reach the next generation and prepare them to stand strong. Just this year, the Hagia Sophia was once again declared a mosque after 90 some years of being a museum. It was one of our flagship churches!

In some ways, that’s where we are as Christians in America. We need to wake up and reach the culture around us. If we don’t, we will ultimately find ourselves driven out. That’s why how we vote in this election matters! We need to vote for that party and candidate that will make this nation pleasing to Jesus Christ.

Application: What are you doing to make sure that our nation continues to stand strong? Are you aware of what is at stake? Do you understand your new identity? You are not an accident. You are not an outsider. You have been drawn by the Holy Spirit. You have been chosen to obey.

Finally, Peter ended with “Grace to you and peace be multiplied.”

Invitation: Do you have God’s grace and peace? Are you saved? Through Christ you can have grace and peace.

Love is Cheering by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS CHEERING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love-is-cheering-2Introduction:  As you know, we’re in our series – LOVE IS THE GREATEST. Many of you have commented to me about how much you have loved this series and how much you are looking forward to the messages coming up. Thank you! This morning we come to the third message from I Corinthians 13 titled “LOVE IS CHEERING.”

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Bridge: I remember the first ball game I went to in America. It was a basketball game. What fascinated me the most were these students on the sidelines who were jumping up and down, holding up placards, blowing the megaphones, and telling us to clap our hands, stomp our feet, and shout some slogans. I asked the guy next to me. “Why are they doing all that?” He told me that they were cheerleaders. My question: “What if they stop cheering?” He replied: They play better when we cheer them. People in our life also play better when we cheer them. In this message, we’re going to learn how love is cheering the other person, not envying them.

Context: Once again, Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians because there were a lot of selfish and self-centered things happening in the church. The worldly mentality was creeping in. They were treating each other hatefully. They were becoming more and more divided. They were falling into worse and worse sins. When Paul got news of it, he wrote this letter to them. The message of this letter was not just “don’t be selfish” or “don’t be hateful” or “don’t be divided” or “don’t fall into sin.” The message was “love each other the way God has loved you.” Why? The root of all their problems was the love problem. Last weekend we learned that “love is calming” and today “love is cheering.”

Question: But before we do that, would you agree that at the root of a lot of our problems is the love problem? Would you agree that many of the problems we are facing in our marriages, homes, churches, communities, nation, and world is because we don’t know how to love others? Are you a loving person? Are you saved? Have you accepted the love of God in your hearts through Jesus Christ? You can never love properly until you have properly accepted God’s love in your hearts. Have you done that?

What did Paul mean when he wrote, “…love does not envy…” If you remember from last week, “Words have inherent meaning only to a certain extent. They get their true and full meaning from their context. For example: the word “oversight.” “She has the oversight of that project.” It means “she is in charge of that project.” “I’m sorry. That was my oversight.” It means “I accidentally missed something when I was going over it.” The context helps you understand the true meaning. Biblical words also have some meaning on their own but they get their true and full meaning from the biblical context.”

Let’s look at the true meaning of the Greek word that Paul used to describe love – “…love does not envy,” the Greek word for “envy” is “zeluo.” It literally means “to burn” or “to boil.” It can have a positive or a negative meaning. Positively, it means to “deeply desire,” “eagerly desire,” or “zealously strive.” It’s like when we say, “He was burning with energy” or “She was burning with excitement.” For example: In I Corinthians 12:31 Paul says, “But earnestly desire the best gifts.” Meaning: Passionately and earnestly seek after the best gifts that God wants you to use in the church. But this same word can also have a negative connotation. Sometimes it can mean “jealousy” and other times it can mean “envy.” People often confuse them. There’s a difference between them.

What is “jealousy?” It’s when “I have something that I will not share with you.” Human beings are often uman Hujealous over someone or something. “He’s such a jealous guy.” Meaning: He’s so possessive over his girlfriend or something else.” Here’s something very interesting. The Bible tells us that God also gets jealous. In the Old Testament God repeatedly becomes jealous over his people. In Exodus 20 he told the children of Israel – 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” Did you know that one of the names of God is “Jealous?” Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).” The Hebrew word for jealousy and envy in the Old Testament is “kanah,” which is literally “to become intensely red.” When the Jewish people translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek, they used the word “zelou” to translate “kanah.” What God is saying here is that he turns intensely hot when we give his honor to someone else. He will not share our allegiance with anyone. Please don’t misunderstand – God shares many things with us. He shares his love, his power, his authority, and even his glory with us. Someone might say, “Oh no, not his glory. Doesn’t God say in Isaiah 42: 8, ‘I am the Lord…And My glory I will not give to another?” Keep reading – “Nor My praise to carved images.” That passage is against idol worship. But listen to Romans 8   16 “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Isn’t God so gracious and generous towards us?!! The only thing that God will not share with anyone is our loyalty to him.

Why am I going so deep? Christianity in America has become simplistic. There’s a difference between simple and simplistic. Simple: “This is the day the Lord has made.” Simplistic: “Have a nice day.” There’s a reason why people are struggling with their convictions. Because of ignorance, they have become shallow. It’s time to move from simplistic to simple.

As I was saying, the word “zelou” can also mean envy. There’s a difference between jealousy and envy. What is envy? John Piper gave a great definition for it – “Envy is desire mingled with resentment.” In other words, “You have something I really want and now I resent you for it.” Let me clarify: You can like someone’s dress and that’s not envy. You can desire someone’s success and that’s not envy. You can model yourself after some person and that that’s not envy. Envy is not admiration. Envy goes a step beyond. It is desire plus resentment. By the way, God is never envious towards us. There’s nothing in us that he desires or resents us for. Envy is exclusively a creature problem and it has been around since the beginning:

  • It got Lucifer in trouble – He began to envy God.
  • It was the cause of the first sin – Eve envied God and wanted to have His knowledge.
  • It was the cause of the first murder – Cain killed his brother because he envied his offering.
  • Down through the ages brothers have envied each other – Ishmael envied Isaac, Esau envied Jacob, Joseph was envied by his brothers, David was envied by his brothers, even Jesus was envied by his brothers.
  • Someone might say “this must be a man thing.” Not true – Sisters have envied each other as well – Rachel envied Leah in the OT. Martha envied Mary in the NT. Aaron and Miriam were envious of Moses.

All of us at some point have been bit by the “green eyed monster”:

  • A friend of yours has a boyfriend/girlfriend and you don’t. You wish you had someone like they have in your life. That’s okay. But now you begin to talk bad about that person. That’s envy.
  • You want to play sports and then there’s that kid who is better than you. You wish you had their talent. That’s okay. But now you begin to badmouth them. That’s envy.
  • You wish you could sing but so and so is amazing. You can admire that person’s gift and that’s okay. But now you begin to spread rumors about her. That’s envy.
  • You have children who are average or sick but then there are other families that have healthy children and great performers. They always seem to come out on top. You can pray and ask God to bless your children as well. That’s okay. But you begin to make snide remarks about them. That’s envy.
  • Then the big one – how you look. Why do I have a weight problem, height problem? I don’t like my nose, my chin, my eyes and on and on. We often feel like God is so unfair in giving looks. On a scale of 1-10, we think God goes around saying “Everyone is 10, you are just 1-2.” When you see someone who is a 10, you look for faults in their life and secretly wait for them to fall. That’s envy.
  • Someone has a better husband/better wife, better job, better house and the list goes on and on. To desire to have those things is not wrong. It becomes envy when you begin to malign the other person.
  • Don’t think this doesn’t happen in ministry. it happens more in the ministry than in any other field. How do I know? I have been both the perpetrator and the victim of envy. I have felt the intense dislike for a person just because they had a bigger church, ministry, and influence. Several years ago Nicole and I went to the SBC convention. On the way back, something happened. I wasn’t talking much. Nicole asked me if I was okay and I said “yes.” But she knows if something is wrong and she won’t let me rest until I share it. Envy had its ugly grip on me. I lost my passion, lost my prayer life, lost my joy. I was envious of someone I had never met and he did not know I existed. I have also felt the intense dislike of others towards me because I pastor a bigger church, have a bigger ministry, and wider influence. I was elected to be the moderator of our Association. After the meeting, one pastor came to me and said – “you know they asked me first but I told them that I was just too busy for stuff like that.”

Socrates said, “Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of murder and revenge, the begetter of secret sedition, the perpetual tormenter of virtue. Envy is the filthy slime of the soul; a venom, a poison, a quicksilver, which consumes the flesh and dries up the bones.”

How does God love us? He loves us without envy. He wants the best for us. He wants to see us to grow and mature and live in joy and peace. He even sends trials in our lives to help us, never to hurt us. He not only sent His Son to die for us but now he also lives in us through his Holy Spirit and cheers us on from the right hand of the Father.

How should you love others? Love them without envy. It begins when you cheer others in their success. It’s when you rejoice when you see them win. It’s when you pray that they won’t fall. It’s when you encourage them when they seem to struggle. Do you ever conquer envy? Probably not. But you learn to repent and refocus faster and start cheering that person in love.

By the way, when you see that person fall, don’t misunderstand what is happening. One way God deals with envy is that He crucifies the one being envied. If I were God, I would crucify the one who is envying – right? Not really. Just the opposite. Someone said, “God never makes the path of greater fruitfulness enviable.” When you have a problem with someone because of envy, God says “I will crucify that guy for you.” Cain – you have a problem with Abel, I will take him early in life; Ishmael – you have a problem with Isaac, I will take him up on Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him; Esau – you have a problem with Jacob, I will keep him running all his life; Joseph’s brothers – you have a problem with Joseph, I will have him sold into slavery; David’s brothers – you have a problem with David, I will keep him running from cave to cave hunted by Saul. James – you have a problem with Jesus, I will crucify him.

Are you saved? Are you cheering others in love?

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