First, Believe: Introduction by Pastor Abidan Shah

FIRST, BELIEVE (INTRODUCTION) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

First Believe IntroductionIntroduction: As you know, there is a big craze going on over comic book superheroes. Every year a new movie is coming out. We went to see one last week. What’s interesting is that many of them are prequels. A sequel is a movie that continues the main story. A prequel is a movie that goes back before the main story. That’s why kids say, “You’ve got to watch this movie first and then you’ll understand this movie.” This morning we’re starting a new series called “First, Believe.” It is a prequel to our series on discipleship. Here’s the theme of this series:  Before you can be a disciple, you have to get saved. You cannot be a disciple without getting saved. Getting saved begins your walk of discipleship. You cannot be saved if you don’t want to be a disciple. Discipleship doesn’t save you. It’s simply the evidence that you are truly saved. True gospel will initiate discipleship. The burden of proof is more on the church than on the individual.

Galatians 1    6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

Question: “True Gospel will initiate discipleship.” Is their discipleship in your life? What gospel have you believed? Do you know the true gospel? Are you saved? If “the burden of proof is more on the church than the individual,” how is the church doing?

Context:  I’ve mentioned this many time before but this is my twentieth year as pastor. I’ve also mentioned this many time before but this is my first and only church. The negative is that you are stuck with me and I’m stuck with you! The positive is that it has allowed me to get a panoramic view of the life of many Christians, their beginning, their middle, and, in some cases, their end. It has allowed me to do a lot of reflection on why some people grow as disciples and some don’t. It has taken years of study, prayer, and tears to come to the series that we’re starting today. I’ve already given you the theme of the series in the introduction but here’s the theme of today’s message: “FALSE GOSPEL WILL ONLY PRODUCE FALSE DISCIPLES WITH DIRE CONSEQUENCES.”We began by reading Paul’s opening remarks to the Galatians. It’s obvious that he is upset with them:

  • He begins by reprimanding them for forsaking the true gospel.6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”
  • He acknowledges the hand of the false teachers.7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
  • He pronounces a curse on the infiltrators.8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
  • He identifies Jesus Christ as the source of the true gospel. 10For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taughtit,butit camethrough the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

What’s the point of all this?  Very early on in the life of the church, people were becoming confused about the meaning of the gospel. To add to that, there were people going around corrupting the meaning of the gospel. This is a serious offense because the gospel saves us. False gospel is false assurance that we are saved.

Question: Can you define the gospel? This is very critical, even more so than having the right key to the safe. Eternity is too long to be wrong.

Before I tell you the true gospel, let me list for you 5 gospels that have been floating around for a long time with dire consequences (I am getting my information from Bill Hull who has written prodigiously on the subject of discipleship):

  1. The Forgiveness Only Gospel – It is the most popular gospel. It simply tells you how to get your sins forgiven and get your ticket into heaven. It is partly true and partly false. It is true because it includes the affirmation of certain critical facts about God, Jesus, Sin, Forgiveness, and Eternal Life. It is false because it fails to include certain critical facts about repentance, invitation to follow Jesus, and obedience to his word. It is easy to identify the “Forgiveness Only Gospel” people. Their Christian life revolves around sin management. I like to call them the “Carwash Christians.” Monday through Saturday, do whatever you want to but then Sunday you come and get washed up.
  2. The Liberal Left Gospel – The old left gospel of the early twentieth century tried to make Christianity relevant to the scientific age. It focused on dismissing the Genesis account of creation, rejecting the miracles in the Bible, and redefining the necessity and meaning of the atonement of Christ. Instead, it focused attention on transforming society through social justice. That’s why the leaders of such gospel churches would always show up in their long robes and their tippets and their cinctures anywhere they could make a statement about injustice. I wish more people who actually believed the gospel would have done this as well. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before these liberal left gospel churches had nothing but empty pews. These churches are still around. They come up with clever interpretations of the Bible that have nothing to do with the gospel. They love to hide in nice liturgical churches where the leaders don’t believe anything but they let the people do the rituals to soothe their souls.
  3. The Prosperity Gospel – Unfortunately, this is the fastest growing false gospel. It promises health and wealth to any who had the faith to believe. They teach that the miracles that happened in the Bible are still available today if you only had the faith. This is very misleading because I believe that God still heals in answer to prayers and that if we do things God’s way that there are blessings that follow. But, this gospel tends to manipulate God and what he has said in his word. Some of the leaders of this movement are usually looking to buy another plane while many of their listeners in third world country are still living in slums. They do a lot of damage to many of us who are trying to preach the truth.
  4. The Consumer Gospel – This gospel is quite popular in evangelical churches. It is focused on meeting your needs in fast and efficient and professional ways. I’m all for that but without the gospel, it’s no different than paying extra and flying first class instead of economy. Messages are designed to meet your immediate needs (nothing wrong with that) but not too much emphasis on sins and repentance. It’s a guilt free gospel that is designed to help you have a great day. People who have been to such churches have high expectations. They may believe the right overall doctrines but don’t try them too much. If their needs are not met, they will leave.
  5. The Religious Right Gospel – This is the opposite of the liberal left gospel. It has right beliefs. It stands on the right side of moral issues. It separates itself from the sinful corrupt world. Personally, I would agree with all of their convictions. Having said that, they are just as mean and hypocritical as the world they are in opposition to. What makes it worse is that they know enough Bible to justify their sinful behaviors. They are the “do as I say but not as I do” Christians.If I may add, such churches are full of legalism. As Bill Hull says, “there are a lot of dead people at the First Church of the Right because grace there is scarce, and life comes from grace.”

Question:  Which gospel do you belong to? The Forgiveness Only Gospel, The Liberal Left Gospel, The Prosperity Gospel, The Consumer Gospel, or The Religious Right Gospel.

What is the true gospel? I will unpack this in the weeks ahead:

First the Revelation – 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,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”

One response here – Repentance for our sins.

Now the Response – Romans 10    9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Two responses here – Believe in Him and Follow our Master.

Altogether, 3 responses – Repent, Believe, and Follow. The Holy Spirit helps you with all three of them. Have you done this? Are you doing this?

 

Discipleship: Restoration by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – RESTORATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Restoration

Introduction: Have you ever observed how ants help other ants? Once a worker ant finds food, it makes its way back home leaving behind a pheromone trail (chemical scent) that helps the other ants find their way to the food. In some varieties of ants, if a warrior ant gets injured in battle against an enemy, like the termites, the other ants will carry him back home. Now compare this with crabs. Throw a bunch of crabs in a bucket and you don’t need a lid to keep them in. If one tries to climb out, the others will pull him back in. Ants pull each other up. Crabs pull each other down. What does this have to do with our series on discipleship? In the Christian life, we don’t need people who will pull us down. We need people who will pull us up. We need others to encourage, guide, and pray for us when we lose our way. It’s called accountability. Unfortunately, most Christians act more like crabs than ants. Today’s sermon titled “Restoration” is going to help us understand true accountability.

Galatians 6    1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you whoarespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For each one shall bear his own load.”

Question: Who is holding you accountable? Who do you have in your life who is spiritually mature enough to restore you in a spirit of gentleness? Are you pulling others up or down? Have you ever asked Christ to pull you out of sin? Are you saved?

Context:  As I’ve said before, it’s been awesome for me to see the response to this series on discipleship. Some have already started their Inner Circles and some are getting ready to start. Typically, most people have no problem with most of what I have been explaining.

  • for Witness – yes, it’s important to have a testimony and share your faith.
  • for Togetherness – yes, it’s important to go to church and hear the Word and join in Sunday School and small groups.
  • for Established in the Word – yes, it’s important to get in the Bible.
  • for Reproducing Disciples – yes, it’s important to “Go and make disciples.”

The one that people struggle with is A for Accountability – no, I don’t want to share my business with anyone. Most are okay with coming to church and being part of the congregation. Some are even okay with going to Sunday School and Small Groups (Circles at Clearview) and getting into community. But, Inner Circles tend to intimidate some people. Actually, I’m surprised how well the concept of inner circles has been received by most people. But, if you are one of those who are intimidated by that concept, I’m going to try to clear up some misunderstandings about it in this message. Having said that, please don’t talk down about it. Pray for those who want to do it. What may look to you like an ugly, uncomfortable vest may be a lifejacket for someone else. You may not be drowning but they are. Please don’t talk them out of putting on the life-preserver.

I’ve already preached a message on how Jesus valued accountability, how he sent them out in pairs (two by two) and how the early church followed the same pattern. In the brief time we have today, I don’t want to convince you again of the importance of accountability. I simply want to clear up some misunderstandings by explaining how accountability works in the Inner Circle. Basically three:

1. Don’t confuse Sunday School and Small Groups with Inner Circles. They’re wonderful and very essential for developing T for Togetherness. You get to know each other, share in each other’s joys and sorrows, and learn the Bible. But, the real test is “are they making disciples?” The answers is “No.” Disciples who make disciples is the goal.

2. Don’t confuse One-on-one mentoring with Inner Circles. Jesus met with people one on one. He met with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman by themselves. He even had a deep conversation with Peter after he rose from the grave. These were times of great spiritual benefit to these individuals. Some like the Samaritan woman even got saved through it and maybe Nicodemus too. I’ve met many times with people one on one and it’s great. But, there are some limitations to one on one meetings. In other words, there are some important benefits to meeting in a group. Listen again to Ecclesiastes 4 9Twoarebetter than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. . . 12Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” In other words, if two is good, three is even better.” Why is an Inner Circle better?  8 Reasons (I’m getting these from Robby Gallaty):

i. Avoid the ping pong match. How are you? Good. Did you have a good week? Yep. .

ii. One on one is difficult to reproduce. The mentee never feels equal to the mentor.

iii. A group of two tends to become a counselling session. Instead of a time of spiritual growth, it becomes a problem solving, therapy session.

iv. A group of three to five has built-in accountability. If one fails to do the assignment, the others are good motivators to challenge and encourage.

v. A multiplication strategy is exponentially faster than an addition strategy. Keith Philipps in his 1981 book “The Making of a Disciple” presented a chart comparing discipleship with evangelism. If one person were to reach one person every day for the next 16 years (he actually calculated for 32 years), that would be 5,840 people. Now if a person would disciple one person a year for the next 16 years, that would be 65,536 people. Then, Greg Ogden in his 2016 book “Transforming Discipleship” expounded it even further. If we went by the Inner Circle Model, in 16 years, that would be 43,046,721 people. I know that all these figures are ideal world assumptions. But, unless we go this way, there’s no way that we will win our community and our world for Christ.

vi. A one-on-one group can be intimidating. It is very hard for people to talk about their personal lives and struggle one on one, especially men.

vii. You grow as a group. Christian life is not an individual sport. It is a team sport. The boys and I have been watching the World Cup Soccer tournament. It’s amazing to see the reaction when a player makes a goal. The whole team comes running and jumps on him! So also, in discipleship, we grow as a team.

viii. Jesus discipled in groups. I’ve repeated this time and time again with how Jesus worked with the disciples and the Inner Circle with Peter, James, and John.

3. Don’t confuse biblical correction with control and condemnation. A major reason that many people are reluctant to join an accountability group or the Inner Circle is because they think that now they have to give an account of everything they do to someone. They assume that they are inadvertently turning over their freedom to someone else. This is just not true. Here’s a great illustration:Most of us have a lead foot. We like to drive a little above the speed limit. What happens when you see a police, sheriff, or state trooper car? We slow down and check our speedometer. Why do we do that? Is it because we don’t want to cause a wreck or break the law. I doubt it. We don’t want to get stopped, get a ticket, have to go to court, and have our insurance go up. The police car forces us to stay within the law. What if we didn’t have any police cars. Would we still do what is right? Maybe some of us but most won’t. Accountability is like that police car. It forces us to stay away from sin. Galatians 6 1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The goal is not control or condemnation but biblical correction or restoration.It is not pushing your personal convictions on others. Robby Gallaty said – “Accountability must be couched in grace. Avoid narcissistic, self-improvement regimens that turn grace into law.” Listen to verse2“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”

Illustration: John Bradford was a pastor, a reformer, and later became a martyr. Tradition has it that when he would see convicts being taken to be executed that he would say under his breath “there but for the grace of God go I.” In other words, “the only difference between that convict and myself is the grace of God.” If all of us can believe that we are only 1 or 2 steps away from that man or that woman behind bars, what a difference it would make in how we treat people. Paul said in I Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am. . .”

Invitation: Do you pull people up or down? Have you been pulled up by the grace of God in Jesus Christ?

Looking for Grace and Truth by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOOKING FOR GRACE AND TRUTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

looking-for-grace-and-truthIntroduction: This weekend I am preaching the second message in our Christmas series “Believing is Seeing.” It’s about believing in Jesus and once you do that, He comes alive and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives. Today’s message is titled – “LOOKING FOR 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. 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.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Bridge: When we travel long distance, the kids love to play the “I Spy” game. I spy something blue or I spy something starting with the letter S. It’s amazing once someone declares what we should be looking for, how everyone starts seeing that object everywhere. In this series we are looking for Jesus in the writings of Moses.

Context: If you remember from last weekend’s message, Jesus told His opponents “Moses wrote about Me.” The question is – how and where did Moses mention Jesus? The clue is found in John 1:14 “…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And again in verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Every time Jesus before He was born is mentioned, grace and truth are mentioned. Here’s the point – If you want to find Jesus in the writings of Moses, you have to start looking at every place where “grace and truth” come together. In other words, you have to play the “I spy” game and start looking for grace and truth and you will see Jesus.

Question: Do you need grace and truth in your life? Grace is God’s compassion in your life. Truth is God’s unadulterated fact about you. You need both to make it in life. You can’t have one without the other. Which one do you need more right now? Grace or Truth. Are you saved? The truth is that you are a sinner condemned to die and grace is what’s going to save you.

In this message we will go all the way back to Genesis 3 where we find the first mention of grace and truth:

I. THE GRACE OF GOD IN CREATION

Genesis 1   26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Background: This was unilateral decision by God. The counsel was within the Godhead – Father, Son, and Spirit. God did not need to create us. He wanted to create us.

Psalm 8   1 “O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!…3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him…”

By the way, this is not just about Adam and Eve but about each of us – We are the creation of God’s grace.

And who created us? Jesus! Listen to these verses:

John 1   1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him…”

Colossians 1   16 “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

Ephesians 3   8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ…”

Hebrews 1   1 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…”

Application: How do you see yourself? How do you see your success? It is all by God’s grace.

II. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SUBTLETY OF SIN

Genesis 2   16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Background: Why did God give us restrictions? To show us our limitations; to remind us that we are not masters of our own destiny; to keep us responsible to the One who created us.

We don’t know how long their obedience lasted but one day they had a visit.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

At this point, the man should have stepped up and intervened but he didn’t. Instead, he allowed his wife to be deceived by this crafty being.

Genesis 3   4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Did you see how Satan twisted the words of God? He still does that.

Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

That is the truth about sin – it is appealing to the appetite, to the senses, and to our pride. Not much has changed. Listen to 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Application: Do you understand the truth about sin? Do you see how Jesus has laid out the standard of obedience for us? Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

III. THE GRACE OF GOD IN COMING FOR US

Genesis 3   8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

Background: If I were God, I would have sent my destroying angel to annihilate and obliterate the creation, especially Adam and Eve. Either start over or go back to how things were. God could see the future as He can see the future now. Why deal with these fallen human beings and what they will do for ages to come? Why give Satan any more opportunity to wreak havoc in the world? Instead, God came down. More specifically, Jesus came down. How do we know that? 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Isn’t that amazing that when man and woman fell into sin, it was Jesus who came down in grace?

Titus 2   11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Titus 3   4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

I can go on and on but the point is simple – The triune godhead reached down to us in grace through Jesus Christ.

Application: How do you see Christ? Can you see His grace towards us in not only creating us but also coming to us in grace when we sinned?

IV. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SERIOUSNESS OF SIN

Genesis 3   16   To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

Background: I don’t think I can add any more to the fact that God will not ignore sin or gloss over sin. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”

Application: Do you think the preaching against sin is harsh? If you read the Bible carefully, it’s not harsh enough! How do you see sin in your life? Do you understand how high is God’s standard of holiness?

V. THE GRACE OF GOD IN MAKING A WAY

Genesis 3   14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

Background: Think about who is saying these words? It is Jesus. Who is He saying these words about? Himself! He is prophesying His own death and the plan of redemption. That is grace, isn’t it? Romans 5   15 “…For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many…17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)…21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Invitation: Have you received the grace of God in Jesus? Have you first received the truth about sin? Both come from Jesus because He is grace and truth.

Loving the Unlovables – Part Two

LOVING THE UNLOVABLES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
unlovables2

Introduction: This morning we are in part 2 of our message – “Loving the Unlovables.” It’s easy to love people who love us. It’s easy to love people who are just like us. But, it’s very difficult to love people who hate us and want to hurt us. If I may say it, it’s impossible to love them without the love of Christ in our hearts.

Matthew 5   43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is the crescendo of the Sermon on the Mount. R.T. Kendall, a famous Bible teacher and one time pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, said (I’m paraphrasing), “If the Sermon on the Mount is the Swiss Alps (beautiful and majestic mountain ranges in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and France) of the Bible, then the passage we just read is the Matterhorn or the highest peak in the Swiss Alps.” The other passages are important but this one is the most difficult of all. Listen again to verse 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies…” It goes totally against our visceral nature, our natural human tendency. Let me repeat what I said earlier – “It’s easy to love people who love us, but it’s very hard to love people, be kind to people, do good to people who do not love us or hate us, or even want to hurt us. Our natural inclination is to payback, to fire back, or to return hate for hate.”

Question: Who comes to your mind right now? Is there someone in your life who is difficult to love? Do they seem to bring out the worst in you? Do you wish that if this person were not in your life, it would be so much better? Again, please don’t misunderstand – this passage is not about bombing terrorist hideouts and fighting back when someone threatens your life, family, or country. This passage is about loving people who are difficult to love. The Holy Spirit has brought you here for a reason. Are you saved? If not, you are an enemy of God. Christ came to reconcile you.

3 questions we will try to answer from this passage on how to love the unlovables:

I. WHO CAN BE OUR ENEMY?

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies…”

Background: First, who is our neighbor? According to Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Neighbor was anyone who was part of the family of Israel. You were obligated to love them. Enemy was anyone who was not part of the family of Israel. They were outside your blood family or religious family. In other words, you’re not going to see them at family reunions or church service. You are connected to them because of some obligation or need or some situation. You may see them at work, neighborhood, or community but other than that you have no bond with them.

Let me clarify – not everyone who is not blood family or church family is necessarily our enemy. There are people we come across with daily that we get along with. Here’s a positive example: In our flight from New York to Tel Aviv, we got stuck because of the snow. When you are around the same group of people in the same situation for an extended period of time, you develop a bond. I sat next to an orthodox Jewish man and we talked and laughed and got along well. It was positive. But here’s a negative example: On our way back from New York to RDU, our flight was delayed about 7 hours because of the snow. Finally, when we got on board, the airhostess had a very bad attitude. She had a scowl on her face and she snapped at everything and everyone. If I’m not wrong she even called me a name under her breath. She was the enemy. I had no obligation to her. I didn’t want anything from her. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane and get away from her and even report her.

By the way, on a scale of 1 to 10, that’s a 2. But, the enemy could be much worse. A 10 is someone who wants to kill you. Hopefully none of us have any 10s in our lives! When Jesus said those words I can almost visualize hands going up – “Do you mean that I have to love these Romans who desecrate our holy ground, who kill our people, who control our lives?” “Do you mean that I need to love these filthy Samaritans who harassed our ancestors, who don’t believe like we believe?” “Do you mean that I need to love these immoral tax collectors and prostitutes who corrupt our culture, who have no regard for God?” You can almost visualize the crowd thinning out. “I can’t do that. That’s too much. No one can do that.”

Question: Who comes to mind right now? Who do you wish was not in your life? Is it a neighbor, co-worker, someone you came across at the grocery store. Is it because you come from a different cultural, geographical, political, or theological background? Is it because you have different skin pigmentation? Is it because they are envious over your looks? Is it because they are envious over why you keep getting blessed and they don’t? “Why do you have a better life, better education, better job, better home, or a better car? Why does it always work out for you and not for them?” Let me flip that around – Whose enemy are you? Who considers you as a thorn in their side? Both situations are just as sinful – to have an enemy or to be an enemy.

II. HOW SHOULD GOD’S CHILDREN RESPOND TO OUR ENEMIES?

44 But I say to you, love your enemies…

Background: How do people typically respond to their enemies? Our basic response to our enemies is to retreat – just get away from them. Just like I felt towards that airhostess. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane. Sometimes people just try to repress it. Or sometimes it is retaliation. We want to give them exactly what they give us. If they curse us, we want to curse them back. If they hate us, we want to hate them back. If they spitefully use us and persecute us, we want to do the same to them. Sometimes we even apologize but it is false reconciliation. I like to call it “disguised retaliation.” You apologize to someone but add something like this – “I’m sorry for whatever I did to you.” It’s another way of saying – “You are being over sensitive.” Or, like this man who sent me an email – “I just want to tell you that I have forgiven you for all the hurt you caused me.” Then he threw in a couple of verses, preaching to me. The problem is that this man was still angry over a decision I had to make against him. He was still retaliating. I was still his enemy and he was paying me back. The only time you ever say “I forgive you” to someone is if they need to hear that from you.

So how should we respond to our enemies? Listen to what Jesus said – 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”

In other words, you cannot ignore them, avoid them, argue with them, gossip against them, or use disguised retaliation against them. You show real, genuine, godly love towards your enemy by blessing them instead of cursing them, doing good to them instead of hating them, and praying for them instead of spitefully using and persecuting them. That’s easier said than done!

Who is your model? Your Father in heaven! Listen to verse 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Meaning: God is not just a holy God but He’s also gracious. We are to be like Him.

Application: How do you respond to your enemies? Ironically, I was on this passage when this airhostess was being rude. The Holy Spirit convicted me and reminded me to put this into practice. It was hard. First, I had to pray for her. Next, He told me to speak to her on the way out.

III. WHY DOES IT MATTER HOW WE RESPOND TO OUR ENEMIES? 

48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Background: The Greek word for perfect is “teleios.” Some people argue for sinless perfection but that’s not the meaning here. In fact, James 3:2 counters this very well – “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” In other words, “We all sin but if anyone can avoid sinning by words, he is a perfect man.” The meaning of the word “teleios” is also mature. What Jesus is saying is that when you begin to love your enemies instead of hating them, bless them instead of cursing them, and pray for them instead of paying them back, you will be like your Father in heaven and be more spiritually mature.

The airhostess was being immature but it was up to me to prove my pedigree. Will I be just like her or will I be truly spiritually mature and prove that God is my Father. The plane landed and the Holy Spirit told me once again to speak to her. So I turned around with a genuine smile and asked her if she’ll be able to make it home. She replied – “I can’t. This one-day trip has turned into a five-day trip. Now, I’m looking for someone to watch my kids.” I wished her well. Thank goodness for this passage or I was planning on reporting her. I’ve been praying for her ever since.

Sometimes things are not that easy. Some years back an individual broke my trust and went on a rampage against me, talked trash about me, and just hurt me. For a long while I was carrying this heavy load. It affected my personal life and spiritual life. One day I was talking to a friend of mine and he told me if I want to be set free from this. I said – “Of course I do.” Then pray for him. “Of course I do. I pray that God will convict him and lead him to repentance and all that.” He said that’s not what he was talking about. “Pray that God will bless him.” It’ll be hard but that’s the only answer. I tried it and guess what it worked! It took 3-4 weeks.

This is what Jesus did on the cross. He prayed Luke 24:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” G. Campbell Morgan once remarked that he expects to see in heaven the very men who nailed Jesus to the cross. After all, Jesus prayed for their forgiveness.

Invitation: Whom do you need to pray for today? Could it be that you are blessed because your enemy has actually prayed for you? Are you saved?

The Blessing of Not Getting Even

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THE BLESSING OF NOT GETTING EVEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofnotgettingevenIntroduction: In our series SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount we come to the fifth beatitude from Matthew 5. Thank you for joining us this morning and especially thank you to those who are joining us by radio. This morning’s message is titled – “THE BLESSING OF NOT GETTING EVEN.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 7 “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.” So far the beatitudes were primarily dealing with our personal relationship with God.

  • You are to be “poor in spirit” and have more of the Holy Spirit.
  • In times of loss and pain, trust the Holy Spirit and He will comfort you.
  • Be meek and give your problems to God and you will inherit His riches.
  • You are to hunger and thirst for His righteousness and you will be satisfied.

All of these are important but they focus primarily on our personal relationship with God. But the fifth beatitude – “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy” – has to do with our relationship with people. When people take advantage of us, hurt us, mistreat us, or insult us, instead of retaliating, getting revenge, paying them back or getting even with them, we are to show mercy to them. People think that mercy is showing compassion towards those who are less fortunate and cannot do anything for you. That may be true but it’s much more than that. It is showing compassion towards those who have done something wrong to you, hurt you, and maybe even hate you.

Question: Are you a merciful person or are you a person who gets even? Are you a person who forgives and reaches out or are you a person who pays people back? Do your family members and friends say that you always get the last word and you always come on top? Let me ask you a deeper question – Have you ever accepted the mercy God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? If not, no wonder you can’t show mercy.

This message is very important because how you show mercy is how you obtain mercy. If your life is only full of justice and only eye for an eye and only tit for tat, it’s because that’s how you are. Do you often say, “I wish I could get a break?” Then “Start giving others a break.” Let the Holy Spirit help you today. 3 Questions this morning:

I. WHAT IS MERCY? 

“Blessed are the merciful…”

Background: There is a lot of confusion over the meaning of the word “mercy.” People confuse it with so many other things. Let me explain with four scenarios:

  • First Scenario: Joe insults Mike so Mike insults Joe back. That’s JUSTICE. He has every right to do that. We do that all the time especially in our culture. We have a very tit for tat society. We like to put people back in their place. We like to have the final word. We see that even in how we joke with each other – “If you can’t take it, don’t dish it.” The problem is – We don’t just dish it back, we dash the other person! But that’s JUSTICE and we understand that very well.
  • Second Scenario: Joe insults Mike but Mike instead of insulting Joe back and getting justice, just walks away and gives it to God. That’s MEEKNESS.

(Qualifications – all this is in the context of personal relationships. When it comes to individual safety and national security, we have to defend the helpless and ourselves and even make preemptive strikes against the enemy. That’s a very different issue.)

  • Third Scenario: Joe insults Mike and Mike gives it to God but instead of just walking away and distancing himself from Joe, Mike does something else. He forgives Joe. He refuses to hold a grudge. He refuses to be bitter. He doesn’t want to carry that extra baggage in life. That’s FORGIVENESS.
  • Fourth Scenario: Joe insults Mike and Mike gives it to God and even forgives Joe but he doesn’t stop there. He puts his guard down, sets his pride aside, and reaches out to Joe. As hard as it is, he tries to see things from Joe’s perspective. He tries to be patient and kind to Joe. He tries to redeem and restore the relationship. That’s MERCY.

Mercy is forgiveness plus much more. If you want to understand it, you have to turn to the Bible – 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), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, What is salvation? It is a gift originated in God’s love, worked out in his mercy, and offered to us by his grace. It not only forgives us but it raises us up and seats us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. All we can do is receive it by faith. Listen to verse 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” We have offended God but because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God has not only forgiven us but also given us all the riches in Christ. No other religion can demonstrate mercy. It is an exclusive Christian virtue. Other religions may have justice, self-control, self-restraint, and even forgiveness. Only Christianity tries to redeem, restore, rebuild, reaffirm, reassure, and a lot of words starting with “re.”

What happens when we are touched by the mercy of God? We abdicate our right to revenge and retaliation. We relinquish our right to get even. We hand over the gavel of justice. Just like how God is towards us, we too forgive the person who has offended us but don’t stop there. We try to reach out and bring out the best in that person’s life.

Application: Have you ever received God’s mercy in your life? He worked out the plan of salvation when you were so undeserving. Unless you get saved, you cannot even begin to understand mercy. F.B. Meyer said – “It (mercy) is an exotic which Christ brought with Him from heaven.” Are you holding out mercy towards someone in your life? Are you only giving justice or forgiveness? Are you willing to go beyond?

II. HOW DO WE OBTAIN MERCY? 

“Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy”

Background: What does it mean to “Obtain Mercy?” It means having God’s forgiveness and restoration in our lives. Mercy is not just something that we need when we get saved but it’s also something we need every day after we get saved. Everyday we need God’s forgiveness towards us. Everyday we need God’s restoration in us. Why? Because we are weak. Because we cannot keep God’s standards. Because we fail so often. Of course our salvation is intact. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our eternal destiny is secure. But because of sin our relationship with the Father get’s broken. Even though we are headed to heaven, life begins to feel like hell.

How do you get mercy (forgiveness and restoration) in our lives? Some people think we need to pray for mercy. Some people think we need to ask God to forgive us for our sins. What does God have to say? “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy” Meaning: If you want mercy in your life, you have to show mercy to others. If that’s not enough, in the Lord’s Prayer or Disciples’ Prayer, Jesus said it again in Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” Then he gave an amazing parable in Matthew 18 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Application: Are you known for justice? Are you known for just forgiveness? Are you known for giving people three strikes and then out? If so, then you are setting the course of your life. James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

When you show Mercy and in return have God’s Mercy in your life, your life becomes a blessing to those around you. When Jesus was in this world He often reprimanded the scribes and the Pharisees for failing to show mercy. They were not horrible people. They tried to keep God’s commandments. They even tried to witness to others. Matthew 9  10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ (Jesus was quoting Hosea 6:6) For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

What the world needs to see are people who are so full of God’s mercy that they cannot help but show mercy to others. It will call on us to reconcile with the fact that some people who have offended us may even get away with what they did to you. You will have to kiss revenge goodbye. You will have to refuse to talk bad to people’s faces and even behind their backs.

In return not only will God show you mercy but people will also show you mercy when you need it. Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Corrie ten Boom Story on Forgiving (from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive”)

Nazi Holocaust

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. “It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’ “The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue Jewish Women Holocaust 2uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.] “Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? “But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. “‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me. “‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’ “And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

Corrie Ten Boom and Billy Graham“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. “For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ “I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ “And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ “For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”

That’s MERCY – forgiveness that calls the person a brother or sister. The only way we can do that is if we have the love of Christ in our hearts. That’s what this fallen world needs to see. Do you have it?

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

THE DIFFERENCE THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKES IN OUR LIVES

January 10-11, 2015

The Difference the Holy Spirit Makes
This weekend we will be hearing a message titled “THE DIFFERENCE THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKES IN OUR LIVES.”

We often hear message after message about how we should do this and not do that. This Sunday we are shaking things up a little bit. You will be hearing brief testimonies about what happens when the Holy Spirit gets hold of a person’s life. This does not mean that we never falter. Each of the men who will be sharing will be quick to remind you that they are not speaking because they have mastered the art of the Christian life. Instead,it’s only by the grace of God that they are standing.

This is one message that you cannot afford to miss, especially men. In America today we desperately need men to stand up and be counted as leaders and followers of Jesus Christ.

Don’t miss this message. Invite your friends and family to come along.Pastor Shah…………..

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Two Gifts Worth Opening

 This morning in our series on the Life of Christ we come to John 1 for our message titled – “TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS.” All of us at some point have received a gift from a loved one that has been a let down and a disappointment. We were hoping for this but we got this.

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. 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.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read John tells us twice about two gifts that were given in Jesus. Listen again to verse 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.” Now listen also to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Twice the two gifts that came in Jesus are mentioned – Grace and Truth.

But now here’s an important question: When John says in verse 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,” is he just talking about himself and the first disciples and the early church? Were the gifts of grace and truth just for those among whom He dwelt physically? Too bad for us who were not born in the first century. Wish you could’ve seen Jesus. You would’ve received grace and truth. The answer to that is earlier in verse 12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Meaning: In the context, the gifts are for everyone who has ever received Jesus as Savior and has become a child of God. If that wasn’t clear, John makes it clear in verse 16“of his fullness we have all received.” “All” even includes some who will receive Jesus this Sunday morning. Your gifts are waiting for you to open!

Application: Question to those who claim to be Christians – “Have you opened your gifts?” Of course, I’m not talking about what’s sitting under the tree. I’m talking about the gifts of grace and truth. “Are you helping others open their gifts?” Question to those who’ve never received Jesus – “Do you realize the wonderful gifts God has wrapped for you in Jesus?” My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will make these gifts so appealing that you will not wait even a single moment but tear into them!

Let’s open these gifts –

 1. PREPARATION FOR THE GIFTS

Listen to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

What was the Law of Moses? The Law (nomoj) in this context refers to all the rules and regulations in the Pentateuch that God had given to his people Israel through Moses.

Why did God give the Law? Initially, he gave the law to temporarily protect his people from the Canaanites. In Genesis 15, it talks about the Moses by Gustave Dore“iniquity of the Amorites.” He gave His Law so that Israel would not become like its neighbors (Galatians 3:19). If you want to know what the Canaanites were like, just read the Old Testament law backwards. But there was another reason why God gave the law. It was to help them realize that they could never live up to God’s standards. The law was a measuring stick. The people were to stand against the measuring stick of the law and every time they did they realized they were still far from God’s standard of holiness. They needed help. The law was never the final destination. It was only a reminder of how sinful they really were and how much they needed a mediator. That’s why every law came with some sacrifice when broken. Some animal had to pay the price because the people couldn’t keep the law.

Paul says the same things but he takes it a step further – Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. Romans 7:8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. I Corinthians 15:56 “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” What is Paul saying in these verses? Not only is the law a temporary protector and a measuring stick but it’s also an instigator to sin.

For e.g. Put up a sign that says “Fresh Paint Do Not Touch.” What do people do?

For e.g. Imagine a glass filled with dirty water. If that water has been sitting still for some time, it appears clean until you stir it. Now what happens? It shows all the dirt.

Don’t misunderstand – Laws are good for society. They keep people in check. But they cannot change people.

In other words, the law was a good thing but also a house arrest, a nice prison. It was also a constant reminder of our inability to reach God. It was a Pot stirrer. In all, the law only brought a constant feeling of inadequacy, guilt, burden, and frustration.

What did the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees, do? They failed to understand the real intent of the law – temporary protection, measuring stick, and stirring of more sin. Instead, they pretended to keep the law with integrity. They compared their righteousness with each other and became self-righteous. They made many more laws of their own with plenty of exceptions and exclusions. This only brought hypocrisy.

Someone might say – okay, the Law for the Jewish people. How about the non-Jewish people? Even though we’re not Jewish, we have the law of our conscience. Romans 2:12 says, “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.” This has the same effect as a Law of Moses. It also brings condemnation, guilt, burden, frustration, and hypocrisy.

Application: Are you trusting in the Old Testament Law (10 Commandments) or in the law of your conscience or in the law of society to justify you before God? It will only result in guilt, burden, and frustration. It will never save you nor set you free.

2. PRESENTATION OF THE GIFTS 

17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Background: John shows a contrast between the giving of the law and the coming of Jesus Christ. Grace and Truth came with Jesus.

woman-caught-in-adulteryWhat is Grace? In Greek the word is carij. It is found 155 times in the New Testament of which hundred are in Paul’s writings, some in Peter’s writings, and just 30 in the Gospels, mostly in Luke’s writings but never in Matthew or Mark. In fact, grace in John is used only four times and just in these four verses. Why is grace not mentioned more than that? Listen carefully – the reason the idea of grace did not have to be mentioned is because Jesus is Grace. Listen to verse 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.” To see Jesus in his glory is to see Grace. We try to define grace with trite phrases like “unmerited favor” and “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” All those are fine but if you want to define grace, define Jesus. He was perfect and yet he received imperfect sinners. He was God’s Son and yet He became like us. He committed no sin and he laid down his life for our sins. That’s grace.

What is Truth? The word alhqeia for truth is used 100 times in the New Testament and, in contrast to grace, more than half of them are found in John’s writings. While Grace has to be lived out, truth has to be spoken. Jesus told the truth – about God, about sin, about righteousness, about the cross, about heaven and hell, and so on.

PhariseesHow did the Jewish people respond to Jesus being the truth? They accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath and other laws. He told them the truth about their hypocrisy in keeping the law. Listen to John 5 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” He told them the truth about the real condition of their hearts. Listen to John 8 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Then He declared without hesitation, qualifications, or apology in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Then they said – “Let’s kill Him.”

Application: Do you want to be set free? Come to Jesus. Only he has the grace to forgive you unconditionally and only he has to truth to set you free completely. Grace is not just an idea and truth is not just a fact. Grace and truth are one person and His name is Jesus.

3. POURING OVER OF THE GIFTS

So far we have seen that the law prepared us for the gifts of grace and truth and Jesus presented Himself as the gifts of grace and truth but that’s not the end. In fact, that’s just the beginning.

16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Background: I went to look up the meaning of that phrase “grace for grace” carin anti carin and this is what a key reference book said – “the precise sense of the phrase is uncertain.” I want to say, “Thanks a lot!” So what does it mean? Let’s look again to verse 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. As the Son of God, Jesus is full of everything the father is. To receive of his fullness is to be connected to everything that God is.

Some of you are thinking – “Yep, that’s interesting. What does that have to do with me.” Don’t miss this. It has profound significance to our Christian life. Some people think that once you are saved by the grace and truth of Jesus that now you need to go back and keep the law, maybe not the Old Testament law but just have a list of rules as a Christian. What would Paul say to that? Galatians 2:21 “…if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” In fact, if you do that, it will actually produce the opposite effect! Listen to Galatians 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

What is the solution? Verse 16 “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” Here’s what it means – in Jesus Christ you have everything given to you. You have God Himself. Stay connected to Him. Keep looking to Him. Keep obeying Him. Keep trusting Him. And He will make Grace abound in your life. Grace upon grace for your daily Christian life. It’s not a list you need. It’s Jesus you need. And who helps you – the Holy Spirit.

Listen again to Paul in Romans 5:21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Meaning: Where sin once controlled us, now grace controls us.

Application: Are you ready to open your gifts this morning? Grace and Truth in Jesus

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL CHILD

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL CHILD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

RAISING JESUS (1)This is our last message in our miniseries RAISING JESUS. This morning we will look at the childhood years of Jesus in Luke 2 to answer “WHAT MAKES A SUCCESFUL CHILD.” All of us as parents want our children to be successful. Never met a parent thus far who said – “I want my child to grow up and be a total failure.”

Luke 2 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Overall Background: The passage we just read marks the end of the information regarding the childhood years of Jesus. Have you ever wondered why the Bible doesn’t tell us more? Why are there no accounts of his interaction with his siblings, with his neighbors, and with people in His town or synagogue? Some of the Apocryphal Gospels/Gnostic Gospels have tried to fill in the blanks between age 12 and age 30 but they’re nothing but foolish myths and legends. Why did God choose to keep silent about the growing up years of Jesus? This is my guess – typically, the Bible doesn’t talk much about the childhood years of any of its characters. Once in a while we hear of a boy Joseph who had a dream of his future or a girl Miriam who watched over her baby brother Moses or a boy David who killed Goliath but those are rare instances. Why not more? Because the childhood years are transitional and preparatory years. Like a fruit on a tree that is not ripe, children are not ripe until they reach adulthood. To focus on this period as the end in itself is to miss the fruit. These are still “work in progress” years and as such very critical. What you do now with them determines their course later.

Application: May I ask you – Are you taking seriously these years in your child’s life? Are you raising them to be successful? Are you raising them in the fear of God? As a church are we doing all we can to reach children? Are we leading them to know Jesus as their Savior? Do we know Jesus as our Savior?

This morning in verse 52 we will see two major things that make a successful child.

 I. A PATIENT PARENT

51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them,

Background: The temple incident in the previous verses was quite traumatic in the lives of Joseph and Mary. It was traumatic not just because Jesus was lost for three days but when they found Him, He was sitting in the midst of the leaders and discussing theology. When they confronted Him, He rebuked them saying – “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

What is a parent to do in a situation like that? Mary could have become overprotective and start hovering over Him. Instead, listen to what it says in verse 51, “but His mother kept all these things in her heart.” Meaning: Not only did she not go overboard with Him but neither did she try to label Him. She could have said about Jesus – “He is so absent-minded” or “He is such a daydreamer” or “He is just in His own world” or even “He is so selfish.” She didn’t jump to any conclusions. Mary’s strongest quality was that she pondered. She “kept all these things in her heart.”

There are powerful lessons here – sometimes parents and teachers make judgments regarding children that don’t need to be made – “He is a troublemaker” “She is going to cause a lot of grief.” Too early for that! You have no idea what that child may end up becoming. Sometimes parents and teachers tend to give up on children – “He won’t amount to much.” “She has no potential.”

Application: What are you thinking in your heart for your children? Do you have any hope for them? Do you have any vision for their lives? Do you pray for them?

Let me also add – Sometimes we’re too quick to label somebody else’s child. Sometimes we tend to think that our children are perfect. Here’s what I say – People are not telling you what your child is doing. Their child keeps getting caught but yours keeps slipping through. Their child will straighten out but yours will keep going down the wrong path.

For e.g. I remember to this day this man who got on to me at church. I was wrong but the way he did it was quite hateful. “You’re a pastor’s kid and that’s how you act?” At the time I didn’t even understand that concept. When I did, it bothered me, even to this day.

We know that Mary kept these things in her heart but how about other people? Do you think it’s possible that people talked about Jesus as a child? Matthew 18 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Almost want to say – “Whoa! Did someone touch a nerve?” You can almost hear Jesus’ anger coming through.

Application: Do you keep things in your heart for your children? Do you hope for the best for them and pray for them? Do you keep things in your heart for other children? Do you hope for the best for them and pray for them?

II. A MERCIFUL AND TRUTHFUL CHILD

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature,

Background: Now we know what it means to grow in wisdom. It comes from the “fear of the Lord.” Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Then the word stature h`likia in this context means maturity. And what else happened? Jesus increased “in favor with God and men.”

This is a very interesting phrase – “in favor with God and men.” What does that mean? To understand it, we have to turn to the Book of Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Background: In Proverbs Solomon wrote 10 letters to his son Rehoboam. What we just read comes from the 3rd letter. He is telling his son how to have favor with God and people.

By the way – isn’t that what you and I want for our children? We want heaven to bless them and earth to honor them. How much more balanced can you get? God looks at them with favor and people look at them with favor.

Solomon tells Rehoboam how to have this double favor:

Let not mercy and truth forsake you;” – mercy = kindness which is actually “help to the needy” and truth = faithfulness which is actually “being trustworthy.” These two qualities stand in stark contrast to the selfishness and unfaithfulness of the wicked sons and daughter.

For e.g. When I think of someone who is selfish and untrustworthy, I think of Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He is heartless, cold, apathetic, and downright evil man.

THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN BEING WISE AND BEING CUNNING

“Bind them around your neck” = make them a necklace. “Write them on the tablet of your heart”= make it your identity. When people see you they know who you are.

Application: What kind of a reputation do you have? Some people think that wisdom means being smart and cunning and cheating people of their last dollar. Far from that.

What is the result? 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Two other time we find this mentioned in the Bible: One is in the book of Samuel. The sons of Eli were stealing from the Lord and from the people. As the people were bringing their sacrifices to the temple, these men were taking advantage of their father’s position. Eli tried to get on to them in I Samuel 2:25 “If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.” In the very next verse it says 26 And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men. The boy Samuel later became an important prophet in Israel who helped unite the kingdom and institute the office of king. He also became the prophet who anointed David as king.

Do you want your children to have favor with God and people? They need mercy and truth. In other words, they need kindness and faithfulness.

The similar phrase is heard again in the book of Acts. Acts 2 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The secret of our church’s success is mercy and truth.

We want our children to be loved and appreciated by people. We like to hear that they are being admired and adored. Unfortunately, some of our ideas actually cause them to be resented. We think favor comes when they are best at everything or win a lot of trophies or be in every activity. Instead what they need are eyes, mouth, hands, feet, heart, and mind full of mercy and truth. The place to begin is by teaching to have mercy and truth.

How can we have mercy and truth? The place to begin is not by trying to be merciful and truthful. It will not last. Instead, receive Jesus as your Savior. It will bring His nature into your life. Now Jesus lives through you. Whatever He is, now you are. It is natural and lasting. At times you may slip but repent and return to your first love.

So the real question is do your children know Jesus as their Savior. That will bring mercy and truth in their lives and in turn bring favor with God and men. Another important question is do you know Jesus as your Savior. This will bring mercy and truth into your life.

RAISING JESUS – PART 1

RAISING JESUS – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

RAISING JESUS (1)We are in our series on the life of Christ from all 4 gospels and today we are in Luke 2 for our miniseries titled – “RAISING JESUS.” Ever wonder what it was like for Joseph and Mary to raise Jesus! You can’t say to him “when I was your age…” because He was the “Ancient of Days.” You can’t say to him “I brought you into this world and I can take you out” because “all things were made through Him.” But let’s not forget that He was every bit a human child who had to learn obedience. There are some valuable lessons in this passage for parents and children.

Luke 2:39-40   39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

Overall Background: When we think of the childhood years of Jesus, we have a somewhat romanticized and idealized picture in mind. We imagine this small quaint town of Nazareth where everybody knows your name. We can see Jesus as a little boy working in the carpentry shop with his earthly father Joseph. We see His mother Mary fetching water, cooking, andGeorges de La Tour - Joseph the Carpenter taking care of the household. It all seems so beautiful and perfect. The problem is that some of this “perfect childhood/family” imagery has come to us from paintings and movies but in reality it was anything but perfect—

  • 3 times this family had been uprooted in the past 3-4 years: first, when they had to leave Nazareth and move to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus had ordered a census; second time, when they had to flee at night to Egypt because King Herod had ordered the death of the newborn baby; then when they got news that King Herod had died, they were ready to head back to Bethlehem, but they couldn’t – Archelaus who was crazier than his father Herod was ruling over Judea. So they had to change course and come to Nazareth. If your family has been going through ups and downs lately, Jesus understands. He knows what it means to have your world turned upside down. He knows what it means to live out of boxes.
  • Moving to Nazareth was not their top choice. The people of Nazareth had not forgotten that Mary had a child out of wedlock and maybe Joseph was the daddy or maybe not. If you remember when Jesus came to teach in the synagogue in Nazareth, in Matthew 13:55 they said, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? (They did not even deem it worthy to use Joseph’s name.) Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him…58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. Mark 6:6 even adds, “And He (Jesus) marveled because of their unbelief.” Keep in mind that all this was when Jesus was 30 years old. You can imagine what it was like when he was just 3 or 13. Some of you said – “Once I leave this town, I’m never coming back.” Oops! Guess what? Jesus understands. He had to come back to his hometown and face the same people.
  • Those two points are external. How about internal? Jesus was not Joseph’s son. Joseph knew that and Mary knew that. How do you think it affected their daily lives? Do you think there was ever any tension in that home? Are you in a situation where you are a step mom or stepdad or stepchild or a blended family? Guess what? Jesus understands. He came from a blended family.

Some of us have the wrong idea that because we did not grow up in a perfect family that we are scarred for life. Some of us have the wrong idea that we have to be a perfect family in order to be a godly family. Nothing could be further from the truth. What God is looking for is a family that is willing to surrender to Him, willing to obey Him, and willing to let His grace work in their lives.

Application: Are you a parent this morning? Do you need God’s grace in your family? Children – Do you want God’s hand upon your life? You say – “I don’t have children or my children are grown.” Do you care about the future of our church and our nation? Do you care about what’s happening in our world as we speak?

This morning we will see what are 3 things that every child needs:

I. STRONG CHARACTER 

40 And the Child (Jesus) grew and became strong in spirit, (Some manuscripts and translations don’t include the word “spirit” but from my studies it is original.

Background: Let’s look at the words carefully – The word for growth is “auxano,” which means physical growth. Jesus grew physically strong but the end result was not just that He was big and bad but that He became strong in spirit. He was strengthened in spirit. This is not the Holy Spirit just His own spirit. Romans 8:16 “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Every child/person is body and spirit. We can see the body the material but we can’t see the spirit the immaterial. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. This is the nerve center, core, heart, and command post. It involves the human personality – attitude, demeanor, character, will, and the list goes on. If I can use a battleship analogy – this is not the engine room but the bridge where the Captain and chief officers make critical decisions.

Listen carefully – the bridge in your child’s life has to be developed and developed early. It doesn’t just happen. If you don’t make an effort, their spirit will grow but in a way you will regret. There is a small window of opportunity where their spirit can be molded and once that time is past, it is next to impossible to change that spirit. Habits set in, attitudes get stuck, and behavior is determined.

What is the purpose of the sports program? The ultimate goal of all these activities is to strengthen their character. For some kids it’s sports and for others its music or arts or outdoors. You know your child’s bent. Parents – it takes time, effort, and sacrifice.

Let me caution: It’s not just to keep them occupied. It’s not to live vicariously through our children. It’s not just because the neighbors kids and the cousins kids are playing and you don’t want your children to be left out. It is to strengthen their character. It means if your child is sitting on the bench longer than someone else’s child, it’s not fair but don’t get upset. He’s learning patience. She’s learning the importance of treating others fairly. With the same token – don’t make your child play on and on and on while other children are sitting on the bench. You are teaching your child that the world revolves around them. They will take that attitude in the workplace and get fired. They will take that attitude in their marriage and get divorced.

The tragedy with kids in America is that we are either doing nothing with them or we are doing everything for them but for the wrong reasons.

Jesus grew and became strong in spirit. Do you think it came handy when he had to lead 12 men with 12 different personalities and strengths and weaknesses? Do you think it came handy He had to stand up to the scribes and the Pharisees? Do you think it came handy on the night that he was betrayed and all his disciples deserted him?

Application: What are you doing with your children that is building character in them? What are doing with your children that is strengthening their spirit? Do you pray for their spirit? Listen to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,

II. WISE DECISIONS 

filled with wisdom;

Background: The word for wisdom is σοφίας. It carries with it the same concept of wisdom found in the Old Testament, especially in the book of Proverbs. If you read Matthew 6 Jesus knew about Solomon. What did Solomon say about wisdom? Listen to Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. We don’t have time to go into each of these words. Let’s just look at wisdom. It comes from the Hebrew word hokma which means masterful understanding, skill or expertise. In olden days people were skilled in art, in government, in war. In this context it’s referring to – the skill of living. There are people who are tearing up their marriages, ruining their children, destroying their relationships and jeopardizing their career because they don’t have wisdom (skill in living) or understanding (a sense of discernment).

Where does this wisdom come from? It comes through the fear of the Lord. It does not mean the “fright of God” and neither does it mean the “reverence of God.” It simply means putting God first in every situation of life. It means asking yourself – “What does God want me to do in this situation?” “How does He want me to handle this problem?”

Whose responsibility is it to teach this wisdom? Proverbs 1:8 “My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother.” In the training of a child both the father and the mother are essential. But – did you notice who is the chief spokesman or the primary instructor? It is the father. In our society we have turned over this privilege and right and responsibility to the school, the government, the entertainment industry, the friends, the neighbors, and even the church. I can hear someone say – “I guess they don’t have a chance then cause we’re pretty messed up.” When you mess up what a great opportunity go to your son to your daughter and say, “I’m sorry.” What a great opportunity to teach them the value of asking forgiveness and giving forgiveness.

And don’t think your children will always listen attentively when you give them this wisdom.

For e.g. Did you hear about the teenage boy who told his parents that from today he was a man? They didn’t know what to do. They had a friend up in Alaska who told them to bring him up there. They had a MAN INITIATION CEREMONY. When they got there, they told him that he had to do two things: Skin a bear and kiss an Eskimo woman on the lips. Before they could repeat, he ran out. A day later he walks in with clothes all torn, ear bit off, and scratches all over his face. “Where’s that Eskimo woman you want me to skin?”

Application: Parents – “Are you giving your children wisdom (Skill in living) for their lives?” Children – “Are you listening do your parents?” This book is the wisdom of God. Are you reading it? Are you teaching your children to read this book? Where are they looking for wisdom?

III. GOD’S GRACE

and the grace of God was upon Him.

Background: The word for grace is χάρις which means favor and special blessing. What does that mean? It has the imagery of someone stronger coming to help someone weaker. Let me illustrate – sometime back I was with Josh and you’re going somewhere and just then we saw this car on the side of the road, smoke coming out from under the hood. Maybe some of us have been there. We said let’s go help the guy. We pulled up and asked the man if we could help. You could see the discouragement in his eyes – “I’m trying to get to the college and take my exam. I can’t miss this one.” So we gave him a ride. We didn’t have to help him. We didn’t owe him anything. It was an act of grace.

To have God’s grace upon us means God doesn’t have to do anything for us but he does it anyway. He helps us. He picks us up. He gives us the push we need. He gives us the hand up that we need. He opens doors for us. He closes some doors for us. That’s all because of His grace upon us.

Your child’s greatest need is not another program, another sport, another activity, another game, another dress, or another pair of shoes. Their greatest need is to have God’s grace upon their lives.

Here’s the formula to activate God’s grace in your child’s life – 2 Corinthians 12 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Let me ask you fundamental question: Does your son or daughter know Jesus Christ as their Savior? I didn’t ask you if you take him to church. I didn’t ask you if she is in a youth group. I’m asking you is he or she saved. Here’s a better question: are you saved? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If not, you are negating with your life on the positives you are doing for your child. Today’s the day of salvation.

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 4

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whose in your family treeWe are in our miniseries through the genealogy of Jesus called “WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE?” So far we have seen the first three “not so illustrious” characters in the lineage of Jesus – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. Now we come to the fourth one – Bathsheba. All of us have failed at some point in our lives or we have fallen victim to someone else’s failure. This message will help us realize that no matter what – God’s grace is available to all of us.

Matthew 1:5-7, 15-16 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa….15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

Overall Background: Most commentators and preachers who deal with the incident involving Bathsheba focus mostly on David – his sin, repentance, and restoration. What we will see today is the rest of the story from Bathsheba’s angle. By the way, I’m not the first person to attempt this. Many writers, painters, and preachers over the centuries have tried to do that, even Hollywood. Most of it is fanciful imagination, not based on historical evidence. Nothing terribly wrong about that but for our message we will focus only on what is actually written in the Bible about Bathsheba.

Here’s the gist of the message – Sometimes through no fault of your own, you share the consequence of someone else’s sin. Sometimes you have to play a role in someone else’s drama of life. But if you let God step in, He will use even this to bring grace in your life.

Application: This morning there are people here who are in a situation not of their choosing. If you could, you would never get involved in that situation. It is what it is. Either you can spend your whole life in “what if” or you can let God step in. If you do, He will work all things together for good in your life. If you don’t know Him, today is the day.

 4 things we will learn about Bathsheba’s life from the Word of God.

1. HER GODLY LIFE

2 Samuel 11 1 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. (We can say much about David here – He should have been out there on the battlefield leading his men.)

“An empty mind is a Devil’s workshop.” If you are in a situation where you have a lot of free time on your hands, you are a prime candidate for trouble. Either you are getting into trouble or you are looking to start trouble. As a pastor, when someone comes to me with a complaint about a situation or a person, I evaluate what they are saying based on how busy they are. Leaders at Clearview – “Don’t listen to people who are idle.” They just might be Satan’s tools. But there are also people who are not that busy but they refuse to fall into Satan’s hands. They let God use them and they bring encouragement wherever they go. Which one are you?

David's PalaceBut we will move on because this message is not about David but Bathsheba. 2 “Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house.” Archaeology has shown that David’s palace was taller than any surrounding building. So he could look down at an angle on other rooftops or courtyards. “And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.” Even though David had a good vantage point to see what was happening in the city, for him to see woman bathing clearly and that she was beautiful to behold, she had to be near enough. Meaning – This woman’s house was near to David’s palace. In those days, only people of importance lived near the palace. The further away from the palace, the less important you were. Apparently, the woman came from an important family.

3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam…” Who was Eliam? It sounds like David was supposed to know this person. In 2 Samuel 23 we have a list of David’s mighty men. One of them killed 800 men by himself; another killed 300 men; and yet another had killed a lion inside a snow filled pit. This was an elite fighting force. Listen to verse 34 “…Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite.” Bathsheba’s father was part of David’s elite fighting force.

There’s more – Who was Ahithophel the Gilonite? 2 Samuel 15:12 Then Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor…” Bathsheba’s grandfather was one of David’s advisors. How good of an advisor was he? 2 Samuel 16:23 Now the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God. Meaning: When Ahithophel spoke, it was as if God spoke.

Bathsheba was not some riffraff. She came from a good home.

Application: Do you come from a good home with godly parents and grandparents? Thank God for that! But you’re not immune to trouble. As long as you live in this sinful world, trouble will find you. 1 Pet. 4:12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” In fact, it seems that those who grow up in good Christian homes seem to have a lot of trouble. The enemy is after you. Don’t give up. Trust God that He will work all things for good.

Let me also talk to those who did not grow up in good homes and family situation. Don’t look with longing eyes at those who did. You never know what they had to go through. Eliam had to run from Saul and live in caves with David.

2. HER SHAMEFUL LIFE

3 “…And someone said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’”

Who was Uriah the Hittite? Remember the list of David’s elite fighting force in 2 Samuel 23, where Eliam, Bathsheba’s father was mentioned, listen to verse 39 “and Uriah the Hittite.” So, father-in-law and son-in-law worked together.

Hattusha MapWho was a Hittite? Up until recently, skeptics scholars doubted the existence of the Hittite people. Some scholars claimed that the Bible had created these mythological people and that there was no archaeological evidence for any people known as the Hittites. Then in the past couple of hundred years, artifacts began showing up about 100 miles east of Ankara – which is the capital of Turkey – with information about a people of the land of Hatti. In 1906, an archaeologist by the name of Hugo Winckler excavated over 10,000 clay tablets of the royal Hittite Library. Once again, the Bible stands true.

But the history of Hittite people is somewhat complex. There were Hittites living in the land when Abraham came to Canaan. In fact, he bought a plot of land to bury Sarah from Ephron the Hittite. Later God promised Joshua in Joshua 1:4 that he would give them “all the land of the Hittites.”

Was Uriah part of the Hittites who lived in the North in Asia Minor or was he part of the Hittites in the South who lived in Canaan? Not sure. One Hattushathing we know for sure. He was a follower of the Living and True God. The name Uriah means – “Yahweh is my Light.” This is not just some Semitic name. It is a testimony of someone who has come to know the Living God.

I’ve heard people say – “Bathsheba probably tricked David into lusting after her and she was just as much to be blamed.” We can have a lot of ideas and imaginations, but if you stick with the facts – from start to finish David was the culprit. Not a single time does it say that Bathsheba tricked David. Instead, 2 Samuel 11:4 “Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house.” It was nothing more than sheer intimidation.

David – the sweet psalmist of Israel; the shepherd king, and a man after God’s own heart. Now, he was just an adulterer.

Application: Have you been disappointed by people you thought you could trust? Give them to the Lord.

3. HER PAINFUL LIFE

5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” 

You know what followed – David brought Uriah back from the battlefield and was all nice to him and tried to send him home to Bathsheba. Uriah did not go home. Then, he tried to get him drunk and again tried to send him home to Bathsheba. Uriah did not go home. Finally, David sent a letter with Uriah to Joab ordering his execution. Sure enough, in an act of treachery, Uriah was killed along with some other men on the frontlines.

When Bathsheba heard about this – she mourned for him. (2 Samuel 11:26)

Again, this message is not on David. But just a word or two – No one is immune to sin. Sometimes people are disappointed when famous Christians fall into sin as if they were above temptations. In fact, that’s when temptations get more intense. Alan Redpath wrote, “The higher the pinnacle of blessing, authority, and publicity he has attained by grace, the deeper and more staggering can be his collapse.” In other words, the taller the tree, the bigger the sound it makes when it hits the ground.

How about David? 2 Samuel 11:27a And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. As far as David was concerned, it was all good. But 2 Samuel 11:27b “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”

You know the rest – God sent Nathan to confront David and according to God’s judgment, the child died. For the second time, Bathsheba had to mourn again because it says in 2 Samuel 12:24 “Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife…”

Something else happened – Remember, Bathsheba’s grandfather Ahithophel. When Absalom, David’s son, led a revolt/mutiny against his own father, Ahithophel decided to side with Absalom. 2 Samuel 15:31 Then someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” Any wonder?!! As far as he was concerned, David had destroyed the marriage of his granddaughter and killed her husband. He gave some horrible advice to Absalom that had nothing do with God. It was to go and rape David’s concubines. Then he gave more advice on how to trap David. But 2 Samuel 17:14 For the LORD had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom. Absalom refused to listen to Ahithophel. How did Ahithophel take all this? 2 Samuel 17:23  “Now when Ahithophel saw that his advice was not followed, he saddled a donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died…”

Again, I bet Bathsheba more than likely mourned for her grandfather.

How tragic! Sin has a snowball effect. As it rolls down the hill, it just gets bigger and bigger and until it bursts.

Application: Never forget that none of us sins in isolation. Our sins have an impact for generations to come.

4. HER GRACEFILLED LIFE

Is that it? 2 Samuel 12:24 “So she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. Now the LORD loved him.”

Application: Maybe you have been a victim of similar pain. God is with you. He is willing to show you His grace. He is willing to work all things together for good. Have you turned everything to Him? Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

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