The Journey by Dr. Abidan Shah

The Journey.jpg

JOURNEY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  About 11 years ago, Nicole and I took our kids on a long journey across the country. We went to all the major Old West sites in Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. We even went to Monument Valley, Utah, in the Navajo Nation Reservation. This is one of those iconic places where a lot of the Old Westerns were filmed. We had a wonderful time! There was a hotel near the Park but it was very expensive and so I decided to drive a little further. This was Highway 163 with nothing on the left or the right and it was dark. To make matters worse, we hadn’t eaten any dinner, the kids were really hungry, and we were low on gas. Talk about being afraid. I remember praying that God would get us out of this. Everyone was turning on me. I felt a little of how Moses must have felt. Thirty miles later, we came to a place called Kayenta, where the Burger King was still open. What a relief! What we didn’t realize is that inside the restaurant was the world’s best exhibit to the Navajo Code Talkers from World War 2. There was a movie about them a few years. Plus, we also found a good place to stay overnight. Needless to say, I was really grateful! Main point: Life is a journey full of choices. Unfortunately, poor choices can lead to years of regret and pain. But, God can use even our failures to work all things together for good if we let him.

Deuteronomy 1:41 “Then you answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD; we will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’

Context: On the surface, these words seem to be words of repentance and renewal, very sincere and inspiring. Unfortunately, the context proves otherwise. Moses is recalling what took place at Kadesh Barnea in Numbers 13 & 14, where the people had rejected God’s command to go in and possess the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve spies had brought back a negative report that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey but the inhabitants were strong, the cities were fortified, and there were even giants there. What was the response of the people? They lifted up their voices and cried and wept all night! They complained against Moses and Aaron saying, Numbers 14     2 “…If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” They actually began to talk about picking a leader and going back to Egypt! How sad and shameful! When Joshua tried to persuade and motivate them, they wanted to stone them all! What was God’s response? He wanted to destroy them and make a new nation through Moses. I would’ve taken God up on it! Moses actually talked God out of killing his people Israel. He begged God to forgive them. God agreed and pardoned them, but he declared, Numbers 14     22 “because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers…” What is the next step? Verse 25 “…tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.” Why? 30 “…you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.”

  1. The Repercussion of disobedience

Principle: God’s forgiveness does not erase the consequences of sins in this life. Someone may say: “What’s the use of God’s forgiveness if there are still consequences?” To erase consequences would be to erase God’s standard of holiness. If God did that, he would no longer be God. Because of his forgiveness, you are no longer his enemy. Now, he is showing you mercy without compromising his holiness.

Application: Do you take sin seriously? Do you understand that you can be forgiven but there are still consequences in this life? Have you ever received Christ as your Savior? Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

  1. The Regrouping of false repentance

Instead of accepting God’s verdict, the people decide to bum rush their way into the Promised Land – Numbers 14: 40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!” Moses warned them not to go because God was not with them. Nevertheless, they rushed up the mountain. I love Moses’ recollection in Deuteronomy 1:44 “And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah.” There’s a play on words here. This was supposed to be “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) If they had gone in as obedient children, they would have gotten the honey. Since they still had the slave mentality, they went in but got the stinger.

Principle: We cannot speed up God’s work of sanctification in our lives. He will not give us what we are not ready to handle.

Application: Is there something that you have been asking God for and it has not been coming? Trust God that he knows you better than you know yourself. He will not give it to you before you are ready for it.

  1. The Rerouting of discipline

Deuteronomy 1:46 “So you remained in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you spent there.” Numbers 14:34 clarifies this – “According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.” We don’t know for sure how long they were at Kadesh Barnea, but they then moved south and started going in circles. Deuteronomy 2:1“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days.” Their entire time in the wilderness was 40 years, but it was about 38 years since the first entry and failure. I did some math and that’s about 13,880 days. One scholar (Daniel Block) called it a “classic understatement.”They could have done something about this: 1. They could have returned back to Egypt; 2. They could have dispersed as a people; 3. They could have gone back to foreign gods. Some did at times but not wholesale. Instead, they chose to stay as a people and take the discipline of God. They had to die one by one and their children had to do their funerals. Based on the census of Numbers 2 and 26, about 2 million of the people died in those 40 years!

Application: How do you handle the discipline of God? Hebrews 12     5 “…My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” People ask me – “How do I know when I am being disciplined?” Don’t think of discipline as punishment. For a believer, all our punishment was exhausted upon Christ. Discipline is when God uses trials and predicaments in life to bring us to trust and obey him more. We go through times of disappointment, unpleasant situations, relationship breakdowns, loss of peace and joy, sickness, and sometimes, even death. Don’t see them as punishment but as discipline. Even Moses had to endure discipline. He talks about it in Deuteronomy 1:37 “The LORD was also angry with me for your sakes, saying, “Even you shall not go in there.”

  1. The Reentry by God’s grace

Deuteronomy 2       2 “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: 3 ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.’”

The last of the older generation just died and it is time to move forward. By the way, the entire time has not been a waste. Some significant things have happened. God has laid out more of his plan for how the tabernacle and the sacrifices are to be laid out. Now, it was time to reenter the Promised Land, but this time, it was not from Kadesh Barnea but the east side of the Jordan River. They are to pass through the territories of the Edomites, Moabites, and the Ammonites. I don’t have time to go through all the details of this journey. Bottom line: they are to walk through respectfully and peacefully. God even took care of the giants beforehand in the territories that they were passing through. Various Amorite kings came against Israel but God routed them and gave his people their possessions. In the midst of all this, there is an episode where God’s people (the new generation) once again began to complain against God and Moses. So, God sent fiery serpents into the camp and many died. Listen to Numbers 21     7 “So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’” This was a pre-figure of the cross of Jesus. Listen to John 3    14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 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.” Why a snake! 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Finally, how I could forget Rahab, the madam from who protected the 2 spies that Joshua sent to check out Jericho. She was saved and became part of the genealogy of King David and Christ. Can we not declare with Paul in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: How do you see your life’s journey? Which stage are you in? Repercussion, Regrouping, Rerouting, or Reentry. Are you saved? Is Christ in your journey?

Press On by Dr. Abidan Shah

Press On

PRESS ON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: As many of you may know, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo had to be postponed to next year because of the COVID-19 crisis. One of my favorite events is the 100-meters dash, where you see the fastest man or woman on earth. My favorite athlete in that event is Jesse Owens. He represented the United States at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, where he was not just competing against other athletes but against Hitler’s Nazi ideology. What many people don’t realize is that he grew up in a devout Christian home. When he was five years of age, he had a fibrous tumor on his chest. Since his parents were just poor sharecroppers, they could not afford any medical care. So, his mother, Emma, took a sharp kitchen knife, sterilized it, and removed a golf ball size tumor from his chest. You can only imagine the pain he must have felt. The bleeding continued for days and little Jesse Owens remembers his dad, Henry, praying for him, “Oh, Lord Jesus, ‘Please, please, hear me. I know you hear everything, but this saving means everything. She’ll die if he dies — and if she dies, Lord, we’ll all die — all of us.’” Within minutes the bleeding stopped. God answered his prayers. But, listen to Jesse Owens philosophy on running. He was told to run as if the track were on fire. He said, “I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up.” I cannot think of a better philosophy for living the Christian life – “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”That’s the title of our message today – PRESS ON – in our series on Paul’s letters to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     12 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Question: How are you running the Christian race? Will you win the gold medal? We are not competing against each other but against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Who is winning? You cannot be in the race unless you are saved. Are you saved?

Context: Athletics or competitive sports were a big part of Greco-Roman life. Altogether there were 4 Panhellenic games: Olympic (Olympia), Isthmian (Corinth), Pythian (Delphi), and Nemean (Peloponnesian region). There were also some lesser games. More than likely, Paul went to the Isthmian games because he was in Corinth planting the church the years those games were held there in AD 49 and 51. That’s why he was in tent-making because spectators came from everywhere and needed some shelter during the games. What a perfect opportunity for Paul to share the gospel!

How did the people see these games? We have historical evidence that the Greeks, Romans, Jewish people, and many other ethnic groups came to these events. Although most of the games were for males and attended only by males, there were other games for females as well. These events were not just athletic events, they were also religious events where there were sacrifices to certain deities on the opening and closing days. The athletes even believed that the gods themselves helped them to win. The games were a display of excellence (“arete”), both external (beauty) and internal (goodness). These two aspects are what made someone a good citizen. They thought that an athlete was made into the ideal citizen in the gym through education and practice. Then, the citizens came together in the “agon” or gathering to observe these ideals. The idea was “if a person looked good, then he was a good person.” What about injuries? A mangled ear, broken nose, scars, and intense exhaustion was a sign of endurance through difficulties that led to a superior character.

What would the athletes get for winning the competition? They would get the “stephanos” or foliage crown (wreaths made out of olive, wild celery, or pine), but there were also cash rewards. Depending on how great their achievements, there would also be statues, monuments, and inscriptions. What if you were to lose? In many cases, this was a disgrace. One Stoic philosopher wrote, “In the Olympic Games you cannot just be beaten and depart, but first of all, you will be disgraced not only before the people of Athens or Sparta or Nikopolis but before the whole world. In the second place, if you withdraw without sufficient reason you will be whipped. And this whipping comes after your training which involves thirst and broiling heat and swallowing handfuls of sand.”

Did Paul take interest in those games? We don’t know for sure but he used a lot of athletic imagery in his letters. More than any other sport, he made mention of the “foot race” or “trecho,” from which we get our English word “trek.” These races took place inside a 600 feet enclosure known as the “stadios,” from which we get our English word “stadium.” Nicole and I have been on the race track in Olympia. It was unreal to stand there knowing that athletes had ran there for thousands of years! There were 3 kinds of foot races: first, the “stadion,” which was a dash from the starting line “balbis” to the “terma” (finish line), about 200 meters long; second, the “diaulos,” which was a dash from one side to the other and back, about 400 meters long; and the “dolichos,” which was 24 lengths of the stadium, about 5 miles long. He mentions this race about 3-4 times in his letter to the Philippians. Nicole and I have been to Philippi, Greece. Although, there was no stadium there, there is evidence that people had interest in athletics in Philippi. By the second century AD, a “palaestra” was built there next to the agora. Participating in the games and attending them were probably seen as a mark of preserving their Hellenic/Greek identity.

With all this in mind, let’s walk quickly through Philippians 3:12 onwards:

If you remember from last weekend, Paul counted all his achievements (5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless) as loss (zemeia), actually unspeakable filth (skubalon) compared to gaining Christ. Now, through Christ, he has justification, sanctification, and glorification.

Now, Paul turns to the athletic imagery of a runner.

Philippians 3     12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, (dioko = move rapidly and decisively towards an objective) that I may lay hold of (katalambano = grasp) that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind (past achievements and crowns) and reaching forward (epekteinomai = stretching forward) to those things which are ahead,

14 I press (dioko) toward the goal (skopos) for the prize (brabeion) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

17 Brethren, join in following my example (symmimetai, from which we get mimic but this is in a group context), and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 whose end (telos) is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

20 For our citizenship (politeuma = citizenship) is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” The church is the “agon” in which the “arete” is achieved.

21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown (stephanos), so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

I said in the opening: “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”

Invitation:

  • How are you running the race?
  • Are you too busy fussing about useless things?
  • Are you distracted from the race?
  • Are you following the wrong athletes?
  • Are you reaching forward to the crown?
  • Are you helping others reach forward to the crown?
  • Are you in the race? Are you saved?
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