Discipleship: Overcoming Obstacles by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – OVERCOMING OBSTACLES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Overcoming Obstacles

Introduction: Two years ago, Nicole and I decided to take our health seriously and started working out. Talk about obstacles! We both love to eat. We had to discipline ourselves in what we ate and how much we ate. Then, it was our busy schedules. We had to discipline ourselves to turn off the TV and head to bed on time. Then, it was waking up early in the morning. We had to discipline ourselves to get out of bed when the alarm went off and plan ahead on how to get the kids to school. Bottom line: Without proper discipline, it would have been impossible to take charge of our health and work out. So also, when it comes to discipleship, there are obstacles. To overcome these obstacles, we need certain disciplines. Without proper disciplines, discipleship is impossible.

Matthew 28    18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, evento the end of the age.” Amen.

Question: What obstacles are keeping you from becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to discipline yourself? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Context:  As you know, we created the acronym WATERto represent the goal of discipleship – WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. When all 5 of these work in tandem, we are the disciples Jesus called us to be. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There are obstacles under each element and it requires certain disciplines to overcome them. Here are 5 disciplines that are absolutely essential to overcome the obstacles in becoming disciples:

1. Discipline of Evangelism.

Acts 1:8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnessesto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”2 things here: First, when Jesus told his disciples to be witnesses, he was referring to the fact that they had seen his death, burial, and resurrection.If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, you are also a witness to him. You may not be an eye-witnesses to the events 2000 years but you are an eye-witnesses to the impact of those events in your life today.You should be able to tell others 3 things – 1. What was life like before you met Jesus. 2. What happened that changed your life, how Jesus saved you by his death, burial, and resurrection. 3. What is your life like since Jesus saved you. Second, when Jesus said “you shall be witnesses to me,”it was not a suggestion. It was a command. It was not optional.

Most Christians do not witness for one reason or another – some are too busy; some are too scared; some don’t feel like it. some don’t believe that this is the only way; some don’t believe that it works. Listen to what Charles Spurgeon said, “If I never won souls, I would sigh till I did. I would break my heart over them if I could not break their hearts. Though I understand the possibility of an earnest sower never reaping, I cannot understand the possibility of an earnest sower being content not to reap.”

Here’s the point – Witnessing is a discipline. If you truly believe that people are lost and headed to hell without Christ, then you will make it a practice to witness regularly.

2. Discipline of Confession.

Matthew 26    36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”…40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?41Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation…” Let me clarify: Yes, Jesus needed the support of his inner circle but the temptation to sin was for them, not him. If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, you will have godly, mature, and trustworthy people in your life who will question your bad behaviors and encourage your good behaviors and pray for you on a regular basis.

Many Christians fall into horrible sins because they are isolated and think that they can handle their struggles on their own. They feel that they don’t need any help. James 5:16“Confessyourtrespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” By the way, this does not mean that you have to go into gory details or share things that are private between you and your spouse. That’s foolish.

Here’s the point: Set aside your pride. Ask God to send the right person/people in your life to help you stay accountable and practice the discipline of confession.

3. Discipline of Church Attendance

Luke 4:16 “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was,He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.”The early church continued this custom albeit on Sunday and to hear the apostle’s doctrine. Acts 2   42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrineand fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…44Now all who believed were together47…And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, you will understand the importance of hearing the preaching of the word. You will understand the importance of worshipping with other believers. And, you will understand the importance of fellowshipping with other believers.

Many Christians stop doing and loving because they fail to heed what the writer ofHebrewssaid in 10   24“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, asisthe manner of some, but exhortingone another,and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Here’s the point: Make it a discipline to attend church on a regular basis for the word, worship, and fellowship.

4. Discipline of Daily Bible Intake.

John 8   31 “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word,you are My disciples indeed.’” John 15:7 “If you abide in Me,and My words abide in you,you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, you have to abide in his words. You have to be established in his Word. That’s not just the 4 gospels. It’s the whole Bible. It’s his instructional manual for every serious disciple. We have to be in it daily. D.L. Moody once said, “A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it.”

Many Christians struggle with discipleship because they think that they don’t need to read and meditate upon the Word of God daily.

Here’s the point: Make up your mind today that with the help of God, you will daily seek to read, meditate upon, and memorize the Word of God. It will help you understand what it means to live in the kingdom of God. That’s what Jesus taught his disciples. As one Chinese Christian used to say – “No Bible, no breakfast.”

5. Discipline of Discipling.

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…” To be a disciple of Jesus, you have to believe that the Great Commission by Jesus was not just for the first 11 disciples, it’s for all disciples through the ages. If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, you have to reproduce disciples. In fact, reproducing disciples is the ultimate test of our discipleship. I’m here because Nicole’s dad discipled me.

Many Christians struggle with discipleship because they look at it as just about themselves when it’s about teaching others to follow Christ.

Here’s the solution:  Remove yourself as the center of your Christian walk and start focusing on others. Start saying with Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1“Imitate me, just as I alsoimitateChrist.”You don’t have to be perfect to do this. Just obedient.

In closing, there may be many other obstacles in becoming a disciple of Jesus, just remember – You and I need discipline to overcome these obstacles. Without discipline, discipleship is impossible.

Are you a disciplined? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

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

Discipleship 4: Established in the Word by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship 4

Introduction: Question for all the men – “How many of ya’ll enjoy reading instruction manuals before you put something together?” Ladies – Not sure why but we men like to figure things out. That’s not a big deal if you’re just trying to assemble your little girl’s doll house or some small book shelf. It’s a big deal if you’re trying to put together the ceiling fan or the garbage disposal! So also, in life, we need an instruction manual. The Bible is God’s instruction manual for every situation in life. In fact, to be a disciple of Jesus, we have to follow the Bible, we have to be established in his Word. Failure to follow the instruction manual is disastrous and destroys our witness to Christ.

Matthew 28    18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, evento the end of the age.” Amen.

Question: One mark of discipleship is“Teaching them to observe all things.”Are you learning all things that Jesus has commanded us? Are you observing his commandments?Are you established in the Word? Are you a disciple of Jesus? Are you saved?

Context:  As you know, we’ve been in our series on discipleship for the past 5 weeks. We’ve been unpacking theacronym W A T E R, the goal of discipleship, which I’m sure you have memorized by now – WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. Today, we are on E.Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples, baptizing them, and “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”The question is “what are those things that Jesus commanded his disciples to observe?” If you and I are going to be his disciples, we have to observe all those things as well. 2 major things Jesus taught his disciples:

I. JESUS TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES THE MEANING OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. 

Background:Jesus began his ministry by preaching – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) To a Jewish person, the kingdom of God/heaven had 2 meanings:first, God is the sovereign king over the whole world but only indirectly at the present time; and, second, God will be the direct king who will judge the wicked and bring glory, justice, and righteousness for his people Israel but this will be in the future end time. Although, Jesus affirmed both, he added something they didn’t expect – the future kingdom of God had already begun by his coming. This was very unnerving and confusing for the religious leaders because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting. They believed that the Messiah would usher in the direct future kingdom of God but they were not convinced that this was happening or that Jesus was the one. Jesus told them that the kingdom of God was real and had begun but it was internal and spiritual. He used parables to explain it– “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13) In other words, the kingdom of God/heaven is only visible to those who believed.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus laid out the requirements for entering into the kingdom:

  • Reject self-righteousness – Matthew 21:31 “Assuredly, I say to you (chief priests and elders) that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”
  • Reject sin’s attraction – Mark 9:47“if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”
  • Don’t rely on earthly treasures – Mark 10:25“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • Don’t give lip service – Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
  • Don’t have second thoughts – Luke 9:62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
  • Have a childlike faith – Luke 18:17“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
  • Be born again – John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Bottom line: When a person rejects self-righteousness and sin’s attraction and receives Jesus as their Savior with a childlike faith, they are born again and they enter the internal and spiritual kingdom of God. Now they become a true disciple of Jesus.

Question:Have you entered the kingdom of God? If you say, “I have to see it to believe it,” you will never see it. Have you received Jesus as your Savior? Have you been born again? Are you willing to have a childlike faith?

II. JESUS TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES THE LIFESTYLE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

Background:  Jesus often said and did things that appeared contrary to the law. Mark 7:15“There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.”This was a clear violation of the dietary laws! Luke 6:1“Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and atethem,rubbingthemin theirhands.” This was a clear violation of the Sabbath laws! What exactly was Jesus doing? Was Jesus just some anti-establishment, non-conformist, agitator bent on tearing down the Old Testament law? Of course not. He was teaching his disciples the difference between the essence of the law and the letter of the law. Matthew 23:23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightiermattersof the law: justice and mercy and faith.” Jesus was not against the law. He was calling his disciples to the heart of the law and to God’s standard of righteousness. Matthew 5  17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Lawor the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” 20For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceedsthe righteousnessof the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount is about this higher standard. Remember the “You’ve heard that it was said, but I say to you” passages, the antitheses –

  • You’ve heard ‘don’t murder,’ but I say ‘don’t even get angry without a cause.’
  • You’ve heard ‘don’t commit adultery,’ but I say ‘don’t even look with lust.’
  • You’ve heard ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,’ but I say ‘turn the other cheek.’
  • You’ve heard ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say ‘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.’

But there’s more – Jesus was not just calling his disciples to a higher standard of righteousness. He was calling them to understand the impossibility of reaching God’s standard of righteousness. He was teaching them that he was about to do for them what they would never be able to do on their own. Paul explains it best in Romans 8    3“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, Goddidby sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,4that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Question: Are you trying to live by the Old Testament standards? They are too low. Jesus expects higher. You say, “I guess I can’t live up to God’s standards.” That’s exactly what he wants from you. Now you are ready to receive his righteousness by asking him to be your Savior. He will teach you what it means to walk by the Spirit.

Invitation:Are you a disciple of Christ? Have you entered into his kingdom? Are you walking by faith? Are you living by the higher standard of righteousness? Do you realize that without Christ and the Holy Spirit you can’t do it? Are you daily feeding upon his Word? Are you established in his Word? That’s not just the gospels or the New Testament. It is the entire Word of God.

What is the result? Colossians 3   15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Discipleship 3: Together by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – TOGETHERNESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Together

Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Resources, did a Twitter survey sometime back on the really strange reasons people give for not attending church. Here are a few of my favorites:“We were out of peanut butter.” “My wife cooked bacon for breakfast, and our entire family smelled like bacon.” “The pastor stays in the Bible too much.” “The worship leader pulls up his pants too often. It’s distracting.” “The church is too close to drive, and too far to walk.” “We got burned out at church and have been taking a break for the past seven years.” I’ve been pastoring this church, my only church, for the past 20 years and I’ve met people who are always looking for reasons to skip church. Today’s message is on the importance of togetherness in discipleship. You can grow alone in a flower pot for only so long. True and ultimate discipleship is long term and it happens only in the soil of community. You need others to be a true disciple.

Acts 2   42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Question: The early church understood the value of togetherness. Do you understand the importance of being together in the body of Christ? Are you a part of the body of Christ? Are you saved? What binds us together is the same Holy Spirit? Is he in you?

Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. We’ve already looked at the first two letters W and A and, in this message, we will focus on the third letter T = Togetherness. 3 main things we need to understand about Togetherness:

 I. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS TRAINED IN TOGETHERNESS BY JESUS.

Background:When people read in Acts about how the early church was together, loving and caring for one another, and putting each other first, they assume that it was some organic movement that just happened. Not true. For e.g.When you watch your favorite ball team play a great game, you know that it didn’t just happen. You know that the coach has been training them.So also, Coach Jesus had been training his disciples on the importance of being together and they were simply living it out.

I want us to look at a major training session that Jesus had with his disciples towards the close of his ministry. You remember in John 13, after the Last Supper, how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Itwas unthinkable for a master to wash his disciples’ feet.Peter even tried to stop Jesus but he warned him that this was a must if he was going to be his disciple. Why was this so important? Listen carefully to how Jesus explained to them the meaning of what he had done for them – 12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 14If I then, yourLord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”Don’t misunderstand:This was much more than “Y’all get along when I’m gone. Wash each other’s feet until I return.” Listen carefully –34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Loving one another was the mark of a disciple before the watching world. The key words here are “one another.” I can wash my own feet but that is not keeping this commandment, that is not proving my discipleship before the watching world. I can even try to wash the feet of the world (feed the hungry, house the homeless, take care of the needy) but that is still not keeping this commandment and proving my discipleship before the watching world. This commandment can only be obeyed in the context of “one another.” This is why the early church was doing what they were doing!

Application:If you are a disciple of Christ, the same commandment applies to you. Do you love others in the body of Christ? Do you care to prove your discipleship to the watching world?

II. IT IS NATURAL FOR DISCIPLES TO NEGLECT TOGETHERNESS. 

Background:Very early on in the church’s life, the disciples began to drift away from each other. They forgot Jesus’ commandment of being together. A major evidence for this is found in the book of Hebrews. By the way, a key phrase in this book is “let us.”Listen to chapter 10verse 22let usdraw 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.23Let ushold fast the confession of ourhope without wavering, for He who promisedisfaithful. 24And let usconsider one anotherin order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, asisthe manner of some, but exhortingone another,and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Why did the writer of Hebrews have to exhort the early Christians to keep meeting? Or why did the early Christians stop meeting? I believe for the same reasons that Christians or disciples stop meeting even today. Here are a few that I’ve come across:

  • I don’t have to be in church in order to be a Christian.If you say that, you do not understand what the church is. It is not a building. In fact, it is described in different ways. Paul gives several ways in his letter to the Ephesians. He calls it the body of Christ.Ephesians 1 22And He gave Him(Christ)to behead over allthingsto the church, 23which is His body…” What if I told you, “I love you very much but I hate your body”? Other times, he calls it the family of Jesus. Ephesians 2:19“…you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your family”? Sometimes, he calls the church the bride/wife of Christ. Ephesians 5:25“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your wife”?
  • I’m very busy and Sunday is my only day off.We always find time for things that are important. Time is not the problem. Understanding is. If you understanding the value of being with other believers, you will make time for it. Also, we have services several times on Sunday mornings and even on Saturday evenings.
  • There are a lot of hypocrites in church.What’s your point? In fact, what better place for hypocrites to be than at church where they can hear the truth. By the way, be careful about pointing fingers at others. As a pastor once said to someone who said that – “Come on in. We have room for one more.”
  • I did until something bad happened to me.I’m very sorry for what happened to you. This is one I do understand. When I first came here from India, I went to church. Little did I expect what was about to happen or not happen. This church was known as a good church and bible believing church but no one shook my hand. I was so hurt that I didn’t go to church for almost 2 years. God had to use circumstances and people to bring me back. Here’s my encouragement to you – When you stop going for one reason or another, no matter how legitimate your reason is, you are no longer able to demonstrate your discipleship.

Application:What is your reason for rejecting togetherness with other disciples? Are you willing to give that hurt to God and forgive that person or church and let God prove your discipleship before the watching world?

III. TOGETHERNESS IS A MEASURING STICK FOR DISCIPLESHIP. 

In the first message in this series on discipleship, I explained to you how Jesus moved people through 3 concentric circles.Outside the circles was the CROWD, the vast majority who were not following Jesus. Then came the first circle, the CONGREGATION.These were the multitudes that followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Then came the second circle,theCOMMUNITY. These were the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 from Luke 10as well. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Finally came the third circle, the CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. From these, Jesus expected much more. What I want you to understand is that to each of this groups Jesus had a different call:

  • To the crowd, it was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • To the multitudes, it was “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
  • To the disciples, it was “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • To the inner circle, it was “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

This applies to us today:

  • Crowd (people out in our neighborhood, workplaces, friends) – get saved
  • Congregation (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) – commit yourself;
  • Community (disciples – Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Studies) – love one another, learn to be together;
  • Circle (Accountability groups) – help each other.

Invitation:Which group do you belong to? Do you understand the value of togetherness? What are you doing to move through these circles? Are you saved?

Discipleship: Introduction by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – INTRODUCTION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship 1

Introduction: How many of ya’ll remember playing “Simon Says”? “Simon Says, ‘Clap your hands.’” “Simon Says, ‘Hop on left leg.’” “Simon Says, ‘Waddle like a Penguin.’” You had to do everything that the leader told you to do. In the Christian life, Jesus is our leader. We are to do everything that he tells us to do. Unfortunately, when it comes to the commands of Jesus, Christians have a very different response. Jesus says, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” We respond with “I know that’s the Golden Rule.” Jesus says, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” We respond with “I heard a great message on that the other day.” Jesus says, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” We respond with “Oh, I memorized that back in Sunday School.” The goal of this series is to learn what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus and it’s much more than coming to church once a week and memorizing a few verses.

 

Matthew 28    18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, evento the end of the age.” Amen.

Question: A disciple by definition is a follower, a learner, and a doer of everything the master says and does. Are you truly following, learning, and doing what Jesus tells you to do? Before you can be a disciple, you have to receive him as your Savior. Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read is known as the Great Commission. If you grew up in church, you may have heard it before. The Great Commission is important for 3 reasons:First, they are the final words that Jesus spoke to his followers before he ascended to his Father. Final words are critical. Second, they are Jesus’ instructions for us until he comes again. It’s his list of to-dos for us. Third, they apply to all Christians at every place, in every time and situation. They are non-negotiable. They begin with a Claim and end with a Promise and in between the Claim and the Promise are the Instructions.

What is the Claim?18“…All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” This was not some random statement. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy made in Daniel 7   13“I was watching in the night visions,and behold, Onelike the Son of Man,Coming with the clouds of heaven!He came to the Ancient of Days (Here God the Father),and they brought Him near before Him.14Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.His dominionisan everlasting dominion,which shall not pass away,And His kingdomthe oneWhich shall not be destroyed.” Because Jesus rejected the offer of Satan and obeyed his Father even to the cross, he was given universal sovereignty. Paul says in Philippians 2    9“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.”

What is the Promise?lo (Old and Middle English shortened form of look), I am with you always, evento the end of the age.”It was the assurance that his spiritual presence would be with his disciples as they carried out his instructions.You need both the Claim and the Promise to give the Instructions. A Promise without a Claim is Powerless. It’s like if I were to walk up to you and demand the keys to your vehicle. “By what authority?” A Claim without a Promise is Intimidation. It’s like if I were to demand you to do something you didn’t want to do with no promise of help and support. Keep in mind that we already have the Holy Spirit.John 14   16“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Also, Acts 1:8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The Promise here is that, along with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be with us in his spiritual presence, guiding, guarding, and giving us what we need to keep his instructions.

What is the Instruction? 19“Go 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, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” In that entire statement, there is only one main verb – Make Disciples. The rest may sound like verbs but they are participles. To start with, “Go” is not a verb. It is a participle. It assumes that you are already going, moving out. It may be across the street or across the seas. The other two participles are “baptizing” and “teaching.” They tell us the process of making disciples. This is where many Christians bring in their ideas and opinions rather than what Jesus told us and what the early church did for many centuries. I believe that we need to let the Word of God speak for itself and let the chips fall where they may. What some Christians have done is that they have turned baptism which was enrollment into graduation. They come with a personal list of what they feel is necessary to learn and understand before they will consider graduation/baptism. Here are 2 problems with that way of thinking – First, that’s not what the text is saying; second, you never graduate in the Christian life. I know what some people will say – “I don’t want the person to get the false impression that they are saved because they got baptized. Getting into the baptistry doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” That sounds like a great analogy but actually it’s mismatched. Here’s a better one – “You can self-educate yourself as much as you want but that’s not going to earn you a degree unless you enroll in a college.” That’s a much better analogy. Baptism is enrollment in God’s academy from which you will never graduate.

Question: Have you been baptized? What is holding you back?

Another Objection: I know people who got baptized but they only got wet. My answer – I know some of those too. 2 things here: First, they never truly understood the gospel. What is the gospel?“God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins according to Scripture. He died and rose again according to Scripture. When we believe in him, not only are our sins forgiven and God’s wrath lifted but we also have eternal life and become part of God’s family!” Second, the problem is not with baptism but with what comes after baptism.

This is the heart of our series – 20“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Unfortunately, most churches, including Clearview drop the ball here. We do a very poor job in teaching new believers how to follow Jesus and obey his words. Our kids and youth ministries are the strongest anywhere I know but our adult teaching ministry is not where it needs to be. That’s why many churches seem to have a revolving door where people leave just as fast as they enter. We have to find ways to keep people from slipping away. Some have called this closing the backdoor of the church.

How does it all work?We have come up with an acronym WATER. I guess to represent baptism as the starting point. W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING.My goal today was to cover the first one – WITNESSES – but as I began to prepare my sermon I realized that unless the foundation of the Great Commission is properly laid, this will not be effective. How does it really work? When we do ministry the way Jesus did ministry. How did he do ministry? He moved people through 3 concentric circles.To start with was the CROWD.This is the vast majority of people that were not necessarily following Jesus but he encountered them. They were outside the first circle. For us, they are people in our neighborhood, workplaces, grocery stores, restaurants who we come in contact with. Then comes the first circle – The CONGREGATION.These are the vast multitudes that followed him, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Matthew 15    30“Then greatmultitudescame to Him, having with themthelame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31So the multitudemarveled when they sawthemute speaking, themaimed made whole, thelame walking, andtheblind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.” Sunday morning is the Multitude, the Congregation, who hear the truth and walk away amazed. Then comes the second circle – The COMMUNITY. These are the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 here if you would like. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Matthew 13:36“Then Jesus sent the multitudeaway and went into the house. And His disciplescame to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” This is the weekly Sunday Sunday School and Wednesday Evening Bible Study. Finally comes the third circle – The CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. Mark 9:2 “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.” Mark 5:37“And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James.” Mark 14   33“And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, evento death. Stay here and watch.’” Some of ya’ll are thinking, “I cannot add one more thing to my schedule.” Here’s answer, “Circle is about getting into a smaller setting right where you are. It has set times after which it has to replicate. We’ll talk about that later.

The goal of discipleship is help people, once they have entered from the Crowd to the Congregation, move from the Congregation to Community to Circle. Where do you fall?

Are you truly a disciple of Jesus? Are you saved? Have you been baptized?

Drifting Allegiance by Pastor Abidan Shah

DRIFTING ALLEGIANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Drifting Allegiance

Introduction: What does it mean to drift? There are many meanings. If you’re a NASCAR fan, you know what drifting is. I can say, “Do you get my drift?” which means, “Do you understand what I am saying?” You can also drift off to sleep (as some of you will in a few minutes). There’s another kind of drifting which means “get off course or lose your way.” It happens often in the Christian life. We start out strong in the right way with all the right intentions but then we drift away for one reason or another. Today’s message titled “DRIFTING ALLEGIANCE” will help us get back on track and finish what God has begun in our lives. Here’s the message in a nutshell – “When we drift away, God doesn’t abandon us. Instead, he comes to us in grace and lovingly but firmly he steers us back.”

John 21   15So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, sonof Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, sonof Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, sonof Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

Question: Christ came to Peter because he had drifted away. Have you drifted away? Have you lost your zeal for the things of God? Have you lost your first love? Have you ever received God’s love in your heart. Are you saved?

Overall Background: The Gospel of John could have ended at chapter 20. Jesus had finished his earthly ministry. He had died on the cross. He had risen from the grave. He had revealed himself to his disciples. It was time for Jesus to ascend back to his Father and send the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to empower the disciples to share the gospel with the world. Everything that needed to be said had been said. Everything that needed to be done had been done. But, before he left, one more thing had to be done. In fact, it was one more person who had to be visited. Even though Jesus had already met him after the resurrection and proven himself to him, he knew that this person needed a one-on-one time with him. It was Simon Peter. Things were still not right with him ever since he had denied Jesus that night. You remember – he denied him 3 times and then the rooster crowed just the way Jesus had warned. Peter was still not over it. He was still plagued with guilt, shame, disappointment and self-condemnation. If you are drifting today, here are 5 things to help you return to God:

1. RESULT OF DRIFTING

John 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.”

Background:On the surface, nothing was wrong with that statement. People fish all the time and many times they return emptyhanded. But the next verse tells us that this was not an ordinary fishing trip – But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. You have to read between the lines.Jesus was not just “happened to be” hanging out by the shore. I believe that it was Jesus who made sure that every fish in the Sea of Tiberius was safe that night. The angels had to put on their snorkelers and fins and work extra hard that night! Jesus knew that Peter had lost his focus and he wanted him to remember what he had taught them back in John 15:5 “without Me you can do nothing.” You may still go about your daily activities but you are no longer empowered by God. No matter how much profit you make or achievements you have, you still feel empty.In fact, listen to verse Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.”

Application:Is that you today? You’ve lost your focus. You may still be doing things but you come up empty. Your heart remains empty. A drifting life is a fruitless life.

2. RESPONSE OF THE SAVIOR

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Background:You would expect Jesus to come with anger and disappointment. Instead He came with forgiveness and grace. He did not condemn them for going fishing but helped them find fish. That is the nature of God. Just when we think we don’t deserve grace, we receive grace; just when we think we have been discarded, He comes to restore us. Just when we think that He won’t help us. He does. Someone might say, “You don’t know how bad I have been.” Listen to Romans 8   33 “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It isGod who justifies. 34Who ishe who condemns? It isChrist who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Meaning:We not only have the Holy Spirit interceding for us but we also have Jesus praying for us. Jesus, who knows our every weakness, is the one who is interceding for us.

3. RESPONSE OF THE DRIFTER 

John 21:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put onhisouter garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. John has intentionally placed this information here for us. He wants us to learn from Peter’s example. It matters how we respond when the Savior calls us. It matters how we respond when the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts.

Application: How do you respond when God convicts your heart? Do you wait, deliberate, debate, procrastinate or do you immediately run towards him? Hosea 6:1“Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”

4.  RESTORATION BY THE SAVIOR

What happened when they all got to the land?They saw fire of coals and fish laid on it and bread. Jesus says to them “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”Jesus not only had the breakfast prepared for them but He even asked them to bring some of the fish they had just caught and included it. He indeed “works all things together for good to those who love God.” Altogether, they had 153 fish. There is a reason for this huge catch. It was a restoration of the call that Jesus had given to them when he first called them – “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19. Now began a heart to heart conversation between Jesus and Peter. Three times Jesus asked him if he loved him. Why? To convey to him that he had lost his first love. Also, each time Jesus told him to get back to the task that he had given him of taking care of the disciples. In other words, Jesus was telling Peter that he was not through with him.

Application:There are many people here this morning for whatever reason you feel God is through with you but He is not. He is calling you back to love and to the ministry. Have you lost your first love? Are you ready to get back to serving?

5. RELAPSE OF THE DRIFTER

In verse 18 Jesus tells Peter how he would be martyred for the gospel and reminded him to “Follow him.” But listen to Peter’s response– 20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”21Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, whataboutthis man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, whatis thatto you? You follow Me.” This is why Peter fell the first time. He wanted to make himself look better than others. He is still doing the same things! Old habits and sins do not die easily.

Personal Testimony: I thought for some time that I had disappointed God and that I was no longer worthy. Everything I attempted was fruitless until I met Nicole’s dad. Just a handshake showed me that he loved me. You may not see Jesus face-to-face but you can feel His love in the smiles and the handshakes in this place. That’s what Clearview is all about – “Making Christ Visible” – so that the saved will return to their love and ministry and the lost will be saved.

Have you drifted in your allegiance? Have you lost your first love? Are you doing things but coming up empty? Have you ever received His love?

Doubtful Faith by Pastor Abidan Shah

DOUBTFUL FAITH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

doubtful

Introduction: Have you ever heard the statement, “I have to see it to believe it.” Parents of teenagers – “He cleaned up his room! I have to see it to believe it.” Employees – “We’re getting a day off! I have to see it to believe it.” Church folks – “The pastor ended on time! I have to see it to believe.” It actually comes from the Bible where one of Jesus’ disciples was reluctant to believe that Jesus was alive. He said, “I have to see it to believe it.” There are a lot of people who live with that mantra. They consider themselves sophisticated, scientific, and rational. Today’s message titled “DOUBTFUL FAITH” will help us with this problem, even in the Christian life. Here’s the premise – “Faith is not the absence of doubts. Doubts, apprehensions, and skepticisms are normal and even good. Faith is overcoming doubts based on the evidence already received and moving forward knowing that more evidence will follow.”

John 20   26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.”

Question: Do you have trouble believing that someone who died 2000 years ago on a cross has the power to change your life today? Get ready! God is about to open your eyes to the truth. Christian – do you struggle with doubts? I do. Let the Holy Spirit through God’s Word teach you to walk by faith and not by sight.

Background: Listen again to verse 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.” That was not a complement but a reprimand. Why did Jesus reprimand Thomas? Because eight days earlier Thomas had a very different reaction when the disciples told him that Jesus had just visited them. 25“…he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Why would Thomas say something like that?

I. THE REALITY OF DOUBT

Let’s look at it from Thomas’ perspective– Three days prior on Friday Jesus was unjustly accused and brutally nailed to the cross. The disciples watched helplessly as their Master breathed his last breath in physical pain and emotional agony. All they could do was betray, deny, and desert him. Then he was taken down from the cross and placed into a tomb. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, put him in a new tomb that he probably had hewn for himself and Nicodemus, another rich man, brought 100 pounds of spices and wrapped Jesus’ body in it with linen strips. The spices were meant to control the odor and help the decomposition process. All this is to say that Jesus was really dead. It was really all over. He was a wonderful man who spoke wonderful words and did wonderful things but now he was a dead man lying in some grave in the Judean hillside. He was not coming back to life. Plus, three days had passed. If anything was going to happen, it would have happened by now.

Can you imagine the range of emotions that Thomas and the other disciples were feeling?Shock, Trauma, Sadness, Grief, Anger, Fear, Disappointment, Confusion, Questions, Blame (Self and Other), What ifs, Back to the old life, Looking for a new normal, etc. But just then, on the third day, reports start circulating that people had seen him – “He’s alive!”A group of women went by the grave this morning and saw him, Mary Magdalene even talked to him, Peter saw him, two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and Jesus walked with them and explained the scriptures to them. Then that same evening Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples who were hiding in a house in Jerusalem. He even showed them his nail pierced hands and his spear pierced side. Guess what Thomas! We’ve seen Jesus! His response – “I have to see it to believe it!” That was his natural reaction. That would be my reaction.

Listen carefully – Doubts are natural. They’re not sins. It’s our natural response to extraordinary events. Don’t be ashamed of them. I have doubts too. Os Guinness, famous author and Senior Fellow at the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, once said, “The shame is not that people have doubts but that they are ashamed of them.” Why do people have doubts?Many reasons – your personality (skeptical), your experiences (disappointments with God over pains, hurts, and unanswered prayers), exposed to other views (questions unanswered), afraid of commitment. If you struggle with doubts, don’t be ashamed. Seek out answers. Trust me when I say to both Christians and non-Christians – “There are answers to every doubt that you are facing.”

II. THE MERCY OF CHRIST

John 20    26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

This is such a comforting passage to me. Jesus did not abandon Thomas because he had doubts but he came and found him. Jesus was under no obligation to do that. This was only because of his mercy. He saw the spark of hope in Thomas’ heart and he was not going to let it extinguish. Matthew quotes Isaiah the prophet in 12:20“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” In other words, even though the hypocritical Pharisees were plotting against him, he was not going to quench out the hope of them being able to find life. If he would do that for those Pharisees, how much more towards us. The point is this – “If you are struggling with doubts, Christ will not abandon you. He will meet you where you are.” Just like a mother that picks up a child that falls while running away from her, so also Christ comes and picks us up.

 

III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF FAITH

Listen again to verse 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.” First, Jesus was talking about the generations who will come and not have the privilege of seeing Jesus physically walk on the earth, heal the sick, feed the hungry, preach the gospel, die on the cross, and raised from the grave. They will not have the privilege of being firsthand witnesses to Christ. They will have to take God’s Word for it, believe, and be saved. All of us fall in that category. Although that’s true, I believe that Jesus had something more in mind when he made that statement. He was talking specifically to Thomas. He was telling Thomas that he had lost out on the blessing of faith. There is a blessing that comes when you take God at his word and refuse to give in to doubts. There is a blessing that comes when you say, “I have enough proof to step out in faith. In time, God will give me more proof but I will not wait on more proof in order to step out in faith. Faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is affirming that if so far there is solid ground under my feet, God will keep the solid ground coming even if I can’t see it right now.”

Did Thomas have this solid ground to believe that Jesus rose from the grave without having seen him?John 14    1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it werenotso,I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.4And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”Thomas had every reason to believe without seeing.

Illustration: Unlike Charles Templeton, Billy Graham chose to believe God and his Word.

Invitation: You say I believe in this religion or that philosophy or nothing. Are you sure you’re standing on solid ground? Are you ready to take the step forward? What if there is bottomless pit waiting for you?Are you willing to place your doubts before the living God and take him at his word? This is to Christians as well as non-Christians. Just like a train moves forward and the light keeps shining, so alsoGod will guide you. Come to Christ and be saved. Pray like that father did whose son was tormented by an evil spirit. Jesus told him in Mark 9  23“If you can believe, all things arepossible to him who believes.” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Fearless Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

FEARLESS LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fearless Love

Introduction:  How do little kids react when they see their parents? They come running when they see you. They jump into your arms and hug you. They’re not afraid to show you and the world that they love you. What happens when they get a little older. They may still be glad to see you but there’s no more running and jumping. Then they become teenagers. There’s definitely no more running and jumping. Sometimes they don’t even acknowledge you in public. They’re too cool for that. In this message we will see how the disciples of Jesus ran towards him when they found out that his body was missing. They were FEARLESS in their LOVE for him.

John 20   1 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

Question: Mary Magdalene ran. Peter ran. The other disciple ran. Just like little kids, they didn’t care what anyone thought of them. They ran because their loved one was missing. Would you have done that? Have you received his love in your life? Are you saved?

Context: John’s description of the resurrection is a little unique compared to Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s description. In fact, if you try to set the resurrection account of all 4 gospels side-by-side there seem to be several contradictions. They don’t always appear to synch very well. You can go home and try it out – how many women went to the grave, who were the women who went to the grave, what time did they go to the grave, how many angels were at the grave, were they inside the grave or outside the grave, were they standing or sitting, what exactly did they say to the women, where did Mary Magdalene see Jesus, what exactly did he say to her, and there’s more. Some people have taken these contradictions as proofs that the Bible has errors. Others have taken these contradictions and tried to fit them in a timeline to prove that the Bible has no errors. Although I believe that the Bible has no errors, I also believe that it is not helpful to force a timeline. The question we need to ask is “What is the purpose for which John recorded the resurrection?” John’s purpose in recording the resurrection was to put a literary spotlight on 3 individuals who followed Jesus and their reactions on resurrection morning. All of us who follow Jesus fall in one of these 3 reactions.

Spotlight #1 – Mary Magdalene: Popular culture has created an image of her that is nothing like how the Bible describes her. Both Mark and Luke tell us in their gospels that Jesus had cast out 7 demons from her. Growing up in India I have seen people who were demon possessed and it’s a very scary and a sad sight. If they are poor, they are left to wander the streets. They are treated like animals. People even throw rocks at them to keep them from coming into their neighborhood. They are abused by other people on the streets. Sometimes they are even abused for religious reasons. I personally believe that she came from a well-to-do situation because Luke tells us in 8:3 that she belonged to a group of women who followed behind Jesus and his disciples and “provided for Him from their substance.” Somehow, she got caught up in demonic activity. Maybe they had to lock her away. But, Jesus came and set her free. All she wanted to do now was follow Jesus. When he hung on the cross, listen to John 19:25 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” What happened after they put Jesus in the tomb? Matthew 27   60 “…he (Joseph of Arimathea) rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.” What if you were to tell her, “Mary, it’s over. Jesus was all wonderful but they killed him.” She would say, “I don’t care. I still love him. I know what he did for me. I’m not leaving.” She had an adoring love for Jesus. This may be hard for our culture to understand where everything is seen as creepy and lustful.

Now listen again to what happens on the day Jesus rose from the grave – 1 “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early while it was still dark.” How many of y’all would like to go to a graveyard early in the morning while it is still dark? Creepy. It’s not just Mary Magdalene but a few other women as well. But that’s not the only thing to be scared about. Just 2 days earlier, their Master had been false accused, brutally beaten, and unjustly crucified by the Romans. They had even put a guard outside the tomb. Matthew tells us that there was a great earthquake. But, none of this mattered to Mary Magdalene. Mark even tells us in his gospel 16:3 they (the women) said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” Meaning: They didn’t even try to consider who would roll away the stone. What happened when she and the other women saw the stone rolled away 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Do you have this kind of adoring love for Jesus that defies reason and logic?

Spotlight #2 – Peter: He doesn’t need much of an introduction. He’s always the first one to jump up and follow Jesus. He’s also the one who says things without thinking. In fact, leading up to the cross, he has made a lot of poor choices – He didn’t understand the purpose for the foot washing. He had chopped off the high priest’s servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also promised to lay down his life for Jesus but then just as Jesus forewarned, he denied him 3 times with cursing before the rooster crowed. It had gone from bad to worse for Peter. He was guilt ridden. But what happened when Mary Magdalene told him about Jesus? 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.” What slowed Peter down? Maybe the guilt. Do you have this kind of love that runs but is slowed down by guilt and shame?

Spotlight #3 – Beloved Disciple: he is usually referred to as “the one whom Jesus loved.” He was the one leaning on Jesus at the Supper Table and who asked Jesus who would betray him. Jesus clearly explained but he didn’t get it. Then he was in the courtyard of the High Priest watching what was happening to their Master but he failed to do anything. Then he was at the cross with the Mother of Jesus when Jesus turned her over to him. You can only imagine how helpless he might have felt. He was helpless but when he heard the news, he ran too.  4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. What kept him from going in? Was it fear? Was it doubt? Do you have this kind of love that stops at critical moments?

Now the spotlight comes back around on each of them:

#1 Peter – 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

#2 Beloved Disciple – 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

#3 Mary Magdalene – 11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

Which one are you? Are you the love that runs in the face of reason and logic? Are you love that slows down by guilt and shame but goes all out? Are you love that stops at critical moments but is the first to believe? Each is fearless.

Do you love Jesus at all? Are you saved?

Senseless Obedience by Pastor Abidan Shah

Senseless Obedience by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Senseless Obedience

Introduction:  Would you agree that parents say some crazy things? Things like “Don’t look at me with those eyes,” “Quiet down, I can’t even hear myself think,” “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” “So, if everybody jumps off a bridge, will you jump too?” and my favorite – “Because I said so, that’s why.” In other words, “Obey me even if it doesn’t make sense.” That’s the premise of our message today – “Sometimes our Heavenly Father expects us to obey him even if it doesn’t make any sense.” That’s the title of our message – “SENSELESS OBEDIENCE.” It doesn’t mean Mindless Obedience. It doesn’t mean that God tells us to do things that are illegal or immoral. It means that sometimes God asks us to do things that in our earthly mind do not make sense. But, if you remember that God has the best in mind for us and that he is doing something big that may not make sense now but if we trust him and are patient, we will know one day, all we need to do at the present time is be patient, just trust and obey.

Matthew 21    1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. All four gospels record this event.

John 12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him…”

Question: The disciples obeyed Jesus even when it didn’t make any sense. Are you obedient to God even when it doesn’t make any sense? How do you obey him? Quickly, completely, joyfully? Are you saved? Obey the voice of the Holy Spirit and be saved.

Context: As you know, today is Palm Sunday. It’s the Sunday before Easter that marks the beginning of the Passion Week or the Holy Week. On this day 2000 years ago, Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. He knew why he was coming into Jerusalem. He had prophesied and forewarned his disciples of the things that were about to happen. They didn’t understand. He who knew no sin was about to become sin for us. He who was perfect was about to die for our sins. As he came in, a large crowd welcomed him with palm branches. Then they laid their clothes and palm branches on the ground for him to ride in on and cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) That word “Hosanna” comes from Psalm 118:25 where it is the combination of 2 Hebrew words – “yasha” = deliver or save and “anna” = beg. It is literally “Please save/deliver us.” They didn’t understand the depth of what they were saying! A big revolution was about to happen.

But, let’s back up a little bit and focus on the interaction between Jesus and his disciples. 1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.” I don’t know about you but I would be really concerned about this command. I would have made some excuse right about now and got out of it. Jesus even told them what to say if they were stopped – 3 “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” Scholars have said that the word “Lord” or “kurios” in Matthew always refers to Yahweh God. We don’t know who the two were who went but they did. Maybe Judas! Either way, can you imagine the conversation among them as they walked away with that donkey. The point is that the disciples did what they were told even though it didn’t make any sense.

Application: Sometimes we also have to obey God even when it is senseless. Forgive, help, speak to, etc. In time God will show you the plan. If you wait for God to show you the plan before you obey, you will never see the plan.

What was God’s big plan in this situation? Matthew 21    4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” Where is this coming from? Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” What is the meaning of this passage? Zechariah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah who exhorted the people to come back to God. He prophesied of the day when God would restore the beauty and grandeur of Israel. How would he come? Imagine a king riding into a town. What image will come to your mind if he came on a tank? I am the conquering hero who will crush you. Now what if he rode in in a station wagon? I am just a humble lowly citizen. So also, instead of riding in on a horse, Jesus rode in on a donkey.

Application: By the way, one day he will come riding in on a white horse with his robe dipped in blood and the armies of heaven behind him! Meet him now as he is coming in on a donkey. If not, you will face him as he rides in on a horse.

But there’s much more here. There’s a lot of symbolism here. There are several critical prophecies that are fulfilled here. To start with, Matthew mentions the Mount of Olive. For those who knew the Scriptures, this was a clear communication that someone in the line of David had come. 2 Samuel 15:30So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up.” This was at the time when David was running from his own son Absalom. This is the same David who killed Goliath and thousands of Philistines and many other things. At this time, he’s a humbled king running for his life. Jesus is also a humble king but he is not running for his life.

There’s more – 2 Samuel 16    1 When David was a little past the top of the mountain, there was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, one hundred summer fruits, and a skin of wine. 2 And the king said to Ziba, “What do you mean to do with these?” So Ziba said, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who are faint in the wilderness to drink.” Meaning: David was not coming to fight. Neither was Jesus.

There’s more. Listen to what Jacob says about his son Judah. Genesis 49    10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. 11 Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. The emphasis is on the colt of a donkey and not a mule.

One more – 1 Kings 1    38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and took him to Gihon. 39 Then Zadok the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound. Jesus is the real son of David.

Bottom line: When Jesus told his disciples to get the donkey, they had no clue about any of this. This has always been God’s way with his people. Senseless Obedience.

  1. Abraham and Sarah
  2. Joshua and Jericho
  3. David and Goliath
  4. Esther go before the King
  5. Mary, Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” How can this be, since I do not know a man?” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
  6. Feeding the 5000
  7. Peter making a big catch of fish
  8. Mary of Bethany pouring her expensive perfume at the feet of Jesus and wiping it with her hair
  9. Paul, go to Macedonia.

This is the same principle in our daily lives. My Dad gave up a big pulpit to go to a small church because God told him to. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have existed!

Getting saved doesn’t make any sense but we have to obey. Are you saved?

Defining Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEFINING GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Defining Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The Gospel is a powerful, living force

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

  1. The Gospel is not easily received

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

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

  1. The Gospel steadily moves forward

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

  1. The Gospel demands a certain lifestyle

Philippians 1    27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries.” I preached on this last week. The Gospel lifestyle is not for contentious and cowardly people. Those are the 2 no-nos’ when it comes to the gospel. The gospel requires partnership and fearlessness. There’s a higher focus.

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

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

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

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

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

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