It is so wonderful to be back home! We had an amazing trip to Israel, but are so glad to be back with all of you. Thank you so much for your prayers and for following along with us on social media. We are so thankful to know that our church family was praying for us during our trip!
It is always so amazing to walk around these different locations, knowing that you are standing on sites mentioned in Scripture! It’s like watching the stories of the Bible come to life before your very eyes! This weekend, we will hear from some of the team members that just returned. They will share about what this trip meant to them, how it changed their perspective of the Bible, and how it helped them to grow in the faith. The title of the message this weekend is “WALKING IN THE STEPS.”
This message will deepen your faith and change your perspective on God’s Word! Don’t miss it and invite your friends and family along, as well!
UPBRINGING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Yesterday, Ryan and Elizabeth had a mini-golf tournament at Adventure Island for all the students and their dads. We had a great time. I couldn’t help noticing how much kids took after their dads – active dads, active kids; quiet dads, quiet kids; competitive dads, competitive kids – not sure if the kids or the dads would admit to that. One thing was for sure, kids need their fathers.Our culture thinks that fathers are just an accessory (cell phone case, fancy purse, or limited-edition hat) but God has appointed fathers to be the primary influence in every child’s life. Today’s message titled “UBBRINGING” will help us see that.
1 Corinthians 4 15“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yetyou donothavemany fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.”
Question: Fathers, you are to be the Instructors, Models, and Protectors to your children. Have you lived up to and are you living up to the calling God gave you as a dad? Children, of all ages, have you been grateful for what your fathers have done for you? For some, this may be a tough message.Either you were not the father you were supposed to be or you broke your father’s heart. Ask God to forgive you and give you his grace. Are you saved? John 1:12“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
Context: In light of Father’s Day, today’s message is a little different than how I typically preach.I want to dwell on the father-son relationship between Paul and Timothy.In I Corinthians 4:17, Paul refers to Timothy as “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord.” If you’ve studied the Bible, you know that Timothy was not Paul’s biological son. In Acts 16Luke gives us some background on who Timothy was. Listen to verse 1 “Then he (Paul)came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, theson of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his fatherwasGreek.” Apparently, Timothy was the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek man. The way Luke phrases that statement, Timothy’s father never converted to Judaism. Intermarriage between Jewish people and Gentiles was not as problematic to the Rabbis as long as the Gentile person converted to Judaism. The requirements for conversion were still quite high. But, if there was no conversion, it was strictly prohibited. According to the Book of Jubilees (a Jewish writing from that period), “And if there is a man in Israel who wishes to give his daughter or his sister to any man who is from the seed of gentiles, let him surely die … because he has caused shame in Israel.”(Jub 30:7) You can imagine what kind of a life Timothy must have had. Probably, his mother’s side of people did not accept him because his father was Greek and his father’s side of people did not accept him because his mother was Jewish. Then, it was probably on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14)that Timothy’s grandmother and mother got saved, and even Timothy. Paul mentions them in 2 Timothy 1:5“when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” Paul doesn’t say a word about Timothy’s father which means he never got saved and maybe even cut off all relations with Timothy and his mother.
The gospel can be very costly. Accepting Jesus as our Savior and King may lead to a loss of relationship with family. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 10 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.38And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
Illustration: My own father lost his family when he became a Christian. Its mind blowing!
Let’s return to Acts 16 2“He (Timothy)was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he tookhimand circumcised him…” Scholars have long debated this action by Paul. He had fought hard against circumcision as a requirement for the Gentiles. He even refused to let Titus, who was also Greek, from having to be circumcised. He says it clearly in Galatians 5 2“Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing….6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” In fact, Paul was on a mission to take the news of the Jerusalem Council’s decision to the churches that circumcision was not necessary in order to be saved. Why then did he get Timothy circumcised? Listen to the rest of Acts 16:3 “And he tookhimand circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.” This was not about circumcision but about sonship. In a symbolic way, Paul was claiming Timothy as his son. Other than Luke, Paul had Timothy as his closest companion in ministry. Except for his letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus, he mentions Timothy in all his letters.
Illustration: Going back to my own dad, he was symbolically adopted by a missionary scholar by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander. He was a Hebrew and Greek scholar who translated the Bible into Marathi.
Application: Did God bring some godly men into your life? Are you such a father figure to someone who didn’t have one? Nicole’s dad was such a father figure in my life.
Paul filled this role of a father in Timothy’s life. We see this clearly in the 2 letters he wrote to him. 1 and 2 Timothy are referred to as the Pastoral letters. I like to call them the Parental letters. Let’s look at just a few of his statements to Timothy in his 2 letters to him. This should teach us how we need to fulfill our calling as a father or a father figure to the children God has biologically or spiritually given to us.
1. Confidence – 1 Timothy 1:18“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.”
2. Church – 1 Timothy 3:15“…I writeso that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
3. Self-respect – 1 Timothy 4 12“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
4. Communication – 1 Timothy 5 1“Do not rebuke an older man, but exhorthimas a father, younger men as brothers, 2older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.”
5. Flee Sin and Chase Righteousness – 1 Timothy 6 11“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…”
6. Relationship with Christ – 2 Timothy 2:1“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
7. Endurance – 2 Timothy 2 3“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of thislife, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.”
8. Focused – 2 Timothy 2 23But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25in humility correcting those who are in opposition…”
9. Avoid bad company – 2 Timothy 3 1“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”
10. Example – 2 Timothy 3 10“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out ofthemall the Lord delivered me. 12Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Here’s one more that tells us how protective Paul was over Timothy.
11. Protector –1 Corinthians 16:10“And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I alsodo. 11Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren.”
Invitation:Have you been the father you were called to be? Are you being the father God has called you to be? Have you been grateful to the father (biological or spiritual) that God placed in your life? Is God your Heavenly Father? Its only through Christ that he can be.
BACKSLIDING MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Do you have to stay on your kids to do something they don’t like to do like cleaning their room or doing the dishes or finishing their homework? With some kids you don’t have to but with most you do. What happens when you walk out of sight? They start goofing around. Then, when you return, they give you some lame excuse and start working again until you leave the room. They have to be held accountable. Typically, the work never gets done. So also, many Christians begin well in their Christian life but they don’t finish well. Just like kids, they get distracted and start goofing around. You need both accountability and personal responsibility to deal with a Backsliding Mind. That’s the title of our in this final message in our series on the Mind of Christ.
Philippians 1:27“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.”2:12“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Question: Twice Paul told the Philippians to continue in the faith even in his absence. Do you have people in your life who hold you accountable? Are you growing into the mind of Christ or are you backsliding? Are you saved?
Context:The past four months have been life-changing for me and also for many of you. This series on the “Mind of Christ” from Philippians 2:5-11has impacted so many people, many of whom have never set foot in this church building but they are listening and watching faithfully every week. We have people from all over the world who tune in every week on Facebook, YouTube, Livestream through the church website, sermon podcast, and 2 radio stations every Sunday morning. The reason for this impact is that these messages go to the very heart of the Christian life. They teach us the importance of having the mindset of Christ. The Christian life is much more than getting saved. It’s about becoming more and more like Christ. I want to encourage you to go back and listen to these messages in case you missed them and share them with others. By the way, we’re also planning on putting them in a book format to be available later this year.
Back to our message on the “Backsliding Mind.”As you know, Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this letter to the Philippian church. He wanted to visit them but he couldn’t. But, word was getting back to Paul, maybe through Timothy and Epaphroditus, that the Philippians were beginning to slip back into their old way of life. They were starting to regress in their faith. So, he wrote them a letter encouraging them to press forward. It’s a balance between accountability and personal responsibility. First, let’s look at the accountability:
Paul began by reminding them in Philippians 1:6that he is “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”In other words, he assured them that God is the Initiator, the Overseer, and the Perfecter of their Christian lives. They should trust God that he will complete what he began in their lives.
Then, he told them in verses 9-11 that he was praying that their “love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” In other words, Paul’s reminded the Philippians that his prayer was that they would finish with flying colors. For e.g. Elderly couple praying for me and Clearview. What a great encouragement!
Finally, Paul told the Philippians that there was a strong possibility that he would not make it out of the prison alive and he was perfectly fine with that. But, on second thoughts, it was far more important for him to stay alive. Why? Listen to Philippians 1 24“Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” In other words, going away to be with Christ would be amazing but staying alive will be more beneficial for the Philippians.
What a powerful model in accountability! All of us need a Paul in our lives. All of us need godly people who can speak biblical truths into our lives. All of us need Christlike men or women who would breath confidence in the work of Christ in our lives. I have people like that in my life. They check up on me and tell me that they are praying for me.
Let me flip that around: All of us can be a Paul to someone around us. You may think you don’t know enough of the Bible but there is some person around us who knows much less. Our task is to encourage them with biblical truth and hold them accountable.
Question: Who is your Paul? Get connected through Sunday School and Inner circle. Who is around you who needs a Paul? Call them. Check on them. Pray for them.
Now, there’s a shift from accountability to personal responsibility. Here’s the opening passage– Philippians 1:27“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…” The word for “conduct that is worthy” is “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the Greek word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Remember, the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were to conduct themselves according to Roman standards, even though they were outside their homeland. So also, Paul was telling the Philippians to act like believers even though they were in the world and he wasn’t around to keep them straight. In other words, he was saying, “You don’t need me to stand over you for you to behave as a Christian is supposed to behave.”What does that look like? Philippians 1:27“…that you stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
Paul repeats the same injunction again in Philippians2:12but with a new title – “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This passage has been debated a lot over the years. Is Paul talking about our individual salvation? Does it imply that we have a part to play in being saved? Of course not. Paul said it very clearly in Ephesians 2 8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.” In the context, working out our salvation is in the context of having the mindset of Christ. We are to be humble and obedient like our Savior and King in how we relate with each other. It’s about shifting from our false assumptions to taking on biblical truths, i.e. the Mind of Christ. Furthermore, this task should not be taken flippantly but with “fear and trembling.” Ultimately, we need to remember that God sees everything.
For e.g. Lady telling me that I need to fuss at her to keep her in church.
Question: Do you need people to stand over you for you to behave as a Christian is supposed to behave? Are you taking responsibility to shift from false assumptions to biblical truths? Do you have people to hold you accountable? Do you realize that God is watching over you? Has your fire gone out? Are you saved? Have you ever had the fire?
(Published in the Newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 29, 2018)
“The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey. . .’” (Deuteronomy 1:6-7a)
“So you remained in Kadesh many days. . .”(Deuteronomy 1:46)
“. . . and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward . . .’”(Deuteronomy 2:1-3)
Human beings are prone to getting stuck in a rut. Sometimes, it’s because we’re afraid of facing the challenges waiting ahead. Other times, it’s because we get comfortable in our misery. Either way, we fail to move forward in life and we miss out on the many blessings that God has for us. It’s easier to blame or feel self-pity than to accept responsibility for our inactions. We would rather complain and compare than confront our complacency.
This is nothing new. The people of Israel were stuck for 40 years in the wilderness. First, it was at Mount Sinai for eleven months. Here they encountered God, received the gift of the law, saw the holiness of God, and built the Tabernacle. This was not a waste of time. But, instead of moving forward with renewed faith, they decided to camp there indefinitely. God had to push them out. They made their way to Kadesh Barnea from where they could see the Promised Land. God helped them to organize themselves through Moses. They had seen enough wonders to know that God was with them. Again, instead of moving forward in faith, they refused God’s command to take the land. God condemned that generation to die in the wilderness over the next 38 years. Only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb survived because they believed God. As if all this was not enough warning to the next generation, they too decided to skirt Mount Seir for many days! God had to tell them what he had told their parents and grandparents 40 years earlier – “Enough going in circles! Move forward!”
Here are some questions to consider: Are you stuck? Are you wasting time going in circles? What is it that’s keeping you from moving forward? Would you rather skirt the mountain in your life than step out in faith? Do you blame others for your indecisions? Is crying and complaining easier than climbing and conquering? These are tough questions but unless you answer them honestly, there will be no progress in your life.
The place to begin is not by self-determination and self-will or even clarifying your goals or your strategy. Begin by clarifying who God is and whether you know him. Many times, our lack of movement is directly proportional to the size of our God. People who serve a big God attempt big things in life. But, it’s not enough to believe in a big God. You also have to know his heart for you. The only way to come to him is by first coming to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.(John 14:6). If you don’t know Jesus, receive him today as Savior and King. If you do know him, it’s time to get unstuck from the rut and move forward!
IN REMEMBRANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: How many of you would agree that smells can trigger a memory from the past? You’re at a hotel swimming pool and the smell of chlorine reminds you of playing in the pool as a kid. You smell apple pie and it takes you back to grandma’s house. Every fall when Nicole smells leaves burning, it takes her back to when she would help her dad in the yard as a little girl. For me, it’s the smell of leather that takes me back to when I would polish my dad’s shoes as a little boy. For each of these flashbacks to work, you have to be there in the past. In today’s message, we’re going to have a flashback to a meal 2000 years ago. I’m talking about the final meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before going to the cross! You’re thinking, how can I remember a meal from 2000 years ago when I wasn’t there! If you have received Christ as your Savior and King, you were there. Let the word jog your memory. Let the scriptures override your senses.
1 Corinthians 11 23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same mannerHealsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drinkit,in remembrance of Me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Question: Do you remember what happened 2000 years ago? Can you see Jesus passing the bread and the cup to you? Has there been a time in your life when you asked him to be your Savior and your King? Are you saved?
Context: If there’s one subject that Christians disagree over more than any other, it’s probably the Communion. It’s right up there with Baptism. Just think of the many names we have for it, just in English: Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, The Lord’s Table, The Eucharist, The Mass, The Sacrament of the Altar, The Blessed Sacrament, The Breaking of the Bread, The Bread and the Wine, and so on and on. One major reason for these disagreements is that through the centuries people have taken Paul’s words in I Corinthians 11out of its Jewish setting.This was not just any ordinary meal. It was a Passover Meal. Even though John tells us in his gospel that the Passover was the next day, I believe that Jesus knew that he was going to die on that Friday as God’s Passover Lamb and so he chose to celebrate Passover on Thursday evening with his disciples. We mistakenly think that all the lambs had to be butchered at the temple. By the time of Jesus, there were so many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the Passover that it was impossible to do that. So, people slaughtered their own Paschal lambs.
When we examine this meal carefully, it has all the markings of the Passover Meal.In verse 25 it says,“In the same manner He also took the cup after supper. . .” What is the cup after supper? There were 4 cups at the Passover Meal: 1. The first cup was poured as the Father recited his blessing over the wine and over the day. 2. The second cup was poured and the son asked questions about the special food of the meal. 3. The third cup was poured after the supper as the Father recited grace after the meal. 4 The fourth cup was poured and the Father recited the Hallel and the blessing over the song. Guess which cup is being referred to in I Corinthians 11:25? The third cup. This was the Cup of Blessing, which Jesus recast as the Cup of the New Covenant in his blood. Can you imagine how this must have puzzled the disciples?
By the way, let me say very quickly – Jesus did not drink the final fourth cup with them. Listen toMatthew 26 29“ ‘But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’ 30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Why did he not drink the 4thcup?Two reasons: First, he still had to shed his blood as the Passover Lamb; Second, he wanted all of us to join him around the table in his Father’s Kingdom.
Application:Are you looking forward to that banquet table? Many of us grew up in homes and families where people did not get along. You wish you could have one of those Norman Rockwell family get togethers with everyone around the dinner table. People in your family are at odds with each other over things that happened 30 years ago or 3 days ago. There is coming a day when all disagreements will be put aside and it will be the banquet of eternity! Will you be there? Only if you know Christ as your Savior.
There’s something more. Go back to verse 23“. . . the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you. . .” This bread was the unleavened Passover Bread. It commemorated the night of the Passover in Egypt when God told them not to waste any time to let the dough rise. Deuteronomy 16:3refers to it as “the bread of affliction.”Jesus did not give the typically explanation of the meaning of the bread but he changed its representation to himself and told them to eat it saying in verse 24 “. . . do this in remembrance of Me.” Why did he do this? Jesus was pointing back to Exodus 12:14 “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.” The memorial was not just for the first generation but for all generations. The Mishnah (Oral Torah) tells us how they understood the word “memorial” – “In each and every generation a person must view himself as though he personally left Egypt. . .” By the way, the name of the Rabbi who said that was Gamaliel, the mentor of Paul.
When Jesus told them to eat the bread and the bread was him and drink the cup and it was his blood, he was telling his disciples that they were sharing with him in his substitutionary existence. This does not mean that they were going to suffer and physically die along with him for their sins. They were only spiritually connected with him as he was dying for them. But, in the process, they were also dying. Same thing with the cup. By drinking, they were also sharing with him in his substitutionary existence. This does not mean that their physical blood was going to be shed for their sins. They were only spiritual connected with him as he was dying for them. But, in the process, they were also dying and being buried.
How does this apply to us? When Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me,” he wasn’t talking to just the first disciples. He was also speaking to us in every generation. Just like the Jewish Passover, where every person was to view himself/herself as if he/she personally left Egypt, when we partake of the Communion, we are to see ourselves sitting in the room 2000 years ago on the night before Jesus went to the cross. Listen to I Corinthians 10 16“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17For we, thoughmany, are one breadandone body; for we all partake of that one bread.”All this is to be done by faith.
Closing: There is no other religion like Christianity where the founder is connected beyond time to every person who has received him and every person who has received him is connected to each other. Baptism also does the same thing but it’s our individual identification with Christ and Communion is our corporate identification with Christ. Do you know Christ as your Savior and King? Are you connected with him right now?
KINGDOM HERE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction:Since I’m preaching on the kingdom of God, I went looking for some king jokes and this is what I found. Caution: They’re really bad – When is a stick like a King? When it’s a ruler; What’s the diagnosis when a King has back problems? An aKING back; Why did the King put a bank machine in his castle? So, he could make Knightly deposits; Why did the King go to the dentist? To get his teeth crowned; What does the King do after he burps? He issues a royal pardon. Those are really bad! This morning we will see how the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus and that is not a laughing matter. In fact, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. It’s a false gospel. We’re in our new series on the true gospel and what it means. As we read our scripture today, pay careful attention to a certain phrase that’s being repeated.
Matthew 4:23“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”
Matthew 9:35“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”
Matthew 24:14“And thisgospel of the kingdomwill be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Mark 1 14“…Jesus came to Galilee, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, andthe kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
Question: Did you catch the common phrase? “Gospel of the Kingdom.” For some reason we have dropped “of the kingdom” and retained only the “gospel.” As I mentioned earlier, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. Jesus is not just your Savior, he should also be your king. Is he your king? Does he call the shots in your life? Are you saved?
Context: A few weeks back, when we were in our series on discipleship, I preached a message on the importance of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus. I shared with you that more than a hundred times he mentioned it during his ministry. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king.Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. Unless we get this “kingdom” idea back into the gospel, discipleship will never happen. It will always be optional to obey God and follow him. So, 3 things that we need to understand about this kingdom gospel:
I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A SPIRITUAL AND INTERNAL CHANGE.
Background: As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish people were very familiar with the concept of the kingdom of God/heaven. It was God’s sovereign rule over the whole world. They saw it as indirect and limited at the present time but they believed that one day in the future it would be direct and eternal. It will put an end to all wickedness and bring glory, justice, and righteousness to his people Israel. But, when Jesus began his ministry, he preached – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) This was very confusing and frustrating for them because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting and there was no physical evidence of the rule of God. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when this kingdom would come, he replied in Luke 17 20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have it as “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, it’s aready here. What did he mean by that? Several things: One, he was referring to himself. The kingdom is where the king is and he the king is here. Second, he was telling them that this kingdom is not external but internal. They couldn’t see it but it was here. To explain this, Jesus often used parables – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13). His purpose in using parables was to conceal the meaning from those who opposed him and to reveal the meaning to those who believed in him. Bottom Line: The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.
Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It is not external and visible but internal and invisible which then manifests in the external and visible. Has there been an internal and invisible change in your life that now manifests itself in the external and visible?
II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS SUBMISSION TO KING JESUS.
Background:Unlike our gospels today, Jesus’s gospel demanded submission to him and his words as the requirement to enter into his kingdom:
Matthew 21:31“Assuredly, I say to you (chief priests and elders) that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Trusting in self-righteousness will not work.
Mark 9:47“if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Reluctance to let go of sin will not work.
Mark 10:25“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Trusting in earthly treasures will not work.
Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Giving lip service will not work.
Luke 9:62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hesitation to follow Jesus the King will not work.
Luke 18:17“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Stubbornness to obey Jesus the King will not work.
John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unwillingness to let God remake us will not work.
Don’t misunderstand:This does not mean that you have to be spotless before you can come to Jesus. If that were possible, you wouldn’t have to come to Jesus. What it does mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the king demands of you when you come to him. It may take years for you to be free from certain sins and struggles but the willingness is there from day one. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who helps you to become willing.
Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It demands total and complete surrender. Have you done that? You might say – “that’s so hard!” Here’s a question: “Are you willing to be made willing to surrender?”
III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF RESTORATION.
Background:Sometimes Christians find it confusing that Jesus talked so much about the kingdom in the gospels but the apostles writing the rest of the New Testament do not talk about the kingdom. Actually, they did but they used other terms and language.
Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyoneisin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Galatians 6:15“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”
2 Peter 3:13“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a newearthin which righteousness dwells.”
Revelation 21 1“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Here’s the point: The Kingdom Gospel is a life-long journey of being set free from the bondage and damage of sin and restored to the glorious and gracious rule of God. The more you and I understand that, the more we submit to him, the more we become disciples, not less.
Are you willing to surrender to King Jesus? Are you willing to re-surrender to King Jesus?
DOUBTFUL FAITH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Have you ever heard the statement, “I have to see it to believe it.” Parents of teenagers – “He cleaned up his room! I have to see it to believe it.” Employees – “We’re getting a day off! I have to see it to believe it.” Church folks – “The pastor ended on time! I have to see it to believe.” It actually comes from the Bible where one of Jesus’ disciples was reluctant to believe that Jesus was alive. He said, “I have to see it to believe it.” There are a lot of people who live with that mantra. They consider themselves sophisticated, scientific, and rational. Today’s message titled “DOUBTFUL FAITH” will help us with this problem, even in the Christian life. Here’s the premise – “Faith is not the absence of doubts. Doubts, apprehensions, and skepticisms are normal and even good. Faith is overcoming doubts based on the evidence already received and moving forward knowing that more evidence will follow.”
John 20 26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.”
Question: Do you have trouble believing that someone who died 2000 years ago on a cross has the power to change your life today? Get ready! God is about to open your eyes to the truth. Christian – do you struggle with doubts? I do. Let the Holy Spirit through God’s Word teach you to walk by faith and not by sight.
Background: Listen again to verse 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.” That was not a complement but a reprimand. Why did Jesus reprimand Thomas? Because eight days earlier Thomas had a very different reaction when the disciples told him that Jesus had just visited them. 25“…he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Why would Thomas say something like that?
I. THE REALITY OF DOUBT
Let’s look at it from Thomas’ perspective– Three days prior on Friday Jesus was unjustly accused and brutally nailed to the cross. The disciples watched helplessly as their Master breathed his last breath in physical pain and emotional agony. All they could do was betray, deny, and desert him. Then he was taken down from the cross and placed into a tomb. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, put him in a new tomb that he probably had hewn for himself and Nicodemus, another rich man, brought 100 pounds of spices and wrapped Jesus’ body in it with linen strips. The spices were meant to control the odor and help the decomposition process. All this is to say that Jesus was really dead. It was really all over. He was a wonderful man who spoke wonderful words and did wonderful things but now he was a dead man lying in some grave in the Judean hillside. He was not coming back to life. Plus, three days had passed. If anything was going to happen, it would have happened by now.
Can you imagine the range of emotions that Thomas and the other disciples were feeling?Shock, Trauma, Sadness, Grief, Anger, Fear, Disappointment, Confusion, Questions, Blame (Self and Other), What ifs, Back to the old life, Looking for a new normal, etc. But just then, on the third day, reports start circulating that people had seen him – “He’s alive!”A group of women went by the grave this morning and saw him, Mary Magdalene even talked to him, Peter saw him, two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and Jesus walked with them and explained the scriptures to them. Then that same evening Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples who were hiding in a house in Jerusalem. He even showed them his nail pierced hands and his spear pierced side. Guess what Thomas! We’ve seen Jesus! His response – “I have to see it to believe it!” That was his natural reaction. That would be my reaction.
Listen carefully – Doubts are natural. They’re not sins. It’s our natural response to extraordinary events. Don’t be ashamed of them. I have doubts too. Os Guinness, famous author and Senior Fellow at the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, once said, “The shame is not that people have doubts but that they are ashamed of them.” Why do people have doubts?Many reasons – your personality (skeptical), your experiences (disappointments with God over pains, hurts, and unanswered prayers), exposed to other views (questions unanswered), afraid of commitment. If you struggle with doubts, don’t be ashamed. Seek out answers. Trust me when I say to both Christians and non-Christians – “There are answers to every doubt that you are facing.”
II. THE MERCY OF CHRIST
John 20 26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
This is such a comforting passage to me. Jesus did not abandon Thomas because he had doubts but he came and found him. Jesus was under no obligation to do that. This was only because of his mercy. He saw the spark of hope in Thomas’ heart and he was not going to let it extinguish. Matthew quotes Isaiah the prophet in 12:20“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” In other words, even though the hypocritical Pharisees were plotting against him, he was not going to quench out the hope of them being able to find life. If he would do that for those Pharisees, how much more towards us. The point is this – “If you are struggling with doubts, Christ will not abandon you. He will meet you where you are.” Just like a mother that picks up a child that falls while running away from her, so also Christ comes and picks us up.
III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF FAITH
Listen again to verse 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.” First, Jesus was talking about the generations who will come and not have the privilege of seeing Jesus physically walk on the earth, heal the sick, feed the hungry, preach the gospel, die on the cross, and raised from the grave. They will not have the privilege of being firsthand witnesses to Christ. They will have to take God’s Word for it, believe, and be saved. All of us fall in that category. Although that’s true, I believe that Jesus had something more in mind when he made that statement. He was talking specifically to Thomas. He was telling Thomas that he had lost out on the blessing of faith. There is a blessing that comes when you take God at his word and refuse to give in to doubts. There is a blessing that comes when you say, “I have enough proof to step out in faith. In time, God will give me more proof but I will not wait on more proof in order to step out in faith. Faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is affirming that if so far there is solid ground under my feet, God will keep the solid ground coming even if I can’t see it right now.”
Did Thomas have this solid ground to believe that Jesus rose from the grave without having seen him?John 14 1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it werenotso,I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.4And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”Thomas had every reason to believe without seeing.
Illustration: Unlike Charles Templeton, Billy Graham chose to believe God and his Word.
Invitation: You say I believe in this religion or that philosophy or nothing. Are you sure you’re standing on solid ground? Are you ready to take the step forward? What if there is bottomless pit waiting for you?Are you willing to place your doubts before the living God and take him at his word? This is to Christians as well as non-Christians. Just like a train moves forward and the light keeps shining, so alsoGod will guide you. Come to Christ and be saved. Pray like that father did whose son was tormented by an evil spirit. Jesus told him in Mark 9 23“If you can believe, all things arepossible to him who believes.” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
STEADFAST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: A little boy was trying to sell his horse at the county fair. The horse was no good except for eating oats. An old farmer came by. He could tell the horse was no good and he teased the boy saying, “Son, can that horse run fast?” The boy replied, “No sir, but he can sure stand fast.” In the message today, we’re going to learn how to stand fast or be steadfast as a Christian. But, more specifically we’re going to learn how to be steadfast along with other Christians. There’s a difference.
Philippians 1 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.”
Question: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Before your conduct can be worthy of the gospel of Christ, you have to receive the gospel of Christ. The word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good and “spell” means story or news. What’s the good news? “You and I are stuck in sin with God’s judgment of ultimate death waiting for us. But God sent his Son to take our sins upon himself and die in our place. All you and I have to do is ask him to be our Savior. He not only forgives us our sins but just as he came alive, we are also made spiritually alive in him.” Have you received this gospel?
Context: The passage we just read begins with the word “only” – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel.” It has a tone of warning in it. Think of this warning as a caution not a threat. So far Paul had nothing but good to say about the Philippians:
4 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now”The Philippians were a faithful church.
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.” The Philippians were an inspiring church.
7 “…you all are partakers with me of grace.” The Philippians were a gospel supporting church.
9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…” The Philippians were a loving church.
26that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ…” The Philippians were a worshipping church. I can go on.
But, here’s a caution – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Meaning: You have a lot of good but don’t neglect your conduct. To understand what Paul meant by conduct, we have to go the original Greek. He used a verb here that he did not use anywhere else in his letters. It is the verb “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Keep in mind that the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were still trying to live by their Roman standards. They would have understood very well what Paul was implying – “Just as you are Roman citizens living in Greece trying to maintain your Roman values, you are also Gospel citizens living in this world, don’t neglect to be a Gospelian.”
For e.g. When I became an American citizen, I had to take a test on American history. I read our foundational documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Those became the values by which I was going to live. So also, when you became a Christian, there are certain values that go with that citizenship.
What are those standards?27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ (live out your citizenship to the gospel), so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” Paul told them that he will check up on them, in person or through others, regarding their conduct. Then he lists 2 major ones, one positive and the other negative:
Positive –“that you stand fast…” We immediately think that this “standing fast” is my personal individual steadfastness. Not really. Here standing fast is “hoti stekete” which is a Roman military term that describes a unit forming a line together in the face of the enemy. “Come what may, stand fast. Don’t break rank.” “that you stand fast in one spirit…” People have debated if this is just the spirit of unity or is it the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is similar to what Paul said in I Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” and Ephesians 2:18 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” It’s the same Holy Spirit in me and you that creates a bond between us that is much greater than any superficial likes or dislikes. Few verses down in Philippians 2 1 Paul says, “Therefore if there is…any fellowship of the Spirit…2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” Paul continues in verse27 “…that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” “Striving together” is literally “striving side by side.” It is an athletic term that implies being of one soul. Paul was telling the Philippians to be “souls together for the gospel.” A mark of a Gospelian is that we strive for unity in the Holy Spirit and seek to be of one mind. If I may add, being a Gospelian is not an individual sport but a team sport.
Application: Do you understand how critical unity in the Holy Spirit and being of one mind is to the church family? There are 3 natural born killers of this unity – Lostness, Isolationism, and Divisiveness. Titus 3 10 “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” Bottom line: If individually we are not right, it will affect our unity.
Negative –28 “and not in any way terrified by your adversaries…” The word terrified here is the Greek word “pturomai,” which is again a verb that Paul does not use anywhere else. In Classical Greek it was used to describe a horse getting spooked in battle. It would get startled by loud noises or shrieks and it would bolt through the battlefield, stampeding anyone in his path. A mark of a Gospelian is not to spook or get spooked but stay calm and help each other stay calm and united in the Holy Spirit.Who are our adversaries who spook us? Anything or anyone who is opposed to the gospel. It may be people or policies. How should you respond other than stand fast? “which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” Remember that it proves that they are headed for destruction and you are saved by God.
Somethings more Paul said here – 29 “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Don’t misunderstand. This is not individual personal suffering. Although, that is also true. In this context, it is collective group suffering. Not only that but we are to look upon suffering just as we look upon salvation. It is a gracious gift of God. Ultimately, suffering, and, more specifically, collective suffering is proof that we belong to God. 30 “having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” Meaning: Even though we know this, it doesn’t make sense at times.
Be steadfast together in the Holy Spirit with one mind. Be steadfast together in the face of suffering, refusing to be intimidated. It is a mark of the greatest believers. Are you saved? Are you steadfast together?
GUARANTEED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Have you ever had to follow up on a guarantee only to find out that the Guarantor was no longer in business? This happened to me recently. On our date days, I usually end up at bookstores. Somehow my truck usually finds one! We went by a used bookstore where I had a discount card that also gave me points each time I used it. We pulled into the parking lot and there were no cars. The sign wasn’t lit up either. I knew something wasn’t right. So, I walked up to the door and there was a handwritten sign that said – “Thank you for your business. We’re out of business.” I almost cried! The discount card with the free points was now useless. Thank goodness that it was just a few free points towards some used books. But, imagine, if it was something much more important. Unlike that bookstore, God never goes out of business. He always stands behind his guarantees, especially when it comes to his work in our lives. That’s the title of our message, GUARANTEED, in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Philippians 1 3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 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;
Question: Has God begun a good work in you? In other words, are you saved? Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? If you have, can you see his work daily in your lives? Some believers may have more work in their lives than others. No work, no salvation.
Context: Last weekend we learned that Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was based upon Trust, Joy, and Hope. In today’s message, I want to focus on the last point of “Hope” a little bit. Paul had the hope, the solid assurance, based on his positive relationship with the Philippians, that God was working in their lives and that he would finish the work that he had started. Listen again to verse 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.” What is the good work that Paul is talking about? How does it apply in our lives today? The message is deep but those are the 2 main points:
I. WHAT IS THE GOOD WORK THAT PAUL IS TALKING ABOUT?
6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work…”
Background: The “good work” that Paul is referring to in this verse is God’s work of salvation, more specifically, God’s work of grace in the life of a believer. Paul tell us this in 1 Corinthians 1:4 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.”Don’t forget – Salvation is God’s good work of grace in the life of a person. It is God who initiates this work and it’s always by his grace and it’s always good. Some people think that if I get saved, it’ll be bad. I’ll lose friends, fun, and freedom. It’s just the opposite. You gain so much more.
Application: Has God’s good work of grace happened in your life? Have you experienced what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”? Have you received God’s gift of salvation?
Something else here – Paul refers to 2 days when it comes to someone’s salvation: The First Day and the Day of Jesus Christ. Listen again to verse5 “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day…” What is this “first day?” It’s the day that you and I get saved.
Application: You need this first day. What if you can’t remember? Are you not saved then? No. Just pick today as the day.
The second day is the Day of Jesus Christ. Listen again to verse 6 “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. This second day was very important to Paul. He mentions it again in Philippians 1:10 “…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” Philippians 2:16 “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ…” This second day is the day when Christ will return for us. For a Christian, those are the only 2 days that truly matter. We think that it’s our birthday and our death day but not so for a believer. Here’s the point that Paul is making – Between the First Day (Born Again Day) and the Day of Jesus Christ (Jesus Returning for us Day), God will complete what he has begun in our life. In other words, our salvation is ultimately God’s responsibility. The Guarantor of my salvation is not me. The Guarantor of your salvation is not you. The Guarantor of our salvations is God himself. Salvation from start to finish is God’s work and he never leaves a job half-done. He will finish what he has started.
Some people object to this. Some will say – Yes, God is responsible for your salvation but you are responsible too. They will quote passages like Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” When people bring up that verse, I remind them to keep reading –13 “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” In other words, working out your salvation is understanding what God is doing in your life which should lead you to fear, which is humility, and trembling, which is obedience. Let me give you couple of more references to help you understand how God is working in you “both to will and to do for his good pleasure” – Romans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” 2 Thessalonians 2 13 “…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
There are some other objections as well. What if the Enemy tries to steal you away?2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” What if the temptation is too much?I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”Romans 8 37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What about passages likeI Corinthians 8:11 and Romans 14:15 which talks about a weak brother perishing or being destroyed. The context here implies “self-condemnation,” “defilement,” and “wounding of the conscience” not hell or loss of salvation. How about in Galatians? Galatians 5 2 “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing…4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Paul is frustrated with the Galatians because they were going back to the law, to circumcision. He’s telling them that if they do that, it’s a waste. He does say something very harsh and it’s exactly as it sounds. He tells them that if they go back to the law (self-effort), they’ll be lost. What do we do with this? Again, you have to look at the context. Go to Galatians 5:10 “I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind…” Paul is giving them an “impossible possibility.” Like a parent telling a child – “If you do that, you are no child of mine.” Let’s say the child does that anyways. Does that mean that he is no longer a child? Even if the parent disowns, it is not possible. By DNA, it cannot be done. What about1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” This is about the end of times. I Timothy 2:12 “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him”? This is again a warning about the end of times. Overall, the abandonment will be by those who never heard the true gospel.
II. HOW DOES IT APPLY TO US TODAY?
Grow in the Spirit – Think about the Galatians. Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
Free to Serve – No need for unnecessary sorrow or self-condemnation. (Imagine if you had to fight for a nation while trying to prove your citizenship. How tiresome!)
Hope for self and others. Less judgmental on self and others.
COLD LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Years ago there was a cartoon of an old farmer and his wife riding down the road in a pickup truck. The first frame showed the old farmer sitting behind the wheel with his arm out the window and the wife sitting up against the door on the other side. The second frame showed a young couple passing them. They were sitting so close to each other that you couldn’t tell which one was driving. In the third frame the old woman says to her husband, “Pa, you remember when we used to ride like that…What happened to us?” In the last frame the old farmer replies, “Ma, I ain’t moved…” It’s the same thing when it comes to our relationship with God. If you find that your love for him has grown cold, guess who moved? Not him. This is our first message in our series on the Book of Malachi. It’s called “Cold Love.”
Malachi 1 1 The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord.
Question: “Oh what a weeriness!” Some translations say, “Oh, what a burden!” It has the idea of exhaustion behind it. The people had become tired of serving God. For reasons we will see this morning, they had become sick of God. Does that describe you today? Has the Christian life become a burden for you? Have the things of God become a drag for you? If so, then you need a revival, you need a countershock. As someone said, “before you can be revived, you have to be vived, you have to be saved.” Are you saved?
Context: The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It belongs in a collection known as the Twelve Prophets or the “Minor Prophets.” They’re called “minor” not because they’re less important but because compared to the bigger writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel they were much smaller. But even though Malachi is small in size, it has a big message. To really understand that, we have to understand the context in which it was written. From my study of the language and theology of the book, I believe that it was written sometime towards the end of Nehemiah’s ministry. For those of you who may not be familiar, here’s a quick timeline:
In 538 BC God raised Cyrus, King of Persia, to free the Jewish people. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had taken the people into exile and had destroyed everything. Under Cyrus they were able to return and rebuild.
Some returned and by 515 BC (23 years later) the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt. God sent his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the people to rebuild the temple.
In 458 BC (60 years later) God sent Ezra the scribe to come and read his law to the people and call them to spiritual, moral, and social renewal.
In 445 BC (10 years later) God burdened Nehemiah to leave his high-profile position in Persia and rally the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem and they did it in 52 days! He also led them in revival. But then Nehemiah had to go back to Persia and spiritually and morally things began to go downhill again.
This is the time period in which God sent Malachi the prophet to his people. It was God who had brought them back into the land. It was God who had helped them rebuilt their lives. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the temple. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem. You would think that the people would be grateful to God and willing to serve him and obey him. Instead, they were becoming ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards him. Why? They were angry with God over why he had allowed them to go into exile in the first place. Why did so many have to die? Why did so many have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be turned upside down? They had forgotten that it was their sin that had brought the judgment of God. Now they were doubting the power of God, the love of God, and even the existence of God. As a result, some had turned towards atheism, others towards Epicureanism, and yet others had become reluctant believers. In other words, they were simply going through the motions but inside they were defiant towards God.
Illustration: Like the little boy whose daddy made him sit. He sat down with his arms crossed and said, “Fine. I’m sitting on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside.”
Application: Is that you? Have you become cynical and sarcastic towards God because of some bad situations? Are you simply going through the motions? Do you come to church but it’s a duty rather than a desire? Are you angry with God?
So God spoke to his people through Malachi– 1 “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” Some translations have it as “the oracle of the word of the Lord.” I believe that burden is a better translation because the word “massa” in this context has a sense of heaviness. The words that God is about to say to his people are heavy. Every message I preach I ask God to give me a burden for the people, a sense of urgency.
Now listen to the dialogue between God and his people. It’s in a “charge” versus “counter-charge” format – “God Speaks, Israel Speaks”2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. The word for love is “ahab” which has the idea of a sovereign, unconditional, and personal love. It represents covenant love. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” You have to read that with a tone of sarcasm and scoff.They were doubting the character of God. “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” What was God saying? Jacob and Esau were brothers. God in his divine sovereignty had chosen Jacob and his descendants to fulfill his plan of redemption in the world. There was nothing that special about Jacob. It was totally divine election. What God was saying to them is “Don’t you remember that I chose you to be my people? Don’t you remember that I am the reason for your existence?”
Application: Have you forgotten where God has brought you from? Have you forgotten that everything you have is a gift from God? We don’t go back to Jacob but to Jesus.
By the way, why did God say “but Esau I have hated”? The descendants of Esau were the Edomites. They were cousins but they hated the descendants of Jacob, the people of Israel. In fact, when Babylon came up against Jerusalem, the Edomites helped them to destroy the city. God says, “I have — 3 “…laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.” And if they try to rebuild, God said, “I will tear down faster than they can build. ‘They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness.’”In other words, God was saying “I will deal with them for what they’ve done to you.” By the way, sometime in the fifth century a group of Arab tribes drove the Edomites out of their homeland. By around 312 BC the Nabateans took over the region and made Petra their capital city. Nicole and I went there 3 years ago. It’s beautiful but a wasteland to this day.
6 “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts…” They were defying the honor of God. By the way, the reverence of God is not “organ music and lofty prayers.”It’s uncompromised obedience to him. Who were leading the charge here? To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, “In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ The priests and the Levites had no fear of God themselves. When the people would bring defiled food (the leftovers) and rejected stuff to the altar, the show-bread table and the altar of burnt offering, they would not stop them. They would say, “Yeah, it’ll work.” 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. 9 “But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. What a powerful analogy! People still try to offer God their leftover money, time, and talent. We are so prone to give what hurts the least. God says, “If you’re going to give me something, it should cost you something.” Why? It should be a sacrifice. It cost God something when he gave his Son on the cross.
Application: Have you lost the fear of God? Have you lost the reverence of God? Are you still trying to offer God your leftover money, time, and talent?
10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the Lord of hosts. 12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. They were openly disgruntled in worship.“And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord. Weariness is when you go from “I get to” to “I’ve got to” – “I’ve GOT to go to church” “I’ve GOT to teach S.S.” “I’ve GOT to sing.” “We’ve GOT to tithe.” Listen carefully: If you’ve lost the joy of the Christian life, you might as well stop the work of the Christian life. There’s nothing more dull, dry, boring, and tedious than Christian work without the joy of the Christian life.”
14 “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the Lord of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.
How to know your love has become cold? Doubt the character of God, defy the honor of God, and openly disgruntled in worship. Are you saved?