Location, Location, Location!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why was this so significant ? For 4 reasons: 

I. A FULFILLMENT WAS RECOGNIZED.

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

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

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

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

Several things to point out here:

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

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

II. AN EXAMPLE WAS SET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. A DOCTRINE WAS DEMONSTRATED 

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

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

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

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

IV. A PROMISE WAS GIVEN

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

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

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

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

WHOM ARE YOU FOLLOWING?

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

WHOM ARE YOU FOLLOWING? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

whoareyoufollowing

Introduction: We are at that time in our service when we hear God’s Word so I want to welcome all of you again. I also want to welcome those who are joining us by radio. Thank you for tuning in! We’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in John 1 for our message titled – “WHOM ARE YOU FOLLOWING?” All of us are following someone in our life – a parent, a friend, a famous personality, and even someone who is dead and gone. The question is not are you following someone. The question is “whom are you following?” If you follow the right person, it’ll be the way of life. If you follow the wrong person, it will be the way of death.

John 1 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” 32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

Overall Background: The passage we just read took place after the temptation of Jesus. As you know, Jesus was in the wilderness of Judea tempted by the devil himself. After 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus rejected every attempt of the enemy to entice Him in sin. Having triumphed, Jesus returned from the wilderness to begin His ministry but He did so by coming by the place where John was still baptizing people near “Bethabara beyond the Jordan.” (John 1:28) He came by there for a reason. It was to signal to John that the time had come for the show to start. Since the beginning of time this show had been planned and now the day had come for the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” to do what He came to do. How did John respond to this? Verse 29 again – The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Meaning: So far John was the main event. Everything was about him. People came to him and looked up to him. He could have hung on to his disciples but he didn’t. No arguments, deliberations, or hesitations. In fact, he didn’t even let Jesus say a word but humbly and totally he gave up his ministry and pointed to Jesus. Wow! The Bible records it twice. Listen to verse 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” What was the result? Verse 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Would you have done that? We don’t even like to give up our seat in church!

Application: This morning there are 2 questions: 1. “Are you sending people to Jesus?” “Are you telling your spouse, children, and grandchildren to follow Jesus?” 2. “Are you following Jesus?” “Are you looking to Him in your life?” “Is He your focus?” “Is He your Master?” “Is He calling the shots in your life?”

This morning we will address 3 questions about following Jesus:

 I. HAVE YOU SEEN JESUS?

29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him…”

Background: John “saw” Jesus. This sight of Jesus was more than just the physical sight. The Holy Spirit had opened John’s spiritual eyes to really see Jesus! When did this happen? John tells us in verse 32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him. You can be in church all your life and never know Him. ‘but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” The Holy Spirit had opened John’s spiritual eyes.

Have you seen Jesus? I am not talking about your physical eyesight – not just the rays of light entering through the cornea, bending through the pupil, reflecting on the retina, and being transformed into electrical impulses that are send through the optic nerve to the brain. The Holy Spirit has to reveal Him to you.

Someone might say, “I wish I could see Him physically.” Did you know that spiritual eyesight is more blessed than the physical eyesight? After Jesus rose from the grave, he revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene and several of His disciples who were hiding. John 20:19 “…Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” Later in verse 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So 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.” Eight days later Jesus showed up in that room again and in verse 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Do you remember what Jesus said? Verse 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Application: Have you seen Jesus? Has the Holy Spirit opened your spiritual eyes to see Jesus?

II. DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT VIEW OF JESUS?

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Background: John could have said many things about Jesus. He could have talked Him being the King of Kings or the Creator of the World or the Prince of Peace. Instead, he repeats the same epithet twice. See again in verse 36 ‘And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”’ Several important points need to be made here:

  • Jesus is the LAMB – Here Lamb does not imply gentleness or willingness or humility or silence. It implies “purity.” Just like on the night of the Passover in Exodus 12 1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying…3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: “On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household…5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. John, the writer of the gospel, repeatedly tries to emphasize this idea throughout his gospel and even into his letters. Listen to 1 John 3 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure…5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.

Even Peter emphasizes the purity of Jesus in 1 Peter 1 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Lamb implies the purity of Jesus.

  • Jesus is THE Lamb of GOD – Here “THE” (the definite article) emphasizes the fact that there is no one else like Him. He is not one of many. He is the only one. What else? He is the Lamb “OF GOD.” Meaning: He is God’s chosen one. He is God’s offering. Just like on Mount Moriah where Abraham took his son Isaac to sacrifice him. When Isaac asked him in Genesis 22 7 “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” Then in verse 13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The–LORD–Will–Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” At this very place the templewas built. Nicole and I stood near the Temple Mount.
    Western Wall and the Temple Mount

    Western Wall and the Temple Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

    It was amazing to imagine how through the centuries the Jewish people brought their lambs to the temple to be sacrificed. Now, God was bringing His Lamb to the altar to be sacrificed.

  • Jesus is the Lamb of God WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD – Jesus was not just the sacrifice for the Jewish people. He is for all people. He is the only answer for the sin of every human being. Even more – he takes it away from us and not just for those who lives in the first century but every century until the end of time. He will keep taking it away.

For e.g. This has been many years ago when I was a little discouraged about the church. One day the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart – “Preach Jesus and see what will happen.” John 12:32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”

III. WHAT IS YOUR DECISION?

35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Background: “Behold” – The Greek word is ide meaning “look” or “there it is.” John had to point Him out. I am always amused by the Medieval and Renaissance painters who paint Jesus and make Him look so attractive and easily recognizable. If that’s not enough, they always depict Him with a halo (dinner plate) around his head. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was very ordinary in His appearance. In fact, Isaiah 53:2 says, “…He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.”

When you point people to Jesus, don’t expect them to see Him immediately. Sometimes, it takes time. Sometimes, it takes more than one attempt. Sometimes, it takes pleading. But once they truly see Him, they’ll never turn away.

37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

A few verses down in verse 40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah”…42 And he brought him to Jesus. Later in verse 43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me”…45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

If you’ve seen Him, you have a decision to make. Are you going to follow Him?

If you have seen Him, are you showing Him to others?

Do you know what the motto is of our church? MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE.

ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING

ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

One New Years Resolution Worth Keeping

We’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Luke 3 for our message titled, “ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING.” According to a recent research, here are the popular New Year’s Resolutions in 2015 – 10. Get More Sleep; 9. Volunteer; 8. Travel; 7. Floss; 6. Save Money; 5. Reach Goals; 4. Learn a Language; 3. Go Green; 2. Quit Smoking or Drinking; 1. Lose Weight. There’s one that I have a feeling is not on anyone’s list but it holds the key to all the rest: True Repentance.

Luke 3   7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Overall Background: The Word of God came to John in the wilderness. If you remember, it was not just a geographical wilderness but also political, moral, and spiritual wilderness. God hadn’t spoken to His people in 400 years and suddenly there was a voice crying in the wilderness. This voice was a lone voice, a simple voice, and a voice full of holy conviction. And people began to come. Matthew tells us in chapter 3, verse 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. That’s powerful! What’s even more powerful is what these people did! They confessed their sins – they repented.

Unfortunately, repentance is a foreign word in American Christianity today. We talk about how to find God’s will and how to have our best life and how to be happy but repentance – no time for that. But this is where it starts. The closer you draw to God, the more you begin to see your sinfulness and the need for repentance.

Application: May I ask you – Are you tired of sin ruling your life? Is it the sin of a habit/addiction? Is it the sin of an attitude – selfishness, anger, control, or insecurity? Is it the sin of lack of discipline – food, time management, or thoughts? You say you are saved – is there a difference between you and those who are lost? Then, there’s one solution – Repentance. Here’s an important question – Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? If not, then you need Conversion not Confession.

This morning let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the truth about Repentance so this could really be your best year ever. 3 things we will see in this passage:

 I. SIN MAKES US AN ENEMY OF GOD.

7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

John the Baptist - crowdBackground: Good gracious! Why did John say something like that? Isn’t that what he wanted? Weren’t people (some Pharisees and Sadducees) responding to the voice crying in the wilderness? If it we’re me, I would’ve put together a welcome packet with all the ministries for every need in your family. I would’ve organized a welcome committee with the friendliest people to serve as ushers. Instead, he calls them “sons of snakes.” Because vipers throughout the Old Testament refer to God’s enemies. Imbedded in here is a powerful principle – Sin puts us at enmity with God. When you and I come to God (lost or saved), we are immediately confronted by God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Psalm 5:4 “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You.” Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you.” The closer to get to the light, the more you see the dirt in your life.

At the moment you are confronted, if you raise up your hands and say – “Guilty as charged. I need Jesus,” it’s good. At that point John 3:16 goes into action – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But if you come with anything other than the blood of Christ to cover you, now the wrath of God is upon you. Listen to verse 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ Meaning: Don’t trust in your pedigree. Don’t trust in your church membership. Don’t trust in the fact that you came. These people were sincere. None of that can save you from God’s wrath. Keep listening to verse 8 “…For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Application: How do you see yourself in light of God’s holiness? As a lost person, do you think God will excuse you based on some good you’ve done? As a saved person, you know God and that’s good but are you bearing good fruit or is there sin in your life? Do you realize how much God abhors our sin? These are very important questions. Unless you get this right, no amount of resolutions and promises will make the year blessed.

II. SIN DESTROYS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS.

10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

John the Baptist - Tax CollectorsIf you noticed, each of these commands has to do with their relationship with fellow human beings. Let’s look at each of them for a moment:

  1. The first one – “People – If you have 2 coats and see someone who is cold, share.” Sin has a way of making us insensitive to others. Nothing wrong with wearing well and eating well but there’s something wrong when our brother/sister is cold and hungry. Sin makes us care for our own comfort and well-being. Now, don’t immediately run out and start clothing the homeless and feeding the hungry. Start with your own home. Wives – are you known as a selfish person? Husband – are you known as a self-centered person who always gets what he wants?
  2. The second one – “Tax Collectors – Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” Sin has a way of making us greedy for a little bit more. Nothing wrong with making a profit and doing better in life but there’s something wrong when we care more about stuff than people. Sin makes us dissatisfied no matter how much we have. Sin creates a bottomless pit in our heart. In fact, we are even willing to throw our husband, wife, and children down the bottomless pit of greed.
  3. The third one – “Soldiers – Don’t intimidate or false accuse anyone.” Sin makes us a bully and do whatever it takes (lie and cheat) to get our way. Bullying happens not just on the school playground but also in the home. Words are said and threats are used that have no business in Christian homes. The past is held over the head and the future is used as a threat rather than something to look forward to.

Bottom line: Sin is not just a subject for theologs. Sin is not just the quirk of some Ole Timey preacher. Sin is not just the junk on TV put out by Hollywood. Sin is with us everyday and it affects our relationship with our loved ones, neighbors, and co-workers. Instead of avoiding the subject, it needs to be preached more! It is the problem.

For e.g. We make resolutions to lose weight. Why do we eat more? It’s all right to eat because you’re hungry or the food tastes good but its not all right as an emotional need. Why do our emotions go out of whack? Because of our relationships.

Application: Have you realized how real sin is in your life? Do you see how much it corrupts your daily relationships? Do you see that you can’t go forward and make resolutions and set goals unless you deal with sin? Are you willing to deal with sin?

III. SIN NEEDS A SAVIOR.

15 Now as the people were in expectation,

Background: What were they expecting? After all, they’ve been baptized, they’ve been confronted with their sin, and they’ve been told what to do and not to do. What more is there? Listen to the next line – “and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not.” They were still expecting the Christ! Why? Because the Christ was going to do something more for them. Listen to verse 16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. What exactly is John saying? He is drawing a line of demarcation between himself and Jesus. The people were starting to look at John as their hope. But John quickly put an end to that. Sometimes people start looking at pastors and teachers with adoration. Don’t get me wrong, there should be respect but don’t worship the man.

What will this Mightier One do? Listen to last line of verse 16 “…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” What does that mean? What is the difference between the baptism with water and the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire? They had been saved from the wrath to come but they had not been set free from the power of sin. By receiving Jesus as your Savior, you don’t have to face the penalty of sin but unless you truly appropriate what Jesus did for you, you will still be in bondage to the power of sin. That’s why some Christians keep going back to old habits and old attitudes and old sins and old hang-ups. They are going to heaven but it’s like hell all the way there. They’re still selfish, self-centered, greedy, intimidating, liars, and cheats. They feel guilty for their behavior and feel condemned. They make promises to do better but go back to the old ways.

So what’s the solution? Baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. Paul explains to us a little bit more in Romans 8 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Being baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire means that now I am under the command and leadership of the Holy Spirit. He is in charge over me. In order to sin I have to get permission from Him. I daily submit myself to Him and He leads me in right way. Listen to Romans 8:6 “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

And he also brings fire. What does that do? 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” For the lost, the fire is hell but for the saved person, the fire is a purifier. It refines us and cleanses us. It is just like the fire at the landfill versus the fire at the silversmith.

Illustration: Charles Wesley’s hymn illustrates this well –

O for a thousand tongues to sing,

My great Redeemer’s praise,

The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace!

…………

He breaks the power of canceled sin,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean,

His blood availed for me.

Are you saved? Has the power of canceled sin broken in your life through the Holy Spirit?

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW (1)

We’re in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Luke 3 for our message titled, “OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW.” We are 4 days from January 2015. Many of you may not know that the word JanuaryJanus comes from Janus the Roman God of transitions. He is usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions, one to the past and one to the future. This morning were going to do some reflecting back and some resolving forward.

Luke 3 2 while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

Overall Background: The passage we just read describes a period of great transition in the history of God’s people. The old order was coming to a close and a new order was about to begin. For almost 400 years there had been an eerie silence but now a voice was heard crying in the wilderness. There was a transition in God’s plan of redemption.

Although we will see this passage theologically, there are some powerful applications for our daily lives as well. Each of us are at a transition point in our lives. 2014 is ending and 2015 is about to start. For some of us, 2014 was a dark year, a year of pain, of disappointment, and of unfulfilled goals. That thought can paralyze you and leave you hopeless. But thank God for new years! It is God’s way of reminding us to start again and not lose hope and we’re not talking about wishful thinking and power of suggestion.

Application: Has this year been a year of pain, disappointment, and unfulfillment? Look to the Holy Spirit this morning. Let Him change your perspective on the past. Let Him bring hope into your life for the upcoming year. Do you know Christ as your Savior? There’s no better way to begin this year than by making Him your Savior.

There are 3 things we will see in this passage:

I. THE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE 

Listen once again to verse 2 “while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.” In a sense the wilderness refers to the wilderness of Judea near the Jordan River. But I think it has a deeper meaning. It’s referring to the moral, political, and spiritual wilderness and emptiness in Israel. God’s people were living in darkness. To understand this, we have to go back to verse 1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee…

Background: This is quite an interesting passage. Seven different rulers are mentioned in these two verses. There is a reason why Luke listed them. It’s not just a chronological marker. Let’s look at them briefly:

  1. Tiberius Caesar – Tiberius CaesarHe was the stepson of Augustus. He was not the next in line to be the Emperor of Rome but since Augustus’s grandsons (Lucius Caesar and Gaius Caesar) had died, the lot fell upon Tiberius in AD 14. What kind of man was Tiberius? Oh he was a great general but, as an individual, he was horrible – a cruel man, a homosexual, perverse beyond your wildest imaginations. The Roman historian Suetonius describes some of the heinous things that he did for pleasure. He was the Caesar who is mentioned in the Gospels.
  2. Pontius Pilate – Tiberius ruled through prefects or procurators who were financial officers in charge of keeping peace and collecting taxes. What kind of a man was Pontius Pilate? The little we know about him is that he repeatedly agitated the Jewish people by putting up images of the Emperor in Jerusalem (for which Tiberius got onto him), taking money from the Temple to build an aqueduct and when the Jewish people protested, he had his soldiers in the crowd attack and kill them, and the list goes on.
  3. Herod tetrarch of Galilee and Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis – they were both sons of King Herod. And if you know what’s coming later – Herod Antipas took Herodias his own brother Philip’s wife (By the way, he is not to be confused with Philip the tetrarch of Iturea. There was another brother named Herod Philip). He was also responsible for giving the orders to cut off John the Baptist’s head because he was so swept away by the provocative dance of Salome, Herodias’ daughter.
  4. Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene – not much is known about this ruler but he’s the same.
  5. Annas and CaiaphasAnnas and Caiaphas were high priests – Annas was the father-in-law who was removed from his position as high priest but he held onto the title. Caiaphas married his daughter and kept the family business going. The position of high priest was not about holiness and righteousness but about money, politics, and power. Remember – these were the men who condemned Jesus to be crucified.

This was a wilderness period in the life of God’s people. But remember – every time God begins to do a powerful work He always takes us to the wilderness:

  • Moses was in the backside of the desert for 40 years before he led his people out of Egypt. His pride was broken down. He was very reluctant to go back.
  • David had to live in caves and wilderness for about 8 years before he became king.
  • Jesus spent 40 days and nights being tempted in the wilderness.
  • Paul went to Arabia, probably Mount Sinai, for three years before beginning his ministry.

Wilderness may seem bad at the moment but it’s always God’s way of beginning something new. The time limit may be a few years, few months, or a few weeks. You can look at them in despair or you can look at them in anticipation of great days ahead.

Application: When you look at 2014, what do you see? Do you see wilderness? Do you see emptiness – spiritually, relationally, aspirationally? The important thing to understand is that God allows these times of wilderness to bring us to a place where all we can do is say “God, unless you bring life, there’s nothing but death. Unless you do something new, there is no hope.” The sooner you can acknowledge that, the better.

II. THE WORD ARRIVES 

2 “…the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”

John the BaptistBackground: What was John doing in the wilderness? Maybe he was disenchanted or tired of trying to reach people. We’re not sure. But the word arrives! The word for “word” is “rhema.” This is not like the word for word in John 1, which is “logos.” Here rhema refers to God’s special call on a person’s life. Like Moses and the burning bush.

Do you know that this morning God’s “rhema” is coming to you? There’s something that God is saying specifically to you. The Holy Spirit is calling you to some action.

Illustration: God’s call came on my life one Sunday morning when I was listening to Nicole’s dad preach. I had heard that call when I was a young boy and again when I was in college but I thought I misheard it. But then it came again and thank God I obeyed!

God’s word is coming to some of you this very moment. Don’t think it’s always to be a preacher or a missionary. God is also calling some musicians, lawyers, business people, electricians, politicians, actors, etc.

What did John do? He did not complain about the wilderness. He did not explain to God how bad things were. Instead, listen to verse 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” John obeyed.

Sadly, some of us have lost hope. We won’t admit it but we have given up. We have been in the wilderness so long that we have lost the vision that God gave us. In fact, there are some here who think that God doesn’t care for them.

Listen to what Paul says in Romans 5 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Application: Have you lost hope? Have you given up? Is the word of God coming to you this morning? Are you in a position where you are open to His voice? The real battle in the wilderness is whether God loves you. If you can answer that question with an affirmative, hope will come into your heart that very moment. If you hesitate, it’s because you are questioning the love of God in your life. God loved his people. His people were living in the wilderness. But Jesus had already come. John had hope.

III. THE VOICE CRIES OUT

4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness…”

There are 2 things the voice does:

  1. It calls us to prepare our hearts. Listen again to verse 4‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’ Repentance involves turning from sin and returning to God. If you want to leave the wilderness experience, the place to begin is by turning from sin and turning towards God. Call sin by its name. Don’t sugarcoat it. Don’t rationalize it. Don’t hide it so you can return to it later. Confess it and seek forgiveness for it. That’s the only way that you can “Prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.” Remove the clutter from your heart.
  2. It calls us to watch God work. Listen to verse 5“Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth.” What is interesting here is that in verse 4 it says, “Prepare the way of the Lord make his paths straight.” The task is given to us to make things right for the coming of God. But, in verse 5 it says, “Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth.” Meaning: As you are preparing for the coming of God, something supernatural takes over. Instead of you working, God begins to work. Things begin to happen. What seemed to be the valley of the shadow of death is now filled. What seemed to be an impassable mountain is now just a bump in the road. What seemed to be a crooked place is made straight. What seemed to be the rough way is made smooth.

And what’s the result? Verse 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” Meaning: People around you realize that it’s the work of God. John’s ministry was a work of God. Jesus acknowledged and complemented John.

This morning you can either look at your wilderness experience as a curse or you can look at it as a precursor of God’s arrival. You can either sit back in hopelessness or you can sit up in anticipation of what God’s about to do. The greatest thing that God is going to do is save souls. Nothing is more important then seeing lives transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. Do you know him?

TRUE LIGHT

TRUE LIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

TRUE LIGHT

This morning we are in John 1 in our series on the Life of Christ and our message is titled – “TRUE LIGHT.” Every town has that one house during Christmas that everything is lit up, even the doghouse! If you’re like me, you say – “I wonder what their electric bill’s gonna be like!” What do lights have to do with Christmas?

John 1 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Overall Background: The passage we just read has received more attention than probably any other portion of the Bible. Alexander MacLaren, called it “the profoundest page in the New Testament.” J. Sidlow Baxter called it “the primordial nucleus” of the whole book. It is rich with truth and imagery about Jesus. But typically when people come to this passage, they focus on Jesus being the Word of God – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Although that is important, the word “Word” occurs only 4 times in the opening chapter of John but the word “Light” is found in John everywhere –

  • In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
  • In John 9:5 Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
  • In John 12:46 Jesus said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.”

A NT scholar by the name of J. Ramsey Michaels pointed out that – while the Word is the “audible revelation” of God, the Light is “the visible revelation.” What’s the difference? The Word tells us how to live. The Light shows us how to live. There’s a big difference between “tell” and “show.” Let me illustrate – let’s say the power was to go out and it’s pitch dark. I could tell you where to find the fuse box. If you could not see anything, more than likely you would never find it and even get hurt in the process. Or I could get a flashlight and tell you to follow me. Which one would you like? Of course – the flashlight. Jesus is not only the Word of God but He is also the Light of God.

Application: Do you need light in your life today? Then turn to Jesus. Are you facing a dark situation in your life? Ask Jesus to help. Does it seem like there is no way out? Trust him to show you the way. But first – is He your Savior? Are you following Him?

There are four things that will help us understand Jesus as the true light:

I. THE DARKNESS INSIDE US ALL. 

4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Background: God made every human being in His image. Hence, we have the ability to love, reason, and create. This is the light of God in us but it’s also much more. You have to think about what makes a human being. We know that a human being is body and spirit – physical and spiritual. That’s the basic breakdown of every person in this world. But let’s study it a little more. The physical is not just the physiological but also the emotional and intellectual. Physiological – every person has a physical body (hands, feet, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth). If you go deeper, then it is heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain. Then there is also the Emotional – sadness, happiness, love, hate, fear, and hope. Then attached to it is the Intellectual – ability to reason, make decisions, create, and destroy. Every human being has some level of the physical, the emotional, and intellectual. Is this all there is to human beings? There’s one more thing – Spiritual. This goes beyond physical, emotional, and intellectual. No matter how strong a person will become as an athlete or how beautifully they can sing as an artist, no matter how a person can use or abuse their emotions – get angry or be patient or be happy or be sad, no matter how smart a person can become – invent the next greatest thing or harness the power of the atom or fly into space, there will always be a darkness deep within.

Do you want to know what this darkness is? It is the spiritual part of us. It is the need to connect with the creator. Augustine – the pastor of a church in Hippo (modern-day Algeria) in North Africa, a great pastor, leader, and Christian theologian – wrote in his book called confessions: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

Every culture, civilization, and people group has tried to turn on the light inside. Some have tried to worship the stars. Some have tried to worship the earth – trees, rivers, and the animals. Some have tried to worship another human being. Some have even tried to worship their own selves. Some have tried to worship a created object – an idol, a painting, or a temple. Some have tried to worship the oneness of God. But nothing turns on the light.

Listen again to John 1:4 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Meaning: To have this light, you need the life of Jesus. It will not come from success at stretching your body to the limits, singing the highest or the lowest note, climbing the peak of the tallest mountain, jumping into the deepest sea, flying into deep space, being a good father, being a good mother, being a good neighbor, being a good citizen, inventing the next cure for cancer, or uncovering some hidden conspiracy. In only comes in the person of Jesus. This is the natural order of things. Colossians 3 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Application: Do you have Jesus? Is He in your life? Do you have a living connection with Him? If not, you are living in darkness, no matter how successful you are.

II. THE VICTORY OF LIGHT OVER DARKNESS.

5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Background: Now we hear about a new concept – “darkness.” John assumes that the listener knows what this darkness is. The light was turned off when Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It corrupted everything. It tore the original design. Since then darkness has tried to rule the world with collapse of traditional values, marital conflict, addiction, stealing, murder, hate, and enmity with God. The list goes on.

But John does not waste time discussing the darkness. He says, “the light has already come and it is shining brightly. What’s more? The translation says – and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Actually the translation should be “overtake it.” Do you know that darkness hates the light? Listen to John 3:19 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

For e.g. Man made excuses about church. Why? It’s more fun to live in darkness.

But what’s the result of the conflict between light and darkness? Light won! As I John 2:8 says, “A new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” Isaac Watts wrote his famous hymn – Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does its successive journeys run; his kingdom spread from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.”

Application: Do you believe that light will win over darkness? Are you living with that faith? Are you sharing the truth about Jesus with others?

III. THE NEED FOR WITNESSES OF LIGHT. 

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

Background: Why can’t light just shine and everybody be convinced that we need to go from darkness to light? Let me ask you a question – How do you convince the blind regarding light? It’s not just that people are living in darkness but that they are blind. They can’t see. Someone has to describe light to him or her.

John was a witness of the light:

  • Matthew 3 1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
  • Luke 3:16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
  • John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

People need witnesses because they are blind. The more they hear you, the more their eyes begin to open.

Application: Are you witnessing for Jesus? Are people around you seeing the light of Jesus? Have you seen the light? I cannot give witness until I’ve seen it myself.

IV. EVERYONE IS ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE LIGHT.

9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Do I have to explain that? Jesus is for every man but you have to receive Him as your Savior.

Some of us are looking at false lights. Jesus is the true light of the world who immediately sets everything into clear view – Sin is exposed, holiness is revealed, and salvation is offered. Without Christ we will continue to live in darkness in our homes, relationships, and spiritual lives. With Christ our world comes alive. Have you ever received the light of Jesus in your life?

HOW TO SPEAK YOUR CONVICTIONS

HOW TO SPEAK YOUR CONVICTIONS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

HOW TO SPEAK YOUR CONVICTIONS

Introduction: Let me share something before we begin – everyday I meet someone who is listening to our 2 radio broadcasts on Sunday mornings or someone who knows someone who is listening to our messages. I am truly humbled and grateful at what God is doing. We are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning I am preaching a message starting in Luke 1:57 titled, “HOW TO SPEAK YOUR CONVICTIONS.” Many of us want to be bold about our faith and, at the same time, we don’t want to sound arrogant, obnoxious, and belligerent. In this message we will meet 2 people who will show us how to speak our convictions the right way.

Luke 1 57  Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son…59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.

Overall Background: As you may remember, Zachariah was a priest at the Temple and one day when he was burning incense (a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity), the angel Gabriel came to him and declared that he will be a father. Zechariah was up in age and so was Elizabeth and his reaction was “how shall I know this?” For that statement of unbelief, the Angel struck him with aphonia or mutism – he couldn’t speak anymore. Instead of remaining in doubt and fear, Zechariah and Elizabeth chose to trust God and, as you can understand, they did something about it (no virgin birth here). Nine months later Elizabeth gave birth to a son. There was no doubt in their minds that this baby was from God. But, for the neighbors and the relatives, it was another story. This is where Zechariah and Elizabeth shared with them what God had done in their life.

Sometimes we think that in order to share our faith in Jesus with our neighbors and relatives, we have to know every answer to every question in the Bible. We think that we have to be able to preach like the pastor or teach like the Sunday school teacher or read the latest book on the subject. All that is wonderful but an easier and more effective way is to invite people into your life, let them see what God has done for you, and tell them what he can do for them.

Application: Let me ask you – Are you speaking your convictions to your neighbors and relatives? Are you sharing with others what Jesus has done for you? Do you have a testimony to share? If not, you need to be saved before you can try to save others.

Let’s see from the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth how to speak your convictions:

1. REJOICE DURING TRIALS.

57 Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58 “When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.”

Background: When the angel Gabriel came to Zechariah, he not only promised that he would have a son but he promised something more Zechariah and Elizabethin Luke 1:14 “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” Meaning: Your miracle will bring joy to others. Just as he promised, the neighbors and relatives rejoiced. But there are two words that we often skip over. “They rejoiced with her.” It’s because Zechariah and Elizabeth responded with joy and gladness that the neighbors and relatives also responded with joy. Let me ask you – how would they have responded if Zechariah and Elizabeth had been faithless, frustrated, and frazzled?

Let me clarify: To rejoice does not mean they didn’t have some struggles. I’m sure Elizabeth had the same struggles that any pregnant woman goes through? You think she had morning sickness, cried without reason, and had cravings?

Illustration: I remember one night when Nicole was pregnant with Rebecca. We were living in Georgia at the time and I was working at an automotive plant. I had to pick heavy barrels of fiberglass boards all day long and then wash them in these industrial size washing machines. My body would be sore and I had this incredible itch all over from fiberglass being all over my clothes. Needless to say, when I lay down, I was out. One night I had just lain down and I heard these words, “What time does Shoney’s close?” My answer – “Its 9:30 at night.” She continued, “What if we left right now? Do you think we could make it in time for me to have their hot fudge sundae?” Long story short – she had hot fudge sundae that night!

I’m sure that Zechariah and Elizabeth had the same struggles that any expecting couple goes through and maybe even more because of their age. But in spite of that, they chose to rejoice. It’s not fake happiness or keeping a stoic smile. It is an attitude of the heart. It’s a spirit of trust that God is in control of the situation.

As Christians we are to rejoice in all situations. Psalm 5:11 “But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.” Philippians 4:4-5   4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men.”

Application: How do you respond to trials in your life? Do you gripe, worry, get angry, blame someone, or even blame God? When you do that, you destroy your testimony before others. James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” I’m sure Elizabeth and Zechariah struggled and yet they rejoiced. Are you rejoicing right now knowing that God is working all things together for good? Are people around you rejoicing because they see you rejoicing?

2. STAND TOGETHER IN BIBLICAL CONVICTIONS. 

59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias.

ElizabethBackground: In those days in Eastern cultures it was not impolite or out-of-the-way for neighbors and relatives to help in naming the child. In this situation the people were so happy for Zechariah and Elizabeth that they had a child in their old age that they wanted to name him after Zechariah. After all, Zechariah is not a bad name. It means “Yahweh has remembered again.” How can that be wrong? Their intentions were good but the angel Gabriel had already told Zechariah what the name of his baby should be in Luke 1:13, “and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” So listen to Elizabeth’s response in verse 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” Even though Zechariah was mute, he must have written the name down for Elizabeth. But the crowd was relentless – verse 61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. Why did they marvel? Because Zechariah and Elizabeth were on the same page.

What a beautiful sight! Both husband and wife are in agreement. They share the same convictions. They’re not undermining each other. There is no “I’ll see what mom has to say or best buddy has to say.” How awesome for the world to see a family united! They may disagree over ball teams and favorite foods but when it comes to God, Jesus, and His Word, there is uncompromising unity.

Illustration: Nicole and I are different and yet we have the same convictions.

Ladies – follow your husbands in obeying the Lord. Men – lead your wives in the way of God, not with some legalistic mess that you learned from legalistic church or pastor. Instead, lead your family to turn away from sin, trust Christ, obey His Word, and walk in the Spirit. It’s a beautiful thing to the world.

Application: How do the people around you see you? Do they see you as a family that is together in convictions and faith? How do they see a church in their convictions? What better testimony can you demonstrate before the watching world? A family/church that is bickering and fussing is a poor testimony for the gospel.

3. BE OBEDIENT TO THE HOLY SPIRIT.

What happened when Zachariah and Elizabeth were united in biblical convictions? 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. When a family or a church is united, God has the freedom to work. Unity opens the door for God to come in and do the miraculous.

What’s the result? 65 Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; Our community needs some fear. I’ve been in this community forZechariah and Elizabeth 2 about 16 years. There is very little fear of the Lord. The way people talk about God, church, pastors, and church people is despicable! Why? Because there is no miraculous. Growing up in non-Christian country, even most non-Christians would show some respect for the things of God.

and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. Our community needs some discussion. Again, I’ve been in this community for about 16 years. People discuss everything from crime, politics, sports, and each other. There is very little godly discussion happening. Why? Because there is no miraculous. Start seeing people getting saved and discussion will begin.

Now this is important – 67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: Meaning: Zechariah is under the authority and direction of the Holy Spirit. He is submitted to the Spirit of God.

What we’re about to read is known as the Benedictus from the Latin first line – Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel – which is part of liturgies, Lauds and Matins.

68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,

In other words, Zechariah is sharing the gospel. In my opinion, this is the first gospel presentation in the New Testament!

70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began, 71 That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, 73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: 74 To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. 76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, 77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; 79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Wow! Zechariah and Elizabeth shared the gospel with those around them in the power of the Holy Spirit. What a great example!

Are you sharing the gospel with people around you?

Do you know the gospel yourself?

WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH

WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When you need the human touchWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels called – “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” This morning I’m preaching a message titled – “WHEN YOU NEED THE HUMAN TOUCH.” Nicole often tells me the story of her little brother who was scared to go to sleep. Their dad told him that God was with him and angels were guarding him and he had nothing to be afraid of. He replied, “I know but I want someone I can touch.”

Luke 1   26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!…31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS…36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren…39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is very familiar, especially during Christmas season – The angel Gabriel comes to Mary with the news of Jesus and she is shocked but he comforts her and she happily submits. All that is true but when we step back and look at this account in its overall context, we find a greater truth just beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered. The account of Mary’s encounter with Gabriel is couched between the accounts of Zachariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. Luke 1:5-25 tells us how the angel Gabriel came to Zachariah and Elizabeth, a couple who was righteous and blameless before God. Then, Luke 1:26-38 is about how the angel Gabriel came to Mary and gave her the news that she will be with child whose name shall be Jesus. We just read it. Then, Luke 1:39-80 is about how Mary went and stayed with Zachariah and Elizabeth for three months until John was born. Meaning: Zachariah and Elizabeth were very important in Mary’s life and the birth of Jesus. For e.g. Like a sandwich that has meat between two pieces of bread, we have eaten the meat but left the bread. Oh, we got the meat – Jesus – but we missed the sandwich.

This morning, the point of the message is – God’s Providence, God’s Promises, and God’s Presence are vital for us to go through life but so are God’s People. God wants us to connect with godly people who will bring wisdom and encouragement in our life.

Application: Do you feel like you are doing your Bible Study and having your prayer time and even going to church but there’s still something missing? Are you connecting with godly people? Do you have spiritual connection with other believers? Some people say, “Oh I go to church.” Unless you have the right connector, you are going in vain. Jesus is the connector. Without Him our churches are nothing but a club or a hangout.

This morning we will see how along with God’s Providence, Promises, and Presence, we also need His People:

1. GOD’S PROVIDENCE

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

Background: In the 1800s many scholars denied the existence of Nazareth because there is no mention of it in the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, or Rabbinic writings. This all changed when archaeology revealed there was indeed a small town named Nazareth in Galilee. (Now there’s a reason why I’m dealing with this now and it will make sense a little later.) Nazareth was a very small village, probably just a caution light. As they say, if you blink, you would miss it. It had a population of 150-200. It was located in the hills of Lower Galilee and it was not a stop on any major route. When the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom, they did not even bother to mess with it. Who lived in this small town? Archaeologists found some inscriptions claiming that it was a settlement for Jewish priests in the third and fourth centuries BC. Hence, Mary was probably from a priestly, Aaronic lineage. And, how about the name Nazareth? It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” referring to the Messiah. Maybe, this small group of priests believed that the Messiah would come through them. Maybe, some of them had been connected to the lineage of David. How did other people think of them? Do you remember when Philip invited Nathaniel to come and meet Jesus? John 1 45 …“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This was Nazareth. But, God in His providence saw Nazareth and He sent His archangel Gabriel to Mary.

Application: This morning – you might be in a Nazareth. You feel small, insignificant, forgotten, and isolated. But not in the eyes of God – He sees you. He knows your every problem. He is aware of your every need. His providential care is upon you. God knows and He cares for you. He hasn’t abandoned you. Trust His providential hand.

2. GOD’S PROMISES

28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

Background: These people considered themselves to be the shoot of David. They thought they were the ones through whom the Messiah would come. But when it actually began to happen, fear came upon her.

Isn’t that how it is for us? We want God to use us, bless us but when He actually starts, we get scared. On second thoughts, “God – I don’t want to be used. Use someone else.”

The angel Gabriel starts reminding her of the promises of God – 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Isn’t it wonderful how the promises of God give us the courage to face life?!! Just when you think all hope is gone, the promises of God shine through like the bright sun on a dark cloudy day. For e.g. Adoniram Judson was a missionary to Burma. They hung him upside down for sharing Jesus. As human waste rolling down his back, someone asked – “So how does the future look?” He said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”

Application: What promises are you claiming in your life this morning? The scripture is filled with them. Unless you know Jesus as your Savior, these promises are nothing but words on a page. Get to know Him and then claim His promises for your life.

3. GOD’S PRESENCE

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” By the way, there’s a big difference between Mary’s doubt and Zachariah’s doubt. Remember, Zachariah said, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Mary was just a young girl and Zachariah was a priest before God. It’s one thing for a newborn Christian to say – “I don’t know how God can help me,” but it’s quite another for a church going, Bible toting, mature Christian to doubt God.

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “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.

Background: Gabriel promised her that the Holy Spirit Presence would take care of her.

Do you know that as a Christian you are never alone? Jesus said in John 14 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the 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.

Application: Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life? The only way to have Him is through Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, then pray and ask His help in your life.

4. GOD’S PEOPLE

Mary in Nazareth36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” This is probably the most neglected verse in the Christmas narrative. Why did he do that? Was he just making small talk? No. In this small village of 150-200 people, it wouldn’t take long for people to figure out what’s happening and start talking. Can you imagine what they would do to Mary? Gabriel was telling her to leave and go to the godly couple Zachariah and Elizabeth. What happened when the angel left? 39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah…” This region was to the South of Jerusalem about 80-100 miles from Nazareth. It would have taken Mary about 3-4 days to get here. But she had to go.

Listen to what happens when she gets to Zachariah and Elizabeth’s home –

41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.Nazareth to the Hills of Judea

  • Godly people have the Holy Spirit controlling their lives. They are not led by their emotions, evil motives, and secret agendas.

42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

  • Godly people have a sense of spiritual discernment. This was no chitchat about the weather in Nazareth and how long it took.

43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

  • Godly people are constantly aware of God’s greater plan around them.

44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

  • Godly people are not ashamed to share what God is showing them.

Mary with Elizabeth45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

  • Godly people ignite and fan our faith in the promises of God. By the way, this is the first Beatitude in the Gospel.

Luke 1:56   And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

Mary stayed until John was born and then she headed home. She had a difficult road ahead of her but now she was prepared.

Application: Do you have such godly people in your life? I go to church will not cut it. It is knowing Jesus that joins us together. Do you know Him as your Savior?

WHEN IT’S HARD TO WAIT

WHEN IT IS HARD TO WAIT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When it is hard to waitWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels called – “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” This weekend I’m preaching a message titled – WHEN IT’S HARD TO WAIT.” Most people quit in the last quarter, the last 25%, of the race, whether in marriage, ministry, education, business, or some other goal in their life. They give up, give in, compromise, take shortcuts, and quit. This morning’s message is not just to teach us to wait but to teach us to wait for God.

Luke 1:5-11  5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. 8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

Overall Background: Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke introduces us to the extended family of Jesus. In the passage we just read we meet some relatives of Mary, the mother of Jesus. These were not any ordinary relatives. They were to become the parents of John the baptizer. Now, Luke could have just given us the names of John the baptizer’s parents and focused on the coming of Jesus but, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he chose to give us more information about them. It’s almost as if he went off on a tangent. But I’m sure you will agree – in the geometry of the Holy Spirit, even tangents come together. Luke chose to tell us more about Zacharias and Elizabeth to teach us the value of waiting on God. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. In other words, they were waiting.

Here’s the purpose of this message– Any time God wants to do something supernatural, He makes us wait. That’s just his way. By making us wait He ensures that we will not interfere or claim credit. By making us wait he ensures that only he will get the glory and only His purpose will prevail. In other words, waiting is not a punishment but a preparation for God’s great purpose.

Application: Are you in that holding pattern right now? Have you prayed for something and work hard for something and have questioned why nothing is happening? You’re not in a bad situation. In fact, you are right where you need to be. But here’s a warning – while waiting, some people have the tendency to give up, give in, compromise, take shortcuts, and quit. If you do that, you lose what you’re waiting for. But here’s something very important – there’s one thing you don’t have to wait for. You don’t have to wait for your salvation, your forgiveness of sins, and your eternal life. You can receive Jesus right now and have that this instant.

Let’s see through the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth what to do while you wait for God:

1. BE BLAMELESS 

5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias…

Background: There’s so much that is packed in this one line. For starters, in the days of King Herod the priesthood of Israel was in terrible shape. As you know from the Old Testament, priests belonged to the tribe of Levi and had to be descendants of Aaron. Through the centuries, priesthood in Israel had continued a downward spiral. In 174 BC, a man by the name of Jason had bribed Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, to become the high priest. Three years later, a man by the name of Menelaus, who was not even a Levite, also bribed his way to the position. After that, the Hasmoneans family of priests controlled the position. Then in 37 BC, with the coming of Herod the great, the high priesthood became a political appointment under Rome’s supervision. Gone were the days when holiness and righteousness and integrity where the qualifications for the priesthood. Now it was political savvy and power plays and big pockets. This was the reason why some Jewish people actually built a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt; this was the reason why some Jewish people left to form the Dead Sea community at Qumran; this was the reason why Jesus preached against the Temple and even cleansed it at one time. In short, the people went to the temple but inside they knew it was corrupt.

Now listen further – a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. Abijah was, of course, a descendent of Aaron but he was the chief of one of the 24 orders of the priesthood as set up by David the king. They had earned somewhat of a bad reputation because they did not return immediately after the exile. They were missing for a while.

Let’s summarize: the priesthood was corrupt and his own lineage was a disgrace.

But there’s something more – His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Meaning: Zacharias’s wife, Elizabeth, was also from a priestly line.

But the real point that Luke wants to bring out is in verse 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Background: I think there is a play on words here. The Sadducees controlled the Temple, claiming to be descendants of the high priest Zadok from the time of David and Solomon. His name comes from the Hebrew “sadok” which means righteous. So, the Sadducees are the righteous ones going all the way back to Zadok, the righteous high priest. But if you remember, Jesus had nothing but negative to say about the Sadducees.

Zechariah’s and Elizabeth were the true zadoks – the righteous ones before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

What a testimony! While everyone around them was compromising and corrupted, Zechariah and Elizabeth were walking blameless before God. As God was preparing to send his Son and he looked around to see who was righteous, guess who he found?

The problem with many people who are waiting is that they are not righteous, not blameless. Instead, they have compromised and indulged in some habit, some sin, some corruption, and have become vessels of dishonor.

Application: Let me ask you a question – when the eyes of the Lord come upon you, what does He see? Does He see a young person who is involved in some sin? Does He see an adult indulging in some bad habit? Does He see a couple or a family, behind closed doors, living a life of hypocrisy and disobedience? If so, you are disqualifying yourself from the waiting process.

2. BE FAITHFUL

8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 

Background: Historians tell us that there were as many as 18,000 to 20,000 priests and Levites at the time. As I mentioned earlier, the priest were divided into 24 courses and each course had to serve two weeks per year and the major festivals. Most of the priests lived in other towns and villages and they came up to Jerusalem when it was their time. They had normal jobs and occupations to support themselves along with their priestly responsibilities. It could’ve been very tempting to forget about their Temple responsibilities and focus on their job or business. After all, many of them struggled to make a living.

9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. Because of the large number of priests, they used the custom of casting lots, which occurred twice a day, to decide who will burn the incense for the whole burnt offering. This was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Why do I bring this up? Zacharias could have dodged his responsibilities, blamed the corruption, stayed home complaining his back or his knee was hurting, or some other excuse but he was there when it was his time. In other words, he was faithful and God made the lot fall in his favor.

In a parable in Matthew 25:23 Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

Application: As you wait, are you faithful? I’m talking to those in full-time ministries and those not in full-time ministries. Are you waiting for God to drop the answer to your prayers in your lap while you are asleep? Are you waiting for God to open the door for you while you’re busy fooling around?

3. BE FAITH FILLED

You know how it happened – the Angel appeared to him; Zacharias was afraid; the Angel promised him that the answer to their prayer had come; Elizabeth would bear a child and they shall call his name John; he will be filled with the Holy Spirit; and prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah.

What was Zechariah’s response? Verse 18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Even though Zacharias was a man of integrity and a man of faithfulness, his faith was running low. Even though he was a godly man he was saying to the angel – “Come on let’s be realistic. Bible study, prayer time, good messages, serving the Lord, and all that is wonderful but we got a be realistic.”

Folks – what is realistic? What you know or what God says in his Word?

How did the Angel respond to this? Verse 19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. In other words, Gabriel is ticked. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

As an individual, as a family, as a church, if you want to please God, you have to believe God. The worst way to dishonor God is to doubt God and doubt his Word.

So what is the consequence? 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

Application: If there is one point I want to stress more than others, then it’s this one. Do you trust God? Are you trusting him right now in your life? Are we as a church Clearview trusting God for future? When there is no faith element, there is no place for God to step in. Are we trusting God for big things? Someone might say – “It’s hard to trust God at times, especially with money.” One time someone asked R.G. LeTourneau, “If you know a thing is the will of God and you do not feel you have the faith, what do you do?” He said, “I go ahead and act like I have the faith.”

4. BE HUMBLE
Luke 1:23
  So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.

Background: What amazes me about the Bible, the Word of God, is not only what it says but also what it leaves unsaid! Imagine what happened when he got home. Elizabeth sees him walking towards the house and she walks out and greets him – “So honey how was Jerusalem? Lot of people at the Temple? How was your journey?” I can visualize Zachariah – “Elizabeth – pull up a chair. You won’t believe this.” Then he goes on to tell her everything. If I could I would love to get a picture of her face at that point. “Does that mean we have to…?” “I think so…the Angel didn’t say anything about a virgin birth.”

You get the point! They had to trust God’s word and now do something about, just like Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah, Manoah and his wife, they had to do something by faith.

24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Why did she hide herself? She understood that this was no ordinary child. He was the Herald, the messenger, the forerunner of the Messiah. She spent those five months preparing herself to be the mother God wanted her to be.

Application: When you wait upon God, he not only gives you the desires of your heart but he gives you so much more. Don’t rush out there and start bragging about it. Spend some time basking in his glory. Spend some time thanking him for his mercy. Spend some time asking him to prepare you to receive his blessing.

What have you been waiting for God to do in your life? Are you still looking to him in faith? Have you ever received God’s gift of Jesus Christ?

%d bloggers like this: