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?

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?

%d bloggers like this: