Counting the Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COUNTING THE COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

COUNTING THE COSTIntroduction: Have you ever heard the expression “counting the cost?” It means to evaluate whether or not something is worth doing. Last Monday I had to “count the cost” when we went with our Converge College and Career Group to a water park. They have this ride there called the “Daredevil Drop.” It’s a 76-foot foot tall water slide. I saw it as Nicole and I were going down the “Lazy River.” Something inside me said, “Won’t that be cool if you could do that and let Nicole video it! Imagine how much fun that would be! Imagine how many likes you could get on Facebook and Instagram! Imagine how many more people would come to Clearview just to see the Daredevil preacher!” So, we went and stood at the base and I watched people slide down, even kids. I counted the cost and it wasn’t worth it! I chickened out. I couldn’t give up my fear. So also, when it comes to our salvation, we have to count the cost. We have to ask ourselves, “What all am I willing to give up in order to be saved?” Please don’t misunderstand. Giving up doesn’t save us. Salvation from start to finish is the work of God. It’s only by grace through faith in the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb that we are saved. But, being willing to give up everything reveals whether or not we understand the gospel. It demonstrates how sincere and how committed we are to follow Christ our king.

 Mark 10   17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” . . . 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” . . . 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

Question: Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Are you willing to give up all in order to follow Christ? What is keeping you from following Christ? Are you saved?

Context: This series on the gospel has been impactful on so many levels. It has opened our eyes to the true meaning of the gospel. It has confronted our complacency and tolerance for sin in our lives. It has challenged us to live out the faith that we claim to have. And, more than anything, it has demanded from us unconditional allegiance to our Savior and King Jesus. In this message, we’re going to meet a young man who came to Jesus with all the right intentions but he walked away from eternal life because he was unwilling to give up everything he had. 3 things that we will learn from this passage:

I. JESUS DID NOT IMMEDIATELY LEAD HIM IN THE SINNER’S PRAYER.

Mark 10    17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”18So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No oneisgood but One, that is,God.”

Did you notice that Jesus did not immediately lead him in the Sinner’s Prayer? He was not ready for it. He was under conviction but he was not ready to make a commitment to Christ. For starters, he had a wrong understanding of Jesus. Jesus was much more than just a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh, the Promised One, who had come to give his life for our sins. There are people who have prayed a prayer but never got saved because they didn’t know who they were praying to or what they were praying for.

By the way, the problem is not with the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Some people don’t like that term. I had a person say to me, “There is no Sinner’s Prayer in the Bible.” I asked him if he knew that the word “Trinity” is never found in the Bible and Jesus never used the word “grace” in the gospels. The real issue is what are we saying in the Sinner’s Prayer and do we mean it.If someone thinks that just repeating a prayer is going to save them, then they are greatly mistaken. But, if someone truly repents and acknowledges that Christ is the only way to salvation, then the next step is to pray to God. What does it say in Romans 10  9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Who do you confess to? Ultimately, to God. So, you have to talk to God and tell him that you believe. What is talking to God? Prayer. What happens when you truly pray and confess? Romans 10:13For“whoever calls on the name of the LORDshall be saved.”

Bottom Line: Jesus did not immediately lead the young man in some rote prayer. He challenged his understanding of the gospel. He challenged his understanding of himself. Jesus was much more than a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh.

Application:How were you saved? Was it just a rote mechanical prayer or did you truly understand the gospel that Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again to save us from our sins? Have you ever prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King?

II. JESUS CLEARLY LAID OUT THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP.  

 19You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,’ “Do not murder,’ “Do not steal,’ “Do not bear false witness,’ “Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”20And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

At first glance, it seems that Jesus was telling this young man that by keeping the Ten Commandments, he could have eternal life! Was Jesus calling him to works salvation? Absolutely not. Paul declares very clearly in Galatians 2:21“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousnesscomesthrough the law, then Christ died in vain.”So, why did Jesus say this? Some have argued that Jesus was trying to get the young man to see the hopelessness and emptiness of keeping the Law. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the context that tells us that Jesus or the young man acknowledged that. Others have argued that Jesus was trying to get him to reject his works righteousness first. Unfortunately, Jesus did just the opposite. 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” That’s not taking away “works righteousness,” that’s adding more “works righteousness!”

Why did Jesus bring up the 10 commandments and then tell him to sell everything and take up his cross and follow him? This young man knew that eternal life was not in keeping the Law but he was looking for an eternal life that was cheap and easy. He wanted to have the stamp of salvation and still carry on his old lifestyle. He wanted to get his certificate of the kingdom and still not obey the king. Jesus knew his heart and what he was saying to him was that “Yes, I will pay for your salvation. It’s free to you but following me will never be cheap and easy. There will be a cost to discipleship.”

Listen carefully:It cost Jesus his life to buy your pardon. If you follow him, it may cost you your life as well.” Don’t misunderstand: You don’t have to go sell everything and give to the poor before you can be saved but you be better be if your king tells you too.

Application:Have you counted the cost of discipleship? What are you willing to give up for your Savior and your King?

III. JESUS REVEALED THE SECRET TO FOLLOWING HIM. 

Mark 10   22But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

By the way, have you noticed that 3 different expressions were used for salvation?

  • The young man asked,“what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
  • Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
  • The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?

This means that the account was not just for the rich young ruler but all of us.

Now, what was Jesus’ response to his disciples?  27“. . . With menit isimpossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”If only that young man had done what Peter did when Jesus found him, this account would have a different ending. Remember, Peter had not caught anything all night and Jesus told him to launch out into the deep and drop their nets. He obeyed and there were so many fish that the net was breaking. Then it says in Luke 5:8When Simon Peter sawit,he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”Then Jesus said to Peter, 10“. . . Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” It was the Holy Spirit who enabled Peter and the rest (Andrew, James, and John) to forsake all and follow Christ.

Invitation: The question is not “Are you ableto follow Christ but are you willingto follow Christ?” If you are willing, he will do the rest. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you willing?

Kingdom Here by Pastor Abidan Shah

KINGDOM HERE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonKingdom Here

Introduction:Since I’m preaching on the kingdom of God, I went looking for some king jokes and this is what I found. Caution: They’re really bad – When is a stick like a King? When it’s a ruler; What’s the diagnosis when a King has back problems? An aKING back; Why did the King put a bank machine in his castle? So, he could make Knightly deposits; Why did the King go to the dentist? To get his teeth crowned; What does the King do after he burps? He issues a royal pardon. Those are really bad! This morning we will see how the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus and that is not a laughing matter. In fact, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. It’s a false gospel. We’re in our new series on the true gospel and what it means. As we read our scripture today, pay careful attention to a certain phrase that’s being repeated.

Matthew 4:23“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 9:35“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 24:14“And thisgospel of the kingdomwill be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Mark 1   14“…Jesus came to Galilee, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, andthe kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Question: Did you catch the common phrase? “Gospel of the Kingdom.” For some reason we have dropped “of the kingdom” and retained only the “gospel.” As I mentioned earlier, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. Jesus is not just your Savior, he should also be your king. Is he your king? Does he call the shots in your life? Are you saved?

Context: A few weeks back, when we were in our series on discipleship, I preached a message on the importance of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus. I shared with you that more than a hundred times he mentioned it during his ministry. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king.Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. Unless we get this “kingdom” idea back into the gospel, discipleship will never happen. It will always be optional to obey God and follow him. So, 3 things that we need to understand about this kingdom gospel:

I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A SPIRITUAL AND INTERNAL CHANGE.

Background:  As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish people were very familiar with the concept of the kingdom of God/heaven. It was God’s sovereign rule over the whole world. They saw it as indirect and limited at the present time but they believed that one day in the future it would be direct and eternal. It will put an end to all wickedness and bring glory, justice, and righteousness to his people Israel. But, when Jesus began his ministry, he preached – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) This was very confusing and frustrating for them because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting and there was no physical evidence of the rule of God. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when this kingdom would come, he replied in Luke 17    20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have it as “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, it’s aready here. What did he mean by that? Several things:  One, he was referring to himself. The kingdom is where the king is and he the king is here. Second, he was telling them that this kingdom is not external but internal. They couldn’t see it but it was here. To explain this, Jesus often used parables – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13). His purpose in using parables was to conceal the meaning from those who opposed him and to reveal the meaning to those who believed in him. Bottom Line: The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It is not external and visible but internal and invisible which then manifests in the external and visible. Has there been an internal and invisible change in your life that now manifests itself in the external and visible?

II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS SUBMISSION TO KING JESUS.

Background:Unlike our gospels today, Jesus’s gospel demanded submission to him and his words as the requirement to enter into his kingdom:

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

Don’t misunderstand:This does not mean that you have to be spotless before you can come to Jesus. If that were possible, you wouldn’t have to come to Jesus. What it does mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the king demands of you when you come to him. It may take years for you to be free from certain sins and struggles but the willingness is there from day one. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who helps you to become willing.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It demands total and complete surrender. Have you done that? You might say – “that’s so hard!” Here’s a question: “Are you willing to be made willing to surrender?”

III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF RESTORATION.

Background:Sometimes Christians find it confusing that Jesus talked so much about the kingdom in the gospels but the apostles writing the rest of the New Testament do not talk about the kingdom. Actually, they did but they used other terms and language.

Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyoneisin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Galatians 6:15“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”

2 Peter 3:13“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a newearthin which righteousness dwells.”

Revelation 21    1“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Here’s the point: The Kingdom Gospel is a life-long journey of being set free from the bondage and damage of sin and restored to the glorious and gracious rule of God. The more you and I understand that, the more we submit to him, the more we become disciples, not less.

Are you willing to surrender to King Jesus? Are you willing to re-surrender to King Jesus?

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 7, 2017)

bef00a78-d76b-461a-be58-7037520c4569This is the time of the year when many people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to some surveys, about 70% are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions like growing in Christ, reading the Bible, praying, serving in church, etc. Another year comes and goes and there’s zero progress. In Luke 9 Jesus met three such individuals who were buried in the graveyard of excuses. Let’s see if we can learn something from their encounters:

  1. Grave of Comfort – Verse 57 “…Someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple willing to follow Jesus anywhere. In actuality, he was a young man looking to tag along Rabbi Jesus for a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices. Jesus knew his heart and bluntly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not calling him to give up his Sleep Number bed or his Tempur-Pedic pillow and wander around and live under some tree like a hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble. Instead, Jesus was telling him – “To follow me, you have to choose the uncomfortable life. Previously, it was comfortable to tolerate some old sin, habit, grudge, behavior, or desire in your life but following me will require giving them up. How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
  2. Grave of Obligations – Verse 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” What a strange request! Was the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! No. What the man was really saying was “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I will follow you.” He was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s heart too and responded trenchantly – 60 “…Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How could Jesus be so harsh?! Was he actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Again, don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. But in this situation, the man was using his obligations to keep him from obeying God. Jesus was telling him – “Life will never settle down. There will always be another obligation. Follow me now or never.”
  3. Grave of One Last Glance – Verse 61 “…Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’” This sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? – “At least my loved ones deserve to know that I’m leaving.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s real intention. He wanted to take that one last look to make sure that this was a right decision. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who took that fatal glance and like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What do they see? Some see pain and feel they can’t leave until they’ve healed; some see regrets and feel they can’t leave until they’ve fixed things; some see failures and feel their past would repeat again; and some even see the disappointed faces of their loved ones and feel they can’t let them down. Jesus warned him – 62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church told me that when he used to plow with a mule, he would find a fixed point in front and keep his eyes on it. When he looked straight ahead, he had straight rows behind him but if he turned back, he was all over the place. If your spiritual life is all over the place, it’s time to look ahead to Jesus.

By the way, before you can leave your grave of excuses to follow Jesus, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death by asking him to be your Savior. Happy Resurrection!

Steer Your Thoughts by Pastor Abidan Shah

STEER YOUR THOUGHTS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

steeryourthoughtsIntroduction: This is our 5th message in our series “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and this one is called “STEER YOUR THOUGHTS.”

Matthew 6   25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Bridge: Would you agree that worry is the result of unguided thoughts? Think about it – what happens to children who are left to themselves without proper guidance and discipline? They become monsters. So also our thoughts, if they are left to themselves without proper facts and supervision, they become monsters.

Background of the passage: So far in this series, which began in verse 19, Jesus told us that to deal with worry we have to change our thoughts: change our thoughts about wealth – “Don’t hoard but share”; change our thoughts about other people’s success – “Don’t let your eye be evil but good”; and change our thoughts about who controls your life – “Don’t have two masters. Only Christ.” But all that was to lead us to this section. To get to the heart of worry, we have to change what we fundamentally think about our relationship with God.

Question: What do you believe about God? Do you believe that He cares for your needs? Do you believe that He is a good Father who cares for His children? Do you believe He is a sovereign God who has the best in store for us? Are you saved? Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son…how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

So how do you steer your thoughts?

I. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT LIFE. 

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.”

Background: When Jesus made that statement, He was not advocating some vagrant life, with no responsibilities. Neither was He suggesting some monastic life, all detached and otherworldly. Instead, He was teaching His listeners how to have the proper perspective on the daily necessities of life. Think about Jesus’ listeners. Most of them were the common people from first century Palestine. For food, they had to depend on the rainfall and even if they had adequate rainfall, insects, locusts, and wild fire could destroy their crops. For water, they had to rely on wells and springs but what if there was a drought? For clothes, the poor people generally wore woolen garments. At the most they would have one change of clothing but what if there was a fire? By the way, this is how most of the world still lives at this very moment, just day to day.

Jesus was not telling them not to plan for their lives. He was only telling them not to be overcome by “merimnaw.” It’s a Greek word for “worry” that’s much more than daily care. It is “paralyzing anxiety.” We find it used in Psalm 55 in the LXX where David is describing a time of deep trouble and anxiety in his life. In verse 22 he says, “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you.” The word for burden is “merimnaw”. The only way He could rid himself of this paralyzing anxiety is by casting it on God. We could substitute that word here. Jesus was saying – “Do not be burdened about your life.”

Question: Are you burdened about your life? Are you living under this paralyzed anxiety? With the election year upon us, many are wondering what’s going to happen. Is there going to be another financial crisis? Will we lose our jobs, our homes? Will we be able to meet our daily needs? What’s going to happen to our children, our grandchildren?

What is Jesus’ solution? “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Seems like an odd response but think about it for a moment – “Is not life more than our basic necessities?” Animals live only for their daily necessities, minus clothing. We human beings were created for things far greater. We were created in the image of God and with the ability to relate with Him. We were given the gift to create new things and solve problems and improve our standard of life. We were created with godly attributes of love and justice so we could help those who are weak and abused. We were created with a sense of purpose in life so we could go out and build God’s kingdom. One verse that comes to mind is Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Application: What do you think about your life? Do you look beyond your daily necessities? Have you ever stopped and asked God – “Why did you create me?” “What would you have me to do in this world?” Most human beings will never ask that question. Have you? Are you living this life of paralyzed anxiety? Stop asking, “Are we going to make it?” and start asking, “What am I made for?” It’s only when your mind is on greater things that you can deal with the lesser concerns of life.

II. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR SELF.

26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Israel Raven 1

Israel Raven 1 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Here Jesus appeals to nature to make a very important point. God didn’t just create this world and leave it to fend for itself. He’s not just the Creator of life but He’s also the Sustainer of life. It’s like in our culture today – “Any man can be a father but a dad is someone who sticks around to take responsibility and provide care after conception.” By the way, Luke in his gospel is even more specific about Jesus’ words and he identifies the birds as ravens. These were unclean birds but God cares for them too. The conclusion Jesus draws is “Are you not of more value than they?”

Israel Raven 2

Israel Raven 2 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If that wasn’t enough, Jesus gives another illustration from nature. By the way, one of the best cures for anxiety and worry is nature. People think that rest and relaxation is watching TV or going shopping or working in the yard or playing golf. All those things are fine but that’s just substituting one activity for another. True rest is when you actually sleep and true relaxation is when you stop all activity and allow your body to return to zero. Spending time in nature will do that for you more than anything else.

Israel Raven 3

Israel Raven 3 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Israel Raven 4

Israel Raven 4 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Listen to verse 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Again, the point is that if God cares for the less desirable and less worthy things in creation, will He not care for the crown of His creation? This may be hard for some of us to understand. We’re living in a world where every effort is made to neutralize any distinction between the creation and us. I love animals and we need to treat them with kindness and compassion. Having said that, there is a world of difference between animals and us. Please don’t blur the lines that God has drawn. God made everything by the word of His mouth but He created us by His own hands. Yes – He gave them life but only we are made in His image. We are of far more value than animals and plants.

Question: Do you know how valuable you are to God? Psalm 8 says, 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen—Even the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea… Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This is biblical self-esteem.

Application: How is your biblical self-esteem? There’s a difference between self-esteem and biblical self-esteem. Self-esteem only asks – “What do you think of your self?” Biblical self-esteem asks – “What do you think God thinks of you?” Do you believe He cares for your daily needs? Do you believe that He has the best in store for you? Do you believe that He won’t abandon you?

III. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT BEING A BELIEVER. 

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek.

Background: The biblical concept of God as our Father is without parallel in other religions. Sometimes I hear people from other religions trying to claim it but they are forcing their view on their religious texts and making them say something they’re not. It’s only in the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) and Judeo-Christian writings that we find the belief that God is the Heavenly Father of His people and as their Heavenly Father He provides for them and protects them. Since Gentiles or unbelievers don’t truly believe that God is their Father, it affects how they live their daily lives. They are vexed with worries and anxieties. They are burdened with paralyzing fears over daily necessities of life. They are out there fending for themselves, trying to survive.

Question: Are you constantly living in worries and anxieties? Then you are living more like Gentiles and unbelievers, than as the people of God.

So how should you live? “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The Greek word for “seek” is “zeteo” and in this context it has the idea of “eagerly seek.” Meaning: Eagerly seek after what God is doing in your life and in this world. Submit to His will and purpose. Join Him in building His kingdom and spreading His righteousness in your life and in the world. As you work for Him, He will take care of you.

Invitation: Whose kingdom are you building? Yours or God’s. If it’s yours, then you will labor and sweat and worry and panic. If it’s God’s, then, as you work for Him, He will take care of you. Are you working for Him? Are you saved? Do you belong to Him?

How to Close a Prayer by Pastor Abidan Shah

HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtocloseaprayer

Introduction: This is our final message in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father.” At the end of the service, Ryan will be making an exciting announcement about it so stay tuned. Today’s message is titled – “HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: Would you agree that how you end a conversation matters? There are conversations that end on a high note and then there are some that end on a low note. Some end with hope and anticipation while others end with doubt and despair. Some end with joy and gladness while others end with tears and sadness. Prayer is also a conversation and it matters how you end it. Jesus ended the “Lord’s Prayer” with the doxology – “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” By the way, according to Jewish custom, prayer was always followed by a conclusion, a doxology. In the Mishnah (m. Ber. 1.4) it says, “In the morning two blessings are to be said…which they ordered to be concluded (with a benediction) must not be left without such a conclusion…” In the Old Testament, you see this repeatedly at the end of prayers. Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

Question: How do you end your prayers? Is it with hope and anticipation or is it with doubt and despair? Is it with joy and gladness or is it with tears and sadness? Do you pray? Are you saved? It’s hard to have a conversation with someone you don’t know.

Matthew 613 footnote

Matthew 6:13 with a footnote

This morning we will look at the doxology or the end of the Lord’s Prayer and my desire is that it will encourage you to pray with hope and joy and faith. But before we jump in, there’s an important issue that we need to address. Some of your Bibles may have this statement next to this verse or at the bottom of the page – “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have these words” or “some late manuscripts add the doxology” or “the NU text omits the doxology.” In many translations the doxology is included but in brackets and in several Bibles it is not included at all. What exactly is going on here?

Matthew 613 brackets

Matthew 6:13 in brackets

Matthew 613 omitted

Matthew 6:13 omitted

My first encounter with this issue came when I was in elementary school. I went to St. Aloysius, a Catholic School, where every morning during school assembly we said the Lord’s Prayer. What was startling to me was how the nuns would end the prayer with “And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.” Wait a minute! You’re forgetting something! “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” Later on I learned that the Catholic Bible did not have the doxology. Why? Because it was based on the Latin Vulgate which also did not have the doxology. Little did I know at the time that one day I would pursue a PhD in the field of New Testament Textual Criticism (I don’t like to brag about that), which deals with these very issues. I believe that the doxology should be included in the text. Why? I don’t have time to go in depth but let me quickly give a couple of things to remember. But before I do that, let me be clear – I am not a “King James Only.” It’s a great translation but I’m not here to defend it.

  • It is true that the doxology is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts that have survived (Aleph and B) from the 4th It is also not found
    Gk Mss Dist Matt Doxology

    Greek Mss Distribution of Matthew’s Doxology

    in 3 manuscripts from the 5th century (D Z 0170). But one thing that many people don’t realize is that 4 out of those 5 seem to have a common origin, which narrows their weight.

  • But, what many people don’t realize is that the doxology is found in 1 early Greek manuscript (W) from the 5th century and 2 (sigma and phi) from the 6th
  • Furthermore, the doxology is absent from only 13 or so manuscripts and 10 of them after the 13th
  • But, from the 8th century on 1504 manuscripts have the doxology! One of my friends (Jonathan Borland) did the math and altogether 98.6% of all Greek manuscripts have the doxology, a few with some variations. They had to be copied from somewhere.
  • It is also true that the Latin version omits it (I just mentioned that) and so also the early church fathers (Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine).
  • But the doxology is found in an Old Latin, (k/1), some of the Old Syriac versions, some Coptic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Georgian, and Armenian.

I can go on and on but the question is why did some manuscripts drop it?

  • Maybe because Luke does not include it, some scribes may have felt that Matthew shouldn’t either. They should have remembered that maybe Luke left it out because the Gentiles didn’t see the need for a doxology at the end of every prayer.
  • Maybe because when the church collectively read the passage, they would stop at “deliver us from evil” and the priest alone would say the doxology. This could have become a norm and the doxology got left out by a handful of manuscripts.
  • Personally, I think its because some scribe thought that it was contradicting the opening of the prayer – “Your kingdom come.” It could be that the scribe felt that if the kingdom was still to come in the future, how can we say “Yours is the kingdom,” as if it is already in the present.

We don’t have all the answers but my conclusion is that the evidence is in the favor of the doxology. Please don’t misunderstand – this does not mean that people who don’t include it are liberals or unsaved. That’s not true. So, why did I go through all this trouble? Our young people are bombarded daily with allegations that the original Bible has been lost in transmission. That’s not true and cookie cutter answers won’t work. We have to, as Peter says in I Peter 3:15, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Back to our message – This doxology reminds us of 3 things about God as we close our prayer:

I. HE IS THE RIGHTFUL OWNER, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is the kingdom…forever.”

Background: If you remember the message on – “Your kingdom come” – the Jewish people knew that God was their eternal King. He was their rightful King. And one day He was coming to take His rightful throne over the world and rule forever. By ending with the doxology– “Yours IS the kingdom” – Jesus was saying that even now God was the rightful King. Even now He owned everything and everyone. It was very similar to the doxology that David prayed in I Chronicles 29   10 Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. If you remember, the people of Israel had rebelled against God and had demanded a king to be like other nations. Even though David was the king of Israel, He was humbly acknowledging that God was Israel’s true king. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. Is it any wonder that God repeatedly heard David’s prayer and established His kingdom forever?!

Here’s the point: No matter how we come to God in prayer, we need to remember that God owns this entire creation and everything in it, including all our problems and us. Like that old song—

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

……….

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:

Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and Heav’n be one.

………

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?

The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He owns it all? Do you proclaim Him king over your circumstances and over yourself?

II. HE CAN CHANGE CIRCUMSTANCES, NOW AND FOREVER.

“For Yours is…the power…forever.”

Background: This almost sounds like the last point but there is a difference. It’s one thing to be the rightful owner but it’s another thing to be in control. To say it differently – you can own something but still be helpless to change a situation. By ending with the doxology – “For Yours is the power” – Jesus was saying that the Father was not only in charge but He also had all the power to change all circumstances. By the way, Jesus demonstrated that when they brought a paralytic to Him on a bed. Matthew 9   2 “…When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’ 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house. 8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

Here’s the point: No matter what we are facing in this life, when we come to God in prayer we need to remember that God is perfectly capable of handling that situation, be it physical healing or spiritual healing.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He has power to work in your situation? Do you proclaim Him all-powerful and all capable?

III. HE GETS THE GLORY, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is…the glory forever.”

Background: The Greek word for glory is “doksa” from which we get the word “doxology.” At the end of it all, God wants to get the glory and He will get the glory. It means that when your prayers are answered, it’s not because of how strong or wise or patient or even prayerful you were. It was all because of God, for God, and to God. The best example of this is the healing of Lazarus. If you remember, Jesus was a friend of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from the town of Bethany. He often visited them. One day He got word that Lazarus was sick. Now you would think that Jesus would leave it all and go help out His friends. Instead, listen to John 11:4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. How strange?! He loved them and so He stayed 2 extra days instead of coming to them immediately! He finally gets there. The sisters are distraught and they get to the grave and Martha says to Him – “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” What was His response? John 11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” What was the result? Not only Lazarus was raised to life but many believed in Him. Ultimately, God got the glory.

Application: The real question is “Are you willing to give Him glory in your life and through your circumstances?” Are you willing to let God use you to draw people to Himself?

Are you saved? Are you praying? Are you praying for His kingdom, His power, and His glory?

When God is Our King by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD IS OUR KING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whengodisourking

Introduction: We’re in our series through the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father” and today we will hear our third message titled – “When God is Our King.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: In 2004 Britain’s Channel 4 aired a documentary titled – Britain’s Real Monarch. It made a stunning claim that the real king of England was actually a forklift driver from Australia named Michael Hastings. This was not just some crazy theory but it actually had some historians and genealogists behind it. They claimed that it all began in the 15th century when the War of the Roses was being fought. King Edward IV who was king at the time was actually illegitimate. He was not the son of Richard, the 3rd Duke of York but was actually from an affair between his mother Lady Cecily Neville and a local archer named Blaybourne. He should not have been the king. Instead, the rightful heir to the throne was his brother George Plantagent and his direct descendant Abney-Hastings. So when you trace this line, instead of Tudors, Stuarts, and Windsors, you see a lot of Hastings. They asked Michael Hastings (he died in 2012) if he would contend for the throne and he said that he had no such intentions but he thought about sending some past due notices to the Queen since her family has been living in his castle for 500 years! His son Simon also said that he has no desire to contend for the throne but then added – “It does make you think about how things could be different.”

Does it ever make you think how things would be if Jesus were the King? Do you ever wonder what this world would be like if God was indeed the sovereign ruler of this world? Would there be so much crime, violence, hate, lies, injustice, immorality, lewdness, vileness, poverty, sickness, hunger, despair, and hopelessness? Why doesn’t God answer the petition – “Your Kingdom come?” Why does it feel as if the rightful king is in exile? Listen carefully – God’s kingdom has come. Those who have received Christ can see it. It is growing and one day when all will see the King and bow before Him.

Question: Is Jesus the king of your life? Is He in control of your life? Are you doing all you can to spread His kingdom in this world? Are you saved? To be saved, all you need to do is receive Him as your Savior. But don’t stop there. Make Him the sovereign ruler of your life. Make Him the king of your life.

3 questions we will answer to understand the petition – “Your Kingdom Come.”

I. WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD? 

Background: Bible Scholars have argued for quite sometime about the meaning of the “kingdom” or the “kingdom of God/heaven.” To understand it, we need to ask “What did it mean to Jesus’ audience when He used that phrase?” If they knew their Old Testament, they knew that–

  • God was the eternal King who created the heavens and the earth. Psalm 47   6 “Sing praises to God…Sing praises to our King7 For God is the King of all the earth…”
  • God was the rightful King over them, His people Israel. Isaiah 43:15 “I am the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.”
  • Most importantly, God would one day come to rule over His world forever. Isaiah 40:10 “Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him” and Psalm 146:10 “The LORD shall reign forever…”

This was also part of their daily prayers. In the Shemonah Esreh or the Amidah, the 2nd blessing says – “Who is like You, Lord of the mighty acts, and who resembles You, O King, who orders death and restores life, and causes salvation to spring forth?” The 8th blessing says, “Grant a perfect healing to all our wounds; for You, almighty King, are a faithful and merciful Physician.” The 11th blessing says, “…reign over us, O Lord…Blessed are you, O Lord, the King who loves righteousness and judgment.” I can go on and on. Also, listen to the Kaddish (also an ancient Jewish prayer from the time) – “May he establish His kingdom in our lifetime and in our days.” Sounds like the Lord’s Prayer, doesn’t it? When we study the other Jewish literature from the time, we again find that the Jewish people knew that God their King was coming and one day He would reveal His kingdom by lifting up His name in all the earth, by judging the wicked, by rescuing His people, and, by reigning sovereign over all creation forever and ever.

Even though the Jewish people had been under many foreign rulers (the Assyrians, Babylonians, and the Romans), they knew that ultimately God was the true king of the world; God was their true king; and one day He was coming to take His throne as the King forever.

Here’s the point: Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged when we read the news today. It seems as if there is no end to violence and wars and battles. There seems to be no end to the depravity and hate and evil. Many times God’s people have suffered terribly. But here’s something you can hold on to – there is one king who is still on His throne and He always will be. He is the Living True God. There’s one kingdom that has no end. It is His kingdom of the Eternal King. One day the rightful king will do away with all the wicked and their wickedness and He will vindicate and reward his people.

Application: Are you afraid of the future? Are you discouraged about the future of this world and our nation? Do you wonder what God is up to? Let me remind you to rest in the fact that He is still in the rightful King and His kingdom shall prevail.

II. WHEN WILL THE KINGDOM OF GOD COME? 

9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come.

Background: There is something unique about the way Jesus talked about the kingdom. Unlike the Jewish people who believed that one day God would come and reveal His kingdom, Jesus did not talk about God coming or the kingdom being revealed. Instead He merged the two and said, “The kingdom has come.” I know this may seem a little trivial to you but please don’t miss this point. What Jesus was telling them was – “I am the God you read about in the scriptures and I have come. Also, I have brought with me the kingdom you’ve been praying for. You have to go through Me to get into the kingdom.” Boy, did that make the leaders angry! There would’ve been no problem if Jesus had said – “God is coming” or “I’ve come to set up the kingdom of God.” The problem was that He merged those two. Their reaction was – “Are you claiming to be God, our king, who will establish the kingdom that will never end? How dare you? We know who you are. We know your parents. You are a nobody.” Jesus made it clear to them that “Entering God’s kingdom was by receiving Him as their Savior and receiving Him as their Savior was entering God’s kingdom.” So how did they respond?

Some questioned the timing of the kingdom of God. Jesus responded in Luke 17:20 “…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Some opposed His preaching. So Jesus began to preach in parables. When His disciples asked Him why, he said in Matthew 13:11 “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

Some opposed His miracles and said that He had demons. Jesus responded to them by saying in Matthew 12:28 “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Some came to check Him out like Nicodemus. Jesus said to him in John 3:3 “…Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Some acknowledge that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, like Peter. Jesus said to him in Matt. 16   17 “…Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…”

Some questioned their position in the kingdom of Heaven. So Jesus called a little child and set him in the midst of them and said in Matt. 18:3 “…unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I can go on but here’s the point – Receiving Jesus is receiving the kingdom and rejecting Jesus is rejecting the kingdom. To enter the kingdom, you have to be born again. To enter the kingdom, you have to come to Jesus as a humble child and be converted.

Application: Do you belong to the kingdom of God or are you still in the power of darkness? Are you willing to humble yourself and be converted?

III. HOW DOES THE PRAYER FOR THE KINGDOM WORK?

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come.

Background: Once again, do not forget, the first three petitions are in the third person and they are divine passive. This means that we are not ordering God to hurry up and bring the kingdom. We are simply declaring that we are under His rule and He is the king who does what He pleases. It is a declaration not an instruction. God will bring His complete kingdom when He is ready to. The question I need to ask myself is – “Am I submitted to Him in every area of my life? Is He the rightful king in my life?

But we don’t stop there. We do all we can to live in a way that we declare Him King in every part of the world in which we live – Politics, ethics, morality, art, literature, etc. Yes, one day He will make all things right but until then we need to live out His purpose in this world.

Colossians 1 13 “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Are you saved? Are you submitted to the King?

The Blessing of Brokenness

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here or watch the video here.

THE BLESSING OF BROKENNESS by Pastor Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Blessing of BrokennessWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and as of last week we are in our miniseries on the Sermon on the Mount called “Salt and Light.” Today we will look at the first Beatitude and our message is titled, “THE BLESSING OF BROKENNESS.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The first beatitude is very important for us to understand. It sets the tone for the rest of the Beatitudes. To be honest, it sets the tone for the Christian life. The principle behind that verse is “the way up is down.” It goes contrary to everything in our human nature. We think that the way up is up. As Emerson said, “Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star…” As a naturalist, he was talking about harnessing the power of nature but the point still stands that we as human beings think that the way up is by hitching our wagon to a star. Not so in God’s eyes. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Men and women throughout the ages who got this truth got the heart of God and lived a life of blessing.

Application: Which way is up for you? If you want to go with God, the way is down. Do you want God’s blessing in your life? Are you willing to be broken? That’s good not bad.

By the way, this principle is not only true in our relationship with God but also in our relationships at home, church, and community. Men and women, boys and girls who truly live by the principle “the way up is down” bring blessings every where they go. In fact, they become the salt and light in their circle of influence. They season and brighten their world for the better. If there’s anything our nation and our world needs right now is a healthy dose of “the way up is down.”

Three important questions we will ask about this beatitude:

1. WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? 

Background: Several times in Matthew we see Jesus using the term the “kingdom of heaven.” Ay the way, it’s no different than the “kingdom of God” in Mark, Luke, and John. For some people the kingdom of heaven/God was an earthly rule by the Messiah – something that would set them free from their Roman rulers. For other people the kingdom was the ultimate rule of God in the end of times. It was a future ideal rule of God with his people. When Jesus used that term He was talking about something quite different. It was something more internal than external. It was something right now and not just out there in some distant future. It was something that was more eternal than temporal. In Matthew 13 Jesus gave many parables to explain it’s meaning –

  • 24 “…The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.”
  • 31 “…The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
  • 33 “…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
  • 44 “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
  • 45   “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…”
  • 47   “the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind..”

Even though Jesus tried again and again to explain the meaning of the kingdom of heaven to his disciples they still didn’t get it. In fact, even after his resurrection in Acts 1:6 they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” I can picture Jesus shaking his head when he said in verse 7 “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But then he made the statement that holds the clue to the meaning of the kingdom of heaven – 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The kingdom of heaven/God has to do with the Holy Spirit.

Why didn’t Jesus just come out and say it during his ministry? As John 7:39 says, “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” They were not ready for the Holy Spirit. It would’ve been too confusing for them. He said a few things about the Holy Spirit – the comforter – the focus was still the cross.

So what is the kingdom of heaven/God? It is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who have received Jesus as their Savior.

Romans 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you in the kingdom of heaven/God? Are you living in the power, control, and direction of the Holy Spirit? How do you get into this kingdom? Matthew 18:3 “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

2. WHO ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT?

Background: When we hear that phrase “poor in spirit” we immediately think of someone who is down on life, downcast, melancholy, and gloomy. Someone kind of like Eeyore – “Good morning Pooh Bear, if it is a good morning, which I doubt.” “It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it.” As someone said, “People like that brighten up a room just by leaving it.” They’re always fishing for sympathy. That’s not what this is.

I think to truly understand the meaning of “poor in spirit” you have to think the opposite of “rich in spirit” – someone who is rich in self or full of SELF – self-confident, self-assured, self-reliant, self-made, self-centered, self-righteous, self-seeking, self-preserving, and self-sufficient. In other words, they are SELFISH. It may be a lot or a little but they are rich in their spirit.

“Poor in spirit” is just the opposite. These are people who have very little of self. They’ve come face to face with their abilities, weaknesses, and limitations. They’ve come to realize that all that they are and all that they have is by the grace of God. They truly believe that they are unworthy and undeserving. Please don’t misunderstand – it’s not that they have a poor self-esteem; they just have a proper esteem of self. It’s not that they’re insecure but they realize that their security is not in self. In fact, many of them are very rich, very talented, and very successful. It’s not about that. The poor in spirit are simply grateful that God and people think as well of them and treat them as well as they do. Just like the poor when they get that dollar they’re grateful.

How do people get this way? It’s the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s called the breaking process – breaking our self down and replacing it with his self. He does it in many ways –

  • He does it through the teaching of the Bible. In Matthew 18:4 Jesus said “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Messages like this remind us of how much we are to humble ourselves before God and how much we are to let him control our lives.
  • He’s does it through our pain and our circumstances. Not always but sometimes he uses our needs and suffering to remind us of our poverty. 2 Corinthians 12 Paul said 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
  • He does it through the examples of other people. I remember growing up and missionary by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander. He was a mentor to my dad. He lived next door and would eat with us almost every day. He was a scholar in biblical languages. He translated of the Bible into Marathi. I used to sit on his lap and he would read books to me. I’ve never met a man so “poor in spirit.” One time a man came to him begging for some shoes. Keep in mind – the British used to rule India and some of the officers were quite hateful. But when this man asked Dr. Schelander he immediately began to take off his shoes. The man thought that he would beat him with his shoes for daring to ask and he took off running. Dr. Schelander had to chase him down and beg him to take his shoes.
  • He does it through our sin life. In his prayer of repentance, David said in Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.”

Application: Are you rich in spirit or poor in spirit? Has God taking you through the process of brokenness? If the kingdom of heaven is about the Holy Spirit, how much is he controlling in your life?

3. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

Background: The Greek word for “blessed” is “makarios.” It comes from the Hebrew word “asre.” We are more familiar with the Hebrew word “baruk,” which means “blessed by God.” If it was “baruk” here then the Greek word would have been “eulogetes.” But “makarios” from the Hebrew “asre” is not restricted to just being blessed by God. It has a wider meaning. Yes – it does carry the connotation that God looks at you favorably but it doesn’t stop there. I think the best translation may not be literal but it communicates the sense best. It is something like “You’ve got it good” or “You’ve got it made.” You bring blessing to others. When people come across you they’re not threatened by you or your self. Instead, they are drawn to you and they want to know the secret of the hope that is within you. They want to know how they can have a life that is not controlled by circumstances. They want to know how they can have a life that is directed by God. They want to know how they too can be blessed.

Our brokenness not only blesses us but also blesses those around us. By the way, this has always been God’s way as Paul says in I Corinthians 1 27 “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

The way up is down so that God gets the glory.

For e.g. I remember as a little boy going to a small village in India where we had planted a church. Those Christians lived in these tiny huts, no bigger than 10X10. They had hardly anything. Then in the evening we would have worship and preaching and it was amazing to watch them sing. They sang from their hearts. They sang as if they had it made!

For e.g. I also remember a very wealthy man in our church who sat on the floor with those village Christians and worshipped with them.

Application: How do you look at your life? Are you looking down at yourself because things don’t seem to working out as you wished they would have? Have you lost hope and become skeptical because it’s not all sunny in your life? Are you surrendered to the Holy Spirit and His work of brokenness in your life? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you being the Salt and Light to people around you?

Salt and Light: The Myth of a Secular Nation

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here or watch the video here.

SALT AND LIGHT: THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

saltandlightWe are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we come to Matthew 5 to what Augustine called the “De Sermone Domini in Monte” = Sermon on the Mount – the passage in which Jesus gave the Beatitudes, the Six Antithesis, the Lord’s Prayer, the Golden Rule, and other important principles of the Christian life. With that in mind, today we will begin a long miniseries titled, “SALT AND LIGHT – THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION.” There is something in this series that is very vital for our personal lives, our families, our church, our community, and our nation.

Matthew 5:13-14 (Click to watch video of reading by the Mount of Beatitudes)   13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: You may not know but the Sermon on the Mount has been discussed and debated ever since it was first written. As early as the first century we know of a document called the Didache that tells us that the early church struggled with how to obey such high standards that Jesus gave to His disciples and to the multitudes. People throughout the centuries have questioned if it was even possible to apply these rules and could it be that they were meant for another time and another place. Some people claimed that this passage was only meant for those who lived before the cross and that Jesus did not expect them to obey them but was just showing them how God’s standard of holiness was too high and how much they needed His grace in their lives. Others claimed that the list of righteousness and holy living has nothing to do with the past or the present but with the future millennial kingdom. In other words, there has to be an ideal environment for this high standard to be achieved.

So what do we do with the Sermon on the Mount? Do we just skip over it? I believe that the Sermon on the Mount is for every Christian of every generation. When you truly study this passage in its context you realize that Jesus did not give this sermon just to make us feel helpless before the holiness of God or to make us feel hopeful for some future Kingdom of God. He meant this sermon to be obeyed by all believers of all ages. There are some powerful truths embedded in these verses – truths that will change the way we live the Christian life, truths that will bless our homes and our families, truths that will change the way we function as a church, truths that will transform our community, and truths that will change the direction of our nation.

The Sermon on the Mount is a kind of Christian life that not only brings personal blessings but it also transforms the world around us. It’s not a life that runs from the world or a life that compromises with the world but a life that seasons and brightens the world around us. Daily I come across people who are either fed up with the world or fearful of the world. The Sermon on the Mount challenges us to live in such a way that the world sees our good works and glorifies our Father in heaven.

Application: Do you think we need this kind of a Christian life? Do you think our community needs this kind of a life? Do you think our nation needs God’s blessing? Are you being the salt and light in this world? Let’s ask a deeper question – are you saved?

This morning we won’t look at just one passage but several passages from the Sermon on the Mount. We will set the foundation for the rest of the series. If we get this message, we will get the rest of the series. 3 things stand out in this Sermon:

I. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF ISOLATION FROM THE WORLD. 

Matthew 5 1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them…

Background: Some people think that this proves that Jesus did not want the multitudes. “He saw the multitudes and went up the mountain with His disciples.” Not true. Let’s go to the end of the sermon in 7 28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 8:1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. This was not a private lesson just for the disciples.

How did the multitudes find Him? Let’s go to the verses immediately preceding the sermon on the Mount – Matthew 4 23 And Jesus went King of Kings Sermon on the Mountabout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people…25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

Bottom line: The multitudes did not find Jesus. He went and found them. One of the problems in our churches is that we are either running from the multitudes or we are waiting for them to find us. We like to talk about how bad the world is and how far we have come and how things are not what they used to be. Sometimes we’re doing everything we can to keep the world out. Make no mistake – we need to stay away from worldliness but not stay away from people. There’s a big difference. Jesus was not worldly but He loved people. He went out and met the needs of the people and then people followed him.

This does not mean that He was naïve about the multitudes. What kind of people were in the multitudes? Matthew 4:24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, (What do sick people do? They moan and groan and complain.) and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Do you think some of them fussed with each other? Do you think some were greedy, lustful, critical, and demanding? Of course! Ministry is messy. Jesus did not consider the crowd to be a burden. Sometimes we tend to think that the crowd is a burden. You’ll hear things like – “We got too many people here now.” “I don’t know every body anymore.” “It’s hard to keep up.” “I liked it when it was small.” Jesus loves this! It’s for the people that He came.

If Christianity is going to survive in America, it will have to go to the multitudes and that will be messy but that’s all right. God has not called us to isolation. He wants us out there seeking and saving that which was lost.

For e.g. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, learned from George Whitfield that if change were to come in England, they would have to go outside the church to fields and the docks and the markets. At first Wesley didn’t like it. He was too traditional. But on April 1, 1739 Wesley preached to a group gathered on Nicholas Street. Guess which passage? The Sermon on the Mount! He was chastised by church leaders but listen to what he wrote in his journal on July 11, 1739: “Permit me to speak plainly…God in Scripture commands me, according to my power, to instruct the ignorant, reform the wicked, confirm the virtuous. Man forbids me to do this in another’s parish; that is, in effect, to do it at all, seeing I have now no parish of my own, nor probably ever shall. Whom then shall I hear, God or man? “I look upon all the world as my parish…” England was riddled with immorality, skepticism, atheism, and the coming of Wesley saved it. He went to the people. We’re looking for new ways to grow our churches. Maybe we need to try the Jesus way!

Application: What do you think about the multitudes? Do you run from them? Do you spend your time criticizing them? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and save them? If not, step out of the way and let others do it.

II. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD 

2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Background: Just when you think that Jesus would laugh over sin, He raises the bar. Sometimes we think that in order to win the world we have to become like the world. Nothing is further from the truth. In the weeks ahead I’ll be preaching on each of these beatitudes. Let me just tell you – the Standard is high, very high!

Here’s more – 4 Blessed are those who mourn, (Some were complaining) For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, (Some were proud) For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, (Some were hungering for the things of this world) For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, (Some were bitter and hateful) For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, (Some had hidden sins) For they shall see God.

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If we want God’s blessing in our lives, it has to be the way of holiness and righteousness. We can’t go around that. In fact in Matthew 5:20 Jesus says to them, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees and the scribes at a high standard but Jesus said – “Your standard better be higher then theirs if you want to get to heaven.” Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Nothing destroys our testimony before the world than hypocrisy and hidden sin.

Application: How is your sin life right now? Is there hate in your heart? Is there anger in your life? Is there unforgiveness towards someone? Is there lust? Is there greed? Are you having trouble seeing God? Could it be because “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

III. A LIFE OF BLESSING AND RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT TRANSFORMS THE WORLD.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

Background: Just when you think Jesus is only interested in our personal spiritual lives He makes a statement that I feel is one of the greatest passages in the entire Bible. Salt seasons our food. It makes it worth eating. But if the salt loses its flavor then it is worthless for the food. It has to be thrown away. People just walk over it.

Christianity is being trampled upon in America. It’s because Christians have lost their flavor.

Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

For e.g. As you know, Nicole and I went to Israel in January. One thing that really got me were the ultra Orthodox. They reminded me of the Pharisees and the scribes, maybe not in every aspect but regarding tradition. These people wear black robes, black hats, and black shoes. They have long sideburns and they’re constantly doing their Torah reading and mumbling their prayers. They are an oddity. They’re different. They’re strange. They’re judgmental. I asked our guides about them and both of them had some not so nice things to say. Both our guides were Jewish but secular Jewish.

I thought about our churches in America and Christians in America. In some ways, we have become an oddity. We have become different and strange. By that I’m not saying that we are different as in God’s people different but different as in old, outdated, harmless, naïve, flavorless, and “matter of time before they’re extinct people.”

Jesus went on to say in verse 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt. He notes that “Christianity and Christian influence on the government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; outlawing pedophilia; granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy in the Western world; prohibiting the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advancing the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlawing slave trade and slavery.

I’m amazed at how some Christians have been backing away from the public square when we should be the ones taking the public square. The reason we have the freedom we do and the blessings we do is because this nation was founded to be the salt in the light of the world. The reason we are compassionate towards people, animals, the less fortunate, the ones who are sidelined, and abused is because of Christianity. We have been beneficiaries of someone else’s faithfulness. Much has changed. Either we are hiding our light or we have a false light or we have no light.

When you and I begin to live the way Christians were meant to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the life of Christ in us, with the word of God on our lips and in our hearts, we become the salt and the light of the world. Do you want to know why the world and America and our community is in such a mess? Stop blaming Hollywood. Stop blaming the politicians. Stop blaming the atheists and the sexually immoral. They’re just living by their nature. Start looking in the mirror. If our Christian lives were what they were supposed to be, this world would be a better place. If we were teaching our children how to live the blessed life, they would be the change makers in our society today.

It’s not too late. Today’s the day to begin. First, if you are not saved, you need to get saved right now. Let’s go a step further – what are you doing right now to impact our community? What are you doing to make this 30-mile radius the best place on earth? Are you praying for our nation? Are you getting involved in politics? It’s not enough to preach the gospel. It’s also important to impact the culture. This is not just so we can keep preaching but also so that our society will remain civil, kind, compassionate, and blessed.

By the way, what did Jesus say in the Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Meaning: The very first thing that we are to pray for after glorifying God is for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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