Defining Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEFINING GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Defining Gospel

Introduction:  Let’s say if you came out of church today and went to your car and someone came to you, someone you’ve never seen, and said, “I’ve got some good news. Your windshield looks perfect now!” how would you respond? Confused, suspicious, and even upset. Now what if this same man were to say to you, “When I pulled into the church parking lot this morning, I saw that your windshield was shattered. While you were in church, a limb fell from the tree and destroyed it. I repair glass for a living and I happened to have all my tools with me and even the exact size of your windshield. I went ahead and fixed everything and there’s no charge.” How would you feel now? Grateful! What made the good news good? The bad news. Here’s the bad news – We were stuck in sin, waiting for the wrath of God to fall on us. Here’s the good news – God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins but he rose again. When we believe in him, not only are our sins forgiven but we also have eternal life! That is the basic Content of the gospel, the good news. Today we will go a step further and try to understand the Activity of the Gospel (how the Gospel moves) in our message through Philippians titled “DEFINING GOSPEL.”

Philippians 1    5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…7… inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel12…the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. 17…knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel

Question:  What makes the good news good is the bad news. Once again, the bad news is that you are dead in trespasses and sins. The good news is that Jesus came to set you free. Have you received the good news, the gospel?

Background:  Last weekend we learned that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” or “good spell” which means “good news.” Today I want to introduce to you the Greek word behind the word gospel/good news. It’s “euangelion.” It is found a couple hundred times in the New Testament in various forms and 84 times just in Paul’s letters. It was a central concept in his theology. Sometimes he used it to refer to the Content of the good news and other times to describe the Activity of the good news. There is a difference between the two. Content is what the gospel means. Activity is how the gospel moves. If you want to see Paul’s description of the Content of the gospel, turn to 1 Corinthians 15    1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved…3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (Paul is not the manufacturer of the gospel) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (There’s the bad news) 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (There’s the good news) 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren…” (There’s the proof of the good news and it hasn’t changed!).

Illustration: Last week thousands came by the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and then the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC to pay their last respects to Billy Graham. I cannot help but think about how in 1938 when he was just 20 years old, his girlfriend at the time dumped him saying, “I just don’t see any real purpose in your life yet.” I think she was wrong! He definitely had a purpose and it was to preach the unchanging gospel. He once said, “The message I preach hasn’t changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn’t changed.

Now that’s the Content of the Gospel (in a nutshell). But, there’s also the Activity of the Gospel (how the gospel moves). We see this Activity in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Here Paul used that word “euangelion” 9 times. By the way, all of them are regarding the Activity of the Gospel. It’s as if the Philippians knew very well what Paul meant when he used the word “gospel.” He didn’t have to explain it to them. They were a gospel church.

Application: As a pastor, I hope we’re like the Philippians. We are not a contemporary church or traditional church, white church or black church, big church or small church. We are a gospel church. It is a central part of our theology and identity.

4 things we learn about the Activity of the Gospel in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

  1. The Gospel is a powerful, living force

Philippians 1    3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” The Gospel here is not something passive but active, something powerful on its own. Paul didn’t create it nor did he activate it. He was called to join in. The Philippians joined in as well. The message of good news has been powerfully moving since the beginning of time. We can be oblivious to it, go against it, or we can receive it and join in. I received a letter this week from Franklin Graham which I’m sure also came to tens of thousands of people. He said something very powerful in it – “Many have said that his (Billy Graham) death ends an era, but he would be the first to say that when God’s ambassadors die in Christ, the Lord raises up others, because the preaching of the Gospel will go forward until the end of the age.”

  1. The Gospel is not easily received

Philippians 1:7 “because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” Even though the gospel is a powerful living force, it is often misunderstood and corrupted. Paul had to defend and confirm the gospel throughout his ministry. He had to defend the gospel from the legalists and then confirm it through the apostles. Although it doesn’t say it in this passage, the reason is that Satan is always trying to pervert and corrupt it.

Application: The Gospel is in the Bible but it’s not the Bible. It’s not the 10 commandments or the Beatitudes or the Golden Rule. It’s not going to Church, getting baptized, and feeling sorry for all the bad you’ve ever done. It’s not trying to be a better person, better husband, better wife, better neighbor, better citizen, better worker, and giving your time/money to help others. It’s not trying to give all your problems to God and trusting Him and praying to Him to help you. It’s not believing in God, Angels, and Satan. The gospel is believing that Jesus, the Son of God, came as promised and died for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. As the pastor, it is my primary responsibility to defend and confirm this constantly.

  1. The Gospel steadily moves forward

Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” Rulers and religious authorities, governments and groups have all tried to stop the gospel and to shut it down. It has grown evermore and it will continue. What we may think is the end of the road will only turn out to be a bend in the road for the gospel. Case in point: Paul himself. When do you think he first heard the gospel? Not on the road to Damascus. I believe it was when he stood there guarding the clothes of those who were stoning Stephen. As Stephen lay dying, Paul began to come alive. Wow!

  1. The Gospel demands a certain lifestyle

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, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries.” I preached on this last week. The Gospel lifestyle is not for contentious and cowardly people. Those are the 2 no-nos’ when it comes to the gospel. The gospel requires partnership and fearlessness. There’s a higher focus.

Illustration: One of my friends posted this – “Late one rainy night, Christian author and youth worker Mike Yaconelli was driving through Nashville. He saw someone sitting on some steps with his head between his knees, and a coat pulled over his head to keep out the rain and wind. Thinking he was homeless, Mike said, “Hey, mister, you don’t have to sit here in the rain like this. We’ve got enough money to put you up in a hotel. Come on with us. We’ll provide what you need for a good night’s sleep.” The man looked up. It was Billy Graham. “It’s okay,” Graham said. “I just want to sit here for a while and pray for this city.” He had a crusade coming soon and wanted to prepare his heart.”

Invitation: The True Gospel has not changed in the past 2000 years. If you say—

  • I need to be a better person– wrong gospel
  • I need to turn everything overto God – wrong gospel
  • I need to read the Bible and prayevery day – wrong gospel
  • I need to give up all my bad habits– wrong gospel

The gospel is Jesus is God’s son who died for your sins as promised in the Bible. He was buried but rose again as promised. If you believe in him, you can have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

If you have received the Content of the gospel, it’s time to join the Activity of the gospel. It’s time to join the Powerful, Living Force of God that is steadily moving forward changing lives.

Perspective by Pastor Abidan Shah

PERSPECTIVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

PerspectiveIntroduction:  Growing up our kids loved watching Disney’s “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” There are 2 characters in that story who are polar opposites: Eeyore the donkey and Tigger the tiger. Eeyore is always pessimistic, gloomy, and glass half-empty kind of character and Tigger is always optimistic, bouncy, and glass half-full kind of character. When you meet Eeyore, he says things like “If it is a good morning, which I doubt” or “Thanks for noticing me.” But, when you meet Tigger, he says things like “Hello! I’m Tigger!” or “Tiggers never get lost!” They have two very different perspectives on the problems in life. I’m sure there are some Eeyores and Tiggers in this room or at least we know some! When we as Christians talk about perspective in the Christian life, we’re talking about something much more than being a spiritual Tigger. That’s our message today titled PERSPECTIVE in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1    12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Question: Paul refers to being in chains. He is using that word as a figure of speech known as synecdoche which implies that he was in prison. Why was Paul in prison? For preaching the gospel. How did he deal with that? Instead of seeing it as a setback, an obstacle, or as abandonment by God, He saw it as an opportunity to further share the gospel. It’s his perspective on life, problems, and God’s sovereign will that helped him to do that. We all have certain chains in life. How do you see your chains in life? Do you see them as setbacks, obstacles, abandonment by God, or as opportunities to keep sharing the gospel? What is your perspective? Are you saved?

Context:  Listen once again to verse 12. Paul says “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me…” Which things was Paul referring to? As I just mentioned to you, Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians. Now, don’t immediately assume that he was in some dark dungeonous prison with rats, filth, and feet in stocks. The fact that he was able to write this letter tells us that more than likely he was in a house arrest type situation awaiting trial. When Paul talked about “the things which happened” to him, I believe that, he had more than just his house arrest in mind. In Romans 15 Paul had shared with the Roman church his ultimate plans with the gospel 28 “Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.” Paul had great plans towards the end of his life to take the gospel further out west into Europe. He had big hopes to take the gospel to the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. When Paul was put under house arrest, his great plans had sort of failed. If you read Acts 25, it appears that now he was at the mercy of a corrupt court system. No doubt, he must have been disappointed, discouraged, and even disillusioned.

Application: In life, we have many plans, some very good, noble, and even godly plans, but they don’t always work out. “Things happen.” What is comforting to me is that even someone like Paul who walked very close to God had “things happen to him.” Here’s my encouragement: Don’t interpret your failed plans as some hidden sin or as an abandonment by God. Trust him and his sovereign plan even more.

Listen to how Paul handled his failed plans? 12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel…’’ In other words, what Paul thought was the end of the road had actually turned out to be just a bend in the road for the gospel. How is that? 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” In order to truly appreciate this, you need to have some basic understanding of the Roman army. The Romans developed the most effective army ever known in history. At the bottom level was the contubernium, a unit of 8 men. Ten contubernia made one century, that’s 80 men. Six centuries made one cohort, that’s 480 men. Ten cohorts made one legion, that’s 4800. Later in the first century, the first cohort got expanded to twelve centuries, that’s 960 men, making a legion about 5,280 fighting men. Keep in mind that there would be 120 horsemen in a legion and slaves for transportation, doing menial labor, and guarding the camp. I don’t want to get into all those details but you can imagine how vast this enterprise was. Altogether, Emperor Augustus had about 25 legions. The commander of the legion was a senator in his 20s or 30s who was previously a magistrate and had to be appointed by the Emperor.

Where do the palace guards fit in? They were the “praetorian,” the emperor’s personal troops and bodyguards. They were the best of the best. They had to be from Italy. They had significantly higher status than the normal legionaries and had much higher pay and got a lot of special bonuses. They were the ones who made and unmade Emperors. Augustus had 3 cohorts of 480 each around him, that’s about 1500 of the most elite fighting men, and about 6 more cohorts in nearby towns. Out of these elites, there was a higher elite group known as the speculatores Augusti who were on horseback, clearing the way before the emperor when he went through the streets. According to some sources, there was a camp at the northeastern edge of Rome with as many as 9000 praetorians. By the way, they only served for 16 years. What then? They took on high level positions in the legions. Listen again to verse 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” Paul is now witnessing to the top brass in the Roman army who have the ability and power to influence so many thousands more! Wow! God works in mysterious ways!

Application: If a believer looks at life only from an earthly, selfish, and fleshy perspective, he or she will get depressed. But, if you look at the things that have happened to you or happening to you from a heavenly, selfless, and spiritual perspective, you will realize that the Holy Spirit has set you up perfectly to further the gospel! The Gospel is the true perspective changer for the believer. This does not mean that you need to just settle for whatever people hand to you. Work to improve your situation but don’t lose sight of why God has allowed you to get to where you are at the moment.

Now that’s just from inside the prison. How about on the outside? 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” What’s going on now? Word is getting out of how God is using Paul to share the gospel with the elite troops and bodyguards of the Emperor. So, now other believers feeling emboldened by Paul’s position, start sharing the gospel with courage. Billy Graham once said “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”

For e.g. Nicole and I just watched the movie “Darkest Hour.” Typically, I don’t use movies as sermon illustrations but this one was different. It’s about Winston Churchill and the Nazi invasion of Western Europe. In the face of fear, doubt, skepticism by even his own party, Churchill boldly said, “We shall never surrender!” Thank goodness he did! If not, the world map would be a very different today.

Just when you think that Paul is a glass half-full kind of guy, listen to verse 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What’s going on? In an agonistic culture where people used every opportunity to self-promote and advance their position in society, some were using Paul’s imprisonment as an opportunity to further their position in church and society! How crazy! Guess what? It happens even today as people compete in ministry. What’s Paul’s response? 18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” You have to be close to Jesus to be able to do that!

Now Paul lists 2 things that he needs in a time like this – 19 “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.Also, the deliverance is not just about coming out of prison, as Paul says in verse 20 “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” What an awesome perspective!

Why did Paul say all this to the Philippians? Was it just to reassure them that he was okay? Was it just a cathartic experience, trying to let it all out? Paul was encouraging the Philippians to imitate him as they faced similar trials. He was reminding them to change their perspective regarding their circumstances. He was teaching them how to see life through the gospel lens.

Invitation: How do you see your job loss, your health problem, your relationship struggle, your financial difficulty? Can you see it through the gospel lens? It is not about glass half-empty vs glass half full. It is about taking the gospel and offering it to some dying thirsting sinner in your path. Are you saved?

Partners by Pastor Abidan Shah

PARTNERS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Partners

Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay, did a Twitter survey couple of years ago on “Silly Things Church Members Fight Over.” Here are just a couple – “Arguments over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard,” “Church dispute over whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women’s restroom,” A fight over which picture of Jesus to put in the foyer,” “A disagreement over using the term ‘potluck’ instead of ‘potblessing.’” Today we will learn from the Apostle Paul how to be partners not fighters in the ministry, more specifically how to pray for those who partner with you in sharing the gospel with the world. That’s the title of our message today, PARTNERS, in our series called GRATEFUL on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

 

Philippians 1    7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.

Question: The Philippians were partakers with Paul of grace. It means they were partners with him in sharing the gospel. Are you partnering with others in sharing the gospel? Are you joining hands with this church to win the lost world? Before you can be a participant, you have to be a recipient. Have you ever received the gospel? Are you saved?

Context: Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was one of trust, joy, and hope. Last weekend we learned that Paul had the hope, the solid confidence, that what God had begun on the first day in the lives of the Philippians, he would complete it on the day of the Jesus Christ. How could Paul be so sure of this? In our last message titled “GUARANTEED,” we examined verse 6 and Paul’s other letters and we learned that this is a very important biblical doctrine that Paul explains and defends repeatedly. Salvation from start to finish is God’s responsibility and he always finishes what he starts. He never leaves a job half done. Yes, we may stumble and yes, we can fail but our salvation is God’s good work of grace in our lives. We can trust him that he will see us to the finish line. This is not a license to sin but an exhortation to walk in the spirit, to grow in grace, to serve in freedom, to be less judgmental of self and others, to walk blameless, and to be more grateful to God for what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do in us.

But there’s another reason why Paul was so sure of this. He tells us in verse 7 “just as it is right for me to think this of you all…” In other words, Paul is saying, “Don’t think that I am just giving you some cold lifeless doctrine. Don’t think that this is just some superficial cordial remarks. Don’t think that this is just some cheap pep talk. What I’m telling you is the honest truth.” How do we know that Paul? 7 “…because I have you in my heart…” When you read Paul’s letters, it is very important that you also read the emotional undertones and overtones. The reason is so intent and fixated on convincing the Philippians that God will finish what he has started in their lives he loves them deeply and cares for them. In other words, because he loved them from his heart, he was reminding them of God’s best for them from his heart. It’s like a loving parent telling their child in the face of a difficult challenge: “You got this. Don’t worry. I believe in you.”

Listen carefully: When you truly love somebody, it reflects in the way you speak to them. When you truly care for someone and want the best for them, you don’t just talk from your head. You also talk from your heart. With everybody else, you may only talk with your head. But with those who are really close to your heart, your heart reaches up and joins your head. In turn, your speech, tone, demeanor, and countenance become much more real, sincere, and heartfelt. You truly want them to understand God’s best for them. This is the ideal towards which every church family should strive. This is my desire and vision as the pastor for Clearview Church. Because we love each other from the heart, we care for each other and what we say and how we say comes not just from the head but also from the heart. You can tell when someone genuinely cares for you and when someone is just talking. You can tell when someone truly loves you and wants the best for you and when someone just tolerates you and could care less. How do you relate with each other in this church? Do you really care for each other? Can they tell?

There is a reason why the Philippians were in Paul’s heart so much. 7 “…inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” The reason Paul and the Philippians could have this connection is because they were partakers of grace, they were partners in the gospel. Remember, grace is a synonym for the gospel. This partnership was not some superficial, on paper relationship. They were battle buddies with him. In the army, they have battle buddies. They’ve learned that it reduces suicide and sexual assaults. It raises morale, decreases stress, improves safety, and promotes cooperation and communication. In the same way, the Philippians were battle buddies with Paul when he was in prison and they were with him when he had to defend the gospel, not just against those on the outside but also sometimes those in the inside.

Listen carefully: When a church’s bond is based on skin tone or standard of living or family origins, it will be superficial and unstable. But base it on the gospel, it takes on an eternal bond. Our motto at Clearview is “Making Christ Visible” and our goal is “to lead all people into a life-changing, ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Paul’s love for the Philippians continues to overflow – 8 “For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.” I don’t have time to dwell on this long. The word for “affection” is “splanchna,” which mean the organs like heart, liver, and longs. If you notice carefully, these are not Paul’s organs but Christ’s. Someone once said, “It is not Paul who lives in Paul, but Jesus Christ, which is why Paul is not moved by the organs of Paul but by the organs of Christ.” (Johann Albrecht Bengel)

Listen to verse 9 “And this I pray…” Earlier in verse 4 Paul had said, “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.” Paul picks up that thought and tells the Philippians – “Let me tell you why it is a joy to pray for you.” Listen carefully to his prayer. By the way, there is a pattern to Paul’s prayer for his partners in the gospel. When you compare the prayer for the Philippians with that in Colossians, they are point by point similar. This should become our prayer for each other at Clearview and for those who are partners with us in the gospel and for those close to our hearts (husbands, wives, children, friends, family, etc.) 9 “And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more…”

  1. Love – For God, for each other, for those in the ministry, for those who are lost.

“…in knowledge.”

  1. Knowledge – Knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the spirit, and the list is endless. “Knowledge is the way of love.” – Moises Silva

“…and all discernment…”

  1. Discernment – No “sloppy agape” (as someone once said) here. This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations.

10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent…”

  1. Choose what matters – Understand how to go from good to better to best.

“…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”

  1. Pure and Blameless – Stay away from sin and temptation. The higher the level, the higher the devil.

11 “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ…”

  1. Fruit of Righteousness – Righteous conduct, fruit of the spirit

“…to the glory and praise of God.”

  1. Glory and Praise of God – Ultimately, God should get the glory and praise.

Listen carefully: When you truly understand the detail and depth of Paul’s prayer, the more you will understand how much Paul was a man of prayer and how much his life and ministry depended and moved under the power of prayer. Prayer is not just ritual, some perfunctory gesture, and some cliché. It is our rudder in life. It is our wind. It is water beneath the ship. It is our journey. It is our destination. It’s not enough to say “I’m praying for you.” It’s not enough to be praying for someone. If you truly believe in the power of prayer, you also need to learn “how to pray,” especially for those who are partners with you in the gospel.”

Are you a partner in the gospel? Are you praying as you should for your partners? Are you saved?

Impact by Pastor Abidan Shah

IMPACT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Impact

Introduction:  Have you been to restaurants where the food may be great or not so great but the service is wonderful and friendly? What emotions come to your mind when you think about that place? You want to go back. You even recommend it to friends and family. Now, how about restaurants where the service is horrible and unfriendly? What emotions come to your mind when you think about that place? You don’t want to go back. So also with churches, they can make a positive impact on you or a negative impact on you. Today we will see how the Philippian church made a very positive impact on Paul and this is the kind of church Clearview needs to be. The message is titled “IMPACT” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1     1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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: Paul says in verse 3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” In other words, every time Paul thought of the Philippians, his heart was filled with gratefulness. What emotions come upon people when they think of you? What impact have you made on the lives of those around you? A major reason for the positive impact was that the Philippians were saved. Paul calls them “saints in Christ Jesus.” Are you “in” Christ Jesus? Are you saved?

Context: Unlike the Galatians and the Corinthians, the Philippians had made a very positive impact on Paul and his ministry. His heart was filled with joy when he thought of them. As he says, “every time I think of you, I thank God for you.” What a beautiful complement! In a few minutes, we will be celebrating the Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and the opening verses of Philippians are perfect to help us examine our hearts, individually and collectively. Are we Christians who make a positive impact on others? Are we a church that makes a positive impact on others? There are 3 things that stand out in the opening words of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. First is TRUST. Let’s begin in Philippians 1:1 “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ…” Typically Paul would have referred to himself as an “apostle” of Jesus Christ, as he does in Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians. He would do that to remind his readers of his authority. Let me give some examples – Galatians 1   1 “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)…6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel…3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” We find a similar tone in his letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 1   1 “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God…4:15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 2 Corinthians 10:10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” In other words, they were saying that Paul is ugly and he can’t preach!” But not with the Philippians. He knows that they respect him already. Paul trusts them and he doesn’t pull rank on them.

Listen also to how he addresses the Philippians – “…to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons…” First, he addresses them as being “in Christ.” It means that they are united with Christ in his death, resurrection, and their new life. He especially acknowledges the bishops and the deacons, the episkopos and the diakonos. Who are these two groups? The episkopos are the same as the presbuteros or the elders. They are the ones who oversee the work of the ministry, give it spiritual leadership, and serve as pastors, depending on the size of the church. The diakonos are the servants who serve by taking care of the needs of the congregation and any other need that might arise in doing the ministry. These are the 2 positions we have at Clearview. Then he says – 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The two words he focusses on are “grace” and “peace.” Grace is what you need to get saved. Peace is what happens when you get saved. Romans 3   23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

Application: Are you like the Galatians and the Corinthians or like the Philippians? Are you a trustworthy person? Are you full of grace and peace?

The second thing that stands out in Paul’s opening words is JOY. Listen to verse 3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” When Paul wrote these words, he was sitting in a prison in Rome with Timothy his co-laborer, his student, and his son in the ministry. How do we know that? Philippians 1:7 “…both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” 14 “most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” More than likely Paul was under house arrest in Rome since Acts 28 tells us that he was able to send letters and receive friends. But don’t misunderstand, this was every bit serious as he remarks in Philippians 1:20 “…as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Meaning: Paul knew that there was a strong possibility that he will not come out of this prison alive. In the midst of fear, doubts, anger, stress, frustrations, disappointments, when his mind turned to the Philippians, a smile came over his face. Charles Spurgeon once said, “I know several Christian people with whom I would sooner sit in heaven throughout all eternity than sit ten minutes with them on a sofa here below—distance—in their case, might add enhancement to the view.” 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy. The words for joy are found over 50 times in Paul’s writings. In fact, he lists it as one of the fruit of the Spirit. Why does he have this feeling of joy? 5 “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul remembers how they cooperated with him and helped him from the very beginning.

Application: Do you bring joy in the minds of others? Are you fellowshipping in the gospel at Clearview? Are you here to win others to Christ?

So far we have seen TRUST and JOY. Here comes the third thing – HOPE.

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.” We will look at this verse again but next week but what a complement! The word for confident is “pepoithos.” It is the perfect participle of “peitho.” He uses it several times in this letter. Philippians 1:25 “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” 2:24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. Just the thought of the Philippians inspired hope in Paul as well.

Application: Are you a person that others can look at with hope? Are you a person who inspires hope in others?

What kind of an impact are you making? Are you in Christ? Are you saved?

Transformed by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRANSFORMED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Transformed

Introduction:  Have you seen people transformed at the snap of a finger? Back in the day when people still answered home phones, you’d be having a horrible day yelling at the kids, and then the phone would ring. What did you do? In the nicest voice possible – “Hello!” There was a transformation but it was temporary and fake. There’s another transformation that comes when a person comes to know Christ as their Savior. It is permanent and real. That’s the title of today’s message: TRANSFORMED. 3 different individuals were transformed in Acts 16 through the power of the gospel.

Acts 16   13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Question: The Lord opened Lydia’s heart and she heard the gospel and was transformed. Has the Lord ever opened your heart? Have you ever heard the gospel? Have you ever been transformed? On a different note, Paul was faithful in sharing the gospel with Lydia. Are you faithful in sharing the gospel with others in your life?

Context: After receiving the Macedonian call at Troas, Paul and his missionary team (Silas, Timothy, and Luke) concluded that God had called them to Greece and they set sail. Listen to Acts 16   11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis…” Keep in mind: The distance from Troas to Neapolis was over 150 miles. The island of Samothrace was the perfect halfway point. Neapolis, which is modern day Kavalla (Nicole and I have been there), was the port city for Philippi, which was 10 miles inland. Why am I mentioning all this? All these details again prove the historicity and accuracy of the Bible. Let’s keep reading: 12 “and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony…” I don’t have time to go into all the details as to why Luke calls it a “foremost city” but here are just a few facts about Philippi – First, it was a very important and prosperous city in the Roman Empire. One reason was because it was a Roman colony inhabited by Roman veterans. You can imagine the sense of pride among the citizens. The Via Egnatia, a major Roman Road connecting the Adriatic Sea with Byzantium, was the major east-west road through the city. Philippi was no Athens or Rome but visitors would be amazed by the large Roman agora, the temple, the library, the Commercial agora, the palaestra (Greek wrestling school), the theater, the 42-seat toilet with running water, the Roman baths, the acropolis, and the many shrines to the various gods and goddesses. Listen carefully: When Paul got the call to the region of Macedonia, he could have chosen a less prominent, less intimidating, and a little safer place to begin but he didn’t. He chose Philippi because it was different than the cities back home in Asia and it was time for the gospel to step out of the familiar and the safe.

Application: God is doing some amazing things at Clearview. He is taking us into regions that we have never been before. It is intimidating. It is unnerving. But, let’s not be afraid of stepping out of the familiar and the safe. Are you ready for what God has for us?

Now we are going to see 3 very different transformations of 3 very different people by the same gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by Paul:

1st TRANSFORMATION – 12 “…And we were staying in that city for some days.” Paul must have tried to make inroads into this new culture and social environment and maybe he hit some brick walls but he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t pack up and head home. Instead, he changes his strategy. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made…” Back in the east, Paul would begin by going to the synagogue but there’s no synagogue in Philippi. Paul hears about some people praying and practicing Jewish customs outside the city by the Zygaktis River or the Krenides River. Why by the river? Water was necessary for purification. “…and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.” If Paul had stayed in the city, he would’ve never met these women. He stepped out in search and God sent these women. What happens? 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. Don’t you find this ironic! Paul had a vision of a Man from Macedonia asking him to come and help them. Instead, he finds a Woman from Thyatira! “Seller of purple” meant that she was a business woman who sold those famous dyes from Thyatira which came from the root of the local madder plant. “…The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Application: Let me give you a less than impressive principle: “If you go looking for lost souls, you will find them.” The reason many of us don’t have any lost souls is because we are not looking for them. Our Mission at Clearview is to lead all people into a life changing ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” That’s why we keep finding them! Let me add, don’t be alarmed when God sends a “Woman from Thyatira” instead of a “Man from Macedonia.”

2nd TRANSFORMATION – 16 “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.” This slave girl was much like those oracles of Delphi who told the future through ecstatic utterances. There was no truth in these prophecies since Luke does not use the Greek term “propheteuw” but “manteuomai,” which is pagan and false prophecy. But there’s something darker here. Luke says that she had literally, “numa puthonos.” Our translators say “a spirit of divination” but it’s really the “spirit of the python.” It is based on the myth of Apollo defeating the giant serpent “Python” and then this name was given to Apollo’s priestesses at Delphi. The Romans would’ve enjoyed this display of Greek culture and history and must have paid good money to her owners but think about it – she was someone’s daughter or sister or grandchild who was in the clutches of the Devil and was being destroyed from within.

Listen carefully: Don’t open the door of your home, your family to evil Satanic things. You may say, “It doesn’t bother me.” My answer: “Who says the devil is going for you.”

17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” This seems odd that the Devil will go around broadcasting the gospel. Don’t misunderstand. This has nothing to do with the gospel. This was only to distract and gain publicity for himself. 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her…” Why didn’t Paul deal with her the very first time? Maybe he didn’t want to draw attention yet. Maybe he didn’t want the girl to get hurt. “…And he came out that very hour.” Don’t miss this: There was no long drawn out discussion and process of deliverance. The name of Jesus through a man of God set the girl free.

Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not she accepted Christ as her Savior. I hope she did. But there was definitely a transformation that came into her life. The name of Jesus sets people free.

3rd TRANSFORMATION – Let me quickly summarize: The masters of that girl were angry because Paul had messed up their business. They accused them of being Jewish troublemakers and had them beaten with rods and thrown into the prison. Now comes that familiar incident – Acts 16    25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. Someone said “that’s the original jailhouse rock!” 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

You never know what God is doing in someone’s life. He is preparing them to meet you so they can meet Christ.

For e.g. Young man whom Dr. Shelander met on the train who was on his way to commit suicide.

Have you been transformed? Are you helping someone else to be transformed?

The Joy-Producer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE JOY-PRODUCER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

The Joy Producer

Introduction: When you talk to some Christians, it seems that to be a good Christian you have to be miserable. In fact, the more miserable you are, the godlier you must be or so they think. It reminds me of a group of Christians who were gathered on a Friday evening prayer meeting when one lady prayed, “Dear God, please bless us your people. We’re in here trying to serve you while the world is out there having a wonderful time.” In other words, to be a good Christian you cannot have wonderful times, only miserable times. This is completely contrary to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus came to bring joy and in this message we will learn that he is the great JOY PRODUCER.

John 2   1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Question: We will look at this passage in detail in a few minutes but for now the question we need to answer is this – “Is your Christian life more resembling of a funeral service or a wedding service?” Are you full of misery or are you full of joy? The coming of Jesus in any life brings joy. Has Jesus come into your life? Are you saved?

Clarification: Before we begin this message, let me clarify one thing. Typically this passage is invoked either in support of or against drinking alcohol. For example, some people say, “Jesus turned water into wine so it’s okay to drink, as long as you don’t get drunk.” Then people on the other side say, “Jesus would never endorse alcohol. He only turned water into unfermented grape juice (which is not true).” Listen carefully: No matter where you stand on this topic, this passage is neither for nor against drinking alcohol. It has a much deeper meaning, which we will learn in this message.

Let’s Begin: Instead of starting in verse 1, we need to drop down to verse 11 “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” The key word there is “signs.” It comes from the Greek word “semeion.” John the apostle/writer of the gospel used this word for Jesus’ miracles. Now, Matthew, Mark, and Luke also used that word but not for Jesus’ miracles. They used it in a negative tone when the scribes and the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus and he refused. To the contrary, John the apostle concluded his gospel in these words – John 20   30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” When John used the word “signs,” he had more than “miracles” in mind. He used the word “signs” the way the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), used that word to prove the power of God and his work on behalf of his people. For example: After the flood, God said in Genesis 9:13 “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” After God brought his people out of slavery, they sang in Deuteronomy 26:8 “So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.” In Isaiah 7:14, it was prophesied, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” When John used the word “signs,” he meant those incidents that proved that Jesus was/is God and he was the one who was to come. In other words, signs were more than miracles by Jesus to help people (the other gospels); they were proof of who he was/is and why he came.

So what was the sign behind the miracle of the wedding at Cana? As we just read, Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Back in those days, Jewish weddings were a time of great joy and celebration! Unlike the Roman weddings, which were not ostentatious and extravagant, Jewish weddings symbolized the greatest joy! They normally lasted a whole week! By the way, by the end of this year, I will do 7 weddings in total! They are a lot of fun and excitement but they’re also a lot of work, as some of you know very well. Imagine a whole week of celebrations! If you were wealthy back then, you’d invite the whole village. Think about all the food and drinks you had to prepare! According to one ancient Jewish source, if you invited someone to a wedding and didn’t show proper hospitality, you are no better than a thief! Guess what! At this wedding, the drinks ran out! How embarrassing! So Jesus’ mother mentioned it to him and listen to his reply – 4 “…Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” What Jesus was saying is – “Do you really think that I left my heavenly throne and came down to fix drinks? I’ve come for something much greater.” What was Mary’s response? 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” It seems like she didn’t get it but that’s not true. Remember, after his birth and the visit to the temple at the age of 12, twice it says in Luke 2 that Mary “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She knew that Jesus was much more than her son. Somehow Mary knew that Jesus would use this as a sign. By the way, this was not his first miracle but the first sign that he performed. That’s why I didn’t begin this series with it.

Listen to verse 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. That’s about 150 gallons of water! To get an idea of how much that is, imagine a fish tank, 6 feet long, two feet tall, and two feet wide. That’s a lot of water! What is it for? For ceremonial hand washing and ritual cleansing of the vessels. During the time of Jesus, these rituals were at an all time high. Even John the Baptist’s disciples got into arguments with the Jewish people over purification (John 3:25). Listen to what Jesus did7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” Think about it, Jesus could have easily told them to fill the wine jars with water but he specifically commanded them to fill up the purification pots. Remember, this is a sign. Jesus is telling them that he has come to replace all those purification laws and rituals with something much better. John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Listen carefully: Nothing wrong with traditions but don’t let rituals and traditions get in the way of true substance. Go to Jesus.

What happened next? He told them to get some out and take it to the Master of the feast. When he tasted it, he was amazed and said to the bridegroom, 10 “…Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” Apparently, they would serve the best quality wine first and when people were drunk and didn’t know or care what they were drinking, then they would serve the inferior quality. What he was saying is “I thought the party was on but I was wrong. The real party is about to begin!” What’s the point? Remember, this is a sign. Jesus was asking them “Didn’t my boy John the Baptist tell you that the better wine was coming?” Oh Yeah…just a chapter earlier. John 1:15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” John 1   26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” John 1   29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ Don’t miss this: This passage is not about to drink or not to drink. This passage is about Jesus being the good wine who brings true joy and celebration! Everything prior to him was inferior. When he comes into your life, then the real wedding feast can begin!

11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. What does this glory look like? It’s not some bright light or some halo around the head, some nimbus or aureole. It is a combination of grace and truth. John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

  • Truth is you are lost in your sins but grace brings you forgiveness.
  • Truth is you are an enemy of God but grace makes you a child of God.
  • Truth is that you are born to die but grace gives you eternal life.
  • Truth is that you are nothing but grace invites you to join God in his work.

Some people are reluctant to believe in Jesus. They think that coming to Jesus would mess up their party. They think that coming to Jesus will kill all their fun. It’s just the opposite. When you come to Jesus, you see his true glory and that’s when the party really begins. Listen to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Do you have this joy in your life? By receiving Jesus as your Savior you can. Beware of Joy Killers? Sometimes they are people, places, or passions. Be intoxicated on Jesus. Be addicted to him. It never gets old.

The Sin-Forgiver by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE SIN-FORGIVER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

The Sin Forgiver

Introduction: A man and his wife pulled into a gas station back in the days of full service stations. The young attendant got the pump going and then washed the windshield. When he finished, the man leaned out and yelled, “It’s still dirty. Wash it again.” “Yes Sir” said the attendant and washed it a second time, looking closely for any bugs and dirt he might have missed. When he finished, the man leaned out again and yelled loudly, “Don’t you know how to wash a windshield! Do it again!” So he did it again a third time but he couldn’t find anything. Now the man was furious – “I’ve had enough of this. I’m talking to your boss. You’re the lousiest windshield washer I’ve ever seen!” As he was about to get out, his wife reached over, removed his glasses, wiped them down with a tissue, and put them back on his face. Needless to say, the windshield was spotless. Many times people view others through their own dirty glasses. They did that to Jesus but he saw through their sinfulness. After all, he was and is the great SIN-FORGIVER.

Mark 2   1 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” 6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Question: Can you see God working or are the smudges of your sinful hearts keeping you from seeing Jesus? Are you like the men who were willing to tear down the roof to bring their friend to Jesus or are you like the scribes who could only sit back and cast doubts at Jesus? What do you believe about Jesus? Do you believe that he was and is God who has the power to forgive sins? Are you saved?

Context: Let’s go back to verse 1 “And again He entered Capernaum after some days and it was heard that He was in the house. Nicole and I have been to Capernaum. Let me say a word about the houses back then. The front door would actually lead into a courtyard first, which then led to several rooms around the courtyard. The rooms were single-storey with walls made out of basalt, a black volcanic rock. Verse 2 “Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door.” More than likely Jesus went into one of the larger rooms of the house and it not only filled up that room but also the courtyard and out the door. You could say that it was a full house! Who were these people? Remember, Capernaum was a port town on the Northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee from where boats would go in and out with cargo. It also sat along an important trade route known as the Via Maris (Way of the Sea), which connected Egypt in the South to Syria inthe North and Mesopotamia in the East. People from all over came there – business owners, Roman soldiers,

politicians, religious teachers, tax collectors, and, even prostitutes. Remember, this is where Jesus called Matthew the tax collector and Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their fishing business and follow him. Why were these people crowded around Jesus? 2 “…And He preached the word to them. They were hungry for the truth of God. Are you?

3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was…” Apparently, four guys were trying to get their friend, father, or brother to Jesus but couldn’t get through the crowd. So they climbed up the stairway in the courtyard to the rooftop, somehow without dropping that man! 4 “…So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” The roofs were usually flat and made out of wooden beams and thatched with reeds, sticks, and smaller branches, followed by a matted layer of thorns, and then a layer of a few inches thick of clay. The roof had to be pretty sturdy because it was used for working, drying fruits, and even sleeping during the hot summer nights. When it says that these men “broke through the roof,” it was much more than removing a few sticks and pulling aside a few pieces of hay. They did some damage to this roof! You can see the mud and branches falling through the rafters. I can imagine the people of the house trying to get to these four through the crowd to stop them but these fellows were determined. They probably tore a good bit before anybody could get to them. I can imagine these guys telling the owner – “We promise we’ll fix it.” You can almost see the owner shaking his head, “I made a mistake inviting Jesus to my house.”

Let me say a quick word – “Ministry can be messy. Ministry can be costly.” Some churches get so bent out of shape over the scratches on the door, chair marks on the walls, and stains on the carpet. Get over it. I’ve seen many pristine, neat, clean, and empty churches. This gets worse when it comes to spiritual and emotional scratches, dents, and stains but it’s part of a growing work!

Listen to verse 5 “When Jesus saw their faith…” In other words, Jesus was impressed by the faith of these guys. Jesus was amazed that these men were willing to carry their friend all the way to the rooftop, tear it up, and face the consequences. Why? Because they believed it would be worth it if their friend could just get to Jesus. He could’ve stopped them at any time but what a perfect object lesson to the business owners, soldiers, sailors, tax collectors, and prostitutes – “Are you this desperate to come to me?

Application: How much do you trust Jesus? Would Jesus be impressed by your faith? Let’s go a step further – What would happen if we would be this passionate and full of faith when it came to our friends? One reason we don’t do much when it comes to leading our friends to Christ is because we don’t have the faith that Jesus can change their lives. Faith is essential to bringing people to Christ. Listen to Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

There is something more important here. Verse 5 “…He (Jesus) said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” 6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” This is a really odd statement by Jesus. Why did Jesus say that? Was it because this man had been paralyzed because of some sin? Was it because Jesus knew the doubt in the minds and hearts of the scribes? It could be but I think there is a third option. Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven is because he knew that the man needed something more than just physical healing. He needed spiritual healing.

Application: All week long I get calls, texts, and Facebook messages from people, asking me to pray for someone going through some pain, suffering, or need and add them to our prayer list. I do pray for them and we do add them to our prayer list. Having said that, the first thing I pray for is their spiritual need. Does that person know Christ? If they do, then are they walking with Christ? If they don’t know Christ or they do know Christ but are not walking with him, I pray that God will not alleviate their pain, suffering, and need until they are where they need to be with him. C.S. Lewis in his classic book “The Problem of Pain” said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” If you’re going through some suffering right now, ask God what is he trying to say to you. Don’t misunderstand. He is not the author of evil but he will use it to bring about something good.

But there’s a greater issue here. Listen to verse 8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? Jesus did not ask, “Which is easier to do?” but “Which is easier to say?” It is easy to say “Your sins are forgiven” but its hard to say “Arise and walk” because it can be verified. They were reasoning against the “Reason of the Universe,” the One who created all Logic! 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Let me remind you – the greater miracle is not the one that can be proved but the one that cannot be proved. Forgiveness of Sins has to be taken by faith. You have to believe that Jesus is God who has the power to forgive sins.

What do you believe about Jesus? Is he God who has the power to forgive sins?

Which one are you? The four men of faith on the roof or the scribes without faith under the roof.

Just like the man with the smudged glasses, is the sin of disbelief clouding your view of Jesus?

Sin is the paralysis of the soul. Only Jesus can set you free.

The Life-Giver by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE LIFE-GIVER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Lifegiver

Introduction: Nature has a way of reviving you. As many of you know or saw on social media last week, I was at Camp Living Water in Bryson City. It’s a Christian camp our kids have been going for over 15 years. Many Clearview kids were there this summer. Just last week 8 campers got baptized; more got saved and will be baptized at their churches. It’s amazing! I love going there because I always feel revived! If you’ve been to Bryson City, the scenery is breath taking, surrounded by mountains on all sides, especially the Great Smoky Mountains to the North. Directly behind the camp is Deep Creek. I usually walk back there and sit on one of those big rocks in the middle of the creek and I feel so revived! It is so refreshing! Having said that, I’ve never seen a physically dead person come to life there. Nature can revive you and refresh you but it cannot resurrect you. In fact, nothing and no one can bring you to life, except God. Only God is the true Life-Giver. I’m talking about more than physical life. I’m talking about spiritual life.

Luke 7   11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”

Question: What do you believe about Jesus? When he raised the dead, some called him a prophet but others called him God. What do you call him? He raised the physically dead to life, which is amazing, but the greater miracle is when he raised the spiritually dead to life. He is doing that even today. Have you been spiritually raised to life?

Background: When we think about dead people coming to life, we expect the Bible to be chockfull of them. Not true! Believe it or not, there are only 10 actual cases recorded in the entire Bible – 3 in the Old Testament and 7 in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, 1 is by the Prophet Elijah and 2 are by the Prophet Elisha. Out of the 7 in the New Testament, only 3 were done by Jesus, 2 by Peter and Paul each, one of Jesus himself rising from the dead and the last one is of the many saints coming to life when Jesus rose from the dead. Although Jesus himself claimed that he raised many dead to life, the gospel writers give only 3 actual cases – the first is the son of the widow from Nain (we’re going to look at it today), the second is the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of a synagogue, and the third is Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. That’s it! But there’s something else. All three took place in insignificant places not Jerusalem. The first took place in Nain, a small village in Galilee. The second took place at some unnamed place on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, probably Capernaum. The third of Lazarus was in Bethany. One more thing, in the first two miracles Jesus did not want to make a whole lot of fuss about them. In fact, in the second one, he actually instructed Jairus and his wife not to mention the miracle to anyone. Why didn’t Jesus make raising dead people to life a major part of his ministry? Because bringing people back to life physically was not Jesus’ main agenda. As awe-inspiring as it was, Jesus didn’t want to be known as the man who brings the dead to life. Can you imagine what people would’ve done if this had become the main focus of his ministry? People would be digging up their dead loved ones and bringing them to Jesus so he could resurrect them! They would be trying to touch him with the bones of their loved ones. Imagine that! Not only would this quickly get out of hand but also it would detract from the main reason why Jesus came. He did not come to bring the physically dead to life. He came to bring the spiritually dead to life. Don’t forget, each of them died again. Jesus came for more than holding back the inevitable. He came to bring eternal life.

So why did Jesus do this particular miracle of raising the dead to life? Listen again to verse 12 “And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out.” Let me quickly point out that the reason he saw them at the gate of the city is because they used to bury the dead outside the city in those days. Cemeteries were considered to be unclean. But there is something very important to understand. This man probably died that day, maybe even a couple of hours earlier. Unlike our funerals that take 2-3 days to happen, their funerals were immediate because it was too expensive for common people to try to preserve the body. Can you imagine how difficult this must be for the loved ones? In this particular case there was something more – “the only son of his mother; and she was a widow…” Luke mentions 2 things here: first, the loved one was a woman; second, this was her only child; third, she was a widow. Think about that for a moment. Losing a child is hard as it is, probably the hardest thing anyone can ever face. Then, it was her only child. That just makes it even worse. But, there’s more. She was a woman and a widow. In those days, it was so hard for a woman to survive on her own. Her son was probably her only source of help and now he was gone. Luke adds, “And a large crowd from the city was with her.” It may appear that all those people would help her out now but it’s my opinion that they probably didn’t come for her. Maybe the son was a prominent person. As it happens all too often, people say, “Don’t worry, we’re here for you” but then everyone moves on with their lives.

Jesus being God could see all this. Listen to verse 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Let me pause here and draw your attention to something that is easily missed. The word “Lord” is the Greek word “kurios.” This is the first mention of that title for Jesus in Luke’s gospel. This is very important. Now, what does that word “kurios” really mean? It’s an old Greek word that comes from word “kuros” which means “authority.” So “kurios” meant someone in authority and control, someone who was a master or owner, someone superior. Sometimes it was even applied to gods. But there’s more. When the Jewish people translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek, over 6120 times they translated “Yahweh,” the name for God as “kurios” and over 530 times they translated “Adon,” another name for God, as “kurios.” It means that “kurios” was more than just someone in authority to the Jewish people. It meant God! If I may add, Luke wrote his gospel to the gentile world. He is in every telling them that Jesus is God. Not only that, Luke is also telling them that Jesus is a compassionate God unlike their gods who were more concerned about their pleasures and powers.

Application: What do you believe about God? What do you believe Jesus as God? Does he care about your suffering and pain? Is he too concerned with his agenda and plans for his world? Or, does he hurt when he sees you hurt?

What happened next? 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. Something very important here – Jesus touched the open coffin. He was not afraid of being unclean. Paul says it best in Romans 14:9 “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Now listen to the authority in his words – “And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.” Can you feel the authority and power of Jesus in this miracle? The young man not only sat up but also began to speak. Meaning: This was no illusion or some evil magic or some séance. This was the real deal.

What was the response? 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” Don’t misunderstand. They were not proclaiming that Jesus was God. They were comparing him to the prophets Elijah and Elisha in the Old Testament. Have you ever heard “little knowledge is dangerous”? What they failed to consider is that unlike Elijah and Elisha who both had to stretch their body over the corpse to bring it to life, Jesus commanded the dead to rise. In other words, they missed the fact that Jesus was God. 17 “And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.” Why doesn’t God go around raising the dead today? Why should he? Just like then, people will miss the point!

The real miracle that God wants to do in your life is to raise you spiritually. Listen to what Jesus said in John 5   24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” Paul confirms this in Ephesians 2   4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

You can have this spiritual resurrection today by asking Jesus to save you. Are you disappointed with God because he didn’t do some miracle in your life? How about taking by faith that he has a better plan for you.

Miracles Happen by Pastor Abidan Shah

MIRACLES HAPPEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Miracles Happen

Introduction: People use the word miracle all the time. If their ball team stinks, they say – “We need a miracle!” If they’re caught in a traffic jam, they say they need a miracle to get out. Companies use the word “miracle” to market their products – miracle whip, miracle gro, and miracle weight loss pill. By the way, I’ve heard that the only thing you lose with the last one is money out of your pocket! As a pastor I’ve even heard couples say, “It’ll take a miracle for our marriage to work.” The point is that people use the word “miracle” a lot but they seem to believe less and less in them. Today’s message is titled “Miracles Happen.” It is the first in our series on miracles and here’s the gist: “If you can believe in God, you can believe in miracles.” The real question is not “Do you believe that miracles happen?” but “What kind of God do you believe in?”

Luke 7   20 When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. 22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Question: Do you believe that miracles happen? People doubted Jesus, even John the Baptist. I believe that some of the biggest agnostics and unbelievers are not out there but in here. Tough times of life and unanswered prayers have made some of us “believing skeptics.” Do you truly believe in miracles? Are you saved? The greatest miracle is a changed life.

Background: When I was in college, my philosophy professor wrote three words on the board on the first day of class – “Ideas have consequences.” It comes from the title of a 1948 book by an American intellectual Richard Weaver. I understood what he meant but I didn’t grasp the seriousness of those words until later. Ideas do have consequences. They do shape how people think, feel, believe, and behave. This is especially true when it comes to young people. They are easily influenced by ideas. In my 18 years as pastor, many parents and grandparents have shared with me with great sadness how they raised their children and grandchildren in church but when they left home and came under the influence of some college professor or some show or some friend that they stopped believing in God, the Bible, and miracles. They often add – “But we raised them in church! They know better!” I want to tell them – “It’s wonderful that you raised them in church but that’s not enough. You failed to teach them how to face ideas.” Don’t misunderstand what I mean by “ideas.” By “ideas,” I’m not referring to “Oh, I’ve got an idea.” By “ideas,” I’m referring to formulated thoughts and opinions over different matters like life, creation, morality, and values. What happened to them is that they went away from the shelter of their home and church and got bombarded by ideas that were contrary to the Word of God. In the absence of clear and coherent answers from the Bible, they gave into skepticism and unbelief. The problem is not with the kids or the school. The problem is with us and our failure to teach our kids how to handle ideas.

This is why in the couple of the opening messages in this series on the miracles of Jesus, I want to answer the question – “Do miracles happen?” and “Why do some people don’t believe in miracles?” These are not typical messages but they are ones we desperately need to hear.

Throughout the history of the world there have been people who have opposed anything miraculous. We don’t have the time to go through all of them. I just want to focus on there major ones from three different angles:

  1. Philosophy – Scottish skeptic, philosopher, and historian David Hume: He came out of the Enlightenment movement that began modern thought in the 17th and 18th centuries. He pushed reason to the limits just to prove that reason has limits. He made argument upon argument just to prove that arguments don’t prove anything. Among many other things that he wrote against God and Christianity, he was also skeptical about miracles. His argument was as follows:
  • Miracle goes against the laws of natures.
  • Laws of nature have been established by experiences that do not change.
  • A wise person bases his/her belief on evidence.
  • Therefore, miracles don’t happen.

For e.g. Jesus walking on water violates the law of nature. Experience has proven time and time again that you cannot walk on water. If you are wise, you will base your belief on evidence. Therefore, miracles don’t happen.

  1. Theology – German New Testament Scholar and Theologian Rudolf Bultmann: His father was a Lutheran pastor and his grandfather was a missionary. He was influenced by the existentialist philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Under this view, he considered the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the future resurrection to come, the blood atonement for our sins, eternal life, and the rest as misleading. He called them mythological ideas that need to be reinterpreted. So began his program of demythologizing the New Testament. He was also influenced by another scholar by the name of Johannes Weiss who belonged to the history of religion school. Under his influence he looked at non-Christian and rabbinic stories as sources of the miracles. He used what is known as form criticism to get to the source behind the stories in the NT.

For e.g. The miracle at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine is no miracle according to Bultmann. It was adapted from the Dionysian cult of the time and was used by the church to prove that Jesus is the great Revealer.

  1. Science – No one person comes to mind but if I had to pick one, it would be Theoretical Physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics Steven Weinberg: Listen to what he had to say in his 1999 talk at the Conference on Cosmic Design of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.:

“It used to be obvious that the world was designed by some sort of intelligence. What else could account for fire and rain and lightning and earthquakes? Above all, the wonderful abilities of living things seemed to point to a creator who had a special interest in life. Today we understand most of these things in terms of physical forces acting under impersonal laws. We don’t yet know the most fundamental laws, and we can’t work out all the consequences of the laws we do know. The human mind remains extraordinarily difficult to understand, but so is the weather. We can’t predict whether it will rain one month from today, but we do know the rules that govern the rain, even though we can’t always calculate their consequences. I see nothing about the human mind any more than about the weather that stands out as beyond the hope of understanding as a consequence of impersonal laws acting over billions of years. There do not seem to be any exceptions to this natural order, any miracles. I have the impression that these days most theologians are embarrassed by talk of miracles…The evidence for all these miracles seems to me to be considerably weaker than the evidence for cold fusion, and I don’t believe in cold fusion. Above all, today we understand that even human beings are the result of natural selection acting over millions of years of breeding and eating.”

For e.g. The man being healed of dumbness was based on the power of suggestion and maybe some form of ancient medicine but nothing miraculous.

How do we answer such attacks from Philosophy, Theology, and Science? If you came face to face with Hume, Bultmann, or Weinberg, what would you say to them? Let me give you the basic principles behind this series:

  1. God exists.
  2. There is only one God.
  3. God created the world and continues to rule over it.
  4. Since this is God’s world, the natural law is his law and he can do miracles if he chooses.
  5. God does miracles when he wants to further his purposes.
  6. Jesus, the Son of God did miracles and they are truthfully recorded in the gospels
  7. God may do miracles in response to the prayers of people.
  8. We are called to believe in miracles but trust in Jesus.

Invitation: Have you ever trusted in Jesus as your Savior? That’s the greatest and most important miracle you need in your life.

Be the Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

BE THE GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Be The Gospel.jpgIntroduction: Sometime back I was fishing at a friend’s pond with the boys and one of them wanted to use a spinner bait. I thought I knew what I was doing. So I tied it and decided to give it a shot. I did catch a fish for about 10 seconds before the fish took the bait from me. Just like a good dad, I blamed them for tying the wrong knot. In today’s message we will learn how a fish caught a man. It’s not a hoax. The message is about Jonah in the Old Testament and it is titled “BE THE GOSPEL.”

Matthew 12   38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

Context: Many of you may remember that 3 years ago I preached a series of messages on the Book of Jonah called “Running from God.” (You can still access them on my blog site and podcast.) The most amazing lesson for me in that series was not that Jonah was still alive after being inside the great fish for 3 days and 3 nights. God can do any miracle. The most amazing thing for me was that the people of Nineveh repented after Jonah preached only 8 words to them (at least in English) – “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Wow! Jonah must be some preacher! What was so powerful in his message that the people were willing to believe God so quickly? What was so radical in his sermon that even the king would decree that every man and beast would fast, seek God and repent? The answer is very simple – “Jonah became the gospel.”

Question: Before we see what that really means, have you heard the old adage – “You are the only Bible some people will ever read”? Let me tweak that a little – “You are the only gospel some people will ever see.” Meaning: It’s not enough to preach the gospel. We also have to live it out. We have to demonstrate in our lives the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People around us need to see the gospel of salvation in us. Can the people around you see the gospel of Christ in you? Have you ever responded to the gospel in your life? Are you a witness of Christ?

This morning we’re going to focus on how Jonah became the gospel to others:

I. It began with a wakeup call.

Jonah 1   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” The word for “arise” in Hebrew is “qum” meaning “up.” Jonah was comfortably asleep when God came to him. I believe that there is a double meaning here. Jonah was not only physically asleep but he was also spiritually asleep. The reason we can say that is because of his reaction to God’s call. 3 “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” People run from God when there is sin in their lives. Case in point: Adam and Eve hid from God after eating the forbidden fruit. What Jonah didn’t realize at that time was that this wakeup call was not just for Nineveh but also for him.

Principle: When God awakens you to do something, don’t see it as something you are doing for God. Primarily, it’s for you.

II. It unleashed a storm of troubles.

Jonah 1:4 “But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.” Jonah made the same mistake that people make today – I know what God expects of me and I don’t like it. I’m going to take a break from God. I’m going stop coming to church for a while or I’m going to try some other churches because I feel like Pastor Shah is singling me out. I’m going to move to another city/state because I feel like I need a fresh start in my life. Sometimes it’s not physical relocation but mental relocation like a makeover or a new hobby or a new set of friends, anything to keep me from facing God. Jonah believed in the old cliché – “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Principle: God may be out of your sight and out of your mind but you are never out of his reach.

III. It brought discipline from God.

Jonah 1:12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Jonah knew right away that he was the reason for the storm and that God had come to deal with him. But please don’t misunderstand – Jonah was not committing suicide. If this were the case, he would’ve just jumped overboard. Jonah was a prophet of God who knew the ways of God. He knew that God did not punish his children but he disciplined them. By the way, there is a big difference between punishment and discipline. In punishment the goal is the past but in discipline the goal is the future. God’s purpose in Jonah’s discipline was to change his mindset about the gospel. The reason Jonah ran from God was because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He felt that God had no business saving the pagans. God had to change Jonah’s understanding of the gospel. God was about to give Jonah a glimpse in the coming death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • To start with, Jonah did not just jump overboard. Instead, he asked the sailors to throw him into the raging sea. So also, Jesus was taken by lawless hands and nailed to the cross.
  • As the great fish nose-dived into the deep, Jonah cried to God “For You cast me into the deep.” (Jonah 2:3) So also, Jesus was not a victim of the cruel and the evil. He was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23)
  • Jonah felt abandoned by God and cried, “I have been cast out of Your sight.” (Jonah 2:4) So also, Jesus, at the ninth hour from the cross, cried out with a loud voice – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
  • Jonah described his physical condition inside the great fish as, “The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.” (Jonah 2:5) So also, Jesus felt the death grip of sin rising around him. And what did he have on his head? A crown of thorns.
  • Jonah described how he was cut off from the earth – “I went down to the moorings of the mountains. The earth with its bars closed behind me forever.” (Jonah 2:6) So also, Jesus was “cut off from the land of the living…” says Isaiah 53:8
  • How long was Jonah inside the great fish? 3 days and 3 nights. How long was Jesus in the grave? 3 days.
  • What happened to Jonah after that? Jonah 2:10“So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry” What happened to Jesus on the third day? God raised him up “having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:24) Just the way God told the fish to spit out Jonah, God told death to spit out Jesus.

Can you see how Jonah got a glimpse of the gospel in his discipline?

Principle: When God disciplines his children, his goal is not pain but progress. He doesn’t leave you bruised and battered. He leaves you resembling the image of the crucified, buried, and risen Savior.

IV. It led to a great outpouring of salvation.

Jonah 3   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” Before we jump to the reaction of the Ninevites, we need to say a word or two about Nineveh – It was one of the most ancient cities in the world. Its name was from the Sumerian logogram NINUA, which is fish. There was another town with a similar name “NINA” which worshipped the fish goddess Nanshe. More than likely, the people of Nineveh also worshipped the same fish goddess. Her symbol was a “fish.” Also, a Greek historian by the name of Berossus tells us that the Assyrians had a myth that a half-fish, half-man god called “Oannes” or “Uanna” had come up out of the sea and brought them wisdom, sciences, and art. An archaeologist from the 19th century tells us that outside a large chamber in Nineveh there was a bas relief of a half-fish, half-man being.

The text doesn’t tell us but I can only imagine what Jonah looked like when he approached Nineveh. They say that whales have a multilayered stomach like cows, sheep, and deer. In the first stomach, food is crushed and in the second stomach, the gastric juices break it down. I don’t know how far he made it. I picture him as totally bleached from top to bottom. He looks creepy to say the least. Plus, people must have seen a big fishing floating to the shores. As they got near, they see this man being vomited out! I believe word got out that this Jewish prophet had just come out of a big fish. He goes to a city whose very name is dedicated to the fish god. Imagine their shocker when they ask him – “What’s your name?” Jonah. Sounds very much like “Uanna.” Are you god? “Of course not. I am a prophet of the Living God. My God told your god what to do. He put me inside the big fish to show me that one day He is coming and he will be face death and sin for all, including you. You have 40 days to believe in him and if not “Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Someone might say – “That’s too much speculation.” Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 11   29 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.

Do you understand now that it was not 8 threatening words that turned Nineveh around? Jonah represented the gospel through his very life.

Invitation: We do not need a big fish experience to become the gospel to others. Everything we go through in life should testify to the watching world of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our obedience to the Word of God, we become a sign of the gospel of Christ to the lost world around us.

Have you received this gospel? Are you running from God?

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