The Greener Grass Syndrome (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

THE GREENER GRASS SYNDROME (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 18, 2018)Greener Grass Syndrome,

Have you ever driven past a herd of cows grazing in a lush green field and seen that one cow sticking its head through the fence, nibbling in the pasture next to it? Why is it doing that? Is there not enough grass in its own field? Is the grass any greener on the other side? Is the grass any tastier? None of the above. The cow is falsely assuming that the grass must be better on the other side. Humans do the same thing but worse. We buy into the myth that our lives are not as good as others’. We say things like: “I can’t wait to get outta here and move somewhere else,” “It was so much better back home,” “If only I looked like her, I would be so much happier,” “If only I had him, life would be so much better.” We see the perfect selfie and conclude that the person’s life must be better than ours. When in reality, that photo was retaken twenty times and tested by multiple filters. This delusion has become magnified in recent years with the rise of social media. As a result, some people have become paralyzed in self-defeat and some have slipped into the abyss of depression. Others have even walked away from a good job or a marriage, with tragic consequences.

So, how do you combat this “greener grass syndrome?” We can follow the example of God’s people in the book of Jeremiah. They were in exile in Babylon, pining to go back home to Jerusalem. They had forgotten that it was their sin that had caused them to be driven out of the land. Instead of repenting and seeking God’s will, they were wallowing in self-pity and longing for the “greener grass” back home. God sent Jeremiah to tell them to “bloom where they were planted.” Listen to Jeremiah 29:5-7 “Build houses and dwellin them;plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters…and seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive…” In other words, “Make yourself at home. Dig some foundations. Get your hands dirty in the Babylonian soil. Become a productive member of the society. Make the place better by your presence.” At first, the people did not want to hear this but God warned them that things would not change for the next seventy years. But, if they were obedient to plant themselves where God had placed them, then his promise to them would be“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) People often quote this promise but neglect to realize that it was contingent on them flourishing where God had sent them.

There may be times when you have to change locations or jobs in order to improve your life. This is not “the greener grass syndrome.” Rather, it’s moving from a famine infested land to a fertile valley. But, just remember, bad habits don’t disappear by changing zip codes or job descriptions. Unless, the old nature has been transformed by Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will still be you even if you move to the other side of the moon! So also, being inspired and motivated by the successes of others is not always bad as long as it doesn’t trap you into envy. There is a fine line between copying and coveting. King Saul crossed that line when he began to despise young David and his successes. It launched him into a horrible depression and provoked within him the desire to kill God’s Anointed.

Ultimately, the challenge to all those seeking the “greener grass” is to make sure that what they think is a better place is not actually astroturf or a septic tank. But, if we let God guide our lives, our Babylon may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

WHO DECIDES MY DESTINY?

WHO DECIDES MY DESTINY by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Who Decides My Destiny

Romans 10:1-4  1Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Romans 10:9  9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Background: If you want to know what it means to be saved, this is the book for you. If you want to know why Jesus died on the cross, what does it mean that we are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, what does it mean that we are no longer under Law but under grace, what does it mean to live by the Spirit—this is the book for you. This book makes perfect sense right up until Romans 8. Starting in Romans 9 until 11 Paul seems to be going off on a tangent and talking about the people of Israel – the Jewish people.

Many people have come to Romans 9 and have drawn some unbiblical conclusions. One of those conclusions is that – God has chosen only a certain few to go to heaven and the others He has chosen to go to hell. Last week someone called me and asked my opinion about a church they were visiting in another city. They asked if this church was liberal and after looking at their website I told them that it is definitely not liberal but they hold to the view that God has elected certain people to go to heaven and certain to hell.

The question this morning is—is that true? Has God indeed elected some people for heaven and others for hell? The answer is absolutely, positively NO! You have a choice.

So why do people draw such conclusions? Because they rip Romans 9 right out of context. Has anyone ever taken you out of context? Yesterday was a hot day. What if I had said – “Man, it’s a hot day! I can kill for a glass of lemonade.” Right then someone happened to walk by and all they heard was – “I can kill” and they call the FBI and report me as a professional assassin. All because I said – “I can kill.”

What is the context of Romans 9? In the earliest church, there was a great controversy over the purpose of the Jewish people. No longer did people have to keep the Law, offer sacrifices, observe circumcision to be saved, and so the question came up – If we don’t have to become a Jewish person in order to be saved, then are they still God’s chosen people? If they are still God’s chosen people, do they still have to believe in Jesus to be saved? There was also some resentment against them since many had rejected Him.

In Romans 9, 10, and 11, Paul is explaining the role of the Jewish people in God’s kingdom. He begins by reminding the church that he had a great burden for them. Listen to Rom. 9:2-4 2…I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ (cast out from Christ) for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4who are Israelites…” Throughout the centuries people have persecuted the Jewish people. That is wrong.

Then he reminds in Romans 9:4 that they are indeed the chosen ones “who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;  5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” The people of Israel are God’s people to bring His plan of salvation into this world.

Why did God make this choice? He is sovereign. Listen to verse 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” This is from Genesis where God said that He will use Jacob to lead and Esau to look to him. Not salvation but service.

13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” This is from Malachi, where God judged the descendants of Esau – the Edomites – because of their immorality and disobedience. It had nothing to do with salvation. God preserved Jacob’s line to bring the Messiah into the world and he punished Esau’s line for spreading sin.

Someone might say – “That’s unfair, that God continued to work with Jacob and not with the others.” 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Keep in mind that this is not mercy unto salvation but unto preserving the plan of salvation. Listen to verse 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. Pharaoh had a choice – he could have gotten on board with God’s plan of salvation and helped the Hebrews (Jewish people). Instead, he hardened his heart and in turn God made an example out of him.

I can go on and on but the point is simple – God sovereignly chose the Jewish people to bring His plan of salvation into this world.

But now listen carefully – Every Jewish person had to individually choose God’s plan of salvation. Go back to Rom. 9:6-7  6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”

Rom. 10:1Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”

Application: Collectively, you can enjoy God’s blessings at Clearview but, individually, you can still be lost. Collectively, you can enjoy the blessings of living in this nation blessed by God but, individually, you can still be lost and go to hell.

The Jewish people had a lot of false ideas about being saved.

A.   DEDICATION

Romans 10:2-3  2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Background: Ever since Israel returned from Babylon, they were zealous in serving God. They were done worshipping idols. They were going to the synagogues and to the temples. They were teaching the Law of God. In fact, they had even added more laws to the Law. They were zealous for God but without knowledge. Paul was an example of that. Philippians 3:4-6 4though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

It was the Golden Age of Judaism and their golden age crucified Jesus Christ.

Let me ask you something: Is it possible to be dedicated/zealous and still be lost? Yes.

For e.g. Mrs. Mary Johnson would often share with me how she was dedicated to the  church and taught Sunday School, and served as women’s ministry leader and she was lost. She had zeal (dedication) for God and she was trying to please God but she was lost.

Application: Many people are sincere in what they are doing, but they are sincerely lost.

B.   HIGH STANDARDS

3For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

Background: “Being ignorant of God’s righteousness” does not mean that the Jewish people were ignorant of the Holiness and Righteousness of God. In fact, they were quite proud that unlike the pagans and their sexually immoral lifestyles, they had some very high standards of righteousness and purity. But it was still not the righteousness of God.

Matthew 5:20  For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Application: We have friends and family members who think that they are good enough to get to heaven because they are not living an immoral lifestyle; they don’t lie and cheat and hurt people; they pay their taxes and do their part to help their community; they serve in their church and support a few charity organizations; they are good neighbors and upstanding citizens.  All that is good but there is only one problemthey are seeking to establish their own righteousness.

C.    KEEPING THE LAW

Rom. 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Background: God gave the Law (the 10 commandments, sacrifices, priesthood and festivals) to the people of Israel to warn them against the dangers of sin, to protect them from the effects of sin, to separate them from the influence of the sinful nations around them. The Law kept them together as a society, as a people, and as a nation until the Seed should came. Josephus the historian tells us: “The Jew (ish person) knows the Law better than his own name… Countless thousands would go to their great feasts. Over and above the Law….Many died on the cross and were willing to burned alive and thrown to the lions because of their loyalty to the Law. They were also very evangelistic, trying to convert the Gentiles to the Law of Moses. But they still missed the purpose of the Law.

Instead of letting the Law lead them to Christ, the Jewish people began to worship the Law. They thought that keeping the Law was going to save them. Paul says, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Application: Keeping the 10 commandments will do absolutely nothing for your salvation. People often ask me “You don’t think we need the 10 commandments today?” Yes we do. We need them in the Capital Building, courtroom, and classrooms. We need to teach them to our kids. They will preserve our society, and our nation. They will give them a sense of right and wrong. But, they will not save you.

Now Paul explains to them the right idea about getting saved.

Listen to Romans 10: 8-9  8But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): meaning = it’s not that complicated.

9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

#1.IF YOU CONFESS, MAKE SURE YOU BELIEVE IT. There are a lot of people who have confessed but they’ve never believed. They are still lost. By faith, you accept that Jesus is the Son of God who died for you.

10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

#2.IF YOU BELIEVE, MAKE SURE YOU CONFESS IT.

There is no such thing as secret Christians and private Christians. God wants us to declare publicly that we are followers of Jesus Christ. During Jesus’ earthly ministry –  John 12:42-43 42Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Listen to how Jesus responds in Matthew 10:32-33  32“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

For e.g. Adrian Rogers gave a great illustration of the woman who was sitting in the choir and the Holy Spirit was working on her that she needed to be saved. Her friend saw her agony and said, “Let’s go down to the front and give your heart to Christ.” She said, “I am too embarrassed to go to the front. Can I not get saved here?” The friend replied, “No you can’t.”Next night the same thing; next night, again, the same thing. On the last night, She was in agony again. This time she leaned over to her friend and said, “I am ready to go down.” The friend replied, “Now, you are ready to get saved, right here.”

You cannot confess and not believe and you cannot believe and not confess.

Application: Many are sitting on the sidelines that have never openly acknowledged that they are saved. Baptism is an important way of making that declaration. Someone says, “But I am embarrassed.” Listen to Romans 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. Jew or Greek – the same Lord will be rich to all who call on Him. 13For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

WHATEVER IT TAKES TO WIN SOULS

WHATEVER IT TAKES TO WIN SOULS  by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Whatever_it_takes_to_win_soulsRomans 9:1-5  1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,  2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.  3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,  4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;  5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

Overall Background:  Romans 9 reveals the heart of Paul more than any other chapter in this book. He makes a statement in verse 3 that is shocking and confusing and unrealistic. Listen to verse 3 “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh.” The word accursed is “anathema.” It’s the translation of a Hebrew word “charam” that was used to describe the destruction of the city of Jericho and all the plunder of the Canaanite cities. The Jewish rabbis used that word to refer to excommunication of people who were unfaithful to God and His Word. It means to be kicked out of the faith. Paul is saying exactly what is said – “I’m willing to give up my place in heaven so that my people can be saved.” WOW!

The only other time that we hear something so explicitly is in the Old Testament. Moses was called up on Mount Sinai to receive the commandments for the people of Israel. He was there for 40 days and 40 nights and the people got bored waiting for him. So they decided to build themselves a golden calf and started a drunken orgy. God was angry to say the least and wanted to destroy the people and make a nation out of Moses. Listen to what Moses says in Exodus 32:32 “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” All I can say is WOW!

We don’t even like to give up our special seat in church. A pastor friend told me sometime back that he had to get on this member because a visitor had come in and sat in their seat and they sat in their special spot and – boy – this person was mad. By the way – I don’t get it how people can sleep in church pews. Anytime someone says to me they have trouble sleeping, I am tempted to say – “Have you tried the church pews? They’ll put you to sleep right away!”

Application: Do we care about the lost enough to give them our place in heaven? Are we doing whatever it takes to win souls? How do we see lost people? If you want to know what Clearview is about, this is the message for you.

2 very important observations in this passage:

I. THE CLOSER YOU ARE TO CHRIST, THE CLOSER YOU’LL BE TO HIS HEART.

Romans 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ,

Background: What does it mean to be in Christ? It means to be loved by Christ and to love Christ. Listen to the last part of Romans 8 – 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What does it mean to be in Christ? It means you understand that He loves you unconditionally; that He loves you infinitely; that He loves you unendingly. It means to be close to Him. The more you are close to Him, the more you begin to see His heart.

Question: What is on the heart of Christ?

Listen to what Christ said in Matthew 18:11 “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”

In Luke 15 when the Pharisees and the scribes were complaining about how he sits and eats with sinners, listen to what Jesus said in verse 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

The more you draw close to Him, the more you begin to see His heart; the more you see His heart, the more you will see His love for the lost.

Listen to the rest of that verse. Romans 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,

No wonder Paul makes such a bold statement – the source of His love is Christ.

Application: The first question this morning is not whether you love lost people. The first question is whether you understand the love that Christ has for you. If you are not connected to that love, your love will always be conditional, selfish, and superficial. Look at our churches today – there’s no passion for the lost; there’s no urgency for the gospel.

We’re sitting in our comfortable pews saying “Hello Jesus. We want you to bless us. We want to do another Bible study. We want to sing to you our favorite songs.” What do you think He’s saying? “You want me to sit here and bless you and watch you do your bible study and hear you sing to me but the whole time you are not doing what I came to do.”

II. THE MORE YOU ARE LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE GREATER WILL BE YOUR BURDEN.

1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, (keep this phrase in mind. We’re going to return to it in a moment.) 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.  3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,  4 who are Israelites,

Who is Paul referring to? His own Jewish people. Keep in mind that these people were his worst enemies. He used to be a leader among them at one time. When Stephen was being stoned to death, Acts 7:58 tells us “the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” Acts 8:1 “Saul was consenting to his death.” Acts 8:3 “Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”

Then, Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and his life was radically changed. Now the word got out that “He who formerly persecuted us (the church) now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” Galatians 1:23

Now the Jewish people hated him. They wanted to kill Paul – the turncoat.  They had falsely accused him; they had chased him from city to city; they had him thrown in prison; they had him whipped 5 times; they had stoned him and left him for dead; and at one time in Acts 23 about 40 of them had taken a vow that they would not eat nor drink until they had killed him.

How does Paul refer to them? He calls them in verse 3my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,  4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law (don’t forget God gave them the Ten Commandments not Charlton Heston), the service of God, and the promises;  5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”

There is no hatred, no bitterness, no animosity, and no unforgiveness in Paul. He is saying these things with a broken heart. Sometimes we say the right things but without a broken heart.

For e.g. Two friends were talking and one asked the other – “I heard you dismissed your pastor. What happened there?” He replied, “Well, he was always telling us that we were going to die and go to hell. But we have a new pastor now.” The first man asked, “So is his preaching any different?” He answered, “No, he also tells us that we are going to die and go to hell.” The man was puzzled – “What’s the difference?” The man replied – “When the second man says it, it sounds like it is breaking his heart. But when the first guy did it, it sounded like he was glad of it.”

How can you have such a heart like Paul? Listen to verse 1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.”

Charles Spurgeon said, “O Beloved, we need the Spirit of God to work this feeling in us! It is of no use to try to get it by reading books, or to pump yourself up to it in private – this feeling is the work of God! A soul-winner is a creation.”

Many of us try to win souls but with the wrong motivation – to grow our church, to gain the admiration of others. None of these will do it. It can only happen when the Holy Spirit begins to work in our hearts. Just like a mother has a loving desire towards her newborn, we have a loving desire towards the lost. Imagine if you knew that your son/daughter were to go to hell, what father/mother would not say – “I’ll take his/her place in hell. Let him/her go to heaven.”

The feeling is so overwhelming that all reason comes to a stand still. Then, you say with Moses – blot me out of Your book; you say with Esther – if I perish I perish; you say with Paul – I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.

What does this church need? What does our community need? What does our nation and world need? Men and women, boys and girls who will have a burning heart for the lost.

For e.g. Many of you have heard of the gladiatorial games in ancient Rome. It was horrible as blood flowed everywhere. As soon as one game was over, they would bring in sand, rake it over and do it all over again. One day a philosopher was watching such a spectacle in the Roman Coliseum and he said to his friend – “What is needed is the heart that would make it impossible to look upon such brutality and bloodshed.” Then, he added, “the future would belong to the force that could create such a heart.”

You want to know the heart of this pastor. You want to know the heart of Clearview. Here it is. No tradition, no personal ambition, no hidden sin can stand in the way of that burning heart for souls.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you doing whatever it takes to save others?

THERE IS ONLY ONE PLAN OF SALVATION

THERE’S ONLY ONE PLAN OF SALVATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

There is Only One Plan of SalvationNehemiah 9:3-8  3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one–fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God….this is what they said 5 “Stand up and bless the Lord your God
Forever and ever! “Blessed be Your glorious name,
Which is exalted above all blessing and praise! 6 You alone are the Lord;
You have made heaven,
The heaven of heavens, with all their host,
The earth and everything on it,
The seas and all that is in them,
And You preserve them all.
The host of heaven worships You. 7 “You are the Lord God,
Who chose Abram,
And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans,
And gave him the name Abraham; 8 You found his heart faithful before You,
And made a covenant with him
To give the land of the Canaanites,
The Hittites, the Amorites,
The Perizzites, the Jebusites,
And the Girgashites—
To give it to his descendants.
You have performed Your words,
For You are righteous.

Overall Background: Nehemiah 9 is the record of the confession that the Jewish people made after they were saved. God had called them to influence the world but they had allowed the world to influence them. Now that they had come back to God, they were repenting of all the wrong beliefs they had learned from their Gentile neighbors and affirming all the right beliefs from God’s Word—

–       The first right belief: You alone are the Lord = “There is Only One True God.”

–       The second right belief: You made everything = “There is Only One Creator.”

–       Now we come to the third right belief in verse 7, “You are the Lord God,
Who chose Abram,
And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans,
And gave him the name Abraham; 8 You found his heart faithful before You, And made a covenant with him
To give the land.” Meaning: Of all the ancient Peoples, God chose a man named Abram, called him to leave his home and go to a new land, changed his name to Abraham, and made a covenant with him and his descendants. Why? Because his heart was faithful before God. In others words, Abram faithfully held on to God’s one and only plan of salvation. So God not only blessed him but also made him a channel to bring His plan of salvation into this world.

Application: This message is critical for all of us. In our world today people think that there are many ways to heaven/God—as long as you are a good person and help others, according to your religion be the best you can be, then God will let you into heaven. Even some well-meaning Christians think that there is no “one” plan of salvation but several based on where you grew up. Nothing could be further from the truth. The question for us this morning: Do you believe that Jesus is the Only Way, the Truth, and the Life? Do you believe that the only plan of salvation is the cross of Jesus, where His blood dripped for our sins? If you believe that, are you telling everyone about Him?

There is Only One Plan of Salvation – 3 questions come to mind:

I. WHY DID THEY MAKE THIS CONFESSION?

 once again to the confession in verse 7 “You are the Lord God,
Who chose Abram,
And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans,
And gave him the name Abraham;

Abraham StarsBackground: In that statement, they were looking back to the birth of their nation. God chose a Chaldean named Abram to leave his homeland of Ur and go toa new land of Promise. Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God even changed his name Abram, which meant “Father-Exalted” or “Father-Departed” to Abraham, which meant “Father of Many.”

All throughout their history, the Jewish people knew that they were God’s special chosen people. They knew that they were different. They knew that they were the “apple of His eye.” Every time things got difficult, God came through for them and protected them.

–       When there was a famine in the land, God sent Joseph before them.

–       When they were in slavery, God sent Moses to rescue them.

–       When they were facing the Midianites and the Philistines, God sent men like Gideon and Sampson, and women like Deborah to deliver them.

–       When they were facing a giant like Goliath, God sent David with a slingshot and a few pebbles.

–       And the list goes on and on.

Bottom line: God was always there for them. They were His people. But recently, things had not been so great for them. The Northern tribes had been taken into exile by Assyria and lost forever. The Southern tribe of Judah had been taken into exile by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon—who destroyed Jerusalem, the temple, and everything. Unlike earlier times, God did not seem to have come through for them. Needless to say, this was a very low point in the history of the Jewish people. They felt abandoned by God; they even questioned if God had ever called Abraham.

For e.g. It was kind of like after the Holocaust (the Shoah) when six million Jewish people were systematically executed. Many Jewish people who survived questioned the existence of God and His call upon the Jewish people. Elie Wiesel in his book titled Night talks about the hanging of three Jewish people, one of them was a young boy. He writes, “One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all around us; machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains—and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel….All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips….The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses….“Where is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked….The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged but the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive…For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: “Where is God now?” And I heard a voice within me answer him: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows.”

Atheistic Jewish theologian Richard Rubenstein said: “More than the bodies of my people went up in smoke at Auschwitz. The God of the covenant died there.” – Auschwitz and Covenant Theology,” The Christian Century 86 (May 21, 1969)

Application: When people go through difficult times in life (like child abuse and loss of loved ones), they lose all faith in God. They tend to think that God has forsaken them; that there is no master plan; and that all is chance and circumstance. Even Christians go through such times. If I can tell you anything this morning it’s this – don’t forget in the dark what God has taught you in the light.

These Jewish people in Nehemiah’s time were now saved and they were coming back to the truth that God was still there and that they were still His chosen ones. The plan of salvation was still on schedule.

II. HOW ABOUT THE OTHER PLANS?

Background: When we talk about God calling Abraham and choosing the Jewish people, the question comes up – “How about the other peoples?” “Why did God reject them?” What about the other people in Ur of the Chaldeans and those peoples mentioned in verse 8—“the Canaanites,
The Hittites, the Amorites,
The Perizzites, the Jebusites,
And the Girgashites”? The answer to that question is found in verse 8You found his heart faithful before You.” Abram was faithful to God’s one and only plan of salvation—the promise that He was going to send a Seed. God was going to send a Savior who would give His life for the sins of the whole world. The rest of the world had either forgotten that promise or decided to create their own version of the promise.

Tower of Babel

In other words, human beings decided to build their own way to heaven. To understand this, you’re going to have to discard the evolutionary “monkey to caveman” idea of ancient people. We have been programmed to think that human beings evolved slowly out of slime. Instead, we need to look at the first human beings as created in the image of God—not brutes but highly intelligent people, with a great capacity to learn and retain knowledge.

After the Flood (More than 270 flood legends; Every ancient culture knows about it.), God told Noah and his sons, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:8) Instead, they decided to build a city, a tower, and a name. The city was Babylon and the tower was the Tower of Babel. This was a human attempt to get to God. It was a sun temple. Again, every ancient culture talks about this tower. Even some remote Pyramids WorldAfrican tribes talk about a tower built to reach the sun god. The Bible tells us that God dispersed them through confusion of speech. But wherever the people went, they took with them the idea of building ziggurats, pyramids, and mounds. You can find these structures all over the world from Egypt, China, Africa, and even America. When I was in Mexico, I saw one in the Yucatan, that hasn’t even been explored.

Abraham stood in the line of the faithful who chose to wait upon God’s promise of salvation.

Application: There is only one plan of salvation. You can’t get to God. God has to come down to you and save you. Those who are humble enough, like Abraham, receive the plan and are saved. Those who are proud reject the plan or do it themselves and are lost. It doesn’t matter how sincere or passionate or nice you are. Which category do you fall in this morning?

III. HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME?

Because we believe that there is Only One Plan of Salvation:

The last line of verse 8 says—To give it to his descendants.
You have performed Your words,
For You are righteous.

–       The only true plan is the one that has come down through Abraham and his line through Isaac, Jacob, the Jewish people all the way to Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said in John 4:22 “Salvation is of the Jews.” God is not biased against the Arab nations, or the Palestinians, or anyone else. God loves every nation, and every tribe, and every family. The gospel is to be preached unto all nations, and all peoples, races, and cultures. He has offered even the enemies of Israel his love.

–       There is only way our loved ones, friends, neighbours, and co-workers will get to heaven. It does not matter how sincere or passionate or nice you are. No one can earn their way into heaven. You have to humble yourself and reach out and take hold of the hand of Jesus Christ reaching down to you.

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