Immortal by Pastor Abidan Shah

IMMORTAL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Immortal

Introduction:  What do these expressions mean? Assume room temperature, go belly up, bite the dust, bite the big one, cash in one’s chips, become food for worms. They’re all referring to death. Here are some more – go to the happy hunting ground, kick the bucket, push up daisies, take a dirt nap, take the last train to glory, croak, buy a pine condo, go into the fertilizer business, be stiff as a board, kick the Oxygen habit. Even we Christians have our own idioms for death – to be with the Lord, crossing the Jordan, going to a better place. These are all verbal tranquilizers meant to soften the reality of death because no one wants to deal with that subject. The believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel. Question: Before we read this passage, question – Are you afraid to die? Are you afraid to live? As a believer, what are you living for? Are you saved? Our message is titled IMMORTAL in our series through Philippians.

Philippians 1   21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

Context:  21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two…” Why was Paul so conflicted between living and dying? Listen carefully – Paul was not as conflicted as it may appear. It was really the Philippians who were conflicted. If you remember from last week, I briefly explained that much of what Paul wrote was not for Paul but for the Philippians. Let me explain a little more on that: You may not be aware of this but scholars have identified 2 ways of interpreting Paul’s letters: Epistolary Analysis and Rhetorical Analysis. Epistolary Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters like a typical letter from ancient times with an opening, a middle, and a conclusion. In fact, it’s not much different than letters today, except that through the Holy Spirit, Paul’s letters became the Word of God. Rhetorical Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters more like a speech, an oratory, or, what we would call, a sermon. We know that Paul was a brilliant man, well trained in Hebrew scriptures but what many don’t realize is that he was also well educated in Greek-Roman rhetoric and he used rhetorical techniques in his writings which again through the Holy Spirit became the Word of God. The full impact of Paul’s letters is truly felt when you actually hear them, not just read them. Some people take this too far but, in moderation, this understanding is very helpful in studying Paul’s letters. One such technique that Paul often used was imitation. Instead of telling the listeners what and how to change, the speaker would tell his listeners how he struggled with the same situation and changed and the listeners would get the point. Seneca (Roman Philosopher, Rhetor, and Statesman) said “The way is long if one follows precepts, but short and helpful if one follows patterns.” Philippians 3:17 “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Word to the wise, especially parents – “If you want someone to change, stop telling them what’s right and what’s wrong and start telling them how you struggled between right and wrong and chose what’s right. That will make a far greater impact.”

With this knowledge in mind, let’s re-read these verses21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If you read this verse without thinking, you will misunderstand what Paul really meant. You may think that Paul is just struggling between living and dying. You may even walk away thinking – “A Christian cannot lose in life or death. In this life, we have Jesus and when we die, it just gets better!” Sometimes people even quote 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Although, there is truth in the fact that a Christian cannot lose in life or death, that is not the real point of either Philippians 1:21 or 2 Corinthians 5:8. In reality, Paul was using a rhetorical technique to help the Philippians. Apparently, they were facing some difficult challenges, maybe persecution, maybe financial problems, maybe relationship struggles, or maybe health issues. They were saying things like – “I’m ready to go. I’m tired of this old world. I’m ready to walk the streets of gold. I know we have Jesus here but it will be so much better on the other side!” Does that sound familiar? You might be surprised to know that, as a pastor, I have encountered more people who are just waiting to die than those who are sacred to die. You might say, “That’s not true! No one wants to die.” Don’t misunderstand – “No one wants to suffer before they die but dying is not a problem for many people. Living is.” They are not as good looking as they used to be, strong as they used to be, too many health problems, too many children problems, too many bills, too many bad decisions they’re reaping, just too many problems. When I first came to this church, I went visiting the people on the roll with one of our deacons. We came to this one house and this elderly lady came to the door. The deacon introduced me to her. Her response – “Oh Good. Now we got somebody to bury us!” I believe that this was the same problem with the Philippians – “Living with Jesus is great but dying is better!” Paul is saying to them – “Yeah, I’ve struggled with that too but let me tell you how I handled it.”

22 “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor…” What fruit was Paul talking about? He used the same word in Romans 1:13 “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you…that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.” The fruit that Paul was talking about is the fruit of the gospel. He wants to see souls saved. Listen carefully: When you die, the possibility of fruits end. You cannot evangelize in heaven. Neither can you evangelize in hell. Basically, for the same reasons. Neither place has unbelievers. Except that, in hell the hearts are still wicked. 22 “…yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” Remember Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in verse 10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent…” It meant “learning to choose between the good, the better, and the best.” It is “far better” to depart and be with Christ but “best” is to stay here and help you.

Application: How do you see others in this life? Do you care about those around you? You say, “I care but I’m ready to go.” Can I ask you, “Are you really eager to see Jesus or are you just trying to run away from your problems? God has a sense of humor and he will leave you here till you’re 150! It’s best to remain and help others.

25 “And being confident of this…” Paul has used that word “confidence” twice already: 6“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” He will use that word again several times. That word can mean “trust” but also “conviction.” What is Paul’s conviction? 25 “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith…” It’s Paul’s conviction to stay and help the Philippians continue in their growth and joy of the Christian life.

Application: We all have doctrinal convictions about the Bible, Trinity, Salvation, Person of Christ, Holy Spirit, etc. We may also have moral convictions about marriage, unborns, sexuality, drinking, etc. That’s all wonderful but it’s time we also have some relational convictions where I am responsible for your spiritual growth and joy in the Christian life and you are for mine. When you’re not here, I care. When I’m not here, you care. Sadly, most of us have the same response that Cain did when God asked him – “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Finally – 26 “that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.” The word “rejoicing” is “kaukhemai” which means “boast. Paul is not saying “You will boast of me even more when I come.” He is saying, “You will boast in Jesus even more when you see me come to you.” In other words, “Your worship will become even more powerful because you see God setting me free and sending me to you.” Some of us have a very poor worship experience because we only focus on doctrinal precepts (God is great, Jesus is wonderful, Salvation is awesome). When we change it to “God is great because of how he has worked in Pastor Shah’s life,” “Jesus is wonderful because of what he is doing at Clearview,” and “Salvation is awesome, look at that young man who just gave his life to Christ.” Now worship takes on new meaning and enthusiasm! 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Again, you see the priority of the gospel.

Illustration: I used to work in an automotive plant back in Georgia. Sometimes people would quit work an hour before they were supposed to quit. Then the supervisor made it a point to come by about 15 minutes before quitting time. It wasn’t good.

As I said in the beginning, “the believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel.” We are immortal in Christ. Let’s live like it! 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?

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