The Joy-Producer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE JOY-PRODUCER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

The Joy Producer

Introduction: When you talk to some Christians, it seems that to be a good Christian you have to be miserable. In fact, the more miserable you are, the godlier you must be or so they think. It reminds me of a group of Christians who were gathered on a Friday evening prayer meeting when one lady prayed, “Dear God, please bless us your people. We’re in here trying to serve you while the world is out there having a wonderful time.” In other words, to be a good Christian you cannot have wonderful times, only miserable times. This is completely contrary to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus came to bring joy and in this message we will learn that he is the great JOY PRODUCER.

John 2   1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Question: We will look at this passage in detail in a few minutes but for now the question we need to answer is this – “Is your Christian life more resembling of a funeral service or a wedding service?” Are you full of misery or are you full of joy? The coming of Jesus in any life brings joy. Has Jesus come into your life? Are you saved?

Clarification: Before we begin this message, let me clarify one thing. Typically this passage is invoked either in support of or against drinking alcohol. For example, some people say, “Jesus turned water into wine so it’s okay to drink, as long as you don’t get drunk.” Then people on the other side say, “Jesus would never endorse alcohol. He only turned water into unfermented grape juice (which is not true).” Listen carefully: No matter where you stand on this topic, this passage is neither for nor against drinking alcohol. It has a much deeper meaning, which we will learn in this message.

Let’s Begin: Instead of starting in verse 1, we need to drop down to verse 11 “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” The key word there is “signs.” It comes from the Greek word “semeion.” John the apostle/writer of the gospel used this word for Jesus’ miracles. Now, Matthew, Mark, and Luke also used that word but not for Jesus’ miracles. They used it in a negative tone when the scribes and the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus and he refused. To the contrary, John the apostle concluded his gospel in these words – John 20   30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” When John used the word “signs,” he had more than “miracles” in mind. He used the word “signs” the way the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), used that word to prove the power of God and his work on behalf of his people. For example: After the flood, God said in Genesis 9:13 “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” After God brought his people out of slavery, they sang in Deuteronomy 26:8 “So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.” In Isaiah 7:14, it was prophesied, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” When John used the word “signs,” he meant those incidents that proved that Jesus was/is God and he was the one who was to come. In other words, signs were more than miracles by Jesus to help people (the other gospels); they were proof of who he was/is and why he came.

So what was the sign behind the miracle of the wedding at Cana? As we just read, Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Back in those days, Jewish weddings were a time of great joy and celebration! Unlike the Roman weddings, which were not ostentatious and extravagant, Jewish weddings symbolized the greatest joy! They normally lasted a whole week! By the way, by the end of this year, I will do 7 weddings in total! They are a lot of fun and excitement but they’re also a lot of work, as some of you know very well. Imagine a whole week of celebrations! If you were wealthy back then, you’d invite the whole village. Think about all the food and drinks you had to prepare! According to one ancient Jewish source, if you invited someone to a wedding and didn’t show proper hospitality, you are no better than a thief! Guess what! At this wedding, the drinks ran out! How embarrassing! So Jesus’ mother mentioned it to him and listen to his reply – 4 “…Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” What Jesus was saying is – “Do you really think that I left my heavenly throne and came down to fix drinks? I’ve come for something much greater.” What was Mary’s response? 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” It seems like she didn’t get it but that’s not true. Remember, after his birth and the visit to the temple at the age of 12, twice it says in Luke 2 that Mary “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She knew that Jesus was much more than her son. Somehow Mary knew that Jesus would use this as a sign. By the way, this was not his first miracle but the first sign that he performed. That’s why I didn’t begin this series with it.

Listen to verse 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. That’s about 150 gallons of water! To get an idea of how much that is, imagine a fish tank, 6 feet long, two feet tall, and two feet wide. That’s a lot of water! What is it for? For ceremonial hand washing and ritual cleansing of the vessels. During the time of Jesus, these rituals were at an all time high. Even John the Baptist’s disciples got into arguments with the Jewish people over purification (John 3:25). Listen to what Jesus did7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” Think about it, Jesus could have easily told them to fill the wine jars with water but he specifically commanded them to fill up the purification pots. Remember, this is a sign. Jesus is telling them that he has come to replace all those purification laws and rituals with something much better. John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Listen carefully: Nothing wrong with traditions but don’t let rituals and traditions get in the way of true substance. Go to Jesus.

What happened next? He told them to get some out and take it to the Master of the feast. When he tasted it, he was amazed and said to the bridegroom, 10 “…Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” Apparently, they would serve the best quality wine first and when people were drunk and didn’t know or care what they were drinking, then they would serve the inferior quality. What he was saying is “I thought the party was on but I was wrong. The real party is about to begin!” What’s the point? Remember, this is a sign. Jesus was asking them “Didn’t my boy John the Baptist tell you that the better wine was coming?” Oh Yeah…just a chapter earlier. John 1:15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” John 1   26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” John 1   29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ Don’t miss this: This passage is not about to drink or not to drink. This passage is about Jesus being the good wine who brings true joy and celebration! Everything prior to him was inferior. When he comes into your life, then the real wedding feast can begin!

11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. What does this glory look like? It’s not some bright light or some halo around the head, some nimbus or aureole. It is a combination of grace and truth. John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

  • Truth is you are lost in your sins but grace brings you forgiveness.
  • Truth is you are an enemy of God but grace makes you a child of God.
  • Truth is that you are born to die but grace gives you eternal life.
  • Truth is that you are nothing but grace invites you to join God in his work.

Some people are reluctant to believe in Jesus. They think that coming to Jesus would mess up their party. They think that coming to Jesus will kill all their fun. It’s just the opposite. When you come to Jesus, you see his true glory and that’s when the party really begins. Listen to what Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Do you have this joy in your life? By receiving Jesus as your Savior you can. Beware of Joy Killers? Sometimes they are people, places, or passions. Be intoxicated on Jesus. Be addicted to him. It never gets old.

Sleeping Through the Storm by Pastor Abidan Shah

SLEEPING THROUGH THE STORM by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Sleeping Through the Storm.jpgIntroduction: As many of you know, we’ve been in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels. This morning we come to a very familiar passage where Jesus calms a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The message is titled – “SLEEPING THROUGH THE STORM.”

Mark 4   35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Bridge: As all of you know, Winter Storm Helena hit us over the weekend. About 7:30 Saturday morning Nicole and I woke up to a loud crashing sound. We jumped out of bed and ran to the window. A big pine tree had fallen on the house. We put on some warm clothes and ran outside to investigate and then climbed into the attic to see if anything had come through. Thankfully, nothing had. Again, all I could say to Nicole was – “We really didn’t need this…we really didn’t need this…” How many of y’all have ever said that during or after some storm in your life – “We really didn’t need this?”

Context: In this message we will look at a windstorm that came upon the Sea of Galilee while Jesus and his disciples were sailing across. What makes this so puzzling is that it was Jesus who had instructed them to travel at this time! Question: If he was God, was he not aware of the coming storm? Not only that but he fell asleep during the storm! Another Question: Was Jesus so tired that he was oblivious to the storm or was he just so callous that he did not care about what was happening to his disciples? There are many other questions that we’ll answer in this passage that will help us face the storms in our lives.

Question: Are you going through a difficult storm in your life? Does it seem like this one will drown you? Do you wonder – if God knows all, why did he allow this storm in your life? And, if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he calm this storm in your life? Here’s a question that you definitely need to answer – Is Jesus in the boat with you? Is he in your life? Have you ever accepted him as your Savior?

3 principles about sleeping through the storm:

I. GOD NEVER ABANDONS US, ESPECIALLY IN THE STORM. 

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”

Background: Why did Jesus want to go to the other side of Galilee? When you read the whole context you see that so many people were coming to him from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, other side of the Jordan, Tyre, and Sidon. Mark 3:9 tells us that he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him because of the huge crowds, “…lest they should crush Him.” It was so bad that Mark 3:20 tells us, “…they could not so much as eat bread.” Jesus needed a break from the crowd. But listen again to that verse “…He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Keep in mind – Jesus was/is God. If he wanted to get away, he could have easily teleported himself to the other side. He didn’t need a boat to do that. But Jesus knew that the disciples needed a break too. They were stressed out as well and needed to get away. The boat was not for him. It was for them.

Understand the difference between physical and spiritual stress: The stress on Jesus and the disciples was not as much physical as it was spiritual. Physical stress comes when your body runs down and you have to take a nap, go for a dinner out, or even take a mini-vacation. Your mind and body need time to rest and recuperate. What Jesus and his disciples were facing was spiritual stress. They were constantly preaching, ministering, healing, and setting people free. They were spiritually drained. It needed a different therapy altogether. By the way, what happens if spiritual stress is not handled? People have spiritual breakdowns. Have you seen many godly people and leaders fall into scandals and devastating sins? They become spiritually fatigued, loose sight of God, and fall into the Enemy’s traps and sins. Jesus knew that his disciples were at the verge of losing their vision of him in the midst of working for him and with him. They needed a fresh vision of God.

36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. Meaning: Jesus was not sending them off on some adventurous retreat to learn more about God. He was with them. That’s the sign of God. Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Application: Do you realize that God never abandons you in the midst of the storm? In fact, he allows the storm to come into your life for a reason. It is his way to deal with spiritual stress in your life. In fact, the very last words of Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 28:20 “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”

How do you see the storms in your life? Can you see God’s real purpose in your life? Can you see how he is the divine architect behind the storm? Do you see that he is doing this for your spiritual benefit and not for your loss?

II. STORMS CAUSE US TO TURN TO GOD IN DESPERATION. 

37 “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.”

Background: Now keep in mind that these guys were expert fishermen. They had navigated the Sea of Galilee innumerable times. They knew how the lake was susceptible to sudden storms. But for some reason, this storm was different. It was getting worse and worse. They were about to sink! As they are becoming increasingly aware that they are going down, just then it hits them – Jesus is with us! But where is he? 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow…” Listen to how they addressed him“And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Let’s stop here for a moment – Can we agree that Jesus was aware of the storm before it struck? Of course! He was/is God. In fact, I would argue that he orchestrated this storm for a reason. Now, my finite human mind says – “if someone is stressed, the last thing they need is a storm.” Have you ever said – “God, I’m already at the end of my rope. I really don’t need this”? Why does God allow the extra stress in our lives? Listen carefully – God allows storms to come into our lives to awaken us out of our self-sufficiency and rut. He allows storms to come into our lives not to break us down but to bring us closer to him. Storms are not God’s torture chambers but his retreat centers to come to him so he can replenish and rejuvenate us with his power, his wisdom, and his grace. You say, “If God loved me, he won’t allow this…” He loves you too much not to allow this.

Listen to what Jesus handled did. 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Keep in mind that these guys had just seen Jesus perform miracle after miracle. They had just seen Jesus free many people from unclean spirits. They had just seen him heal multitudes of sick people. They had just heard Jesus talk about the kingdom of God and his purpose in coming. But all that went out the window or the boat! This was the end of everything! They really thought that after all that Jesus was going to end up at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee and they were going to drown with him.

Storms have a way of revealing the depth of our faith. We see miracle after miracle in our lives. We know that God is behind all that we are and we are doing. But then the big one comes and we forget everything. We revert back to the familiar and the visceral. We really don’t know God as well as we thought we did.

Application: Are you going through a storm? Have you called on God yet? How is your faith level? Do you throw out all your beliefs and bible studies and sermon notes during the storm? Do you revert back to the familiar and the visceral? Or do you take the time to remember what God has taught you about faith? Many years ago I heard someone say – “Don’t forget in the dark what God has taught you in the light.” Are you willing to turn to God in desperation?

III. GOD REVEALS HIMSELF IN A NEW WAY IN THE STORMS.

41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Background: Sometimes people have a very simplistic understanding of the miracles in the gospels. Either they don’t believe them or quickly jump to the conclusion that Jesus was God because he did miracles. All that’s true but there’s more to the miracles than we think. There are 2 things I want to highlight in this miracle: the Sea and the Sleeping Jesus.

  1. Sea – To start with, we need to understand what the sea represented to the ancient peoples, especially the people of God. For the ancient peoples like the Babylonians and the Ugarits, the sea was a symbol of chaos that the supreme deity had to keep his control over. The Bible gives us the true account of how God has controlled the sea through the ages. Genesis 1   1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. You can picture the chaos and the darkness of the waters at creation. On the second day, God separated the waters into 2 parts – the waters above and the waters below – and brought order from chaos. During Noah’s flood, God removed the separation temporarily and water came from the top and the bottom and chaos ruled the earth again. Then God made a covenant with Noah that he would never destroy the world with a flood again. Once again there was order from chaos. At times, this chaos of the waters is referred to as a dragon in the Bible that God had to defeat. Psalm 74   13 “You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters. 14 You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces…” Psalm 89   8 “O LORD God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O LORD?…9 You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them. 10 You have broken Rahab in pieces, as one who is slain.” I can go on and on but jump over to the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. Revelation 13:1 “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” Here we see the beast coming out of the sea to wreak havoc on the earth. But listen to the promise in Revelation 21:1 “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” Don’t misunderstand: There will be water in the new heavens and new earth but the threat and chaos of the sea will be gone forever.

Here’s the point: Storms bring demonic chaos into our lives. They try to shake our beliefs and our behavior. We lose our stability. We find ourselves disheveled.

  1. Sleeping Jesus – Next, we need to understand what a sleeping god meant for the ancient peoples, especially the people of God. Among the Babylonian, Akkadian, and Egyptian myths, a sleeping god was a sign of control and power. Of course, the Bible gives us the true meaning of this. What did God do after he created everything? On the seventh day he rested. Was he tired? Of course not. It was a sign that he was supreme and in charge. Repeatedly in the Old Testament the people of God called on God to awaken.

Isaiah 51:9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old.”

Psalm 44   23 Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever. 24 Why do You hide Your face, And forget our affliction and our oppression?

I can go on and on but here’s the point: Jesus sleeping in the midst of a sea storm, a demonic chaos, was a sign that he was none other than God in flesh.

Check out this passage and see how much this was a fulfillment of a prophecy – Psalm 107   21 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! 22 Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing. 23 Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, 24 They see the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. 25 For He commands and raises the stormy wind, Which lifts up the waves of the sea. 26 They mount up to the heavens, They go down again to the depths; Their soul melts because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, And are at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. 29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven. 31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! 32 Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders.

Invitation: How is your vision of God? How is your vision of Jesus? Are you growing in Him? Do you realize how much you don’t know Him? Are you saved?

#Peace is not the absence of #storm. It is the #assurance that God has allowed the storm and will use it for His glory and my growth

Out of the Graveyard by Pastor Abidan Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

out-of-the-graveyard-2Introduction: This is the first weekend of the New Year and I want to preach a message titled “OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD.” Hopefully, it will awaken us to come out of the graveyard of excuses and inspire us to step out into the New Year with Christ.

Luke 9 57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

Bridge: This is the time of the year when people everywhere make New Year’s resolutions to change their lives, to break some bad habits, and even to start some good ones. According to some surveys, about 70% of the resolutions are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions of growing in Christ and following Him. Another year comes and another year goes and still there’s no progress. Today’s message is going to help us come out of the graveyard of excuses and step out into the New Year with Christ.

Context: The passage we just read took place during the early part of Jesus’ ministry. Multitudes of people were flocking to Him. It seemed like the movement was growing by leaps and bounds. Just then Jesus had an encounter with three different individuals. Each had a desire to follow Him but unfortunately had second thoughts and went back to the graveyard of excuses. Sadly, not much has changed. Even today people begin with a resolve to follow Christ but for one reason or another, they go back to their old lives. They refuse to leave the graveyard of comfort, obligations, and approval.

Question: Are you buried somewhere in the graveyard of excuses? What resolutions have you made for 2017? Sometimes people say – “I just don’t make any resolutions anymore. They don’t work for me anyways.” To me, it’s like saying – “I just don’t have any destinations anymore. They don’t work for me anyways. I just get in my car and drive!” That’s ridiculous. The problem is not with the resolutions as much as it is with the list of excuses we make. By the way, before you can leave the graveyard of excuses in following Christ, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death. Are you saved?

3 common graves in the graveyard of excuses:

#1. GRAVE OF COMFORT 

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Background: At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple but Jesus knew his real intention. Apparently, he was approaching Jesus as a rabbi. Matthew even tells us that he addressed Jesus as “Teacher.” In those days, and even in some settings today, a rabbi would gather around him a set of young followers. Their job was simply to take care of their master’s needs. It was a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices and obligations. Yes, they had to follow the rabbi wherever he went but all their basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter were taken care of.

Jesus knew what this young man was thinking. It would’ve been very easy for him to say – “Alright. Come on. Just do what everyone is doing.” Instead, he abruptly 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.” Please don’t misunderstand this. This was not a call to give up your Sleep Number bed or your Tempur-Pedic pillow for Jesus. This was not a call to renounce all the material comforts of life and choose to wander around and live under a tree like some hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble right now. What Jesus was asking this young man was – Do you really understand what it means to follow me? To follow me, you have to live an uncomfortable life where–

  • It may be comfortable to tolerate some old sin in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
  • It may be comfortable to hang on to some old habit in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
  • It may be comfortable to hold on to some grudge against someone in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.
  • It may be comfortable to live by some old dreams and desires in your life, but if you follow me, you’ve given up that right.

I can go on and on. What Jesus was telling this young man was – “Following me will not be comfortable. It may get lonely, painful, tough, and disappointing but here’s the promise – I’ll be with you.”

Even today, people want to follow Jesus as long as it is comfortable. They want an easy life with minimal changes, responsibilities, and sacrifices. They want to go forward with God only if they don’t have to give up anything. They want to go deep in their walk only if they don’t have to do too much digging. They want to sacrifice only if someone else is footing the bill. By the way, they’re the first ones to check out when things get tough.

Application: Do you really know what it means to follow Christ? Are you willing to take the uncomfortable way? Again, this was not a call to give up all the comforts of life and all the finer things of life. You can have all the comforts of life and finer things of life but the comforts of life and the finer things of life cannot have you. How much are you willing to sacrifice?

#2. GRAVE OF OBLIGATIONS 

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

Background: At first reading that sounds like a strange request! Is the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! Not really. What the man was really saying was that “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I can follow you.” This man was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down. Right now I have too much on my plate. Once I can take care of all that, then I’m set to follow Jesus.” By the way, this was a delusion because things would never settle down for him. What would happen after this man buried his father? Now they’d have to divide up the inheritance. He may be responsible to make sure that everyone gets his or her fair share. It’s rare that siblings ever get along in such matters. Someone would be bound to claim “unfair.” Now he would have to smooth out any hurt feelings. Who knows but the matter might end up in a court of law. That would be the end of it.

Jesus recognized his excuse. So listen to his response – 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How unthinkable?!! Was Jesus actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. It is always about taking care of those who are helpless. But in this situation, the man’s obligation was going to keep him from going forward with Christ. The answer was very clear – “Let the dead bury their own dead.” What does that mean? Jesus was being rhetorical. He was telling the man to stop focusing on every trivial or essential concern of life and to follow Him.

Here’s the point: Life has a way of keeping us obligated, especially if we’re looking for excuses. If there’s not one obligation, there will be another:

  • After the children grow up
  • After they get done with college
  • After they get married
  • After the grandkids start school. It never ends!

Application: Are you waiting for things to settle down in your life? What excuses comes to your mind when you think about going forward with God? What noble obligation is keeping you from following Christ?

#3. GRAVE OF ONE LAST GLANCE

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

Background: Again, on first reading, this sounds like a reasonable request – “Let me go and tell bye to my family and friends. How can that be so bad? At least they’ll know where I am.” Don’t misunderstand. This was not about bidding farewell to loved ones. It was about taking that one last glance. What’s so bad about that? The world is full of people who took that one last glance like Lot’s wife. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what she saw. All it says is that she turned into a pillar of salt. She was petrified forever. Even today people turn into a pillar of salt with that one last glance. What do they see?

  • Some see Pain; things that have wounded them deeply and they feel they can’t leave until they heal.
  • Some see Regrets; things they wish they had done differently and they feel they can’t leave until they fix them.
  • Some see Failure; places where they messed up in life and they feel their past would repeat again.
  • Some even see Disappointed Faces; people in their life that are hurt because they’re following Christ and they feel they can’t leave them.

Luke 14   26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

Matthew 10   34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

What advice did Jesus give to this man? 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus used an imagery from farming to make a very important point. Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church shared with me how when he used to plow with a mule, he was told to keep his eye on a point in front and not look back. When he kept his eyes forward on the mark, he had straight lines behind but if he were to look back at the lines, then the lines would be crooked.

Invitation: Are you looking back instead of going forward? Is Jesus your goal or do you keep looking back? Are you ready to come out of the graveyard of excuses?

  • Instead of the grave of comfort, “deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Christ.”
  • Instead of the grave of obligation, “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of you.”
  • Instead of the grave of one last glance, “run the race, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”

Are you saved

Choose Jesus, Choose Life by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

CHOOSE JESUS, CHOOSE LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

choosejesusIntroduction: This is the third message in our series on the Trinity titled – “BATTLE OF THE GODS.” We are studying the words of Jesus in John 5 where He gave us a glimpse into the eternal godhead. Today we will focus on the second person of the Trinity, the Son, and how he gives us life. The message is called – “CHOOSE JESUS, CHOOSE LIFE.”

John 5   22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.

Bridge: Sometime back I was at a business where the father had now retired and the son was running everything. I asked the father – “How does it feel to turn things over to your son?” He answered – “It was time for my son to take over. He proved himself worthy of handling the business.” Then he added – “I am still in charge but I am very proud of the man He has become.” A similar transfer of business also took place in the Trinity after the second person of the godhead, the Son, set aside His divine glory, humbled himself, took the form of a bondservant, and came into this world in the likeness of men. The Father was so pleased with Him that He turned everything over to Him. Even though the Father is still superior, if you want to come to Him you have to go through the Son.

Context: In the passage today we will go deeper in the mystery of the godhead. What we will learn today is the role of Jesus in our salvation. Father is still in charge but you have to come through the Son. To be made alive, you have to respond to the voice of the Son.

Question: Have you been to the Son? Have you heard His voice calling you from the dead? Do you realize that if you haven’t responded to His voice, you may be physically alive but you are spiritually dead? You may be a good person, a kind person, a giving person but you are still a dead person until you respond to the voice of the Son of God. Are you saved? If you are saved, are you echoing His voice to others who are lost?

3 questions about “Choosing Jesus, Choosing Life.” Let the Holy Spirit open your ears.

I. WHY DID THE FATHER TURN THINGS OVER TO THE SON? 

22 “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.”

Background: When you read the Old Testament, God the Father is the ultimate judge.

In Genesis 18:25 Abraham speaking to the pre-incarnate Christ referred to God as the “…judge of all the earth…”

In Judges 11:27 Jephthah the judge said, “…May the LORD, the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon.”

Psalm 105:7 says, “He is the Lord our God: he is judge of all the earth.”

There are plenty more passages in the Old Testament and even in the Rabbinic writings that claimed that the Father was the ultimate judge. But something changed when the Son lovingly and humbly submitted to the will of the Father and came into the world to give His life on the cross. He could have rejected the Father’s plan. He could have suggested an alternate plan. He could have at the last moment backed out of the plan. Instead, He did what the Father even before the creation of the world had decreed – the Son would become the Lamb slain for the sins of the world.

At the baptism in Matthew 3:17 says, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Again in Matthew 17:5 at the Mount of Transfiguration it says “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 5   8 “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek.’” Paul said it best in Philippians 2   5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here’s the point – The Son lovingly and humbly submitted Himself to the will of the Father by giving His life for us. In turn, the Father gave Him the gavel to judge the world. Now if you want to come to the Father, you have to go to the Son. Listen again to John 5 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Application: Have you been to the Son? No use talking about how much you love God and how much you pray everyday. No use talking about what church you’re a member of and how much good you do for others. The Father hates the talk that bypasses the Son. Has there been a point in your life when you acknowledged that Jesus is God’s Son who died on the cross for your sins 2000 years ago? Have you asked Him to be your Savior?

II. HOW DOES THE SON EXECUTE JUDGMENT? 

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

Background: Don’t misunderstand this point. The Son becoming the judge of the world does not mean that He puts on some heavenly robe and sits in some heavenly court and supervises attorney’s arguing their cases, witnesses taking their stand, defendants pleading their innocence, and criminals getting their due penalty. He is not sitting all large and in charge rapping and slamming the gavel on the judges bench – “Order in the court.” In fact, in John 8:15 Jesus clarifies that His judgment is different – “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.” His judgment begins with pleading with every person to hear His word, believe in the Father who sent Him, and accept His sacrifice for his or her sins.

What an unusual judge! Imagine if the judge would come off the stand and walk up to the criminals (By the way, all of us are criminals because we have not only broken God’s laws but we are born as law breakers/sinners.) and start pleading with them to accept His forgiveness. What if he tells them – “I’ve paid your debt and you can go free. I’ve taken your punishment and you don’t have to serve time. I’ve served your death penalty and you are free to go.” That would be crazy! This is the judgment that Jesus executes and has been. Sometimes people come to the church and they are judging everything. They even sit there in judgment on my sermon. What they don’t realize is that the whole time they are under judgment themselves! “Who me?! You must know me! I’m this, that, and the other.” Listen to John 9   39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” 40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

Application: Have you heard the judge calling your name? Have you responded to Him and received His pardon? Is Jesus your Savior? Listen to John 12   47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.

III. WHO IS THE ULTIMATE JUDGE?

25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.

Background: Here Jesus is not referring to some future point but “now is,” which means its right now. He is not referring to physically dead people but spiritually dead people. He is not referring to “hear” as in auditory comprehension but “hear” as in personal acceptance of the words of Jesus. In the context, it means obeying the gospel of Christ.

What will follow? 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. Now Jesus is pointing to the future resurrection to come one day when those who have received Christ in this life will rise to life and those who have done evil by rejecting Him to condemnation. You are the ultimate judge of your destiny.

Illustration: Many of you have probably heard the story of George Wilson. Many preachers have shared it. It was back in 1829 when George Wilson along with James Porter had robbed a United States mail carrier. They were caught and found guilty of 6 charges that included robbery of mail (a big offense) and putting the life of the driver in jeopardy. Their sentence was death by hanging. Porter was hung but Wilson was not. He had some influential friends who pleaded with President Andrew Jackson for his pardon, which he did. Surprisingly, he rejected the pardon. The Supreme Court had to step in and rule on the case. Chief Justice John Marshall delivered the opinion of the court – “A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it is rejected, we have discovered no power in this court to force it upon him.” George Wilson was hung because he rejected a pardon for his crime.

When you refuse to receive Jesus as your savior, you condemn yourself to everlasting death. You are the ultimate judge of your destiny.

Are you saved?

Battle of the Gods: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Pastor Abidan Shah

BATTLE OF THE GODS: HOW THE TRINITY CHANGES EVERYTHING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

battleofthegods1Introduction: Today we’re starting a brand new series in our ongoing study of the Life of Christ. It’s called “BATTLE OF THE GODS: HOW THE TRINITY CHANGES EVERYTHING.” We’re going to deal with a critical battle that is taking place over the doctrine of the Trinity (God is Father, Son, Spirit, three and yet one). And don’t think for a moment that this will be some deep theological discourse, hard to follow. Each message will be very applicable for our salvation, our church, our marriage, our family, and our world.

John 5   18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

Bridge: Have you ever been misunderstood or misrepresented by somebody? How did you feel? Annoyed, angry, and even amused. It happened to me some time back. I had seen this person many times around town. She was always friendly towards me. We had even talked briefly several times through the years. Then one day our conversation went beyond the pleasantries and she said something about my job at the hospital! I replied – “No ma’am. I work at a church in town.” All this time she assumed that I was a doctor at the local hospital. She thought she knew me but she didn’t. There is one person who is constantly misunderstood and misrepresented more than anyone else in this world. He is God. Even those who claim to believe in Him and talk with Him from time to time don’t really know that He is the Triune God – three persons in one essence. In this series we’re going to learn about this cardinal doctrine of Christianity, the Trinity.

Question: What do you believe about God? When you pray, which God are you praying to? Some Supreme Being or the Triune God? Someone might say – “I really don’t care. God knows my heart even if I don’t have it right.” Would you say that to your spouse or your best friend – “I don’t care to know who you are”? Are you saved? You don’t have to understand the Trinity to be saved but if you are saved, you will believe in the Trinity.

Today’s message is to help us understand the nature and the significance of this Battle of the Gods. 3 questions we will seek to answer:

I. WHY IS THERE A BATTLE OF THE GODS?

18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Background: Monotheism, belief in one God, was a cardinal doctrine of the Old Testament. The first of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” and the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” Throughout the Old Testament God repeatedly reminded His people Israel to remember that He is one. Isaiah 45 says, 5 “I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.” Zechariah 14:9 says, “And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—‘The LORD is one,’ And His name one.” When you read all these passages it makes sense why the Jewish people were angry with Jesus. He not only broke the Sabbath but He clearly referred to God as His Father, making Himself equal with God. In their minds this was a direct assault on the Ten Commandments, the Shema, and their entire Old Testament faith. The only solution for such a crime was the death penalty.

Were they right for wanting to kill Jesus? Of course not. Even though the doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the Old Testament, many passages in the OT tell us that God exists in more than one person.

  • In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”
  • In Genesis 3:22 God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.”
  • In Genesis 11:7 God said,Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language.”
  • In Isaiah 6:8 Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?”
  • In Psalm 45:6-7 the psalmist says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever….Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness….”
  • In Psalm 110:1 David says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’”

The fact that God is one and yet more was always there in the Old Testament.

Here’s a deeper question: Why didn’t God just lay out the doctrine of the Trinity from the beginning? This way there wouldn’t be any battle. 2 reasons why didn’t:

#1. The people of God were not ready for the full exposure of the doctrine of the Trinity. Think about a newborn baby. He/she needs food and nourishment, starting with mother’s milk or bottle milk and then gradually moving up to baby food, which can be nasty. Why don’t we just give the baby a nice juicy steak, with a fork and a knife? The baby is not ready for it. It will even hurt himself/herself. So also the damage the people of God may have done to the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, and the Holy Spirit. In His divine wisdom, God knew that they were not ready for all that information. In His divine mercy, He chose to reveal it slowly and carefully.

#2. God reveals Himself gently and progressively.

I heard someone once say – “Be careful of someone who shares everything about themselves in the first five minutes of your encounter.”

II. WHICH IS THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BATTLE?

Here is the doctrine of the Trinity in three statements:

  1. God is three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  2. Each person is fully God.
  3. There is one God.

I don’t have the time to go through every verse on each point. Error in understanding comes when any of the three statements are denied.

Error #1 God is three separate gods. That’s definitely not true.

Error #2 God is just one person who appears to us in 3 different forms. That’s a heresy called Modalism or Sabellianism.

Error #3 The Son or the Spirit or both are inferior to the Father.

  • The heresy of Arianism claimed that the Son was created by the Father and was not divine.
  • The heresy of subordinationism claimed that the Son was eternal and divine but not equal to the Father in being and attribute. The Son actually derived His being from the Father.
  • The heresy of adoptionism claimed that the Son was not eternal but just a man that God adopted at the baptism. He was not divine.
  • The heresy over the Holy Spirit that claimed that the Holy Spirit came only from the Father. Later it was fixed as the Filioque clause to say that He also came from the Son.

Application: Which side of the battle are you on? Do you have the right view of God?

III. DOES THE BATTLE OF THE GODS MATTER?

It absolutely does!

  1. If Jesus was not fully God, then how could He as just a man bear the wrath of God against all our sins?
  2. If Jesus was not fully God, then we can place our faith in just some human being for our salvation?
  3. If Jesus was not fully God, then how can we worship Him and pray to Him? Yes we can pray to Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:2  “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” 2 Corinthians 12   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.

And yes you can pray to the Holy Spirit because He is God as well.

  1. Because of the Trinity
  • We know that God can relate with us because He has related within Himself since the beginning of time.
  • We understand the unity in a marriage where two come together and become one flesh.
  • We understand the unity in a church where many come together and yet we are one body.
  • We understand the unity between Christ and His church.

Do you know the living and true God? Do you know the Triune God? God wants us to know Him for who He really is

It’s Time to Grow Up by Pastor Abidan Shah

IT’S TIME TO GROW UP by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

itstimetogrowupIntroduction: It’s only been a handful of times that I have opened a message with a remark like – “This is probably one of the most important messages I’ve ever preached.” That could be said about today’s message and you’ll know why real soon. Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 2 for our message titled – “IT’S TIME TO GROW UP.”

Mark 2   18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.

Bridge: How many of y’all have kids or grandkids 1-2 years of age? How do you react when they take their first step from the coffee table to the couch or get their first taste of lemon? You clap for them or ooh and aww over them. Now what if they are 10-20 years of age and still want you to do that? Unless they have some medical condition that is hampering their mental or emotional growth, it’s not the same, is it? Most Christians are 10-20 years or even more in their faith but they still act like they are 1-2 years old. They still want you to clap for them when they spiritually stumble from the coffee table to the couch and they still want you to call them cute when they make spiritually funny faces. In fact, they question your spiritual growth because you can walk without stumbling and have better control over your taste buds.

Context: In the message today we will see how the disciples of John and the Pharisees were shocked that Jesus was eating and drinking at Levi/Matthew’s house with tax collectors and sinners instead of fasting and keeping all the Jewish laws of purification and separation like them. So they came and asked Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” Jesus’s reply was earth shattering!

Before we look at His reply: Are you growing up in biblical and spiritual maturity or are you content with stumbling from the coffee table to the couch? Are you growing up in wisdom and knowledge in Christ or are you content making funny faces tasting lemons? There can’t be growth unless there is birth. Have you been born again? Are you saved?

Jesus’s reply to the disciples of John and the Pharisees can be divided into 3 parts:

I. IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE.

19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

Background: Before the coming of Jesus, the Old Testament prophets and people were preparing themselves with mourning and fasting for the coming of the Messiah. There was no celebration just solemn expectation. Once Jesus came, all that changed. To explain this Jesus invoked the imagery of a wedding celebration.

Illustration: As a pastor, I’ve performed many weddings. Before the wedding, the overall atmosphere is tense. People don’t eat much because they don’t want to overeat and get sick. They are even carefully about drinking because they don’t want to spill something over their nice clothes. There’s always someone who’ll say, “I’ll run to the gas station and get a soda,” and someone is quick to remind him, “The wedding starts in thirty minutes. Better off staying here.” If the bride and groom are getting ready somewhere else, people are constantly looking out the windows and checking their watches to make sure everything is still on time. People pace back and forth. Some stay seated, wringing their hands, and others are afraid to sit and get wrinkles in their clothes. Then as the music starts playing and the grandmothers and mothers are being seated, I am usually huddled quietly with the guys on the other side of the door. Everything is spoken in a whisper and everyone is checking his zipper. Someone without fail says, “I’m ready to get this over with.” The atmosphere is one of fear that something might just go wrong.

Doesn’t that remind you of many churches and Christians? Don’t get too excited, you’ll mess things up. Just be quiet and stay seated. Don’t go anywhere because you might get locked out. Everybody talks in whispers and checks their spiritual zippers. The atmosphere is tense and stressful to say the least. We call it reverence but it has nothing to do with the holiness of God. It misses the true mood of Christianity.

Let’s return to our wedding imagery. What happens once the bride and groom arrive and the wedding is over and reception starts? Everybody is excited. Nobody is quiet. People talk loud. They get food and drinks. No one cares if they get some on themselves. No one checks the zippers anymore. There is laughter and celebration and excitement. What Jesus was saying is – “I’m here. Let the party begin.”

Unfortunately, many church services look more like a funeral service than a wedding celebration and many Christians look like they just buried someone.

For e.g. Two boys were walking by the church. They didn’t know a thing about Christianity and decided to go in and see what went on. After a few minutes, one said to the other – “The people look like someone must have died.” To which the other replied – “You think it’s that man hanging on the cross?”

Now someone might say – “Shouldn’t we have a sense of reverence?” Listen again to Jesus in verse 20 “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” Meaning: Jesus was referring immediately to the cross and then later to His ascension. Either way, the fasting or reverence is one of excitement and personal holiness rather than grief and hopelessness.

Application: Do people see a spirit of celebration in you? Or are you like the little toddler who cries every time mommy leaves the room? Do people see the joy and excitement of Christ in you?

II. IT’S TIME TO STOP MIXING THE OLD WITH THE NEW.

21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse.

Background: There is something else that Jesus was telling these disciples of John and the Pharisees who came to question Him about the party He just had with the tax collectors and sinners at Matthew’s home. He was telling them that you could no longer bring old laws and rituals and mix them with the new life that He has brought. To explain this Jesus invoked the imagery from clothing.

Illustration: I remember growing up having to get patches to put on some pants because they had a tear. This was before all the preshrunk stuff we have today. My grandmother knew how to sow and she made sure that the patch had been soaked and would not shrink anymore. If she didn’t do that, the patch would shrink and pull the pant cloth from all directions. Back in the days of Jesus, the clothes were not as thick and durable as today and the cloth would easily tear. The point is that you cannot take a new cloth and stitch it on some old already shrunk cloth and expect it to work.

What was Jesus saying here? You cannot take the new life that He had brought and stitch on the old way of life of Judaism and expect it to work. It will tear it away. There is no happy middle ground. There is no saving the old. The old piece of garment has served its purpose and has to be retired. You cannot save the old laws and reapply them. You cannot take the old sacrificial system and reapply it. What I am talking about here is probably the most important and difficult matters in the study of the Bible – What to do about the Old Testament?

Does this matter today? There are Christians who get caught up in a lot of unnecessary distraction that has nothing to do with Christianity. Some try to keep the Old Testament dietary laws and rituals and prayers. Others get caught up into the various feasts and festivals of the Jewish people. Some go even further and get caught up into Hebrew names, the Roots of names. There are yet others who are always looking for patterns, number combinations, and secret codes. This is no laughing matter. Some actually deny the Trinity. That is very serious!

Please don’t misunderstand. The Old Testament is our foundation. I preach from it often. There’s much we can learn about how God worked with His individual people back then, something we can’t find in the New Testament. We also learn much about the nature of God from the Old Testament. We learn much about how Christ was promised and prophesied ever since the beginning of time. We learn much about how He worked with His people Israel and He still has many promises waiting for them in the future. In fact, it’s a shame that many Christians totally ignore the Old Testament. Having said that, we can’t go back to that period and start interacting with God as if Christ has not come. That is beyond foolish! In fact, those who fuss over food, the Bible calls him weak. Listen to Romans 14   1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him…8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

Colossians 2   16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Hebrews 9   10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Hebrews 10   1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect…14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Application: Are you trying to mix the Old and the New? Are you fascinated with trivial things instead of focusing on Christ? Do you know Christ more today than yesterday?

III. IT’S TIME TO CHANGE THE CONTAINERS.

22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

Background: There is one more thing that Jesus wanted the disciples of John and the Pharisees to understand. It was this – the container of the truth has to change. To explain this he invoked the imagery of the wine and wineskins. If you know anything about fermentation you’ll understand that it makes the substance enlarge and grow in volume. The old wineskins could not enlarge anymore. If you poured in new wine, the container will burst. It needed a new container that will grow with the fermentation and will be able to withstand the pressure.

What is the point? The doors were always open to the Gentiles before the coming of Christ but there was a certain way you had to come. With the coming of Jesus Christ, the doors have been flung wide open. No laws, purification, rituals, sacrifices, or circumcision is necessary. “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

That’s exactly what we are doing at Clearview. It’s still the gospel wine not water or orange juice or diesel. We still hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, the doctrine of the Trinity, the salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, literal heaven and hell, etc. But we are doing things in a new way. Is it the best way, right way, New Testament way? Who knows? It’s just a new wineskin. One day even this would be done away with. What matters is whether or not you have received Christ as your Savior. That’s why our motto is “MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE.

When God Calls You by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD CALLS YOU by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

when-god-calls-youIntroduction: It’s time for our message, so turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Mark. For those of you who may not know, we’re in our series on the Life of Christ from all 4 gospels. Now before we begin I do have a confession to make. In the past 2 years since we began this series, I have unintentionally neglected one of those four gospels – the Gospel of Mark. So today we turn to Mark 2 for our message – “WHEN GOD CALLS YOU.”

Mark 2   14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. 15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Bridge: How many of y’all remember growing up playing pick up games after school or in the neighborhood? You wanted your name to be called, right? In fact, not having your name called was very embarrassing and painful to say the least.

Context: In this message we will see how Jesus called someone to follow Him who, according to the religious leaders of the day, was unfit to be called. To be more precise, his job made him unfit but according to Jesus He was a perfect fit for God’s kingdom.

Question: There are several calls from God that come in a person’s life. As a Christian, there is the call to discipleship. It’s God’s call to leave all behind and go further with Him? As a Christian, have you heard that call in your life? There’s another call that comes in a Christian’s life – the call to take on a special ministry or work. Don’t misunderstand. This does not necessarily have to be a call to preach. It is a call to join God in doing something to build His kingdom in this world. As a Christian, have you heard that call in your life? But before you get any of these calls, you have to answer the first call that comes in every person’s life – the call to be saved. Have you heard that call? Have you responded to Jesus as your Savior? Are you saved?

This morning we will learn how to respond when God calls you:

I. NATURE OF GOD’S CALL.

14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. People mistakenly assume that this was the first encounter of Jesus with Levi/Matthew. Not necessarily. I believe that Jesus knew Levi/Matthew very well and probably had several conversations with Him.

Let’s back up a little bit and get the whole context starting in verse 13 “Then He went out again by the sea…”

capernaum-aerial

Capernaum Aerial

Background: Where is this “by the sea”? This is Capernaum. As I’ve mentioned before, Nicole and I have been there. It is on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. In ancient times it sat along an important trade route known as the Via Maris (Way of the Sea), which connected Egypt in the South to Syria in the North and Mesopotamia in the East. So people from everywhere passed through Capernaum. Not only that but because of the Sea of Galilee Capernaum was an important port for importing and exporting cargo. This was much more than just a fishing village. It was a big checkpoint

capernaum-ancient

Capernaum Ancient

for customs. This is why, as we will see later on, so many tax collectors/customs officials were there. There was a small Roman garrison in Capernaum. By the way, what else shows up around places like this? Brothels and prostitutes.

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus picked Capernaum to be the base of His early ministry? Why? Because people from everywhere were there, especially the

capernaum-synagogue

Capernaum Synagogue

nonreligious types. 13 “…and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them.” Can you picture Jesus preaching to the multitudes along the countryside? Can you picture Him doing some of His greatest miracles there? Can you picture Him walking by the fishing boats and calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him? Can you picture Him teaching at the local synagogue, which was fairly new, built by a centurion whose servant Jesus healed? Can you picture Him walking through the streets of Capernaum and talking to the people?

The point is this – Jesus was not a stranger in Capernaum anymore. People recognized Him everywhere He went. Most of them had heard Him. Many of them knew someone

capernaum-ruins

Capernaum Ruins

in their family or neighborhoods that were healed by Him. Some of them may have even responded positively to His message. I’m going somewhere with this. When it says in verse 14 that Jesus saw Levi/Matthew and called him and he immediately left all, it does not mean that this was a first encounter. I believe that Jesus knew Levi/Matthew very well and probably had several conversations with Him. I believe that Matthew had probably seen firsthand some of His miracles. He had probably gone to hear Him preach many times. This was not a random call to some random person demanding a spontaneous life-long commitment. God doesn’t work that way.

capernaum-street

Capernaum Street

What kind of a call did Jesus give to Levi/Matthew? Was it a call to salvation? I don’t think so because there’s nothing about belief in Jesus. Was it a call to discipleship, to growth in his faith? I don’t think so because discipleship does not mean that you have to quit your job. What kind of a call was this? It was a specific call that Jesus gave only one other time to people He picked to be His disciples. This was a call to a very specific life. Sometimes I’m amazed at how people flippantly talk about responding to God’s call to do this or that. Then they go out and make a mess out of things and return with their tail between their legs. What happened? I don’t know. I guess I misheard.

Here’s the point: Take the time in prayer to discern God’s call in your life. If God is tugging on your heartstrings this morning and you’ve never given your heart to Jesus, the first call you need to respond to is salvation. If you are saved and God is tugging on your heartstrings again, don’t run out and try to start some ministry. You will become a liability. First, examine your heart for any sin that you are ignoring or covering up. Maybe, God’s call for you is to repent. If you are saved, your sins are fessed up, and you still feel God is tugging on your heartstrings, check God’s Word to see if there is some place in your life that you need to be obedient. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not suggesting that unless all the boxes are checked that you cannot follow God’s call in ministry. That will never happen. I’m just saying that we need to discern God’s call before we respond flippantly.

Application: What is God calling you to do? Receive Jesus as Your Savior or repent of some sin or obey some truth from God’s Word or follow Him in lifelong service?

II. CONFIRMATION OF GOD’S CALL.

15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many…”

Background: We don’t know if it were the same day or a few days later but Levi/Matthew must have asked Jesus – “How would you feel if I organize a big feast (as Luke has it) at my place and invite some of my buddies to come? They probably won’t ever go to a synagogue but they might come to hear you. Just want to forewarn you – Some of them are a little rough around the edges.” You can picture a smile come across Jesus’ face as he replied – “Matthew, that’s why I came.” Matthew probably said – “I figured you’d say that.” Can you picture him going all out for this dinner party to invite all his friends to meet Jesus? I wonder if Jesus helped out? I think He did. I can see Him sweeping the floors, wiping down the tables, and even cleaning the fish.

Feast with Tax Collectors and Sinners

Feast with Tax Collectors and Sinners

They came and it was a party like none other. All lost people gathered around the Son of God having a party. What was the result? “…and they followed Him.” We don’t know the actual implications of “followed Him.” It could mean that they got saved and left their old lifestyles. It could mean that that got saved and gave their gifts to support the ministry of Jesus. It could also mean that they literally followed Jesus like Matthew. Tax collectors were among the literate people in ancient times. As you know Matthew wrote the first gospel. I can almost picture him telling his buddies who followed Jesus to take some notes. Is it any wonder the Matthew’s gospel is the most comprehensive of all 4 gospels?!! Matthew’s call was to go and call others.

Here’s the point: God reaches people through people. We are the instruments of His gospel. As a pastor, I may not be able to reach people that you can reach. They won’t listen to me but they will definitely listen to you. There are many people at Clearview who have come because a friend or neighbor invited them.

Application: Do you invite people to meet Jesus? Do you care about the salvation of your friends and neighbors? When was the last time you invited someone to church? Sometimes people are reluctant to come to church. When was the last time you invited someone to come over for a cookout and shared the good news with them in a non threatening manner?

III. OPPOSITION TO GOD’S CALL.

16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

Background: Tax collectors, even though they were Jewish by ethnicity, were out there with the gentiles and the prostitutes. The Romans had established a system of tolls and customs known as “portoria” all over the empire. Instead of wasting money and manpower to collect these tolls, they would farm them out to the highest bidder. Whoever won the bid would pay the amount set by the Roman government and then whatever he collected would be profit. These were the “telonai” or the “toll collectors” or “tax collectors.” You can just imagine how much this would get abused. Of course, they had the support of their tough guys and soldiers if needed. The people hated them and the religious leaders grouped them with robbers and even the Romans regarded them as brothel keepers (pimps). No religious parent in those would like their child to come home and say – “When I grow up, I’m going to be a tax collector.” Is it any wonder that the scribes and the Pharisees were shocked to see Jesus mingling with them?

What was Jesus’ response? 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Jesus was not saying that the religious leaders were the “righteous” who did not need to be saved. He was being sarcastic. The point was – “It is so much easier to convince an outright sinner that he/she needs to be saved than to convince a church going, Bible-toting, so called Christian that he/she is lost.”

Illustration: A man complained about the amount of time his family spent in front of the TV. His children watched cartoons and didn’t do their schoolwork. His wife watched soap operas instead of doing housework. He said, “I am going to fix the problem. I’m going to pulling the plug as soon as the baseball season’s over.”

Unless you are willing to admit that you are a sinner, you are not ready to be saved. Are you lost? What is God calling you to do? Is He calling you to lead your marriage and your home in His way? Is He calling you to some greater task? Did the Holy Spirit bring someone to your mind that you need to bring to Christ

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Downtrodden) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters4Introduction: For the past 3 weeks we’ve been in our series through the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” In this 4th and final message we’re about to meet a man who had been sick for 38 years, desperately waiting for someone to help him find healing. By the time Jesus found him he had given up all hope.

John 5   5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

Bridge: Do you know someone who’s in a hopeless situation? Humanly speaking there is no way out for them physically, mentally, or emotionally. Maybe its because of some decision or choice they made earlier in their life or maybe its through no fault of their own. It doesn’t matter. When you think of hopelessness, your mind immediately goes towards this person and you say something like – “I feel so sorry for him or her…”

Context: In this message we will meet such an individual – a sick downtrodden person who had been in a debilitating situation for almost 4 decades and had lost all hope in life. You know by now that we have been looking at 4 individuals between the two bracket passages in the gospel of John – John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 & 41. In these passages Jesus describes the sinful and fickle nature of human beings and how He did not need their endorsement. He only came for their salvation. He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. I do need to point out that unlike the previous 3 encounters, this one has an unusual ending.

Question: Do you believe that there’s hope for the hopeless? Do you believe that Jesus has the power to bring life where there’s death? Do you know someone who has lost all hope in life? Are you that someone? Are you saved?

2 questions again. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your life.

I. WHO WAS THIS CRIPPLED MAN?

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. What was the purpose of this pool? Maybe it was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple. Either way, whether the sheep went by the pool or went into the pool, you can just imagine how filthy this area would’ve been. Upper class people would’ve avoided this pool but not Jesus.

Application: Sometimes you have to cross your personal boundaries and go into areas that may not be quite clean or up to your standards in order to reach people.

But there’s something special about this pool. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. What does that mean? 4 “For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” Some translations claim that this was not part of the earliest manuscripts. My research indicates that it should be included in the text. John is giving us a folk belief about the pool from that period. Personally, I think it was some kind of a hot spring or mineral bath that gave it some health benefits. In fact, after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, they turned into a healing sanctuary to the god Asclepius.

5 “Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.”

There’s enough in that statement to create a profile of this person:

  • How old was he? Sometimes people automatically assume that he was born this way and must be 38 years old. 38 years is how long this man had been sick. There’s nothing in the text that indicates that he was born this way. I think that he must’ve been an adult at the time of this permanent injury or sickness. We’re going to see in a moment that he had actually done something bad to cause his infirmity. If I were to guess his age, it would be somewhere in the late 50s to early 60s bracket.
  • What was his infirmity? It must’ve been some kind of a paralysis because he could not get himself into the pool fast enough. You can imagine the pain and the filth he was in.
  • What caused his infirmity? Maybe he got injured at work. Maybe someone hurt him. Based on Jesus’s final words to him, I think it may have been a very different reason. 14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” “Worse” indicates that his condition was a result of some sin. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. So it was not just the physical pain of the infirmity that he was dealing with. More than likely he was also dealing with a mental pain of the infirmity – lot of regret and shame over his bad past.
  • What was his condition when Jesus found him? “When Jesus saw him lying there…” Sometimes people assume that he was lying at the pool 38 years. There is nothing in the text that supports that. He may have been at the pool for 30 years or 3 years or 3 months. We don’t know for sure. One thing we do know is that he was all by himself. Listen again – “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Maybe his parents brought him there. Maybe his siblings brought him there. Maybe his wife and children brought him there. But, for some reason they had all left him to fend for himself. Why? Maybe they were embarrassed of him. May be that they had given up on him. Maybe they got tired of trying to help him. We can only conjecture but I picture him angry, bitter, and frustrated. Maybe like a prison inmate he had become institutionalized.

Do you know people like this? Something painful has happened in their life. Some kind of a trauma has happened in their life. Maybe they are even responsible for their predicament but now they are bitter, angry, and frustrated with life. They are all alone, cynical, and pessimistic.

Application: How do you treat such people? Do you show mercy to them? Are you compassionate to people around you? You never know what people are going through.

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?

6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” Jesus not only noticed him but also treated him with dignity. Not only that but Jesus saw the hopelessness in his eyes and offered him hope. Just like Jesus Christians should be hope carriers in this world. Listen to Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

What was the man’s response? 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” He did not answer the question he was asked. Jesus had not asked him – “So, how does all this work?” Here’s the point: Don’t expect lost people to immediately understand the meaning and the power of the gospel.

What was Jesus’ response? 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” The Bible does not say it but based on Jesus’s previous interactions, the man more than likely believed that Jesus was able to heal him. There’s something very important I need to point out: Can you hear the authority in Jesus’s words? If there’s one thing that is definitely lacking in the church and Christians today is authority. We have plenty of gimmicks and gadgets. We have plenty of books and knowledge. We just don’t have the boldness to say with Peter and John when they said to the lame man sitting by the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem in Acts 3:6 “…Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

What was the result? 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

Now there’s a twist to the narrative: And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! What was his answer? 11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.

Unlike the other miracle narratives, there’s another twist here14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” This man did not know Jesus but He believed in His miracle giving power. The Bible does not say that he got saved. Did he or did he not get saved? I believe that he did because he did not just run home or back to his old life. He went to the temple and Jesus came looking for him. Jesus being God knew this man’s past and warned him not to return to that life again. 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

Jesus had a higher purpose in His encounter with the crippled man. He not only wanted to heal this man physically, emotionally, and spiritually but He also wanted to expose the sinfulness and the hard heartedness of the religious leaders. The punch line of the account is not that the man believed but that the religious leaders didn’t believe. They did not care for the lost and the hurting.

Illustration: Sometime back a little boy was born. Six months before his birth his father died and then 6 years later his mother died. His paternal grandfather raised him for 2 years and then he also died. Now 8 years old, his uncle had custody of him. Between the years of 9 and 12, he travelled with his uncle on many business trips and had the opportunity to see many churches. He even met and talked to a pastor but never truly heard the gospel. Unfortunately, the state of the church at the time was very schismatic and sectarian. Christians were arguing and fussing about everything imaginable. In fact, later this boy got married and began having n ightmares, which he wrote down in a book. In the same book he also wrote about his misguided understanding of Christianity. He thought the Trinity was Father, Son, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. He even talked about how the Christians “vainly dispute.” (Sura 19:34) and how the “people have cut off their affair (of unity) between them, into sects: Each party rejoices in that which is with itself.” (Sura 23:53) Long story short – this boy was Mohammad. The religion he founded was Islam and the book he wrote was the Koran. What would have happened if those Christians and the pastors had focused on the pain of this boy and shared the gospel with him?

Are we bringing hope to the hopeless? Do you need hope through Jesus Christ?

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (the Doubter) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 3 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters3-doubterIntroduction: This is the third message in our series “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” It’s about a well-to-do man who seemed to have it all until his little boy became gravely ill and only a miracle could save him. In desperation this man came to Jesus but he had a problem. He was a doubter. He had trouble believing in Jesus.

John 4   46 “…there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” 49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.”

Bridge: As many of you know, I am one of the chaplains at our local hospital. I get many interesting responses when I walk into a room. Here are the 3 common ones: first, the “praise Jesus” response – I can tell right away they love Jesus. They know that God will bring them through and they are glad to have me pray for them. I walk away blessed! Second, the “we’ve been out of church lately” response – they’re kind of glad I came but they feel embarrassed and guilty for neglecting God. Third is an interesting response. I call it the “I guess you couldn’t make it in to med school?” response. All smart Indians become medical doctors. What happened to you? They doubt anything that is not strictly medical and scientific. They see me as a hack, a shyster, and a con, who manipulates people’s insecurities for a living. Some of them don’t even want me to pray for them.

Context: The individual we’ll meet today would probably fall into this last category. Keep in mind that we’re examining 4 individuals between the two bracket verses in John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 and 41. So far we’ve examined the first two – Nicodemus, a religious man and the Samaritan woman, an outcast. Today we will look at the third one, a rich doubter and next weekend, the last one, a sick hopeless patient. Again, these were four very different people from different walks of life with different needs. Each of them had an encounter with Jesus, the Master Soul Winner. He met them right where they were, shared the gospel with them in a way they could understand, and left them transformed.

Question: Do you know some doubter in your life? Maybe it’s a family member, a son or daughter who went off to college and came back full of doubts. Maybe it’s a friend or a coworker that you get along with in every way except when it comes to your beliefs. This message will help you understand how to reach them. Maybe you are that person who is having trouble believing. You’re not saved. You need Christ. Or maybe you are saved but lately you’ve been struggling with doubts. This message is for you.

Let the Holy Spirit speak to you whomever you are:

I. WHO WAS THIS NOBLEMAN? 

46 “So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine.

Background: After leaving Samaria, Jesus continued north towards Cana of Galilee and word got out that Jesus, the miracle worker, had returned. “And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.” In just that short statement we have plenty to create a profile of this man:

  • He was a Nobleman – The Greek word is “basilikos” which is an adjective that means “royal.” He was not a king because the designation would’ve been “basileus.” It implies that he worked for the king. Don’t misunderstand – he was much more than just a servant because he had servants, as will see later on. All this tells us that he was an important man.
  • He was from Capernaum – This also helps us to understand who was the king that he worked for. It could not be the Roman Emperor because Tiberius Caesar would not appoint someone that important and put him in Capernaum, a fishing town on the Sea of Galilee. More than likely, this was Herod Antipas, King Herod’s son, the tetrarch or administrator of Galilee. He was the one who fell in love with Herodias his half-brother Philip’s wife and John the Baptist called him out on his open adulterous behavior and Antipas had John thrown into prison. Later, he was so swept away by the provocative dance of Salome, Herodias’ daughter, that he gave the order to cut off John the Baptist’s head. If this nobleman worked for Antipas, more than likely he was like just his master – immoral, and cruel.
  • By the way, Jesus called Herod Antipas a “fox.” He tried to see Jesus and wanted to kill him. Later he mocked Jesus at the final trial. Again, if this man worked for Herod Antipas, just like his boss, he didn’t have a very high view of Jesus.
  • Listen to verse 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him…” He went from Capernaum to Cana, which is about 16 miles, a day’s journey. It was uphill because Capernaum was about 700 feet below sea level. Maybe, he walked or maybe he rode his horse. Why? Because his boy was dying with some kind of fever. He may have been a bad person working for a bad man but he was a good father who loved his son and would do anything for him.

Do you know when most people look for God? When they are in some crisis – health, relationships, or finances.

Application: Do you know someone like that? They are confident and smug and self-sufficient until their world caves in. As they are sinking, they look up for someone to help them. This is not the time to pat them on the back and say – “Be patient. It’ll be okay. Just hang in there. Everything will be fine.” Be ready to throw them the rope of the gospel. Unfortunately, many Christians have played interference against me trying to reach such people in need with the gospel. This is the moment when you should let the Holy Spirit lead you to help them come to Christ.

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?

47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Jesus’ response sounds so out of character and even somewhat hateful and insensitive. Here’s a father coming to Him begging for healing for his son and Jesus seems to be having a bad day! What’s going on? Jesus knew the heart of this man. He saw his unbelief and hard-heartedness. So He confronted him with the truth about himself. You cannot come to Jesus with unbelief in your heart and expect Him to listen to you. Listen to Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

What is his response? 49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” Can you hear the change in his tone? Now he referred to Jesus as “Sir” or “Lord” or “Master.” Can you also see how he referred to his own son? He called him “my little child.” The Bible does not tell us the real reason why he came in the first place. Maybe his wife told him to or his parents (child’s grandparents) told him to or his friends told him to. Jesus wanted him to come because he wanted to.

Now listen to Jesus’ command: 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” It’s amazing how Jesus, the Master Soul Winner meets people right where they are! This man is used to ordering people and now Jesus ordered him. What is his response? “So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him…” By the way, did you notice the subtle change in the text? No longer is he referred to as a nobleman but simply as a man. Meaning: Your pedigree, your achievements, and your titles are nothing before God. “You are who you are by the grace of God.”

What’s next? “…and he went his way.” Meaning: He believed and obeyed. What if he hadn’t believed? What if hadn’t gone? Would his son still be healed? The answer is in the following verse – 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” 52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father… By the way, notice again the subtle change from just the “man” to the “father.” There is a softness coming in his demeanor. That’s what God does for us. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” Meaning: Yes his son would have been healed either way.

What’s the point? People get all bent out of shape when I say – “God does hear the prayers of unbelievers.” You can be lost and pray and if its in God’s will, He may answer you. Why does He do that? As Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, our Father in heaven “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Meaning: Anytime something good happens in this world, it is from the one and only living true God. Why does God do that? I have a theory. On the Day of Judgment when people will claim that if God had only done something good for them, they would’ve received Jesus. Then God will reveal to them how many times He blessed them and they still rejected Him. Every mouth will be silenced before Him.

How does it all end? “And he himself believed, and his whole household.” Crisis is the perfect opportunity to bring people to Christ, to turn their doubts into faith. Do you know someone like that? Pray for them. Are you that someone who is struggling with doubts? Bring your struggles to Him and try Him.

In closing, I don’t know about you but I’ve often wondered what happened to this man and his family from Capernaum. Did they continue in the faith? Did that little boy become a witness for Christ, maybe a leader in the church at Capernaum? In the gospels we find that initially Capernaum was the base of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee. Nicole and I have been there and seen Simon Peter’s house. This was where Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew to follow Him. He did many great miracles in this village. But sadly, His final words were not very promising. Matthew 11   23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

Conclusion: I remember it just like yesterday. It was about 7 or so in the morning. Dad was shaving. I was getting ready for school. There was a knock on the door and this young man was standing there – “Pastor, please come quickly. My niece is dying. Not sure what’s happening but we need you to come and pray.” My dad didn’t even finish shaving and immediately went to the hospital. The family was in the waiting room, crying and sobbing. He walked into the room and there was the mom and dad weeping as they watched their little girl breathe her last breaths. The Holy Spirit led him to tell the parents to step out of the room with him. Then he told them – “I am here to pray for your child’s healing but before I do that, you need to surrender your lives to God wholeheartedly.” Between tears and cries, they promised and he prayed. As he was praying, they heard footsteps running and doctors and nurses flocking into the room. They thought it was all over. Few minutes later the doctor came out and said – “Not sure what’s going on but the fever’s gone, she’s sitting up, and asking for her parents.” Her first words were – “I’m hungry. Can I have some bread to eat?” It was an answer to prayers, a miracle. The couple thanked my dad and promised to be in church from that day on. They came the very next week, and then the next month, then a few more months, and then they came here and there. Then you would seem them once or twice a year. Finally, they stopped coming. Couple of years ago I asked my dad about that family. He told me that the girl is married and has children but they have no use for God. How typical of human beings…We get what we want from God and we conveniently forget to keep our word. If you are a believer living with doubts, look back and take an account of what God has done for you, from where He has brought you

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Outcast) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

encounters2_outcastIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner had an encounter with Jesus.

John 4   3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

Bridge: Have you ever been thirsty, I mean “really thirsty?” Maybe it was after cutting grass on a hot day or after a long walk or playing a sport, you were parched! People drink all kinds of drinks to quench their thirst but there’s no substitute to a glass of cool water.

Context: In the passage we just read, Jesus used the imagery of thirst to convey the gospel to a woman of Samaria. Keep in mind that in this series we’re looking at 4 individuals between the two brackets in John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 and 41. The first individual was a religious man named Nicodemus (we met him last weekend), the second individual was a woman of Samaria with an embarrassing past (we’re going to meet her today), the third individual was a brash rich man, and the fourth was a sick hopeless patient. Four very different people from different walks of life and Jesus, the Master soul winner did not use some one size fits all approach with them. Instead, He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel in a way they could understand, and left all four of them transformed. Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner woman from Samaria had an encounter with Jesus that changed her destiny forever.

Question: How do you see people? Do you only notice their skin pigmentation or the kind of clothes they wear or the background they come from? Or do you take the time to see below the surface, try to understand them, and meet them where they are? Do you see the thirst in their hearts for the Living Water? Are you the one who is thirsty for the Living Water? Are you the one who needs an encounter with Jesus?

In this message we will meet the woman of Samaria. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

I. WHO WAS THE SAMARITAN WOMAN? 

3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.

Background: On the map of Israel, Judea is in the South and Galilee is in the North. There has been much debate over why Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Was it for theological reasons or geographical reasons? Was it because He wanted to reach out to the Samaritans with the gospel or was it because it was the easiest, quickest, and safest route through a Roman territory? I personally think that it was simply for geographical reason. By the way, you often hear things like – “The Jewish people back then would not have gone through Samaria.” That’s not true. We have plenty of evidence that they did.

Here’s the point: Sometimes we expect God to direct us through some supernatural impulse and intuition. That’s not always the case. Many times God simply uses the ordinary, mundane, and common sense decisions of life. Don’t always be talking about how you had this feeling that you had to do this and that and God showed up. Many times it is just the simple choices of life that God uses to do the amazing.

5 “So He came to a city of Samaria…”

Background: Right there we can begin constructing the profile of this woman:

  • Samaritans – Just like the Pharisees, there is considerable debate over who were the Samaritans. If you were to ask the Samaritans (only about a thousand exist today in Israel), they would tell you that they are the direct descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that Israel began to depart from God during the time of Eli, the high priest. Remember Eli who saw Hannah praying and thought that she was drunk but God blessed her with a child named Samuel? This Eli, they claim, messed things up by moving the worship center of Israel from Gerizim to Shiloh. They’ll tell you that they, the worshippers at Gerizim, are the original Israel.

But if you read the Bible you get a different account. It’s found in 2 Kings 17 when God sent the Assyrian Empire against the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples under which they would take the people from the conquered territory and move them to another part of the empire and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Listen to 2 Kings 17:24 “Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel…” These people somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were not resettled. So the Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. You can sense the tension between them in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah when the Jewish people tried to rebuild the temple and the city walls. The Samaritans tried to sabotage their building projects. There’s more that I can go into but if this woman was a Samaritan, she has a historical religious chip on her shoulder.

  • Verse 5 “So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” Meaning: This was not just any part of Samaria but a special place in Samaria. She probably had a sense of spiritual pride. Do you know people like that who have spiritual pride but they still haven’t encountered Jesus?
  • Verse 6 “Now Jacob’s well was there…” Archaeology takes us to a deeper level of understanding here. Jacob’s well is a deep well near Shechem. It is still there to this day. But Sychar, the best archaeologists can tell, is probably near the modern day Arab village of Askar, which is 1 mile from Shechem. Ancient sources tell us that there was a spring there in Sychar. So the question is why did she come to Jacob’s well if there was one right where she lived? 6 “…Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Noontime is not the time to draw water. Could it be that she was searching for the God who met Jacob in the wilderness?
  • Verse 7 “…Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. She is an outspoken, fearless woman, and truthful!
  • By the way, later we will also learn that she had been through 5 marriages and was working towards number 6 now! I think if she hadn’t met Jesus, she would have gone beyond Elizabeth Taylor’s record of 7 men, 8 marriages! This means she was an independent woman who didn’t care what anyone thought of her. By the way, don’t think that she was a prostitute. They were her husbands.

Application: Do you know some Samaritan women or men? Do you judge them or pray for them? Do you like Jesus try to reach them with the gospel or do you run the other direction from them?

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HER? 

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Again, what’s amazing to me is that Jesus used His surroundings as a lead in to the gospel! She’s at the well and Jesus offered her the living water. Also, He did not get offended by her tone. Be prepared for people to lash out at you. Love them anyways.

What’s her response? 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir…” Now she’s talking to Him with a little more respect. “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” Just like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman has no clue what Jesus was talking about. Once again, don’t assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo. 12 “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Now she turns into a lay theologian and even defensive over her people’s beliefs. Don’t underestimate people’s personal beliefs.

John 4:13   Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Meaning: Jesus is talking about a whole different kind of thirst, not physical but soul thirst. Not only that but that Jesus is offering is not just running water but a fountain of water. Later in John 7 Jesus gave the identity of the spring, this fountain 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive. All this will lead to the same eternal life that Jesus promised Nicodemus. But even more than what He told Nicodemus – this life will be abundant, continuing, and self-replenishing!

Listen to her response – 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Either she still does not understand or she is being sarcastic or she is just being skeptical. 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” Don’t misunderstand – Jesus was not talking down to her. He was simply revealing to her His omniscience. When you draw closer to the light, you will see the blemishes in the light. But please don’t mistake this for salvation. Here’s a greater point: If the Christ you’ve met does not know you through and through, you’ve got the wrong Christ. Listen to the woman’s response – 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Meaning: Now she has elevated Jesus’s status from a common Jewish man to a prophet.

Listen to Jesus’s response – 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” What’s her response? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. Many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus. Listen to what they said to her – 42 “…Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

ethel-waters-and-billy-graham

Ethel Waters and Billy Graham

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters

Conclusion: When I was preparing for this message, I couldn’t help but think of Ethel Waters, Black singer from the early part of the twentieth century. Her mother was raped at knifepoint at the age of 13. Of her childhood she said, “No one raised me; I just ran wild. I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” She went through extreme poverty, daily hunger, stealing, and shuffled from one place to another. She got married at 12 and that was a very abusive relationship. But by the age of 17 she entered show business as a singer and dancer. She won awards and sang on Broadway. She was the first black singer on a coast-to-coast radio show and even made it into the movies. In 1929, she was making $1250 a week! But something was missing in her life. One day in 1957 she walked down the aisle at a Billy Graham Crusade in Madison Square Gardens, New York City. She began to sing for the Billy Graham Evangelist Crusade. Her most famous song was “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” But one thing she often said – “I know I’m somebody because God don’t make no junk.”

Are you bringing people to Jesus, the Savior of the World? Have you had an encounter with Him? Are you still thirsting for something?

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