Discipleship 5: Reproducing by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – REPRODUCING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Reproducing

Introduction: As you know, the Andy Griffith Show is one of my favorite TV shows. In my opinion, the character who makes the show is Barney Fife, the self-assured expert on every subject, especially weapons. One of the funniest episodes is the one when Andy has to deputize Floyd the Barber and two other men. Of course, Barney takes over (“Andy, let me handle this.”) and starts giving them the speech on being an officer of the law, which is hilarious. Inevitably, he tells them “how to handle firearms,” even though they won’t be getting any, and goes to holster his gun and fires it, scaring everyone to death. Now if you’ve seen the show, you don’t have to worry about him firing again because Andy gives him only one bullet and it has to stay in his shirt pocket. The point is – As lovable as Barney is, you cannot trust his advice. In the same way, there are many wonderful lovable people in church but when it comes to discipleship, they cannot help you. To make disciples, you have to be a disciple. And, if you are a disciple, you will reproduce disciples. I would add, reproducing disciples is the ultimate test of your discipleship.

Luke 6    39And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”

Question: Are you a disciple of Jesus? Are you saved? Are you reproducing more disciples? Are you helping others become disciples of Jesus?

Context: Today we come to the final letter Rin our acronym WATER. As you know, we’ve been unpacking W A T E R, the goal of discipleship, which stands for – WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. As important as the first four are, the last one is the most important. As I just said, it is the ultimate test of discipleship because it is the very heart of the Great Commission. Listen again to Matthew 28   16Then the eleven discipleswent away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them…18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciplesof all the nations…” Listen carefully: The Great Commission is Jesus’ command to his disciples to go and make more disciples, to go and reproduce. It was not just for the first 11, it’s for all disciples through the ages. The passage we just read from Luke 6 gives us 3 guidelines for reproducing disciples:

1. Spiritual blindness will keep you from reproducing.

Luke 6:39And He (Jesus)spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?”

Background: Who was Jesus talking about here?He was talking about the Pharisees and the scribes who were constantly following him, not to learn from him but to catch him or his disciples breaking the Old Testament Law. In Luke 6 the disciples were walking through a grain field on the Sabbath and they plucked some heads of grain to eat. The Pharisees saw them. I guess they must’ve been hiding in the field. Instead of offering food to the hungry disciples, they confronted them –“Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” Again, on another Sabbath day, Jesus went into the synagogue and there was a man there whose right hand had withered. The Pharisees and the scribes watched Jesus closely to see what he would do. When Jesus healed the man, instead of being happy for the poor man, Luke 6:11says,“they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” Here’s the point: These religious leaders kept missing what Christ was doing on account of their spiritual blindness. This is why Jesus said, “Can the blind lead the blind?”He often referred to these religious leaders as blind leaders and blind guides. There are several examples inMatthew 23. Here are a couple –24Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!I can picture the disciples and the multitudes getting a good laugh out of it! Again, 25“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.”

Listen carefully:There is a reason why many people in churches are incapable of making disciples. They are blind to the things of God. They are more concerned about the traditions of men than about the truth of God. They are more concerned about their personal comfort than about the condition of the lost. No wonder they cannot train others to be disciples. Unless your eyes have been open to the things of God, you cannot show it to others. No wonder many are lying in the ditch. To reproduce disciples without first receiving spiritual sight will only reproduce blind disciples.

Question:  Are you spiritually blind as well? Would Jesus have included you in this religious crowd? Can you see what God is doing? If not, get saved today.

2. Select your teacher wisely.

40“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”

Background: Jesus used this principle repeatedly in his preaching and teaching. In this context, he was definitely making a reference to the religious leaders. In fact, he was talking to the disciples of the Pharisees. He was saying to them – “You will never rise above your teachers. Look at them. Is that what you want to be like when you’re done?”

Illustration:When I was in college, a mature professor gave me a very valuable advice – “When you go to grad school, don’t take classes. Take professors.” I know that he’s not the only one who has ever said that but that really helped me. I purposely chose professors who had some quality I really admired and wanted to have in my life.

The Pharisees were teachers of the law but their lives were full of hypocrisy. Listen to what Jesus said about them in Matthew 23    1Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, thatobserve and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laythemon men’s shoulders; but they themselveswill not move them with one of their fingers. 5But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’…15“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Listen carefully: You want to grow as a disciple of Jesus, be careful who you pick to be your teacher. This goes for men and women. If their lessons do not match their lifestyles, abandon them and ask God to bring the right godly men or women into your life who will say as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1“Imitate me, just as I alsoimitateChrist.” I’m not saying that they have to be perfect. If that was the requirement, none of us could be disciple makers. I’m saying that they have to be Christlike.

Application:Whom are you following? Who is helping you become a disciple of Jesus? If you are a disciple maker, are you Christlike?

3. Self examine before you cross examine. 

41And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me remove the speck that isin your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that isin your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Background: Once again, I can hear the disciples and the multitudes snickering at this point. I don’t need to say a whole lot on this one. You get the point. As someone said, “We judge ourselves by our motives and others by their deeds.”

Robby Gallaty lists 4 qualities that are the goal of reproducing:

  1. Believers who are under the rule of Christ.
  2. Believers who repeat the Word of God.
  3. Believers who reflect the image of Christ.
  4. Believers who replicate the process of Christ.

Question: If reproducing is the ultimate test of discipleship, how well are you doing? Are you a disciple of Christ?

In the beginning, after God made Adam and Eve in his image, he blessed them and said to them in Genesis 1:28“…Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth…” Multiply = Reproduce

Jesus became our New Adam and he told us in Matthew 28:19Go therefore and make disciplesof all the nations…” Make disciples = Reproduce

Paul told Timothy, his son in the faith in 2 Timothy 2:2“the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”Commit these to faithful men = Reproduce

Our mission at Clearview is to lead all people into a life-changing ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Ever Growing = Reproduce

Secret Religion – Fasting

SECRET RELIGION – FASTING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

secretreligion_fastingIntroduction: This morning we are in part 3 of the series – SECRET RELIGION – and our focus is on fasting. Again, God wants us to fast, not for self-praise but to seek His face.

Matthew 6   16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Overall Background: In the past 2 messages Jesus exposed the giving hypocrites and the praying hypocrites. Giving hypocrites – those who give charity but only for public praise. Praying hypocrites – those who pray but only to look spiritual and jab their enemies. Neither of them gets anything from God. Now He turns His attention towards the fasting hypocrites. Listen to what He says – “For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.” Meaning: The fasting hypocrites are not really fasting. They only appear to be fasting. I guess they have a Snickers bar hidden in their robe somewhere and now and then they take a bite when no one’s looking. But when someone comes along, they act all famished – “I’m suffering for Jesus.” Jesus says of them what He said about the other two – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Meaning: God knows their hypocrisy and their fasting remains fruitless (no pun intended).

Here’s the gist of this message – Fasting is simply God’s people setting aside food, entertainment, and any distraction to get serious with Him. God wants us to fast. It brings tremendous results, especially when we are facing painful and impossible situations. But fasting with the wrong motives may impress some but not God.

Question: Do you fast? Are you facing a hopeless situation? A difficult marriage, a wayward child or grandchild, finances or employment, a frustrating habit, something in your past, a dream that’s too big and too risky. Are you concerned about our church, community, or nation? Then it’s time to fast and pray. Are you saved? No amount of fasting can help you. You’re just dieting all the way to Hell!

2 questions we will ask about Secret Religion and Fasting:

I. WHY FASTING IS VITAL? 

16 “Moreover, when you fast…

Background: Just like regarding prayer, Jesus does not say “if” you fast but “when” you fast. Meaning: Fasting, like prayer, was expected for God’s people. It may surprise some of you that fasting is all over the Bible. Let me give you some examples:

  1. Fasting when in the presence of God – Moses fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, without bread and without water, before he received the 10 Commandments. Let me make it clear: the reason he was able to do this is because of the presence of God.
  2. Fasting when humbling oneself before God – On the Day of Atonement God commanded in Leviticus 16 29 “…you shall afflict your souls, (humble yourself) and do no work at all…30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.” Although the word “fasting” is not mentioned, Jewish people fasted on this day to humble themselves before God.
  3. Fasting when mourning before God – Job fasted after the tragedy hit his home, as he says in Job 3:24 “For my sighing comes before I eat…” The people of Israel fasted all day before the Lord because of the civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel. Hannah fasted before the Lord because she could not have any children. It says in 1 Samuel 1:7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she (sister wife) provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. When David and his men heard that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle, they fasted until evening. By the way, mourning was the main reason for fasting.
  4. Fasting when repenting over sins before God – Joshua fasted all day after the defeat of Israel at Ai. Under Samuel, the people of Israel fasted all day in repentance for their sins. The prophet Joel called for a fast because of the plague of locusts and the famine in the land. When Jonah pronounced God’s judgment against Nineveh, the entire city fasted; even the king and God turned away His wrath. Daniel fasted before the great vision in Daniel 9 and he begins his prayer with – 4“O Lord, great and awesome God…5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled…”
  5. Fasting when facing a major challenge – Esther fasted for 3 days along with her maids and all the Jewish people in Shushan before she went before the king to intercede for her people. When Nehemiah heard about the plight of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, he was so burdened that he wept and mourned for many days but he didn’t stop there. Listen to Nehemiah 1:4. He says, “I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

———–For time’s sake, let’s jump over to the New Testament————

  1. Fasting when beginning a new ministry – Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights before He started His ministry. The early church fasted and prayed before they sent Barnabas and Paul on the mission journey.
  2. Fasting when doing ministry – Paul mentions fasting as a sign of being God’s servant. In 2 Corinthians 6 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings…” Ministry has problems and will always have problems. Before you complain and criticize have you considered cutting back from food? When I come across people like this, I’m thinking – “has this person enough spiritual maturity to put down that hamburger or that fried chicken and actually pray?!!”

Application: Are you facing a difficult time, a tough challenge? Are you willing to set aside the plate of food and humble yourself before God? Andrew Murray (Dutch Reformed South African pastor and writer) said, “Fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.”

II. HOW FASTING GOT DISTORTED? 

16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.

Shofar

Shofar (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Just like everything else, we human beings know how to distort everything good that comes from God. God condemned all such fasting. Listen to Isaiah 58   1 “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; (the word is actually shofar, which means a horn from a ram or an antelope). They would blow the shofar to announce the fast and there was a whole system and rituals of how to do this. What God is saying here is – “Put down your shofar and your rituals and speak like a shofar to my people.” What should Isaiah say – “Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness…They take delight in approaching God. Then they complain – 3 “Why have we fasted…and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ God says, “Let me explain to you why.” 3 “…in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. 4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness…5 Is it a fast that I have chosen…6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am.’…11 The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In…14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth…The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

So also Zechariah the prophet – Zechariah 7   4 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 5 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me?…7 Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets…9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’

Let’s return back to what Jesus said – 16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. After the Babylonian exile the Jewish people were very strict about their fasts but by the time of Jesus, they began to fast for the wrong reasons. Since humbling was described as “afflicting oneself,” they would not shave or wash their clothes or take a bath. As bad as that sounds, this was how they communicated to others that they were more spiritual. Sometimes it got really extreme – One rabbi (Eleazer ben Azariah) from the time of Jesus fasted until his teeth turned black. Why? Atoning for the sin of opposing a majority view! Rabbi Joshua made a derogatory remark against the school of Shammai and went on a fast until his teeth also turned black. Rabbi Simeon insulted Rabbi Aqiba and fasted until his teeth turned black. In a sense, this was probably what was happening during the time of Jesus. They were taking pride in their penitence.

Application: People are no different today – How many times I have heard people judge someone walking in with a beautiful dress or makeup or nice suit and judge them on that. This is reverse prejudice!

What did Jesus say – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” People may be impressed but God is not. Instead, 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Meaning: Don’t let your spirituality distract people from the Savior.

Fasting is no fun. I fast every week. I tell you this not to brag but to urge you to do the same. I am not a very good faster. On days I fast, everything looks like food to me. The pen looks like a French fry and the paperweight looks like a sandwich! Just put a little ketchup on it! But the benefits are unbelievable. God has answered repeatedly in response to my prayer and fasting.

Remember—Stress can either drive you to indulge or it can drive you to get serious with God. Fasting is simply God’s people setting aside food, entertainment, and any distraction to get serious with Him. You may say – “I don’t know how to fast.” We’re not talking about 40 days and 40 nights. Can we not set aside a day to fast unto God? There are several great resources out there on fasting.

(To preview or purchase these resources, click on the images.)

Ronnie Floyd - "The Power of Prayer and Fasting"

Ronnie Floyd, The Power of Prayer and Fasting: God’s Gateway to Spiritual Breakthroughs.

Elmer Town - "Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough"

Elmer Towns, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough: A Guide to Nine Biblical Fasts.

 

Do you know Christ as your Savior? Do you need to fast?

Salt and Light: The Myth of a Secular Nation

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here or watch the video here.

SALT AND LIGHT: THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

saltandlightWe are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we come to Matthew 5 to what Augustine called the “De Sermone Domini in Monte” = Sermon on the Mount – the passage in which Jesus gave the Beatitudes, the Six Antithesis, the Lord’s Prayer, the Golden Rule, and other important principles of the Christian life. With that in mind, today we will begin a long miniseries titled, “SALT AND LIGHT – THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION.” There is something in this series that is very vital for our personal lives, our families, our church, our community, and our nation.

Matthew 5:13-14 (Click to watch video of reading by the Mount of Beatitudes)   13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: You may not know but the Sermon on the Mount has been discussed and debated ever since it was first written. As early as the first century we know of a document called the Didache that tells us that the early church struggled with how to obey such high standards that Jesus gave to His disciples and to the multitudes. People throughout the centuries have questioned if it was even possible to apply these rules and could it be that they were meant for another time and another place. Some people claimed that this passage was only meant for those who lived before the cross and that Jesus did not expect them to obey them but was just showing them how God’s standard of holiness was too high and how much they needed His grace in their lives. Others claimed that the list of righteousness and holy living has nothing to do with the past or the present but with the future millennial kingdom. In other words, there has to be an ideal environment for this high standard to be achieved.

So what do we do with the Sermon on the Mount? Do we just skip over it? I believe that the Sermon on the Mount is for every Christian of every generation. When you truly study this passage in its context you realize that Jesus did not give this sermon just to make us feel helpless before the holiness of God or to make us feel hopeful for some future Kingdom of God. He meant this sermon to be obeyed by all believers of all ages. There are some powerful truths embedded in these verses – truths that will change the way we live the Christian life, truths that will bless our homes and our families, truths that will change the way we function as a church, truths that will transform our community, and truths that will change the direction of our nation.

The Sermon on the Mount is a kind of Christian life that not only brings personal blessings but it also transforms the world around us. It’s not a life that runs from the world or a life that compromises with the world but a life that seasons and brightens the world around us. Daily I come across people who are either fed up with the world or fearful of the world. The Sermon on the Mount challenges us to live in such a way that the world sees our good works and glorifies our Father in heaven.

Application: Do you think we need this kind of a Christian life? Do you think our community needs this kind of a life? Do you think our nation needs God’s blessing? Are you being the salt and light in this world? Let’s ask a deeper question – are you saved?

This morning we won’t look at just one passage but several passages from the Sermon on the Mount. We will set the foundation for the rest of the series. If we get this message, we will get the rest of the series. 3 things stand out in this Sermon:

I. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF ISOLATION FROM THE WORLD. 

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…

Background: Some people think that this proves that Jesus did not want the multitudes. “He saw the multitudes and went up the mountain with His disciples.” Not true. Let’s go to the end of the sermon in 7 28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 8:1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. This was not a private lesson just for the disciples.

How did the multitudes find Him? Let’s go to the verses immediately preceding the sermon on the Mount – Matthew 4 23 And Jesus went King of Kings Sermon on the Mountabout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people…25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

Bottom line: The multitudes did not find Jesus. He went and found them. One of the problems in our churches is that we are either running from the multitudes or we are waiting for them to find us. We like to talk about how bad the world is and how far we have come and how things are not what they used to be. Sometimes we’re doing everything we can to keep the world out. Make no mistake – we need to stay away from worldliness but not stay away from people. There’s a big difference. Jesus was not worldly but He loved people. He went out and met the needs of the people and then people followed him.

This does not mean that He was naïve about the multitudes. What kind of people were in the multitudes? Matthew 4:24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, (What do sick people do? They moan and groan and complain.) and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Do you think some of them fussed with each other? Do you think some were greedy, lustful, critical, and demanding? Of course! Ministry is messy. Jesus did not consider the crowd to be a burden. Sometimes we tend to think that the crowd is a burden. You’ll hear things like – “We got too many people here now.” “I don’t know every body anymore.” “It’s hard to keep up.” “I liked it when it was small.” Jesus loves this! It’s for the people that He came.

If Christianity is going to survive in America, it will have to go to the multitudes and that will be messy but that’s all right. God has not called us to isolation. He wants us out there seeking and saving that which was lost.

For e.g. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, learned from George Whitfield that if change were to come in England, they would have to go outside the church to fields and the docks and the markets. At first Wesley didn’t like it. He was too traditional. But on April 1, 1739 Wesley preached to a group gathered on Nicholas Street. Guess which passage? The Sermon on the Mount! He was chastised by church leaders but listen to what he wrote in his journal on July 11, 1739: “Permit me to speak plainly…God in Scripture commands me, according to my power, to instruct the ignorant, reform the wicked, confirm the virtuous. Man forbids me to do this in another’s parish; that is, in effect, to do it at all, seeing I have now no parish of my own, nor probably ever shall. Whom then shall I hear, God or man? “I look upon all the world as my parish…” England was riddled with immorality, skepticism, atheism, and the coming of Wesley saved it. He went to the people. We’re looking for new ways to grow our churches. Maybe we need to try the Jesus way!

Application: What do you think about the multitudes? Do you run from them? Do you spend your time criticizing them? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and save them? If not, step out of the way and let others do it.

II. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD 

2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Background: Just when you think that Jesus would laugh over sin, He raises the bar. Sometimes we think that in order to win the world we have to become like the world. Nothing is further from the truth. In the weeks ahead I’ll be preaching on each of these beatitudes. Let me just tell you – the Standard is high, very high!

Here’s more – 4 Blessed are those who mourn, (Some were complaining) For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, (Some were proud) For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, (Some were hungering for the things of this world) For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, (Some were bitter and hateful) For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, (Some had hidden sins) For they shall see God.

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If we want God’s blessing in our lives, it has to be the way of holiness and righteousness. We can’t go around that. In fact in Matthew 5:20 Jesus says to them, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees and the scribes at a high standard but Jesus said – “Your standard better be higher then theirs if you want to get to heaven.” Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Nothing destroys our testimony before the world than hypocrisy and hidden sin.

Application: How is your sin life right now? Is there hate in your heart? Is there anger in your life? Is there unforgiveness towards someone? Is there lust? Is there greed? Are you having trouble seeing God? Could it be because “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

III. A LIFE OF BLESSING AND RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT TRANSFORMS THE WORLD.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

Background: Just when you think Jesus is only interested in our personal spiritual lives He makes a statement that I feel is one of the greatest passages in the entire Bible. Salt seasons our food. It makes it worth eating. But if the salt loses its flavor then it is worthless for the food. It has to be thrown away. People just walk over it.

Christianity is being trampled upon in America. It’s because Christians have lost their flavor.

Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

For e.g. As you know, Nicole and I went to Israel in January. One thing that really got me were the ultra Orthodox. They reminded me of the Pharisees and the scribes, maybe not in every aspect but regarding tradition. These people wear black robes, black hats, and black shoes. They have long sideburns and they’re constantly doing their Torah reading and mumbling their prayers. They are an oddity. They’re different. They’re strange. They’re judgmental. I asked our guides about them and both of them had some not so nice things to say. Both our guides were Jewish but secular Jewish.

I thought about our churches in America and Christians in America. In some ways, we have become an oddity. We have become different and strange. By that I’m not saying that we are different as in God’s people different but different as in old, outdated, harmless, naïve, flavorless, and “matter of time before they’re extinct people.”

Jesus went on to say in verse 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt. He notes that “Christianity and Christian influence on the government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; outlawing pedophilia; granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy in the Western world; prohibiting the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advancing the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlawing slave trade and slavery.

I’m amazed at how some Christians have been backing away from the public square when we should be the ones taking the public square. The reason we have the freedom we do and the blessings we do is because this nation was founded to be the salt in the light of the world. The reason we are compassionate towards people, animals, the less fortunate, the ones who are sidelined, and abused is because of Christianity. We have been beneficiaries of someone else’s faithfulness. Much has changed. Either we are hiding our light or we have a false light or we have no light.

When you and I begin to live the way Christians were meant to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the life of Christ in us, with the word of God on our lips and in our hearts, we become the salt and the light of the world. Do you want to know why the world and America and our community is in such a mess? Stop blaming Hollywood. Stop blaming the politicians. Stop blaming the atheists and the sexually immoral. They’re just living by their nature. Start looking in the mirror. If our Christian lives were what they were supposed to be, this world would be a better place. If we were teaching our children how to live the blessed life, they would be the change makers in our society today.

It’s not too late. Today’s the day to begin. First, if you are not saved, you need to get saved right now. Let’s go a step further – what are you doing right now to impact our community? What are you doing to make this 30-mile radius the best place on earth? Are you praying for our nation? Are you getting involved in politics? It’s not enough to preach the gospel. It’s also important to impact the culture. This is not just so we can keep preaching but also so that our society will remain civil, kind, compassionate, and blessed.

By the way, what did Jesus say in the Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Meaning: The very first thing that we are to pray for after glorifying God is for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 1)

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 1) by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

How to behave this Christmas season

Christmas is here. Our kids are counting down the days, as I’m sure yours are as well. Christmas can be a time of joy, excitement, and laughter but it can also be a time of sadness, frustration, and contention. What is needed is the kind of love that will cover a multitude of sins. This morning’s message is titled – “HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON,” from Romans 12. By the way, this message is for all seasons.

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

Overall Background:  We are in the application section of the Book of Romans. From Romans 1-11, Paul has been teaching us doctrine and starting in Romans 12, he focuses on application. In verse 9 he says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” Meaning – Be real when you love people. Don’t be fake, a put on, superficial, selective, and temporary.

The mistake people make is they immediately try to apply it and they fall flat on their face. They try to love their spouse, children, neighbor, co-workers, and church family and they fall flat on their face. Sooner or later someone does something that goes beyond their definition of love and they start pretending. They set up their own criteria of love and it’s a mess.

What’s the solution? You cannot apply Romans 12:9 without looking back to Romans 1-11 to see what Paul through the Holy Spirit has said about love. Romans 1-11 should be the foundation, the atmosphere, and the motivation for Romans 12-16. The doctrine we learned should impact the way we live. What many Christians do is that they think – here’s doctrine and here’s application. First, they focus on doctrine and then set it aside. Next, they focus on application and they fall flat on their face. What you believe should affect how you behave. Your doctrine should affect your lifestyle. If you start applying without referring to doctrine, then verse 9 would read –“love be with hypocrisy.”

On a side note, if your doctrine has not touched your actions, then either your doctrine is faulty or your application is weak. Most of the time our doctrine is right on but our application is missing. As A.W. Tozer (famous pastor and writer) used to say, “You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically and just as empty (and cold and hard) as one spiritually.”

What have we learned about love between Romans 1-11? Here are a few things: 

I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE SUPPLIER OF GOD’S LOVE

 

In Romans 5:5 we have learned that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Meaning: Once I’m saved, I don’t have to dig into my own resources to find love. Whatever I find will be fake, a put on, superficial, selective, and temporary. But the love that the Holy Spirit has poured into my heart is real, genuine, impartial, and lasting.

For e.g. Let’s say that I had to survive in the Alaskan wilderness for a week in the dead of winter. Prior to going into the woods, I was given a backpack with compass, matches, flint knife, flares, tent, canned food, defensive equipment, and everything that I needed to survive. Then I go out into the woods and forget everything and start panicking because I’m cold, hungry, lost, and scared? What would you say? Don’t you have your backpack? Why are you not using those things?

When we come to the Lord, we have our old backpack. But the Holy Spirit gives us a new backpack and He fills it with all that we need for our journey. Sadly, we dig into the old backpack rather than the new.

The Holy Spirit transforms our previously judgmental, critical, negative, condescending eyes into the eyes of love and compassion. The first fruit of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22). Show me a person who is busy finding fault, constantly critical, constantly hateful, and I will show you a person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Show me a family that is constantly at each other’s throats and I will show you a family that is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Show me a church that is constantly bickering and fussing and fighting and I will show you a church that is not filled with the Holy Spirit. They may make a lot of noise but it is nothing more than “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” (I Cor. 13:1) But show me a church that loves Jesus, loves each other, and loves the lost and I will show you a church that is full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Does that mean there will not be any problems? Of course not! But “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (I Pet 4:8)

II. THE CROSS IS THE DEMONSTRATION OF GOD’S LOVE.

 

In Romans 5:8 we have learned that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Meaning: The sample of what this love looks like has no resemblance on earth. A mother loves her child. That’s wonderful but that’s what mothers do. A soldier gives his life because he loves his country. It’s a great sacrifice but it still does not compare to God’s love. Where do you see God’s love? On the cross. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

For e.g. Ray Stedman tells the story of the man who was walking past a bookstore and he saw a book titled “How to Hug.” It was a thick book. Being the romantic and curious type he went in to buy it. When he opened it was the third volume of an encyclopedia that covered every subject from “How” to “Hug.”

The love that is in our backpack is not love that is selective and partial but it loves those who hate us. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-46  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?

People know the real deal. For e.g. I heard the story of the teenager who grew up in a terrible situation and saw her parents abusing each other mentally, emotionally, and physically. Then she gave her heart to Christ. Someone asked her why. She replied that she was waiting for her ride in the church and from the window she saw the youth pastor lovingly walk to his car with his wife. He opened the door for her and gave her a peck on the cheek, all the while unaware that someone was watching them. That’s when I realized that there is such a thing as true love.

III. JESUS CHRIST IS THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S LOVE

In Romans 8:35-38 we have learned that the source of our love never runs dry. What if we face physical problems? Listen to verse 35 onwards – 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

 

What happens we face physical problems? Some people feel that God is punishing them for something they have done wrong. Remember – God disciplines but never punishes His children. The end result of punishment is penalty and shame but the end result of discipline is growth and blessing. 

Are you facing some difficult times in your life? Do you believe that God is punishing you? Do you believe that right now you are out of favor with God? If so, it will affect the way you treat yourself and others. You will look down on self and be hateful about self. Then, you will look down on others and be hateful to them.

But listen to Romans 8:37 onwards,  37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When we are secure in God’s love for us, it will show in our relationships – husband/wife, children, neighbors, co-workers, and church family. If you are not secure in God’s love for yourself, you are not in the best state to make decisions. Right now, you need to hold up a sign that says “VOLATILE – CANNOT BE TRUSTED.” “DANGER – INTERACT AT YOUR OWN RISK.” Or “I KNOW BUT I CAN’T LIVE IT.”

I’m not suggesting that we go around hugging everybody but if these truths are in us, what is the conclusion again in Romans 12:9 “Let love be without hypocrisy.” Meaning: It’s not an exhortation or a command but a warning or a reminder.

Where do we begin? What is needed is for us to stop using catch phrases as mantras and start examining our hearts if we are truly living them. It is easy to say –

–       I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live…

–       I am dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus…

–       I do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit…

If right now your life is filled with anxiety, doubt, frustration, and all the rest, you need to step back and take a hard look at each of them. Then ask yourself if you really believe them. Are you walking in the truth?

Let me ask you a few questions:

  • Do you believe that the Holy Spirit has poured the love of God into your heart? Are you living right this moment under His direction and authority?
  • What is the standard of love that you are using in your life? Anything less than the cross will cause you to hate others.
  • Do you say you love God? Then do you also say you hate someone?
  • Are you truly secure in God’s love? Is there anything that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus?

Christmas can be a time of sadness, frustration, and contention. It can bring out the worst or the best in us. If you are full of the Holy Spirit, if your heart is set upon Jesus Christ, if you are secure in the promises of God in His Word, what will come forth will be genuine love.

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