Refining Fire by Pastor Abidan Shah

REFINING FIRE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Refining Fire

Introduction:  One night a chemical plant outside the city limits caught on fire. The alarm went out to fire departments for miles around. Here came all the big fire trucks from the city and started fighting the fire but it was no good. After about an hour the president of the company went to the fire chief and said, “We have some secret formulas in a vault in the center of the plant. I’ll give $50,000 to the engine company that brings them out safely.” The chief told his men – “C’mon, we need that money!” They strengthened their attack but two hours later it was still no good. The president raised it to $100,000. Just then they heard a long siren and a fire truck coming towards them. It was from the volunteer fire department out in the country. The truck looked like it should’ve been in a museum 50 years ago! The guys were bunch of retirees in their sixties and seventies. To everyone’s shock they drove right into the flames of the chemical plant. From the distance the other fire fighters with their shiny big trucks and all the public watched in amazement as those old guys hopped off their rig and began to fight the fire with intensity. In about half an hour, the blaze was out and the vault was safe! The president was so impressed that he raised the reward to $200,000! He walked over to thank them – “Wow! That’s Old School right there! What’re y’all going to do with the reward money?” The fire truck driver replied – “Old School? Phoo…The first thing we’re going to do is fix the brakes on that truck!” In this message we’re going to talk about a different kind of fire, not a destroying fire but a refining fire.

Malachi 2:17 “You have wearied the Lord with your words; Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,’ or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ 3   1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap.”

Question: Are you in God’s refining fire? Are you going through a tough time physically, mentally, financially, relationally, spiritually? Could it be that God is using that fire to refine you, to purify you? Are you saved?

Context: The book of Malachi has a fascinating literary style. Scholars have given it different names: judicial speech pattern, disputation speech, dialectical style. Bottom line: It reads like a courtroom drama where the people of Israel are on trial for falsely accusing God of being unfaithful to them, not coming through for them. What they didn’t realize was that God was their judge, their prosecuting attorney, their witness, and their executioner. So, welcome to God’s court. Let’s listen in on the trial – Malachi 2:17 “You have wearied the Lord with your words…” The people of Israel were bringing their leftover, rejected sacrifices to God and murmuring under their breath. What were they saying? “…Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,’ or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ Why were they talking like that? Bad things had happened in their lives and they were comparing themselves to their ungodly neighbors and saying, “Look at them. They don’t go to church but they don’t get sick with cancer. They don’t give their hard money in tithe but they seem to buy a new car and a new boat. They didn’t raise their children in church but they seem to be doing just fine. There’s no benefit to following God. Looks like bad people have a better life than we do. God must love them more. He’s not just. He’s not fair.” They were calling God’s character into question.

Listen carefully: I’ve been there. Let me warn you – If you look at life only through your natural eyes, you’ll talk like that too. If you compare yourself to your neighbors only by earthly standards, you’ll also become bitter towards God. In fact, Satan’s greatest temptation against believers is that “God is holding out on the best for you” or “God is not giving you what you deserve but I will.” He did that with Adam and Eve – “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He even tried that with Jesus – “If you fall before me, I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world.” He was implying that his father won’t!

Application: Are you comparing yourself to someone? Have you allowed bitterness to come into your life? Are you going through the motions but inside you have become angry towards God? You need to humble yourself, repent, and seek God’s forgiveness.

How did God answer their false accusation? 3   1 “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. What an unusual answer! Before we try to understand what all that means, let’s identify the different personalities mentioned in that verse:

  1. “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Who is the “I” and the “Me” here? This is God the Father. He is the one saying all this.
  2. “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Who is this “Messenger” who will prepare the way before God? Malachi gives his identity in 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Does that mean Elijah the prophet will come back from the dead? Not really. It means a person like Elijah the prophet will prepare the way before God when he comes. (We’ll come back to this in a second.)
  3. “…And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. Who is this “Lord” and this “Messenger of the covenant?” They are one and the same. The Hebrew word for Lord is “ha adon” which is God. The word messenger is “malech” which is also “angel.” This “angel of the covenant” is none other than the “angel of the Lord” who led Israel out of Egypt, went before them as they crossed the Red Sea, led them through the wilderness, and filled the temple with his glory. He is the pre-incarnate Christ. In other words, the Lord who will suddenly come into his temple and the Angel of the covenant are none other than Jesus. What is this covenant? It’s the same covenant that God made to save the world. He made it with Eve, with Shem, with Abraham, with Moses, with David, and on to the renewed covenant in Jeremiah. Hebrews 12:24 says “Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” What will he do? 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? Meaning: They thought God would come to fulfill all their desires and wants. Instead, when he comes, it will be unbearable. He will come in judgment.

Let’s put all this back together. The people of Israel were murmuring because God was nowhere to be found. God said, “I hear you and I’m coming but I’m sending my Son Jesus, the same one who made the old covenant with you. This is how you’ll know that he is the One – there will be a messenger who will clear his way first and then he will come without warning into his temple. And don’t think for a moment that this will be all fun and games. You won’t be able to stand it.” 2000 years ago John the Baptist came crying in the wilderness. Was he Elijah? In a sense, he was. If you remember, the angel told Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist in Luke 1:17 “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah…” by which he meant that the same spirit and power that energized Elijah in the Old Testament will also energize John the Baptist. Jesus also said in Matthew 11:14 “if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come,” meaning in spirit and power John the Baptist was like Elijah. What did John preach? Matthew 3   11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Some of y’all are thinking “But Jesus didn’t do that.” Read the gospels carefully and you will see how many times he pronounced judgment on the religious leaders – Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Then he called the temple a “den of thieves.” Then he cursed the fig tree as a representative of his people. Listen to him in John 9:39 “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

Listen carefully: The mistake we make is in thinking that all Jesus came to do was to be our Savior. Don’t forget that he also came as our Judge. Ever since then he has been doing both in our lives and he will complete his task with the people of Israel at his Ultimate Coming. If you want to know what his work now looks like, try to understand what it will be like at his Ultimate Coming – 2 “…For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.” Growing up I remember ever so often my parents would take me along to the goldsmith and silversmith shops. There was an entire row of these shops. It was always fascinating for me to watch them as a kid. Nowadays it’s all sophisticated but back then they used to sit on the ground in front of this small portable furnace. They would place the silver into this pan and hold it over the fire. After a few moments, the silver would turn into molten state. As the ore melted, the dross (impurity) would rise to the top. The silversmith would then take a small scalpel like instrument and remove the impurity and stoke the fire even more. Some more impurities would rise to the surface and he would keep scraping them off. Occasionally, he would sit up and look into the pan. What was he looking for? Silver in its purest form turns into liquid mirror. When he could see his face reflected in the pan, the silver was ready. Same way with us, God allows trials to come into our lives. Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, loss of health, financial troubles, family problems. What is God doing? He is turning up the heat. If he let him, he is removing the dross from our lives. How does he know when we’re ready? When he can see the face of his Son Jesus reflected in us. Is Jesus your Savior?

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 4)

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

How to behave this Christmas seasonYou know Christmas is here when: it takes you an hour to drive somewhere that normally takes 15 minutes; you can’t find a parking place at the mall; and people who are normally congenial snap at you. This series is to help us have the right attitude, not just during the Christmas season but also in every season of life.

Romans 12:9-13  9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;  11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;  13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Overall Background:  So far we have seen three messages in this series – 1. “How to Have Love Without Hypocrisy.” 2. “How to Hate Evil and Cling to Good.” 3. “How to Outdo Each Other in Showing Honor.” This morning we come to verse 11 and 12not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;” On the one hand, that verse seems like quite simple. But, pause and study it carefully and you will see that it is a message we desperately need to hear in America today. The title of this message is How to Stay Ablaze for God. Christianity in America is suffering:

–       Not because the gospel is weak (it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes),

–       Not because people are more sinful (people are just as sinful today as they were in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah),

–       Not because we don’t have the knowledge (we know more today than we ever did before),

–       Not because we don’t have the resources (never before has the church had all the literature, technology, and knowhow at its disposal),

–       Not because we don’t have the man power (we have more Christians today than any other time in history),

–       Not because we don’t have the time (there are still 24 hours in a day),

–       Not because we are more persecuted than before (study the early church that had to face the lions)

We try to pass the blame on this, that, and the other. The real problem in America is that most Christians have become anemic, lifeless, and weak. What is needed is the spirit of a Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla, men and women on fire for God.

This morning if the spiritual temperature of our nation troubles you, stop looking to Washington or Hollywood and start looking in the mirror. Are you ablaze for God?

The passage breaks down into three parts:

I. BE ON FIRE FOR GOD.

11 not lagging in diligence, A better translation of that would be “in zeal, do not be lazy.”

Christianity in America is suffering because we have lost the zeal, the fire, the passion, the urgency, the energy, the boldness, and the forthrightness that moved the world for God in previous generations.

Anytime you say that, immediately we think of someone who is pushy and obnoxious, trying to cram the gospel down our throat. No one wants that. That does more harm than good for the kingdom of God. People run when they see you coming. What we are talking about is “being in a spirit of revival.” It’s not that we have the gospel but the gospel has us. We are driven by our convictions regarding the lostness of every human being, the eternal judgment that is waiting in the end, the salvation through Jesus Christ being the only hope for them. The church is not a cruise liner. It is a rescue ship.

For e.g. Many years ago, when I first began in the ministry, I actually prayed to God for convictions. I had seen too many pastors and church people having a good time on a cruise liner while all around them there were people drowning in the water. It didn’t happen overnight but little by little God began to remove the complacency of my heart and replace it with His convictions.

Guess who was instrumental in this? The Holy Spirit. Listen to the next phrase – fervent in spirit, Again a better translation would be “boiling by the Spirit.” In other words, Ask the Holy Spirit to set you on fire. Our zeal for the gospel is not some self-induced passion but the Holy Spirit Himself sets us on fire. What you and I try to light ourselves on fire we fizzle out but when the Holy Spirit lights us up we begin to burn with an incredible unquenchable zeal.

That phrase “boiling by the Spirit” was used of Apollos in Acts 18:25 “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.”

Meaning: Set on fire by the Holy Spirit does not mean that you have all the answers and you have arrived. All is means is that moment and time you are completely under the authority and direction of the Holy Spirit

Any heart that is willing can have the Holy Spirit. He will empower whoever will honor Him.

Application: Many of us are on fire by the wrong spirit.

Now here comes another phrase that is critical for being on fire for God – serving the Lord. My paraphrase would be “with Jesus as Our Master.”

The purpose of the Holy Spirit is never to glorify Himself or you. His purpose is to glorify Jesus. Jesus Himself said in John 16:13-14  13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

Now we begin to walk, talk, think, and behave as Jesus. Now when we meet people, they see Jesus in us. There is no place for sin and self.

Robert Murray McCheyne, “Above all things, cultivate your own spirit. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear and your heart full of God’s Spirit is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin.”

Application: Are you on fire for God? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Are you living every moment to magnify Jesus Christ?

II. BE HOPEFUL AND PATIENT

12 rejoicing in hope,

What is HOPE? There are 2 ways people use the word hope: One, I sure hope it works out. Meaning = I don’t think it will get better; Second, Hope is on its way. Meaning = Don’t give up. There is help coming. It is the expectation of something better to come.

The Holy Spirit is the harbinger of hope. Listen to Romans 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Again, Romans 15:13  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Show me a person who is hopeless and I will show you a person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Anytime I hear I don’t think it’s going to work or I’m afraid it’s not going to work and I see a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit. The problem with our nation and our community is hopelessness. You can talk about hope and you can make hope your campaign slogan but if there is no genuine hope, nothing will happen.

Now someone might say, but you don’t realize how bad it is. Listen to the very next line – patient in tribulation. First the word tribulation refers to pressure to the point of breaking. Why are we surprised? Jesus said in John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation…”

How are we to face tribulation? Be patient. It is not some passive putting up with things but actively standing and enduring.

Someone might say “that’s hard to do.” Listen again to John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Application: Are you rejoicing in hope? Are you patient in the midst of trouble?

III. BE IN CONSTANT PRAYER

continuing steadfastly in prayer; Literally – busy yourself in prayer

Most of us busy ourselves in worry, in doubt, and in complaining.

Our prayer is our communication with the home base.

Stop praying and one by one like dominoes it will all crash. First to go is patience in trouble, next to go is joy, because there is no hope. Then, you are no longer following Jesus, no longer filled with the Spirit, and now you are simply existing with passion and zeal.

E.M. Bounds “Short devotions deplete spiritual vigor, arrest spiritual progress, sap spiritual foundations, blight the root and bloom of spiritual life. They are the prolific source of backsliding, the sure indication of a superficial piety; they deceive, blight, rot the seed, and impoverish the soil.”

In other words, your spiritual life, for practical purposes is dead. You can put up the tree, hang the wreaths, buy the gifts, sing Christmas carols but it doesn’t do anything for you or anybody else.

Application: Did this message describe you? Are you ablaze for God? Or, are you burned out for God?

John Wesley “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.”

Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING (article)

KEEPING YOUR SPIRITUAL FIRE BURNING, Pastor Shah, Henderson

(Article in the Local Newspaper – The Daily Dispatch, Henderson, July 20, 2013)

Keeping your Spiritual Fire BurningOne of the saddest sights for me is to see a Christian person or a church or a ministry that began in a fire but now living in a smoke. William Booth (Founder of the Salvation Army) once said to a group of new officers, “I want you young men always to bear in mind that it is the nature of a fire to go out; you must keep it stirred and fed and the ashes removed.”

The Book of Nehemiah is a great example of how the fire went out in the life of the Jewish people. You may remember the story – Nehemiah came to help them rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. It was a monumental task. They had to face opposition from the local rulers – Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. Nonetheless, they looked towards God, worked round the clock and completed the project in only 52 days! It was clear testimony to the hand of God upon their lives. The people were full of joy and faith. They stood for hours and read the Bible and confessed their sins before God. They made a covenant with God never to turn from Him. It was a real revival!

But, by the time we get to the final chapter of the book, we see a completely different picture. Everything that Nehemiah had worked for in twelve years had fallen apart. In fact, if I were writing the Book of Nehemiah, I would have left out chapter 13. Such is not the case with the Bible. It is the Word of God and it never tries to air brush the character flaws of its heroes. How did this spiritual decline happen? It began when Nehemiah had to leave Jerusalem and go to Persia for a year. While he was gone, the old enemy Tobiah saw his opportunity to sneak back in. The priest had allowed Tobiah to set up office inside the holy temple. Keep in mind – this was the same Tobiah who had who mocked the Jewish people and tried to discourage them. Now that he was allowed in, he was doing everything possible to sabotage the work. No wonder the temple was in disarray; no wonder the people were not giving and assembling; no wonder the spiritual fire had burned out.

How did Nehemiah react to all this? In his words, it grieved me bitterly.” (Neh. 13:8) All his hard work had gone to waste. He was outraged. It didn’t take him long to recognize the root of the problem. He immediately threw Tobiah’s belongings out of the temple and had it cleansed. Next, he brought back the articles of the house of God along with the grain offering and the frankincense. He chastised the rulers for neglecting the house of God and failing to pay the Levites. He challenged the people to start giving their tithes and offerings to the Lord. He did not mince words in confronting the people about their failure to assemble and intermingling with the pagans.

What is the lesson in all this for us? It is very easy to slip back to the same old in the Christian life. The place to begin is to recognize where we have allowed some Tobiah to creep back into our lives. Remember – this Tobiah can be a person, a habit, an attitude, or some sin. They may appear to be spiritual and friendly but they are the devil in disguise. Unless you deal with them harshly, your spiritual fire will continue to die. The next step is to restore your first love. Bring back your worship, your giving, and your allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, “You are doing a lot of good things. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

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