Trash Talk by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRASH TALK by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Trash Talk

Introduction:  Some years back couple of our kids were complaining to Nicole about how much we make them work around the house and how much we should pay them. They didn’t realize that I was in the other room listening to their griping. So, I pulled out a piece of paper and started writing down everything we did for the kids and how much they owed us: Rent – $200/month; Food – $200/month, Gas – $100/month; Clothes – $75; Field trip – $30; and on and on. When we added it all up and tallied it with what they said we owed them, they owed us money! So, the kids wisely decided that it was better not to talk about getting paid. In Malachi, the people were also complaining against God about how much they were serving him and getting nothing for it. God heard them trash talking his name and he confronted them. That’s the title of the message: TRASH TALK.

Malachi 3    13 “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the Lord, “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ 14 You have said, “It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’” 16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.

Question: What do you say about God? Do you trash talk his name? Do you fear him? Do people hear you talking about God or do they hear you talking about others? Do you trash talk others or do you edify others? Are you saved?

Context: Throughout the book of Malachi God was holding the people of Israel in contempt for their words. It appears that they were trash talking about God behind his back but when he confronted them through Malachi, they didn’t repent and ask his forgiveness. Instead, like ungrateful children they restated their grievances against God to his face! Listen to these verses:

  • 1:2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” Probably they were going around saying “God doesn’t love us and care about us.” But when God confronted them, they were not afraid to say it again to his face!
  • 1:7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’”
  • 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’”

These people had become so used to God that they were not afraid to talk back to him. “What’s he gonna do to us? Hurt us? Hasn’t he done enough of that?” You can call this a sin of excessive familiarity. They had lost sight of who God was. They had forgotten Habakkuk 2:20 “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Zechariah 2:13 “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!”

Application: Are you infected with the sin of excessive familiarity towards God? Have you have lost sight of the fact that you are in the presence of the almighty eternal sovereign God? Never forget that you are just a creation. Be silent before him.

The pattern continues in Malachi 3:13 “‘Your words have been harsh against Me,’ Says the Lord.” The Hebrew word for “harsh” is “chazek,” which actually means “stout” or “heavy.” You could almost translate this as “Your words have been too heavy/too much against me.” It means that the people of Israel were not only speaking against God and to his face but they were also trying to force their words, their theology, and their false ideas about God upon him. People do that even today. With no biblical basis, they try to create God in their own image and preference – “I think God is like…” It doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is what God has said about himself in his word.

When God confronted them, they replied as expected – ‘What have we spoken against You?’ God reminded them – 14 You have said, “It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’” Nothing new here. They’re saying the same things they said previously – “There’s no benefit to serving God. You can do all you can to please him but it doesn’t matter. You can even walk around in all black (Kedar) to show your grief but it doesn’t matter to him.” In fact, they were even being sarcastic here – “Say hello to Mr. Proud but Blessed and Mrs. Wicked but Successful. They can even tempt God and nothing will happen to them but all we have to do is one tiny thing against him and he’ll send us off into exile!” How sad that people would talk this way about God…

Now listen to God’s response – 16 “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them…” Something has changed. Previously, God would’ve argued with the trash talkers and pointed out their fault and told them to make some changes. Not anymore. God is done with this group. He has decided to leave them to their own demise. Make no mistake, he will deal with them for their trash talking against him but he is no longer going to work with them. By the way, that’s a very scary place to be when God leaves us to our own demise. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Romans 1:24 “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness…”

Now, instead of working with those who were bent on trash talking against him, God turned his attention to another group who are doing just the opposite16 “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them…” Don’t misunderstand the word “feared.” It doesn’t mean fright. It is the Hebrew word “yare’” which means “reverence, honor, and respect.” Here’s an example: “By the time the year is over, I will do 7 weddings! Most of the time the bride does not want the groom to see her until she’s ready to walk down the aisle. At one of the weddings, they were having issues because where the bride was coming from, she was in line of his vision before she could even get to the aisle and she said, “I’m afraid he’s going to see me too soon.” Afraid? What’s he going to do to you? “Oh, not that way! I want everything to be just perfect for him so that when he sees me it’s me and no one else.”

While the trash talkers were busy bad-mouthing God, there was another group that wanted to please God and give him their best and spoke to each other. What did God do? “And the Lord listened and heard them…” Can you picture God leaning down and eaves dropping over this group! What did he hear? “God really spoke to my heart through today’s message.” “I know you’re going through a tough time. I’ll be praying for you.” “We need to pray for that young man. I think God is doing something in his life.” “God has been so faithful to my family.” “Have you ever studied this verse? I wonder what it means.” “We need to spread God’s word into our community. So many people need Christ.” What was God’s reaction? “So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord…” Recording Angel! Write it down! Two people came out of Clearview and instead of asking where were going to eat or “was so and so still with so and so,” they talked about my word. That couple over there stopped and prayed for another couple who is going through a difficult time in their marriage. Those group of men are coming together to decide how they can spread my gospel in their community.

Most people find more joy in gossiping and trash talking than talking about the things of God. As someone once said, “Little people talk about people; bigger people talk about things; but the greatest people talk about ideas.” Now don’t misunderstand. This does not mean that you never talk about people. It means that you don’t trash talk people. We’ve all been guilty of wasting time talking meaninglessly about people. Jesus said in Matthew 12   36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Someone might say, “But it’s not as much fun talking about the Bible as it is talking about others.” Two verses earlier in Matthew 12:34 Jesus told the Pharisees, “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” It reflects what’s inside.

Application: When the Lord leans over you, what does he hear? Does the Recording Angel walk away from you shaking his head? Are you the kind of person who edifies others by their words? There’s something else that this group was doing“So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.” They were also thinking about God. Do you think upon him, upon Christ? Someone might say, “That’s so arrogant of God for wanting us to think of him!” Not really. As Donald Grey Barnhouse once said, “God is perfection and perfection is always glad when imperfection is interested in perfection.”

Now listen to God’s response – 17 “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels…” The word for jewels is “segullah” which means “prized possession. Meaning: God will display them proudly as a king displays his beautiful and precious diamond ring. “…And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” 18 Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God And one who does not serve Him.

Invitation: Are you his precious jewel? Can people discern easily that you serve God? Or do you trash talk God and others? Are you saved?

Rotten Blessings by Pastor Abidan Shah

ROTTEN BLESSINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Rotten BlessingsIntroduction:  Sometime back someone gave us some Georgia peaches. I love peaches! I had a couple and I put the last two in the fruit bowl in the kitchen. The next day Nicole went grocery shopping and bought a bag of oranges. One of the inhabitants of our home put the bag of oranges right on top of the peaches. I forgot all about them. Couple of weeks went by until we got to the last of the oranges and I felt something pulpy and slimy underneath. Buried under there were those two peaches. They had rotten. What caused them to rot? To start with, they began dying the moment they were plucked from the tree, the source of life. Then, under the weight of the oranges, their thin skin was easily broken which made it easier for the elements to take over. When the inside of the peaches became exposed to air, then microorganisms began to use them for their own purposes. I can go on and on but losing their source of life was the first step towards rottenness. So also with us, God blesses us with many blessings. But, when we detach ourselves from him, the source of our blessings, those same blessings become rotten. That’s the title of our message “ROTTEN BLESSINGS.”

Malachi 2   1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart… 9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law.”

Question: Are you detached from the source of your blessings? Have you lost sight of God in your life? Have your blessings turned rotten for you? Are you saved?

Context: In our first message in this series on Malachi we learned that the Jewish people had become ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards God. God sent Malachi to shock them back into reality. That’s why our series is called “Counter-shock.” As much as God was disappointed with his people, he was really angry with the spiritual leadership, the priests and the Levites. Listen to Malachi 2:1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.” God was holding the priests accountable for the behavior of the people. Never forget – We will all have to give an account at the judgment seat of Christ but those who are in leadership will face a far stricter judgment as James 3:1 warns us. Now listen to verse 2 “If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, (How do you give glory to God’s name? Praise him, Fear him, Represent him with truth and integrity) “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart. What does that mean that God would curse their blessings? It has 2 meanings:

  • First, it refers to the blessing that the priests would pronounce twice daily in the temple, one in the morning and the other in the evening. It’s found in Numbers 6 23 “…This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’ 27“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” God was telling them – “When you say those words, you’re actually cursing the people.” By the way, Malachi 3:11 tells us that their crops were failing terribly at this time.
  • Second, it refers to what the priests and the Levites considered to be their personal blessings (their financial compensation, food, and their children). They too had become a source of shame and suffering.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my favorite preachers from yesteryears, gave an excellent illustration of this in modern day America. Our nation was founded upon biblical values. Let me say here: There are elements in our country right now who are working very hard to tear down our foundations. Make no mistake, the attacks against our flag and our national anthem are symbolic of a much sinister attack against us as a nation. At least on September 11, 2001 we saw the planes flying into the World Trade Towers. This to me is worse because we cannot see that we are under attack but our foundational values are being torn from under us. Anyways, one of our foundational values as a nation was that Sunday was a day of rest, a day set aside to worship God. Six days we could do as we pleased but then the 7th day was to be the Lord’s Day. In the old days, everything slacked off by Saturday evenings to get ready for church the next morning. As our country departed from God, Saturday and Sunday became the weekend, the time to unwind. Saturday became the party night and still is and Sunday became the day to sleep in, especially if you had a hangover. Statistics tell us that 1 out of every 5 Americans are involved in an alcohol-related car crash and the day on which those injuries occur the most is Saturday and the second is Sunday.

Back to our illustration: After our Navy was destroyed in Pearl Harbor, our Congress held several hearings of the Joint Commission investigating the attack. There were as many as 9 investigations. Several books are there on it: At Dawn We Slept; Dec 7, 1941; Pearl Harbor Papers; etc. Our people went into the war department in Tokyo and found out that the Japanese espionage had been spying on America for years and that Admiral Yamamoto, the mastermind of the attack, had deliberately chosen Sunday morning as the day to attack. Why? Several reasons – the ships would be in the docks, most sailors would be out on leave because of pay day but more than anything, it was the one day that most people would be down with a hangover. Bottom Line: The Japanese had determined that if America was attacked early Sunday morning, it will find it most vulnerable! As you know, Sunday morning (Dec. 7th 1941) Japanese fighter planes came in. The man at the radar reported but the officer in charge didn’t do anything because of his hangover and the bombs were dropping and destroying our navy. Did God cause it to happen? Absolutely not! We took God’s blessing of the day of rest and turned into a day of hangover and our blessing became a curse. In other words, our Day of Rest became a Date which will live in Infamy, as FDR called it.

This is exactly what God is saying to us today. Every blessing comes from him but when you take him out of the blessing, it becomes a curse – Money (take God out and it becomes our Master); Education (take God out and you have school shootings); Technology (take God out and it becomes a distraction); Freedom (take God out and it becomes a liability); Marriage (take God out and it becomes a misery); and even Children (take God out and they become a nuisance) 3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants…” I would even add Church to that list (take God out and it becomes a meaningless ritualistic burden, a relic of the past). Have your blessings become your curses?

But God is not through – “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it. What’s going on here? To understand that you have to understand how sacrifices were done by the priests in the temple. It’s all laid out in the Book of Leviticus. When a person sinned, they would bring a lamb for the sacrifice. The priest would first examine the Lamb to make sure that it didn’t have any blemish. Keep in mind that all this was pointing to Christ. I Peter 1   18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things…19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Then the person bringing the lamb would place their hands on the head of the lamb. It symbolized the imputation/transfer of the sins of the individual to the animal. Again, it was a picture of Christ, the Lamb of God taking our sins upon himself. Then the priest would take the lamb by the wool and lift it on top of the altar. The altar was sitting North to South with the northern end towards the Holy of Holies. By the way, the cross was located on the north side of Jerusalem. Now, with one stroke of the knife the priest would cut the jugular vein of the lamb and the blood squirting out was caught in a bowl which was then placed on the North side of the altar towards the Holy of Holies. The Blood was to becoming the propitiation for our sins. So also Jesus poured out his blood as an atonement for our sins. Someone might say, “Isn’t that barbaric?” Leviticus 17:11 “…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Hebrews 9:22 “. . . without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Remission means “Cancellation of debt.” God will punish sin. Either he will punish it in the individual or he will punish it in the substitute. Jesus became our substitute. All you have to do is ask him to be your Savior.

What’s next? The priest would then take the blood from the North side of the altar and sprinkle it 7 times before the veil. It would signify God’s acceptance. Now he would come out and apply the blood to the altars. It was a symbol of the way being opened from God to us. Next, the priest would take the knife and quickly flay the lamb. The wool was used for clothing. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The skin was cured and the Bible would be written on it. Christ is the Word of God for us. The meat of the lamb was eaten by the priests. We feed upon Christ daily. Nothing of the lamb was wasted just as everything of Christ is essential for us. Then something else would happen. The priest would remove the intestines which was filled with unexpressed dung and put in a bowl on the south side of the altar. Later, that bowl along with the “offal,” which were the waste parts of the animal, were taken out the dung gate on the south side of the city and dumped on the ash heap outside the city walls. This place was called Gehenna, a place of constant burning. It became a symbol of Hell.

Listen again to verse 3 “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.” Do you get the imagery! God is saying, “If you reject the blood of the Lamb on the north side of the altar, I will smear your face with the dung of the Lamb on the south side of the altar and you will be sent to hell. By the way, this was not just any feast but the solemn feast, the Feast of the Passover. In other words, if you refuse Jesus as your Savior, you will have him as your Judge.

Invitation: Have your blessings become a curse? Have you removed God from your blessings? Have you received the Lamb of God? Is he your Savior or your Judge?

Cold Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

COLD LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Cold Love

Introduction:  Years ago there was a cartoon of an old farmer and his wife riding down the road in a pickup truck. The first frame showed the old farmer sitting behind the wheel with his arm out the window and the wife sitting up against the door on the other side. The second frame showed a young couple passing them. They were sitting so close to each other that you couldn’t tell which one was driving. In the third frame the old woman says to her husband, “Pa, you remember when we used to ride like that…What happened to us?” In the last frame the old farmer replies, “Ma, I ain’t moved…” It’s the same thing when it comes to our relationship with God. If you find that your love for him has grown cold, guess who moved? Not him. This is our first message in our series on the Book of Malachi. It’s called “Cold Love.”

Malachi 1    1 The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord.

Question: “Oh what a weeriness!” Some translations say, “Oh, what a burden!” It has the idea of exhaustion behind it. The people had become tired of serving God. For reasons we will see this morning, they had become sick of God. Does that describe you today? Has the Christian life become a burden for you? Have the things of God become a drag for you? If so, then you need a revival, you need a countershock. As someone said, “before you can be revived, you have to be vived, you have to be saved.” Are you saved?

Context: The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It belongs in a collection known as the Twelve Prophets or the “Minor Prophets.” They’re called “minor” not because they’re less important but because compared to the bigger writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel they were much smaller. But even though Malachi is small in size, it has a big message. To really understand that, we have to understand the context in which it was written. From my study of the language and theology of the book, I believe that it was written sometime towards the end of Nehemiah’s ministry. For those of you who may not be familiar, here’s a quick timeline:

  • In 538 BC God raised Cyrus, King of Persia, to free the Jewish people. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had taken the people into exile and had destroyed everything. Under Cyrus they were able to return and rebuild.
  • Some returned and by 515 BC (23 years later) the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt. God sent his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the people to rebuild the temple.
  • In 458 BC (60 years later) God sent Ezra the scribe to come and read his law to the people and call them to spiritual, moral, and social renewal.
  • In 445 BC (10 years later) God burdened Nehemiah to leave his high-profile position in Persia and rally the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem and they did it in 52 days! He also led them in revival. But then Nehemiah had to go back to Persia and spiritually and morally things began to go downhill again.

This is the time period in which God sent Malachi the prophet to his people. It was God who had brought them back into the land. It was God who had helped them rebuilt their lives. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the temple. It was God who had helped them rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem. You would think that the people would be grateful to God and willing to serve him and obey him. Instead, they were becoming ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards him. Why? They were angry with God over why he had allowed them to go into exile in the first place. Why did so many have to die? Why did so many have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be turned upside down? They had forgotten that it was their sin that had brought the judgment of God. Now they were doubting the power of God, the love of God, and even the existence of God. As a result, some had turned towards atheism, others towards Epicureanism, and yet others had become reluctant believers. In other words, they were simply going through the motions but inside they were defiant towards God.

Illustration: Like the little boy whose daddy made him sit. He sat down with his arms crossed and said, “Fine. I’m sitting on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside.”

Application: Is that you? Have you become cynical and sarcastic towards God because of some bad situations? Are you simply going through the motions? Do you come to church but it’s a duty rather than a desire? Are you angry with God?

So God spoke to his people through Malachi– 1 “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” Some translations have it as “the oracle of the word of the Lord.” I believe that burden is a better translation because the word “massa” in this context has a sense of heaviness. The words that God is about to say to his people are heavy. Every message I preach I ask God to give me a burden for the people, a sense of urgency.

Now listen to the dialogue between God and his people. It’s in a “charge” versus “counter-charge” format – “God Speaks, Israel Speaks” 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. The word for love is “ahab” which has the idea of a sovereign, unconditional, and personal love. It represents covenant love. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’” You have to read that with a tone of sarcasm and scoff. They were doubting the character of God.Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” What was God saying? Jacob and Esau were brothers. God in his divine sovereignty had chosen Jacob and his descendants to fulfill his plan of redemption in the world. There was nothing that special about Jacob. It was totally divine election. What God was saying to them is “Don’t you remember that I chose you to be my people? Don’t you remember that I am the reason for your existence?”

Application: Have you forgotten where God has brought you from? Have you forgotten that everything you have is a gift from God? We don’t go back to Jacob but to Jesus.

By the way, why did God say “but Esau I have hated”? The descendants of Esau were the Edomites. They were cousins but they hated the descendants of Jacob, the people of Israel. In fact, when Babylon came up against Jerusalem, the Edomites helped them to destroy the city. God says, “I have — 3 “…laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.” And if they try to rebuild, God said, “I will tear down faster than they can build. ‘They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness.’” In other words, God was saying “I will deal with them for what they’ve done to you.” By the way, sometime in the fifth century a group of Arab tribes drove the Edomites out of their homeland. By around 312 BC the Nabateans took over the region and made Petra their capital city. Nicole and I went there 3 years ago. It’s beautiful but a wasteland to this day.

6 “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts…” They were defying the honor of God. By the way, the reverence of God is not “organ music and lofty prayers.” It’s uncompromised obedience to him. Who were leading the charge here? To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, “In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ The priests and the Levites had no fear of God themselves. When the people would bring defiled food (the leftovers) and rejected stuff to the altar, the show-bread table and the altar of burnt offering, they would not stop them. They would say, “Yeah, it’ll work.” 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. 9 “But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts. What a powerful analogy! People still try to offer God their leftover money, time, and talent. We are so prone to give what hurts the least. God says, “If you’re going to give me something, it should cost you something.” Why? It should be a sacrifice. It cost God something when he gave his Son on the cross.

Application: Have you lost the fear of God? Have you lost the reverence of God? Are you still trying to offer God your leftover money, time, and talent?

10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the Lord of hosts. 12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. They were openly disgruntled in worship. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord. Weariness is when you go from “I get to” to “I’ve got to” – “I’ve GOT to go to church” “I’ve GOT to teach S.S.” “I’ve GOT to sing.” “We’ve GOT to tithe.” Listen carefully: If you’ve lost the joy of the Christian life, you might as well stop the work of the Christian life. There’s nothing more dull, dry, boring, and tedious than Christian work without the joy of the Christian life.”

14 “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the Lord of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.

How to know your love has become cold? Doubt the character of God, defy the honor of God, and openly disgruntled in worship. Are you saved?

Comfort and Joy by Pastor Abidan Shah

COMFORT AND JOY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

comfort-and-joyIntroduction: We’re in our final message in our Christmas series – BELIEVING IS SEEING. If you want to see Jesus, you have to believe in Him first and then you begin to see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and personal life. Jesus gave us a clue to find Him in Scripture when He said, “Moses wrote about Me.” We’ve examined two such passages already. Today we’ll look at a third one and the message is titled – COMFORT AND JOY.

Deuteronomy 18   15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Bridge: Everyone has a favorite Christmas carol. The one I like is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Unfortunately, many people don’t know what it means. To start with, it’s not about some merry gentlemen taking the time to rest. The comma should come after “merry” – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” What do those words mean? The word “rest” means keep/stay, like “rest assured.” The word “merry” means “joyful” and the word “gentlemen” does not refer to some Victorian gentlemen in top hats. It’s a generic reference to “people.” So the first line should read “God Keep You Joyful, People.” Why? “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay, Remember, Christ, our Saviour was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.” That is beautiful! We can have comfort and joy because Christ our Savior has come but I want to suggest a correction – “It’s not to save us from Satan’s power but from God’s power.” In today’s message we’ll learn about the real reason to have comfort and joy at Christmas.

Question: Before we go any further, what emotions come to your mind when you think about the coming of Jesus? Does His coming bring comfort and joy to your heart? Do you understand why Jesus really came into this world? Do you know that He has come to be the mediator between God and us? Do you realize that you cannot come to God on your own? Have you ever asked Jesus to be your mediator? Are you saved?

Today we’ll learn the biblical reason to have comfort and joy. 3 things to understand:

I. THE DREADFUL AND AGGRESSIVE HOLINESS OF GOD

Background: In the passage we just read from Deuteronomy 18 Moses is making a solemn promise to the people of Israel that after his own death God would raise up a prophet for them who would just like him be a Mediator between God and them. Why did they need a Mediator? Because of an incident that took place at Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb. To learn about this incident we have to turn to Exodus 19. The people had just left Egypt and they had made it to the foot of Mount Sinai or Horeb. It was time for them to come face-to-face with the God who had set them free. God spoke to Moses from the mountain and said, 4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” In other words, being set free from slavery is just the first step in where God wanted to take them as a people. He wanted them to be His special people. 6 “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Meaning: You are to represent me before the world just as a priest represents the people before God. But here was the key requirement – Holiness. Why? Because God’s holiness is His first and most distinctive attribute. If you’re going to be His special people and represent Him, you have to be holy as He is holy. Don’t misunderstand – holiness is not some puffy clouds or the sound of organ music or the smell of incense. Negatively, it is a “complete absence of sin” and positively, it is a “passionate desire for righteousness.”

God instructed Moses that before He would come down, the people had to consecrate and purify themselves. Furthermore, no one could approach the mountain except Moses. Then it happened on the third day – 16 “…there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. 20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Meaning: This was not some Hollywood theatrics. This was God the Holy Creator entering into His sinful creation. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Meaning: Not sure exactly what happened right then but there must’ve been some thrill seeking types who wanted to get as close to the fire without getting singed. God warned them that this was not some pull out your lawn chairs and enjoy the show time. They will die from this. 22 “Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” Meaning: Even the priests better be careful. This was the kind of holiness that would come after anyone who was unholy in its sight. How did the people perceive all this? Listen to Exodus 24:17 “The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Needless to say, the people of Israel were terrified of God. He was not someone to play with. Not even the priests could get near Him. His holiness was unbearable.

Application: What do you think about the holiness of God? Is it to you long dresses, three-piece suits, and hard straight back pews? Is it to you a long list of do’s and don’ts? Do you understand that God’s holiness is negatively a “complete absence of sin” and positively a “passionate desire for righteousness”? Do you understand that being saved means being saved from God’s holy wrath against your sin?

II. THE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING MERCY OF GOD

Exodus 20   18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. They were terrified and petrified of God. They were scared for themselves, their families, and their children. They stood far away. By the way, who told them to stay far away? God. As we just read, God had to send Moses down from the mountain to warn the people to stay away. If I were God, I would’ve let a couple of them turn extra crispy and that would’ve taken care of the rest! But God is so merciful, isn’t He? 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The people told Moses something that sounded like an affront to God. They told Moses that they would rather talk to him than to God. Again, if I were God, I would’ve said, “You don’t get to decide the terms of our communication.” By the way, these were the same people who later worshipped the golden calf at the foot of the mountain. I would’ve said – “Nope. People like you don’t deserve any breaks. You need to live under constant fear and an iron fist, that’s it.” 20 “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Meaning: God in His patient and understanding mercy allowed Moses to be the Mediator between Him and the people.

Application: Do you realize how merciful God is towards His people? Do you realize how without His mercy we would be consumed by His holiness? Do you realize how much He is willing to work with us even when we don’t deserve it? Do you realize how many chances He keeps giving to us?

III. THE FUTURE AND ULTIMATE PROMISE OF GOD

17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’”

Background: When God gave this promise, He intended a double fulfilment. On one hand, after Moses’s death, God sent many prophets through the centuries to His people to mediate for them. Some of them we know by their books – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and others. But there was another fulfillment that God intended – a much deeper, longer lasting, and ultimate fulfillment. One day God would send the Prophet who would have all the words of God in His mouth and He would be their Ultimate Mediator before God forever. God’s people were waiting for this prophet:

  • When John the Baptist came, the Jewish religious leaders questioned him – John 1   19 “…Who are you?” 20 He confessed…“I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “…Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
  • After Jesus fed the 5000, his own disciples said in John 6:14 “…This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
  • After seeing his numerous miracles, many in the crowd said in John 7:40 “…Truly this is the Prophet.”
  • When people were offended at him, Jesus himself said in Matthew 13:57 “…A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

Not only that but Jesus also repeatedly talked about having God’s Words in His mouth:

  • John 7:16 “…My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
  • John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”
  • John 17:8 “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”

I don’t have time to talk about how He prophesied about the future. The point is this – When Jesus said, “Moses wrote about Me,” He also had Deuteronomy 18 in mind where Moses promised the people that God would send them the Ultimate Prophet one day.

  • Just as Moses was a symbol of comfort and joy to the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate symbol of comfort and joy for us.
  • Just as Moses was a temporary mediator for the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate mediator for all who believe in His name.

But there’s something Jesus did for us that Moses could never do. Hebrews 10   19 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Whereas Moses told the people to stay away from the mountain of God, Jesus has invited us to boldly enter the Holiest by His blood.

Invitation: Does the coming of Jesus truly bring comfort and joy to your heart? Has he saved you from God’s holy power? Is He your Mediator?

Hoi Polloi 12 – Visiting Israel!

In this episode, Abidan Paul Shah will be recounting his trips to Israel from 2015 and 2016. The topic is – “Does visiting the land enhance our study of the Bible?”

For more information on Digging Deep, Clearview Church’s summer Bible study, check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/ClearviewDiggingDeep. You can also find the notes from each week on Pastor Shah’s blog.

DIGGING DEEP 6 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 6 by Abidan Paul Shah 

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

The region in which the biblical events took place is between the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea on the West and the Zagros Mountains and the Persian Gulf in the East and between the Amanus and Ararat Mountains in the North and the Nafud Desert and the southern tip of Sinai in the South. The New Testament expanded the region into what today are Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain.

  • Much of the Middle East is desert, as much as 487,000 square miles (not including the Negev, Sinai and Egyptian deserts).
  • The bodies of water, especially the Mediterranean Sea have played a big role in the biblical events.
  • The conflict was over the fertile land by the seacoast. Different peoples came from the Sea (Philistines, Greeks, and Romans) or towards the Sea (Amalekites, Moabites, Edomites, Israelites, and Ammonites). Others came from farther away (Babylonians and Assyrians). Most of the interaction was violent.
  • Some came for timber, building stones, copper, iron, tin, gold, silver, etc. This also led to the development of roads and highways (for e.g. Via Maris and the King’s Highway).
  • Along with rainwater, people have survived through the Nile River in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates in in modern day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Also, natural springs, wells, and cisterns have been extremely important.
  • The area is often referred to as the Fertile Crescent or sometimes as the Sacred Bridge.
  • Modern Israel is 8,522 sq.mil. = New Jersey. 3-4 hours from the northern tip to the Southern and about 1-2 from east to the west and in parts just 9 miles apart (east-west).

The Land and the Bible:

  1. The Land of Beginnings
  • Mesopotamia “Land between the rivers”
  • Possible location of the Garden of Eden
  • This is where Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldeans.
  • Later under the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar took the Southern Kingdom of Judah into exile.
  • Further to the east is Persia, which overtook the Babylonian empire to become Medo-Persian Empire. This is where Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther were located.
  1. The Promised Land
  • Referred to as Canaan, incorporating the modern states of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan.
  • It is divided into 5 major longitudinal zones: the coastal plain, the central mountain range, the Rift Valley, the Transjordanian mountains, and the eastern desert.
  • Much of the Old Testament (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, the Prophets to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Southern Kingdom of Judah) and New Testament (Gospels, Acts, James) history took place here.
  1. The Land of Slavery
  • Greek historian Herodotus (5 BC) called it Egypt – “the gift of the Nile.” It is 4,145 miles in length, the longest river in the world. The river was good for farming and transportation. Only 5% of the land is agricultural and the rest is stone, sand, and desert.
  • It’s biblical name is “Mizraim. The land is divided into Upper Egypt (from the head of the Delta up the valley to the South and Lower Egypt (the delta).
  • The final chapters of Genesis and the opening chapters of Exodus took place here. There was other interaction with Egypt throughout Israel’s history.
  1. The Land of the “first called Christians”
  • Phoenicia (remnants of the Canaanites) and Syria (ruled by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Seleucids)
  • Damascus is an oasis due to the melting snow from the mountains was important since ancient times (Abraham’s servant Eliezer) and New Testament times (Paul’s conversion).
  • Antioch in Syria became a Christian center (Acts 11:25-26)
  1. The Land of the Seven Churches and beyond
  • The region of modern day Turkey known variously as Anatolia, Asia Minor, and Cappadocia.
  • It is surrounded by Black Sea to the North, Aegean Sea to the West, and the Mediterranean Sea to the South.
  • Paul traveled throughout the region – Galatia, Lystra, Antioch in Pisidia and Derbe. John in his book of Revelation wrote to the 7 churches in western region.
  • In his second missionary journey Paul went into Greece (Macedonia)
  • Paul’s ultimate journey took him to Rome.

 

Test Passages:

  1. Genesis 12:1-6

 

  1. Jeremiah 29:11

  

  1. Mark 7:24-29 and Matthew 15:21-28

 

  1. Acts 27:13-20, 42-44; 28:1-2, 16

JERUSALEM – THREE LESSONS, ONE GRAND VIEW (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah,

JERUSALEM – THREE LESSONS, ONE GRAND VIEW – Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 6, 2016)

Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel

Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

I’m standing atop Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. The view is mind blowing! Before me lies the city whose history goes back to over 4000 years. Jerusalem has bewitched both conquerors and pilgrims through the centuries. Even today, it is the most contended ground on the face of the earth. Someone called it – “the hottest piece of real estate on the planet.” But my view is different. I don’t find any magical lure or spiritual power in her presence, just lessons of deep significance. Three such landmarks stand out for me:

  1. The Temple Mount – the gleam of the golden Dome of the Rock immediately draws my attention. It’s the site of Mount Moriah, where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed as a test of his faith. God accepted his willingness and gave him the glimpse of His Son
    The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel

    The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    to come. Later David purchased the site from the Jebusites and Solomon built the temple on the very ground. On the third day I actually visited the Temple Mount for the first time. Although it was breathtaking, I could also sense the tension all around. As much as I loved the experience, I’m grateful that through Christ no longer is my access to God limited by a plot of land but we can come “boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16)

  2. The City of David – between the Tyropoeon Valley on the west and Kidron valley to the east is the place that David chose to be his
    City of David, Jerusalem, Israel

    City of David, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    capital. It is actually outside the walls of Jerusalem. I couldn’t help but visualize David walking on the terrace of his palace while his army had gone into battle. Down below he saw Bathsheba bathing. Instead of walking away, this “man after God’s own heart” gave into the sin of adultery. But he didn’t stop there. He even had her husband brutally murdered. Although David had to suffer the consequence of his sins, God still showed him mercy and grace. It reminded me that no one was immune to the temptation of sin and I resolved to God – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

  3. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Unfortunately, this structure does not outshine the surrounding buildings. In fact, one really has to search for the most important site in Christianity – the place where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Inside, it is
    Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel

    Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    gaudy and stale and I never cease to be amazed at the blind devotions of the tourists, kissing the ground and attempting to gain some divine favor. If that’s not enough, it’s always fascinating and revolting to watch the different groups trying to control their piece of the shrine. It’s tragic…but a great illustration of human nature. We cling to our blind rituals. We remain divided over trivial stuff. We lose sight of the heart of the gospel. To me, the ground is historical not sacred. Only Christ and His work for us deserve our utmost devotion. Peter offers a stark warning, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.’” (1 Peter 2:7)

As I’m about to walk back to our van, I turn to catch one last glimpse of the gorgeous panorama of the capital of the world and I’m reminded that one day all of it will be remade. Revelation 21 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” What a glorious hope!

WHEN MOTHERS PRAY

WHEN MOTHERS PRAY by Abidan Paul Shah

When Mothers PrayHistory is replete with examples of the prayers of women, especially mothers. God delights in their prayers and wants to answer them. One such example is found in the Old Testament – the prayer of Hannah (1 Samuel 1). As you know she couldn’t have any children and she prayed before God earnestly and her prayers were answered.

How did she pray?

  1. SHE PRAYED FROM THE HEART.

Verse 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.

  1. SHE PRAYED VERY SPECIFICALLY.

Verse 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child…”

  1. SHE PRAYED SACRIFICIALLY.

Verse 11 –If You “will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

  1. SHE PRAYED PERSEVERINGLY.

Verse 12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD…

Hannah kept praying even though the priest questioned her sincerity.

  1. SHE PRAYED BELIEVINGLY.

Verse 17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” 18 And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

WHAT WAS THE RESULT OF HANNAH’S PRAYER?

  1. Her prayer was answered.

Verse 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.”

  1. She kept her word to the Lord.

Verse 24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her…27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.”

  1. God used the little boy in a powerful way.

This is the Samuel who went up and down the length and breadth of Israel to unite the people. He is the one who anointed Saul as the first king and then replaced him with David – the true King through whom came Jesus.

This is what happens when women pray, especially mothers. Where is prayer in your life? Where is God in your life? Where is Jesus in your life?

Location, Location, Location!

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION! by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

(This message was recorded by the banks of the Jordan River in Israel.)

locationIntroduction: Hi! As many of you know, Nicole and I are in Israel. We took this trip because we believe that the accounts in the Bible are not fairy tales or myths but real historical events that took place in real time at real places with real people. Needless to say, we have been blown away! We did not realize how much the landscape informs the proper understanding of the Bible! Today I’m preaching a message from Matthew 3 titled LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION and yes – we are going to be on location every step of the way! So thank you for being here at Clearview.

Matthew 3 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

For the past two days we have been staying at Kibbutz Lavi. A Kibbutz is a gathering, a collective community that works together and shares with each other. Although it is modernized in many ways, it still lives by some very traditional principles. What’s important for our purpose is that it is in Lower Galilee. There is a good chance that Jesus passed through this region on the way to the Jordan.

14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Overall Background: Jordan has much significance in biblical history but the most important is the baptism of Jesus by John the baptizer.

Why was this so significant ? For 4 reasons: 

I. A FULFILLMENT WAS RECOGNIZED.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

Background: We usually just zip past this passage but this was a very critical moment in the history of God’s plan of redemption. It was the changing of the guard.

For e.g. If you ever ever been to the National Memorial, right about dusk, it’s time for the guards to exchange their responsibilities. One guard hands off the responsibility to the other. People come about that time just to see this ritual.

So also there is a passing of the guard here. Listen carefully to the account in John 1 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Several things to point out here:

  1. It’s not one of the Lambs of God. It’s THE Lamb of God. In other words, here He is! The one we’ve been waiting for since the beginning of time has arrived.
  2. It’s not the “Lion of God” but the humble and meek sacrificial Lamb of God.
  3. It’s not the “Lamb who is taken away or dragged away” but He takes away the sin. In other words, Jesus was in full control of what He was about to do.
  4. It’s not just the sin of Israel but the whole world. He came to Israel but He is for all of us.

Application: Which guard are you looking to? The old or the new? What are you trusting in to be saved? Is Jesus the Lamb for your sins?

II. AN EXAMPLE WAS SET

14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

Background: What would you have done? Do you think you can baptize God? He made John the Baptist and He made the water!

But listen to Matthew 3 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” What does that mean?

The key lies in “us.” This is not a generic “us” that we need to fulfill all righteousness. There is more involved here. Jesus is setting the pattern for believers to come. By being baptized, he was setting the model for all of us to be baptized. In fact, in Matthew 28 His final commission to His disciples was 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

There still remains a question – “Why was baptism so important to Jesus? He wanted to make sure that we stood within the setting of Judaism. We are connected to the Old Testament and the prophets. He was giving us roots. Without roots we cannot grow. We are grafted to the vine, no doubt, but He is the vine. We are to be firmly planted in the soil of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

For e.g. When I went home to visit my parents, they began to tell me about properties and how they were handling it and if I was okay with it. I’ve been gone for so long that I didn’t think it was my business. Their answer – “Son, you left physically but you are just as much a part of this family.”

But don’t miss verse 16 – When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; By the way, that tells you that Jesus was not sprinkled.

Application: Have you been baptized? Jesus did it and He commanded us to be. Have you been baptized by immersion?

III. A DOCTRINE WAS DEMONSTRATED 

and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Background: Even though Jesus wanted us to be firmly planted within the soil of Judaism and the Old Testament, there was more. Here we meet the Trinity. That God was one and yet there was more was introduced right from the beginning – Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image.” Again, when after the Great Flood the people began to build the Tower of Babel (temple of sun worship), it says that God said in Genesis 11:7 “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” But here we see the plurality of the godhead clearly identified. First, we see Jesus the Son of God coming up out of the water. Second, we see the Spirit of God descending upon Him. Third, we hear the voice of the Father in heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

There you have it – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s easy to believe but hard to explain. As someone said, “Try to explain it and you’ll loose your mind but try to deny it and you’ll loose your soul.”

Application: What kind of a God do you believe in? Is He the Triune God? Do you have a relationship with each member of the Trinity.

IV. A PROMISE WAS GIVEN

32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Background: Once again John reminds the listeners that Jesus will Baptize with the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? It means that our baptism is also a symbol of a much greater baptism, that of the Holy Spirit. By it we are now connected to the Triune God. The Holy Spirit helps us keep our eyes on Jesus. He convicts us of sin in our lives. He assures us that we belong to God. He reminds us of the Word of God – the Bible. He guides and directs our lives.

It is so vital to make sure that we don’t grieve nor quench Him. Daily we must submit to His leadership and follow Him without hesitation. We need to keep the channels clean and not let sin interfere with His work in our lives.

Application: Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you been baptized by immersion? Do you realize that the Holy Spirit is now available to you every moment for every need? Are you totally submitted to Him?

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT

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HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUITOnce again, it’s good to be back home. Nicole and I had an amazing time in Israel! We were concerned, as many of you were also, about our safety. After we checked in the hotel in Tel Aviv, we decided to walk down to the ancient site of Joppa on the seashore, which was just 10 minutes from the hotel and it was only 8 o’clock in the evening. Since Joppa was not on our itinerary, we figured if we quickly walk there we could say we’ve been to the place where Jonah boarded the ship to go to Tarshish instead of Nineveh and where Peter had the vision of the unclean animals to teach him that the Gentiles were also welcome into the kingdom of God. So we crossed the street and got on the boardwalk that led to the site. It was well lit for couple of hundred yards and there were people there so we felt safe. Five minutes into the walk we realized that the streetlights didn’t go all the way to the site. In fact we had to walk through this dark road for a couple of miles. We said to each other let’s go a little bit further and if it gets worse we will turn right back and there’s the hotel. Just then I heard someone running behind me. I’m thinking all the worst. I turned to look and it was a girl jogging with her dog. Next thing – I see somebody else jogging from the direction we were going and it was a woman. As we kept walking, we saw men and women walking together leisurely and children playing around. It was more than safe. What was amazing was that it was about 10 o’clock when we headed back from Joppa and guess what – more people were just coming to the boardwalk to jog and exercise. We saw women by themselves and families and couples. The next day I asked the guide about it and he said – “The media paints a very negative picture of Israel. What you saw is normal. What you didn’t see was that there were plain-clothes policeman everywhere. Because we have to deal with terrorism so much, the result is that we’re probably the safest country on earth and our people know it.”

We saw a lot of sites and took as many as 5000 pictures and videos and plan on passing it along to you but we also had loads of fun!

This morning we’re back in our series on the Life of Christ and I’m preaching a message from Matthew 4 on the temptation of Jesus titled – HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT. I’m going to read this passage right from the wilderness of Judea where Jesus was tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Judean Wilderness

Judaea Wilderness (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: The wilderness of Judea extends from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. It is 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. It is an area of yellow sand and crumbling limestone. Even to this day there’s nothing out there but wild animals. As we drove through it, I tried to imagine what it was like for Jesus to be out there, isolated and hungry, tormented by the devil himself. He didn’t have to go through that but He did. Why? He did it to teach us how to overcome temptation in our own lives.

This morning we will learn 4 things from the life of Jesus on how to deal with temptation or the forbidden fruit:

I. TIMING: USUALLY FOLLOWING THE MOUNTAINTOPS. 

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Background: To understand the seriousness of this passage, you actually have to read it in its context. In the verses directly preceding this passage, we read about John’s baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. By the way, we’re skipping over this message that I preached right by the banks of the Jordan River. You’ll get to watch it in a few Sundays. But this baptism was a very important event in the life of Jesus. As Matthew tells us that when He came up out of the water – 16 “behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Wow! Jesus was fully God but also remember that He was fully man. This was a mountaintop moment in His life. Gone were the days of just being a carpenter’s son in Nazareth; gone were the days of saying “My time has not yet come.” Gone were the days of waiting patiently. Luke tells us in Luke 3:23 that Jesus was thirty years of age at this time. His Heavenly Father had acknowledged him. You would think that the next thing would be for Him to find a pulpit and preach a thundering message or put up a sign up sheet of who wants to be my disciple or march into the temple in Jerusalem and declare that He was the Son of God here to save the world.

Instead, the very next verse says – 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. I actually love Mark’s rendition in Mark 1:12 “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”

King David's Tomb

King David’s Tomb (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

There’s a powerful principle here that you cannot afford to miss – “Be careful about the mountaintops in the Christian life. It’s right after a great message, a great service, a spiritual victory, and some positive experience in our lives that we face some of the worst and the lowest moments of our lives.” In fact, we are the most vulnerable right after we have seen God’s glory. We had the opportunity to see the tomb of David. I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 23 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Now the very next verse – 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Application: Are you dealing with the wilderness of temptation? Do you feel that the enemy is after you? Are you on the mountaintop?

II. BAIT: NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED 

Background: The tactics of the Enemy haven’t changed much since the Garden of Eden. We’re going to follow the chronology of the temptations as given by Luke in his gospel. Matthew was not concerned about the order, which is fine.

First Bait – Luke 4:3   And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” He appealed to His appetite. Remember – he did the same to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” People will do almost anything just satisfy their taste buds and belly.

Second Bait – Luke 4:5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” He appealed to His eyes/pleasure. Once again remember he did the same to Eve. Genesis 3:6 “…that it was pleasant to the eyes…” The eyes are the windows to the soul.

Third Bait – Luke 4:9   Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ 11 and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” He appealed to His pride. Once again remember Eve. Genesis 3:6 “…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.”

The baits haven’t changed – Appetite, Pleasure, and Pride. 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.”

Does this mean we cannot enjoy good food, pleasure, and have ambitions? Of course not. The question is – “Is God the center and focus of your life?” 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Application: Are you letting food, pleasure, and pride rule your life? Are you aware of the enemy’s bait in your life?

III. DEFENSE: GOD’S WORD. 

Each times the devil tempted Jesus He replied with Scripture. He used the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)

#1 Food – Luke 4:4 Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

#2 Pleasure – 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:13.

#3 Pride – 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.

Most people (and I’m not exempting Christians from this category) tend to live by their emotions, intuitions, or experiences. As a pastor I do a lot of marital and premarital counseling. I explain to the couples that your emotions can be very misleading. You hear things like – “I felt I had to do that.” “I just had this feeling.” “You know when you get that feeling.” Men – You’re married but what if you were to come across this woman and immediately you feel a connection with her. It’s amazing! She’s the one! You can feel it deep within! I made a huge mistake and married the wrong person and I need to get with this one. You might wanna try Tums! And the same goes with you ladies.

One of my favorite quotes by J. Sidlow Baxter is “Your emotions are the shallowest part of your nature. God doesn’t do His deepest work in the shallowest part.”

So what is the surest way of handling temptations? It is the truth of the Word of God. Listen to Psalm 119:11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” That’s why at Clearview we focus so much on the Bible with adults and youth and children (Awana). By the way, you better know your Bible because sometimes the enemy may even use the Bible against you. Jerome the church father who translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate (we stood in the place where he worked and later his grave was) said, “Therefore if anyone is not feeding on the Word of God, that person is not living.”

Application: What is the place of God’s Word in your life? Are you feeding upon it? Are you reading it? Are you hearing it preached? Are your children coming to Sunday School, youth, Awana, etc?

IV. KEY: JESUS WAS MORE THAN OUR EXAMPLE.

It is very easy to misunderstand this message. “Jesus has given us an example on how to deal with temptation. All you have to do with temptation is know the timing, recognize the baits, and use the Bible.” Not true.

Israel wandering in the Wilderness

Israel wandering in the Wilderness (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Have you noticed that every time Jesus responded to the devil He quoted from Deuteronomy? These words were actually given to the people of Israel when they left Egypt and were headed to the Promised Land. God had told them to trust Him, look to Him, wait upon Him, and they will be all right. As you know, the people blew the test. They didn’t trust God, didn’t look to Him, and didn’t wait upon Him. They griped, complained, worshipped the golden calf, and disobeyed Moses. What was the result? They all had to die in the wilderness.

Jesus in those 40 went through what the people of Israel went through in 40 years and He showed how it is more than possible to walk with God in faith and obedience. But there’s more – He did it to become our provision as we walk through the same trials and temptations. Listen to Hebrews 2:18 “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Meaning: My job and your job in dealing with trials and temptations is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

In Matthew 14:22 we read how the disciples were in the middle of the Sea, tossed by the waves. We were on the Sea of Galilee and its quite frightening how it can go from being perfectly calm to a storm. As you know Jesus walked to them and they were afraid thinking it was a ghost. But Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous… Meaning: He took his eyes off Jesus. Immediately he began to sink. They key is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Invitation: Do you have your eyes on Jesus? Are you saved?

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