Discipleship 3: Together by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – TOGETHERNESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Together

Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Resources, did a Twitter survey sometime back on the really strange reasons people give for not attending church. Here are a few of my favorites:“We were out of peanut butter.” “My wife cooked bacon for breakfast, and our entire family smelled like bacon.” “The pastor stays in the Bible too much.” “The worship leader pulls up his pants too often. It’s distracting.” “The church is too close to drive, and too far to walk.” “We got burned out at church and have been taking a break for the past seven years.” I’ve been pastoring this church, my only church, for the past 20 years and I’ve met people who are always looking for reasons to skip church. Today’s message is on the importance of togetherness in discipleship. You can grow alone in a flower pot for only so long. True and ultimate discipleship is long term and it happens only in the soil of community. You need others to be a true disciple.

Acts 2   42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Question: The early church understood the value of togetherness. Do you understand the importance of being together in the body of Christ? Are you a part of the body of Christ? Are you saved? What binds us together is the same Holy Spirit? Is he in you?

Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. We’ve already looked at the first two letters W and A and, in this message, we will focus on the third letter T = Togetherness. 3 main things we need to understand about Togetherness:

 I. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS TRAINED IN TOGETHERNESS BY JESUS.

Background:When people read in Acts about how the early church was together, loving and caring for one another, and putting each other first, they assume that it was some organic movement that just happened. Not true. For e.g.When you watch your favorite ball team play a great game, you know that it didn’t just happen. You know that the coach has been training them.So also, Coach Jesus had been training his disciples on the importance of being together and they were simply living it out.

I want us to look at a major training session that Jesus had with his disciples towards the close of his ministry. You remember in John 13, after the Last Supper, how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Itwas unthinkable for a master to wash his disciples’ feet.Peter even tried to stop Jesus but he warned him that this was a must if he was going to be his disciple. Why was this so important? Listen carefully to how Jesus explained to them the meaning of what he had done for them – 12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 14If I then, yourLord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”Don’t misunderstand:This was much more than “Y’all get along when I’m gone. Wash each other’s feet until I return.” Listen carefully –34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Loving one another was the mark of a disciple before the watching world. The key words here are “one another.” I can wash my own feet but that is not keeping this commandment, that is not proving my discipleship before the watching world. I can even try to wash the feet of the world (feed the hungry, house the homeless, take care of the needy) but that is still not keeping this commandment and proving my discipleship before the watching world. This commandment can only be obeyed in the context of “one another.” This is why the early church was doing what they were doing!

Application:If you are a disciple of Christ, the same commandment applies to you. Do you love others in the body of Christ? Do you care to prove your discipleship to the watching world?

II. IT IS NATURAL FOR DISCIPLES TO NEGLECT TOGETHERNESS. 

Background:Very early on in the church’s life, the disciples began to drift away from each other. They forgot Jesus’ commandment of being together. A major evidence for this is found in the book of Hebrews. By the way, a key phrase in this book is “let us.”Listen to chapter 10verse 22let usdraw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let ushold fast the confession of ourhope without wavering, for He who promisedisfaithful. 24And let usconsider one anotherin order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, asisthe manner of some, but exhortingone another,and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Why did the writer of Hebrews have to exhort the early Christians to keep meeting? Or why did the early Christians stop meeting? I believe for the same reasons that Christians or disciples stop meeting even today. Here are a few that I’ve come across:

  • I don’t have to be in church in order to be a Christian.If you say that, you do not understand what the church is. It is not a building. In fact, it is described in different ways. Paul gives several ways in his letter to the Ephesians. He calls it the body of Christ.Ephesians 1 22And He gave Him(Christ)to behead over allthingsto the church, 23which is His body…” What if I told you, “I love you very much but I hate your body”? Other times, he calls it the family of Jesus. Ephesians 2:19“…you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your family”? Sometimes, he calls the church the bride/wife of Christ. Ephesians 5:25“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your wife”?
  • I’m very busy and Sunday is my only day off.We always find time for things that are important. Time is not the problem. Understanding is. If you understanding the value of being with other believers, you will make time for it. Also, we have services several times on Sunday mornings and even on Saturday evenings.
  • There are a lot of hypocrites in church.What’s your point? In fact, what better place for hypocrites to be than at church where they can hear the truth. By the way, be careful about pointing fingers at others. As a pastor once said to someone who said that – “Come on in. We have room for one more.”
  • I did until something bad happened to me.I’m very sorry for what happened to you. This is one I do understand. When I first came here from India, I went to church. Little did I expect what was about to happen or not happen. This church was known as a good church and bible believing church but no one shook my hand. I was so hurt that I didn’t go to church for almost 2 years. God had to use circumstances and people to bring me back. Here’s my encouragement to you – When you stop going for one reason or another, no matter how legitimate your reason is, you are no longer able to demonstrate your discipleship.

Application:What is your reason for rejecting togetherness with other disciples? Are you willing to give that hurt to God and forgive that person or church and let God prove your discipleship before the watching world?

III. TOGETHERNESS IS A MEASURING STICK FOR DISCIPLESHIP. 

In the first message in this series on discipleship, I explained to you how Jesus moved people through 3 concentric circles.Outside the circles was the CROWD, the vast majority who were not following Jesus. Then came the first circle, the CONGREGATION.These were the multitudes that followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Then came the second circle,theCOMMUNITY. These were the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 from Luke 10as well. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Finally came the third circle, the CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. From these, Jesus expected much more. What I want you to understand is that to each of this groups Jesus had a different call:

  • To the crowd, it was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • To the multitudes, it was “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
  • To the disciples, it was “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • To the inner circle, it was “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

This applies to us today:

  • Crowd (people out in our neighborhood, workplaces, friends) – get saved
  • Congregation (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) – commit yourself;
  • Community (disciples – Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Studies) – love one another, learn to be together;
  • Circle (Accountability groups) – help each other.

Invitation:Which group do you belong to? Do you understand the value of togetherness? What are you doing to move through these circles? Are you saved?

Discipleship 2: Accountable by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – ACCOUNTABILITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Accountable

Introduction: About 9 years ago, Nicole and I decided to take our kids out west. Many of you know that I love the Old West. So, we drove all the way through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and came back through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and all those states. It was a fun trip except for one part. When we left Estes Park, Colorado, we had 2 choices: go the long way on the interstate to Utah or take the short way through the Rockies. Of course, I chose the short scenic route. Thirty minutes into the trip we realized that it was a big mistake. The scenery was gorgeous but the road was narrow without any guard rails and sheer drop on either side. I’d never been so nervous in my life. Thank God we made it safely.Here’s the point: Accountability is like guardrails on the road of discipleship. It is imperative for a disciple to have someone in life of the same gender who is trustworthy, mature, and godly, and willing to question your bad behaviors and encourage your good behaviors on a regular basis.

Mark 6:7“And He called the twelve toHimself,and began to send them out twobytwo, and gave them power over unclean spirits.”

Luke 10:1“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.

Question: Both with the 12 disciples and then with the 70 disciples, Jesus sent them out two by two. He paired them up, among other reasons, to hold each other accountable. If you are a disciple, who do you have in your life who holds you accountable? Who is willing to question your bad behavior and encourage your good behavior? No accountability = no guardrails down the steep mountain of life. It’s a matter of time. Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym – W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. Last weekend we looked at the first letter W = WITNESSES and today we will look at the second letter A = Accountability. 2 main things we need to understand about Accountability:

I. JESUS KNEW THE VALUE OF ACCOUNTABILITY.

Background:To start with, the 2 verses we just read: In Mark 6, Jesus sent out the 12 disciples with power over unclean spirits. That’s incredible power but it did not cancel out the need for accountability. He sent them two by two. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out the 70 disciples and they came back rejoicing that even the demons were subject to them in his name. That’s again incredible power but again it did not cancel out the need for accountability because again he sent them two by two. We also find 2 instances when Jesus sent his disciples to do some very important tasks. The first was to bring a donkey so he could ride into Jerusalem and fulfill a very important prophecy. Listen to Luke 19:29“And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, thatHe sent two of His disciples.” Couple of days later he wanted to eat a very important meal with his disciples before the cross. Listen to Luke 22    7Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.8And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”

There’s one more very important example of how Jesus valued accountability.When Matthew and Luke recorded the names of the disciples, they put them in the pairs with minor differences. Matthew 10   2Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the sonof Zebedee, and John his brother; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the sonof Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” By the way, later, the accountability group waschanged – Acts 1:13“And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; Jamesthe sonof Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judasthe sonof James.” More than likely, Jesus reassigned them.

By the way, the early church in the Book of Acts continued the same pattern of accountability established by Jesus. Acts 3:1“Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer…”and healed the man born lame.Acts 13:2As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” In Acts 15 there was a contention between Paul and Barnabas over taking John Mark with them because he had gone AWOL in the middle of ministry. Nonetheless, Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas. Later Paul took Timothy and Titus with him. Then there were other pairs like Silas and Timothy and Timothy and Erastus. Here’s the point: Accountability is not a 21stcentury concept. It was something that was valued greatly by Jesus and the early church. Bill Hull in his book The Disciple Making Pastor says this about accountability in making disciples – “To believe you can make disciples or develop true maturity in others without some form of accountability is like believing that you can raise children without discipline, run a company without rules, or lead an army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train.”

Question: If Jesus emphasized the value of accountability and the early church practiced it, why is that we are reluctant to practice accountability in our lives?

II. THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUE AND FALSE ACCOUNTABILITY.

There are reasons why Christians are reluctant to have accountability in their lives:

  1. False understanding of Accountability:
  2. Coming to church is not accountability. Coming to church is about fueling our faith. Accountability is about guarding our steps. Coming to church is about celebration as a family. Accountability is about reflection on our personal walk. Coming to church is about soul uplifting. Accountability is about soul searching. Also, Sunday School or Bible Study is not accountability either because they are not the place for hard questions, honest answers, and trusted confidentiality.
  3. Controlling others is not accountability. Invading privacy, legalistic rules, and manipulative tactics are not biblical accountability. True accountability doesn’t seek to keep people depended on you. True accountability is freeing and uplifting.
  4. Lack of understanding of the benefits of Accountability:

Sin came into the world when Adam failed to be the accountability partner to his wife. Satan isolated her and then overpowered her. For married people, your spouse should be the first ring of accountability and then someone of the same gender who is trustworthy, mature, and godly. Listen to what the wise King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4    9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic book Life Togethersaid, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.”

Don’t think of the benefits of accountability as only negative. Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”1 Thessalonians 5:11“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”

Application:Do you understand the benefits of biblical accountability? Let me ask it differently, “Are you struggling with some sin that you can’t seem to free yourself from?“Are you struggling to grow in your spiritual walk?”

What’s the next step?

  1. Accept the Importance of Biblical Accountability. Saddest thing for me as a pastor is to see is good men and women fall apart due to lack of accountability or false accountability. Do you have any guardrails in your life?

Note: Being someone’s guardrail will also keep your from going off the edge.

  1. Be willing to sacrifice. This may require getting up early and meeting with a couple of guys. This may require getting together with a couple of ladies at lunch. You don’t have to come to church for this. It can happen right where you are.
  2. Pray. Ask God to show you the right person/people to help you stay accountable.
  3. Be Patient.Robby Gallaty said, “Finding individuals whom we can trust is not an overnight process— it takestime to develop the kind of trust where deep secrets can be shared with confidence and confidentiality.”
  4. Become a Disciple. Unless you are saved, you do not have the most important accountability partner, the Holy Spirit. He confronts and comforts.

Discipleship 1: Witnesses by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP 1 – WITNESSES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship 1

Introduction:  If your family is like ours, after surfing the channels or Netflix for 30 minutes, we usually settle for some classic show. For me, it is the Andy Griffith show. One of my favorite episodes is the one where Opie starts talking about his new friend “Mr. McBeevee” who he describes as wearing a shining hat, walking about in the treetops, jingling as if he was wearing bells, and blowing smoke out of his ears. At first, Andy laughs it off to just a kid having an imaginary friend until Opie comes up with a quarter saying that Mr. McBeevee gave it to him. Now Andy gets concerned and tells Opie to tell the truth that Mr. McBeevee was just make believe. Opie refuses and asks Andy, “Don’t you believe me Pa? Don’t you Pa?” At first Andy is upset and disappointed but then his expression changes and he says, “I believe you.” Of course, Barney is upset at Andy for going along with Opie and he asks him, “Do you believe in Mr. McBeevee?” Andy responds, “No, but I believe in Opie.” Later on, it comes out that Mr. McBeevee was a telephone repair man, climbing up and down trees with a belt of equipment jingling as he walked. So also, Christians are people who have seen Christ through the eyes of faith. They are witnesses to Christ. They cannot help but talk about what they have seen. The world has trouble believing us but it’s only through our testimony that they can meet Christ. That’s our message today in our series on discipleship.

Acts 1    4And being assembled together withthem,He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,”He said,“you have heard from Me; 5for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Question:If you’re a disciple, you’re a witness to Christ. You should be able to describe 3 things – 1. What was life like before you met Christ. 2. What happened that changed your life, how Christ saved you. 3. What is your life like since Christ saved you? Can you describe these 3 things? Are you a witness to Christ? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

I. IT’S NOT A FORMULA BUT A TESTIMONY.

Context: Last weekend I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym – W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. In the next few weeks we will look at each of these attributes. Today we begin with WITNESSES. 4 things we need to understand about being a WITNESS:

Background: When Christians or church people hear the word “witness” or “witnessing,” they equate that with an evangelism program for sharing the gospel like CWT, EE, FAITH, Sharing Jesus Without Fear, Romans Road, NET, 4 Spiritual Laws. This was not the case with the first disciples. When Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8“…and you shall be witnesses to Me…” he meant witnesses as in “eye-witnesses.” Listen to what he said in Luke 24   46“…Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And you are witnessesof these things.” So, a witness was someone who had seen the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and had received the commission from Christ to preach repentance and remission (forgiveness or cancellation) of sins in his name to all nations. In fact, throughout the Book of Acts, the disciples are called witnesses:

  • Acts 2:32“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are allwitnesses.”
  • Acts 4:33“And with great power the apostles gavewitnessto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…”
  • Acts 5:32“And we are Hiswitnessesto these things, andsoalsoisthe Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
  • Acts 13:31“He (Jesus) was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are Hiswitnessesto the people.”
  • Acts 23:11But the following night the Lord stood by him (Paul) and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witnessat Rome.”

I can go on and on but the point is this – if we call ourselves disciples, we are witnesses like the first disciples of what Jesus has done for us. There is a difference – the disciples were EYE witnesses and we are FAITH witnesses

Application: What have you witnessed? How was life before Jesus? What has Jesus done for you? How is life since Jesus?

II. IT’S NOT A DESTINATION BUT A MINDSET. 

Background: When Christians or church people hear the word “witnessing,” they think “going door-to-door” or “leaving their home country and going far away to some foreign mission field. Going on missions to a foreign country is important but when Jesus said in Acts 1:8“…and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” he was not telling them to travel somewhere on a mission trip but to start living like people who had witnessed something extraordinary. He was telling them to live with a changed mindset starting right where they were.

Illustration: Joe Dittmar (spoke at Crime Stoppers and Chamber banquet) is a 9/11 survivor who was on the 105thfloor of the 2ndWorld Trade Tower. It is mind blowing to hear his account of how seemingly small decisions saved his life and how from a meeting of 54 insurance executives, he was one of only 7 who made it. Now, he lives every day in light of that day. It has changed his mindset about life, family, work, God, everything.

Application: How has the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus impacted your life? Has it changed your mindset? How do you see yourself in your workplaces, neighborhoods, family gatherings, ball fields, etc.? You are on mission right where you are.

III. IT’S NOT A SKILL BUT THE SPIRIT.

Background: When Christians or church folks hear the word “witness” or “witnessing,” they get terrified. I’ll be honest with you, it is pretty terrifying to me as well. The reason we have this fear is because we fail to take seriously what Jesus told his disciples and to all of us in verse 8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me…”Think about the word “power.” This is not some destructive power tearing down things and wreaking havoc. This is power that raised Jesus from the dead. This is power that brings wholeness and perfection. This is power that transforms hearts and changes lives. Let me give you 2 examples in Acts:

  • When Peter was asked in Acts 4 7“…By what power or by what name have you done this?’ 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…3000-5000 saved!
  • After Paul was stopped by Jesus from persecuting the church, he was blind and God sent Ananias to him. Listen to what he says to Paul in Acts 917“…Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” After Paul received sight, he was baptized, ate, spent time with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately starting preachingChrist in the synagogues.

You cannot be a witness to Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit. It’s not about skills, courage, personality. It’s about the power of the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Is there anything that would hinder the flow of the Holy Spirit in your life.

IV. IT’S NOT A GOAL BUT A SOUL.

Background:  When Christians or church folks hear the word “witnessing,” they think of it as some goal to be met. Listen carefully – People are not projects to be completed or boxes to be checked. They are precious souls to be won to Christ. We have to remind ourselves to genuinely love people. Pray for them. Take the time to get to know them. Talk less and listen more. Be ready with the words of a witness. Daily submit to the Holy Spirit. Pray for divine appointments. Make room for divine appointments. Robby Gallaty gives the following suggestions:

  • Lingering longer in the driveway before going into your home.
  • Hanging around a few minutes extra in the break room.
  • Inviting lost friends over to have dinner with you.
  • Serving in a local homeless shelter occasionally.
  • Leading after school tutoring at a school that needs help.
  • Investing time in community events.
  • Getting involved in prison ministry.
  • Letting your neighbor borrow something of yours.
  • Volunteering in your church nursery or to set up an event.
  • There are many other ways that you can genuinely connect with lost souls.

Invitation: Are you a true disciple? Are you a witness to Christ? Are you saved?

Senseless Obedience by Pastor Abidan Shah

Senseless Obedience by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Senseless Obedience

Introduction:  Would you agree that parents say some crazy things? Things like “Don’t look at me with those eyes,” “Quiet down, I can’t even hear myself think,” “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” “So, if everybody jumps off a bridge, will you jump too?” and my favorite – “Because I said so, that’s why.” In other words, “Obey me even if it doesn’t make sense.” That’s the premise of our message today – “Sometimes our Heavenly Father expects us to obey him even if it doesn’t make any sense.” That’s the title of our message – “SENSELESS OBEDIENCE.” It doesn’t mean Mindless Obedience. It doesn’t mean that God tells us to do things that are illegal or immoral. It means that sometimes God asks us to do things that in our earthly mind do not make sense. But, if you remember that God has the best in mind for us and that he is doing something big that may not make sense now but if we trust him and are patient, we will know one day, all we need to do at the present time is be patient, just trust and obey.

Matthew 21    1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. All four gospels record this event.

John 12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him…”

Question: The disciples obeyed Jesus even when it didn’t make any sense. Are you obedient to God even when it doesn’t make any sense? How do you obey him? Quickly, completely, joyfully? Are you saved? Obey the voice of the Holy Spirit and be saved.

Context: As you know, today is Palm Sunday. It’s the Sunday before Easter that marks the beginning of the Passion Week or the Holy Week. On this day 2000 years ago, Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. He knew why he was coming into Jerusalem. He had prophesied and forewarned his disciples of the things that were about to happen. They didn’t understand. He who knew no sin was about to become sin for us. He who was perfect was about to die for our sins. As he came in, a large crowd welcomed him with palm branches. Then they laid their clothes and palm branches on the ground for him to ride in on and cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) That word “Hosanna” comes from Psalm 118:25 where it is the combination of 2 Hebrew words – “yasha” = deliver or save and “anna” = beg. It is literally “Please save/deliver us.” They didn’t understand the depth of what they were saying! A big revolution was about to happen.

But, let’s back up a little bit and focus on the interaction between Jesus and his disciples. 1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.” I don’t know about you but I would be really concerned about this command. I would have made some excuse right about now and got out of it. Jesus even told them what to say if they were stopped – 3 “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” Scholars have said that the word “Lord” or “kurios” in Matthew always refers to Yahweh God. We don’t know who the two were who went but they did. Maybe Judas! Either way, can you imagine the conversation among them as they walked away with that donkey. The point is that the disciples did what they were told even though it didn’t make any sense.

Application: Sometimes we also have to obey God even when it is senseless. Forgive, help, speak to, etc. In time God will show you the plan. If you wait for God to show you the plan before you obey, you will never see the plan.

What was God’s big plan in this situation? Matthew 21    4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” Where is this coming from? Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” What is the meaning of this passage? Zechariah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah who exhorted the people to come back to God. He prophesied of the day when God would restore the beauty and grandeur of Israel. How would he come? Imagine a king riding into a town. What image will come to your mind if he came on a tank? I am the conquering hero who will crush you. Now what if he rode in in a station wagon? I am just a humble lowly citizen. So also, instead of riding in on a horse, Jesus rode in on a donkey.

Application: By the way, one day he will come riding in on a white horse with his robe dipped in blood and the armies of heaven behind him! Meet him now as he is coming in on a donkey. If not, you will face him as he rides in on a horse.

But there’s much more here. There’s a lot of symbolism here. There are several critical prophecies that are fulfilled here. To start with, Matthew mentions the Mount of Olive. For those who knew the Scriptures, this was a clear communication that someone in the line of David had come. 2 Samuel 15:30So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up.” This was at the time when David was running from his own son Absalom. This is the same David who killed Goliath and thousands of Philistines and many other things. At this time, he’s a humbled king running for his life. Jesus is also a humble king but he is not running for his life.

There’s more – 2 Samuel 16    1 When David was a little past the top of the mountain, there was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, one hundred summer fruits, and a skin of wine. 2 And the king said to Ziba, “What do you mean to do with these?” So Ziba said, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who are faint in the wilderness to drink.” Meaning: David was not coming to fight. Neither was Jesus.

There’s more. Listen to what Jacob says about his son Judah. Genesis 49    10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. 11 Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. The emphasis is on the colt of a donkey and not a mule.

One more – 1 Kings 1    38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and took him to Gihon. 39 Then Zadok the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound. Jesus is the real son of David.

Bottom line: When Jesus told his disciples to get the donkey, they had no clue about any of this. This has always been God’s way with his people. Senseless Obedience.

  1. Abraham and Sarah
  2. Joshua and Jericho
  3. David and Goliath
  4. Esther go before the King
  5. Mary, Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” How can this be, since I do not know a man?” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
  6. Feeding the 5000
  7. Peter making a big catch of fish
  8. Mary of Bethany pouring her expensive perfume at the feet of Jesus and wiping it with her hair
  9. Paul, go to Macedonia.

This is the same principle in our daily lives. My Dad gave up a big pulpit to go to a small church because God told him to. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have existed!

Getting saved doesn’t make any sense but we have to obey. Are you saved?

Immortal by Pastor Abidan Shah

IMMORTAL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Immortal

Introduction:  What do these expressions mean? Assume room temperature, go belly up, bite the dust, bite the big one, cash in one’s chips, become food for worms. They’re all referring to death. Here are some more – go to the happy hunting ground, kick the bucket, push up daisies, take a dirt nap, take the last train to glory, croak, buy a pine condo, go into the fertilizer business, be stiff as a board, kick the Oxygen habit. Even we Christians have our own idioms for death – to be with the Lord, crossing the Jordan, going to a better place. These are all verbal tranquilizers meant to soften the reality of death because no one wants to deal with that subject. The believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel. Question: Before we read this passage, question – Are you afraid to die? Are you afraid to live? As a believer, what are you living for? Are you saved? Our message is titled IMMORTAL in our series through Philippians.

Philippians 1   21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

Context:  21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two…” Why was Paul so conflicted between living and dying? Listen carefully – Paul was not as conflicted as it may appear. It was really the Philippians who were conflicted. If you remember from last week, I briefly explained that much of what Paul wrote was not for Paul but for the Philippians. Let me explain a little more on that: You may not be aware of this but scholars have identified 2 ways of interpreting Paul’s letters: Epistolary Analysis and Rhetorical Analysis. Epistolary Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters like a typical letter from ancient times with an opening, a middle, and a conclusion. In fact, it’s not much different than letters today, except that through the Holy Spirit, Paul’s letters became the Word of God. Rhetorical Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters more like a speech, an oratory, or, what we would call, a sermon. We know that Paul was a brilliant man, well trained in Hebrew scriptures but what many don’t realize is that he was also well educated in Greek-Roman rhetoric and he used rhetorical techniques in his writings which again through the Holy Spirit became the Word of God. The full impact of Paul’s letters is truly felt when you actually hear them, not just read them. Some people take this too far but, in moderation, this understanding is very helpful in studying Paul’s letters. One such technique that Paul often used was imitation. Instead of telling the listeners what and how to change, the speaker would tell his listeners how he struggled with the same situation and changed and the listeners would get the point. Seneca (Roman Philosopher, Rhetor, and Statesman) said “The way is long if one follows precepts, but short and helpful if one follows patterns.” Philippians 3:17 “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Word to the wise, especially parents – “If you want someone to change, stop telling them what’s right and what’s wrong and start telling them how you struggled between right and wrong and chose what’s right. That will make a far greater impact.”

With this knowledge in mind, let’s re-read these verses21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If you read this verse without thinking, you will misunderstand what Paul really meant. You may think that Paul is just struggling between living and dying. You may even walk away thinking – “A Christian cannot lose in life or death. In this life, we have Jesus and when we die, it just gets better!” Sometimes people even quote 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Although, there is truth in the fact that a Christian cannot lose in life or death, that is not the real point of either Philippians 1:21 or 2 Corinthians 5:8. In reality, Paul was using a rhetorical technique to help the Philippians. Apparently, they were facing some difficult challenges, maybe persecution, maybe financial problems, maybe relationship struggles, or maybe health issues. They were saying things like – “I’m ready to go. I’m tired of this old world. I’m ready to walk the streets of gold. I know we have Jesus here but it will be so much better on the other side!” Does that sound familiar? You might be surprised to know that, as a pastor, I have encountered more people who are just waiting to die than those who are sacred to die. You might say, “That’s not true! No one wants to die.” Don’t misunderstand – “No one wants to suffer before they die but dying is not a problem for many people. Living is.” They are not as good looking as they used to be, strong as they used to be, too many health problems, too many children problems, too many bills, too many bad decisions they’re reaping, just too many problems. When I first came to this church, I went visiting the people on the roll with one of our deacons. We came to this one house and this elderly lady came to the door. The deacon introduced me to her. Her response – “Oh Good. Now we got somebody to bury us!” I believe that this was the same problem with the Philippians – “Living with Jesus is great but dying is better!” Paul is saying to them – “Yeah, I’ve struggled with that too but let me tell you how I handled it.”

22 “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor…” What fruit was Paul talking about? He used the same word in Romans 1:13 “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you…that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.” The fruit that Paul was talking about is the fruit of the gospel. He wants to see souls saved. Listen carefully: When you die, the possibility of fruits end. You cannot evangelize in heaven. Neither can you evangelize in hell. Basically, for the same reasons. Neither place has unbelievers. Except that, in hell the hearts are still wicked. 22 “…yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” Remember Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in verse 10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent…” It meant “learning to choose between the good, the better, and the best.” It is “far better” to depart and be with Christ but “best” is to stay here and help you.

Application: How do you see others in this life? Do you care about those around you? You say, “I care but I’m ready to go.” Can I ask you, “Are you really eager to see Jesus or are you just trying to run away from your problems? God has a sense of humor and he will leave you here till you’re 150! It’s best to remain and help others.

25 “And being confident of this…” Paul has used that word “confidence” twice already: 6“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” He will use that word again several times. That word can mean “trust” but also “conviction.” What is Paul’s conviction? 25 “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith…” It’s Paul’s conviction to stay and help the Philippians continue in their growth and joy of the Christian life.

Application: We all have doctrinal convictions about the Bible, Trinity, Salvation, Person of Christ, Holy Spirit, etc. We may also have moral convictions about marriage, unborns, sexuality, drinking, etc. That’s all wonderful but it’s time we also have some relational convictions where I am responsible for your spiritual growth and joy in the Christian life and you are for mine. When you’re not here, I care. When I’m not here, you care. Sadly, most of us have the same response that Cain did when God asked him – “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Finally – 26 “that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.” The word “rejoicing” is “kaukhemai” which means “boast. Paul is not saying “You will boast of me even more when I come.” He is saying, “You will boast in Jesus even more when you see me come to you.” In other words, “Your worship will become even more powerful because you see God setting me free and sending me to you.” Some of us have a very poor worship experience because we only focus on doctrinal precepts (God is great, Jesus is wonderful, Salvation is awesome). When we change it to “God is great because of how he has worked in Pastor Shah’s life,” “Jesus is wonderful because of what he is doing at Clearview,” and “Salvation is awesome, look at that young man who just gave his life to Christ.” Now worship takes on new meaning and enthusiasm! 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Again, you see the priority of the gospel.

Illustration: I used to work in an automotive plant back in Georgia. Sometimes people would quit work an hour before they were supposed to quit. Then the supervisor made it a point to come by about 15 minutes before quitting time. It wasn’t good.

As I said in the beginning, “the believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel.” We are immortal in Christ. Let’s live like it! Are you saved?

Perspective by Pastor Abidan Shah

PERSPECTIVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

PerspectiveIntroduction:  Growing up our kids loved watching Disney’s “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” There are 2 characters in that story who are polar opposites: Eeyore the donkey and Tigger the tiger. Eeyore is always pessimistic, gloomy, and glass half-empty kind of character and Tigger is always optimistic, bouncy, and glass half-full kind of character. When you meet Eeyore, he says things like “If it is a good morning, which I doubt” or “Thanks for noticing me.” But, when you meet Tigger, he says things like “Hello! I’m Tigger!” or “Tiggers never get lost!” They have two very different perspectives on the problems in life. I’m sure there are some Eeyores and Tiggers in this room or at least we know some! When we as Christians talk about perspective in the Christian life, we’re talking about something much more than being a spiritual Tigger. That’s our message today titled PERSPECTIVE in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1    12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Question: Paul refers to being in chains. He is using that word as a figure of speech known as synecdoche which implies that he was in prison. Why was Paul in prison? For preaching the gospel. How did he deal with that? Instead of seeing it as a setback, an obstacle, or as abandonment by God, He saw it as an opportunity to further share the gospel. It’s his perspective on life, problems, and God’s sovereign will that helped him to do that. We all have certain chains in life. How do you see your chains in life? Do you see them as setbacks, obstacles, abandonment by God, or as opportunities to keep sharing the gospel? What is your perspective? Are you saved?

Context:  Listen once again to verse 12. Paul says “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me…” Which things was Paul referring to? As I just mentioned to you, Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians. Now, don’t immediately assume that he was in some dark dungeonous prison with rats, filth, and feet in stocks. The fact that he was able to write this letter tells us that more than likely he was in a house arrest type situation awaiting trial. When Paul talked about “the things which happened” to him, I believe that, he had more than just his house arrest in mind. In Romans 15 Paul had shared with the Roman church his ultimate plans with the gospel 28 “Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.” Paul had great plans towards the end of his life to take the gospel further out west into Europe. He had big hopes to take the gospel to the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. When Paul was put under house arrest, his great plans had sort of failed. If you read Acts 25, it appears that now he was at the mercy of a corrupt court system. No doubt, he must have been disappointed, discouraged, and even disillusioned.

Application: In life, we have many plans, some very good, noble, and even godly plans, but they don’t always work out. “Things happen.” What is comforting to me is that even someone like Paul who walked very close to God had “things happen to him.” Here’s my encouragement: Don’t interpret your failed plans as some hidden sin or as an abandonment by God. Trust him and his sovereign plan even more.

Listen to how Paul handled his failed plans? 12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel…’’ In other words, what Paul thought was the end of the road had actually turned out to be just a bend in the road for the gospel. How is that? 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” In order to truly appreciate this, you need to have some basic understanding of the Roman army. The Romans developed the most effective army ever known in history. At the bottom level was the contubernium, a unit of 8 men. Ten contubernia made one century, that’s 80 men. Six centuries made one cohort, that’s 480 men. Ten cohorts made one legion, that’s 4800. Later in the first century, the first cohort got expanded to twelve centuries, that’s 960 men, making a legion about 5,280 fighting men. Keep in mind that there would be 120 horsemen in a legion and slaves for transportation, doing menial labor, and guarding the camp. I don’t want to get into all those details but you can imagine how vast this enterprise was. Altogether, Emperor Augustus had about 25 legions. The commander of the legion was a senator in his 20s or 30s who was previously a magistrate and had to be appointed by the Emperor.

Where do the palace guards fit in? They were the “praetorian,” the emperor’s personal troops and bodyguards. They were the best of the best. They had to be from Italy. They had significantly higher status than the normal legionaries and had much higher pay and got a lot of special bonuses. They were the ones who made and unmade Emperors. Augustus had 3 cohorts of 480 each around him, that’s about 1500 of the most elite fighting men, and about 6 more cohorts in nearby towns. Out of these elites, there was a higher elite group known as the speculatores Augusti who were on horseback, clearing the way before the emperor when he went through the streets. According to some sources, there was a camp at the northeastern edge of Rome with as many as 9000 praetorians. By the way, they only served for 16 years. What then? They took on high level positions in the legions. Listen again to verse 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” Paul is now witnessing to the top brass in the Roman army who have the ability and power to influence so many thousands more! Wow! God works in mysterious ways!

Application: If a believer looks at life only from an earthly, selfish, and fleshy perspective, he or she will get depressed. But, if you look at the things that have happened to you or happening to you from a heavenly, selfless, and spiritual perspective, you will realize that the Holy Spirit has set you up perfectly to further the gospel! The Gospel is the true perspective changer for the believer. This does not mean that you need to just settle for whatever people hand to you. Work to improve your situation but don’t lose sight of why God has allowed you to get to where you are at the moment.

Now that’s just from inside the prison. How about on the outside? 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” What’s going on now? Word is getting out of how God is using Paul to share the gospel with the elite troops and bodyguards of the Emperor. So, now other believers feeling emboldened by Paul’s position, start sharing the gospel with courage. Billy Graham once said “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”

For e.g. Nicole and I just watched the movie “Darkest Hour.” Typically, I don’t use movies as sermon illustrations but this one was different. It’s about Winston Churchill and the Nazi invasion of Western Europe. In the face of fear, doubt, skepticism by even his own party, Churchill boldly said, “We shall never surrender!” Thank goodness he did! If not, the world map would be a very different today.

Just when you think that Paul is a glass half-full kind of guy, listen to verse 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What’s going on? In an agonistic culture where people used every opportunity to self-promote and advance their position in society, some were using Paul’s imprisonment as an opportunity to further their position in church and society! How crazy! Guess what? It happens even today as people compete in ministry. What’s Paul’s response? 18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” You have to be close to Jesus to be able to do that!

Now Paul lists 2 things that he needs in a time like this – 19 “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.Also, the deliverance is not just about coming out of prison, as Paul says in verse 20 “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” What an awesome perspective!

Why did Paul say all this to the Philippians? Was it just to reassure them that he was okay? Was it just a cathartic experience, trying to let it all out? Paul was encouraging the Philippians to imitate him as they faced similar trials. He was reminding them to change their perspective regarding their circumstances. He was teaching them how to see life through the gospel lens.

Invitation: How do you see your job loss, your health problem, your relationship struggle, your financial difficulty? Can you see it through the gospel lens? It is not about glass half-empty vs glass half full. It is about taking the gospel and offering it to some dying thirsting sinner in your path. Are you saved?

The Grave-Robber by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE GRAVE-ROBBER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Grave Robber

Introduction:  Graveyards are gloomy to say the least but some people have tried to lighten the mood by what they have written on their gravestone. Here are some of my favorites – “William H. Hahn: I told you I was sick”; “Robert Clay Allison: He never killed a man that did not need killing”; “Rest in Peace Cousin Heut: We all know you didn’t do it”; “Raised four beautiful daughters with only one bathroom and still there was love”; “Barbara Sue Manire (with a parking meter) – Our Mother…Her humor lives on”; Walter W. Stauffen: Uncle Walter loved to spend. He had no money in the end. But with many a whiskey and many a wife, he really did enjoy his life”; “Here lies Good Old Fred: A great big rock fell on his head.” I hope none of these were photoshopped. There is one gravestone that had to be carved twice. It was the gravestone of Lazarus. After 4 days in the grave, Jesus brought him back to life. He is the great GRAVE-ROBBER.

John 11   1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 

Question: Death is inevitable. Death is inescapable. Where will you go when you die? Jesus has not only brought us forgiveness of sin but he has also taken the sting out of death. Grave no longer has power over us. Have you received him as your Savior?

Context: The miracle we’re looking at today comes from the Gospel of John again. You know by now that John the apostle (writer of the fourth gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. Signs were more than just extraordinary events done by Jesus to help people in need. Signs also served to prove that Jesus was/is God. In this miracle, the word “sign” is used again. Listen to John 11:47 “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” In other words, the raising of Lazarus was more than just Jesus bringing a dead man to life. It was also a sign. What was the sign behind this miracle? The answer is found in John 11:43 “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’” The Greek words are “deuro exo,” where “deuro” is “come” and “exo” is “out.” Together, it is “Come Out!” Something else, when that word “deuro” is used with “exo,” you can actually translate the phrase as simply “Out!” Lazarus, even though he was dead, even though he was buried in the grave for 4 days, recognized the voice of Jesus, recognized the voice of his Savior and came out.

Let me illustrate: Imagine if were to stand in my driveway and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think Nicole or the kids would do? They would recognize my voice immediately and come running outside – “What’s wrong? What do you need?” How about if I were to stand outside your house and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What would you do? At first you may get startled but then you’ll recognize my voice – “That’s Abidan or Pastor Shah!” – and you’ll come outside and ask me, “Hey Pastor Shah! What’re you doing here? Is everything okay?” Now, what if I were to stand in someone’s driveway who doesn’t know me and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think they would do? Depends on who they are and where they live, they may start by dialing 911 and ask from behind the door, “Who’re you? What do you want?” or maybe even come out with a shotgun and tell me to get off the property. What is the difference between the first two and the last reactions? The first two recognized my voice and knew me but the last one didn’t.

To understand the sign behind this miracle, you have to back up to John 10 and get the context: John 10   2 “…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them….14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Then John tells us that they began to argue over whether he was crazy or had a demon. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” So, guess what they did. They tried to stone him again. Listen carefully to what Jesus said to them then – 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” In other words, if there’s a contradiction between my works and the Father’s (God’s), then don’t believe in me. But if my works lineup with the works of the Father (God), then believe the works and in turn believe that the Father is in me and I am in him.

What are the kind of works that the Father does? John 5:21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” John 6:39 “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” Repeatedly, Jesus told them that raising the dead and giving them life was the work of the Father (God). Jesus was sent by his Father to carry on his work.

With that in mind, let’s return to the miracle of Lazarus.

  • Jesus heard about Lazarus’ sickness but delayed coming for two days. Why? He said in John 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Meaning: Lazarus was going to be an object lesson to prove that Jesus was/is the Son of God. 2 days turned into 4 days and Lazarus died. Meaning: This was not going to be an ordinary healing miracle. This was going to be the big one, just like magicians do their toughest trick in the end.
  • When Jesus got there, Martha had lost all hope but Jesus challenged her in John 11 25 “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She replied 27 “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She was a sheep who heard the voice of the shepherd.
  • Mary also doubted and said to Jesus in John 11 32 “…Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” The words are literally “he got angry in his spirit and stirred up in himself.” Why? Because here was a sheep who was not hearing his voice but acting like those outside the fold. Jesus was so upset that when he got to the tomb, he wept. Now some people think that he wept because he loved Lazarus or he was moved by the sorrow of the family members. The word for Jesus weeping is dakruo while the word for Mary and the Jewish people weeping is klaio. These were not tears of sorrow but of anger.
  • As he made his way to the tomb, they continued to doubt him and verse 38 says, “Jesus, again groaning in Himself…” Same word as verse 33. Why? Because he was surrounded by those who were deaf to him.
  • When Jesus commanded them to move the stone, Martha objected in 39 “…Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Now the sheep who was listening to his voice is not listening either. Listen to Jesus’ response: 40 “…Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 “…And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Then he cried with a loud voice and the irony of ironies, the living people couldn’t hear the voice of Jesus but the dead guy heard it and came back to life.

Let me draw some applications:

  • Power over life and death belongs to Jesus.
  • His sheep hear his voice and follow him.
  • If you are a sheep and you cannot hear his voice, doubt has come in your life.
  • God takes doubts very seriously.
  • Once you belong to him, he will never let you go.
  • If you’ve never heard his voice, you don’t belong to him.

The Hope-Bringer by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE HOPE-BRINGER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

The Hope Producer

Introduction: What does the word hope mean to you? If you talk to a little kid at Christmas, it is “I hope Santa brings me a new pair of shoes.” If you talk to someone looking for a relationship, it is “I hope I find someone one day.” Both express a desire for a positive outcome in the future but there’s also a negative use of this word. If you are really late, you say “I hope we make it on time.” If you talk to someone at the end of his or her rope, it is “I’ve lost all hope.” Both are expecting a negative outcome in the future. The biblical idea of hope is much different. It is much more than a desire for a positive or the possibility of a negative outcome. Hope is the solid assurance of something good in the future. Everywhere Jesus went he aroused this hope in people. He was and is the Great Hope-Bringer.

Mark 5   22 And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet 23 and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” 24 So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him. 25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” 29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” 31 But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” 32 And He looked around to see her who had done this thing…34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” 35 While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. 39 When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” 40 And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43 But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

Question: On the surface these 2 miracles seem unrelated but if you noticed carefully, there’s a connection. The first one is a 12-year-old girl dying and then dies and the other is a woman suffering for 12 years with the loss of blood. 12 years is a long time! The length of time is given to tell us that both were facing hopelessness in their lives until they met Jesus. He brought hope, the solid assurance of something good in their future. Are you facing hopelessness today? Does it feel like its not going to get any better? Have you met Jesus? Are you saved? Have you truly committed your problem to him?

Context: Listen again to verse 22 “And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name.” Jairus was an “archisynagogos” meaning head of the Jewish synagogue. Synagogues were the local assemblies of the Jewish people, which began during the Babylonian exile. They were no longer in their homeland and the temple was destroyed, so wherever they lived, they would build these synagogues for worship, prayer, education, and social activities. Not only that, the synagogues also served as the courthouse and in some cases as a city administration building. In other words, the synagogues became a symbol of Jewish identity. One more thing, unlike the temple were only the priests and the Levites could officiate, the leadership of the synagogue was open to all Jewish people provided they were upstanding and Torah abiding individuals. Jairus was the head of the synagogue in Capernaum. We’ve been there. His role was to keep the congregation faithful to the Torah. This was a high position! According to the Talmud (the Oral law of the Jewish people), “Let a man sell all he has and marry the daughter of a scholar. If he does not find the daughter of a scholar, let him marry the daughter of one of the great men of the generation. If he does not find…let him marry the daughter of a head of the synagogue.” You can imagine how people looked up to him and how he had to maintain his image.

But listen to what he did – 22 And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet…” What would cause a person of such high position to fall on his face in public before some travelling preacher from Galilee? 23 and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” Maybe his wife begged him to do that. Maybe his friends advised him to do that. I tend to think that he was a good family man who truly loved his little girl. There was no answer in his position. There was no answer in his knowledge. There was no answer in his religious and ethnic identity. He was desperate and Jesus was his only hope.

Important Principle: Desperation is the first step towards hope. As long as the present is comfortable, there’s no reason to look for hope. Sometimes God has to bring us to the point of desperation where it’s him and no one else who can meet our need. Psalm 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”

Application: Are you in the day of trouble? Have you come to that place of desperation? Are you willing to submit all to him?

So Jesus agreed to go with him but there’s an interruption. Let me make a quick point here – On the road to hope there are pit stops. Don’t let that discourage you. Don’t give up. God has a plan and a purpose. 25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. According to Leviticus 15, if a woman has such a condition, she is unclean. Anything she sits on or lies upon is unclean. Anyone who touches such an unclean woman is also unclean. Leviticus 15:27 “Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.” You can imagine that this woman hasn’t been to the synagogue in years. Maybe she was taken to court by someone for polluting them and had to stand before Jairus. Who knows! What does she do? 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” What a risk! If caught she would be in so much trouble but she didn’t care. The reason she did this is because just like Jairus she was also desperate. Religion or no religion, both were desperate and willing to pay the price!

Application: Have you come to that place of desperation? Are you willing to touch him no matter the cost?

What was the result? Not only was she healed but also Jesus made a point to stop and recognize her. Why? Because he wanted people to know that he cared for those in the synagogue and for those who were barred from the synagogue. Hope has no boundaries.

While he is talking to this woman, he overhears people telling Jairus that his daughter is gone. Listen to Jesus’ response – 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” Now he does something very strange – 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. Why? Desperation may lead you to seek hope but only faith can make hope a reality. Unbelief or lack of faith destroys hope. Faith is the prerequisite to hope. 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.”

Do you need hope/rock solid assurance of something good? Are you desperate enough for it? What’s keeping you from placing your faith in Christ? Are you a hope giver or a hope taker?

The Life-Giver by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE LIFE-GIVER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Lifegiver

Introduction: Nature has a way of reviving you. As many of you know or saw on social media last week, I was at Camp Living Water in Bryson City. It’s a Christian camp our kids have been going for over 15 years. Many Clearview kids were there this summer. Just last week 8 campers got baptized; more got saved and will be baptized at their churches. It’s amazing! I love going there because I always feel revived! If you’ve been to Bryson City, the scenery is breath taking, surrounded by mountains on all sides, especially the Great Smoky Mountains to the North. Directly behind the camp is Deep Creek. I usually walk back there and sit on one of those big rocks in the middle of the creek and I feel so revived! It is so refreshing! Having said that, I’ve never seen a physically dead person come to life there. Nature can revive you and refresh you but it cannot resurrect you. In fact, nothing and no one can bring you to life, except God. Only God is the true Life-Giver. I’m talking about more than physical life. I’m talking about spiritual life.

Luke 7   11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”

Question: What do you believe about Jesus? When he raised the dead, some called him a prophet but others called him God. What do you call him? He raised the physically dead to life, which is amazing, but the greater miracle is when he raised the spiritually dead to life. He is doing that even today. Have you been spiritually raised to life?

Background: When we think about dead people coming to life, we expect the Bible to be chockfull of them. Not true! Believe it or not, there are only 10 actual cases recorded in the entire Bible – 3 in the Old Testament and 7 in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, 1 is by the Prophet Elijah and 2 are by the Prophet Elisha. Out of the 7 in the New Testament, only 3 were done by Jesus, 2 by Peter and Paul each, one of Jesus himself rising from the dead and the last one is of the many saints coming to life when Jesus rose from the dead. Although Jesus himself claimed that he raised many dead to life, the gospel writers give only 3 actual cases – the first is the son of the widow from Nain (we’re going to look at it today), the second is the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of a synagogue, and the third is Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. That’s it! But there’s something else. All three took place in insignificant places not Jerusalem. The first took place in Nain, a small village in Galilee. The second took place at some unnamed place on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, probably Capernaum. The third of Lazarus was in Bethany. One more thing, in the first two miracles Jesus did not want to make a whole lot of fuss about them. In fact, in the second one, he actually instructed Jairus and his wife not to mention the miracle to anyone. Why didn’t Jesus make raising dead people to life a major part of his ministry? Because bringing people back to life physically was not Jesus’ main agenda. As awe-inspiring as it was, Jesus didn’t want to be known as the man who brings the dead to life. Can you imagine what people would’ve done if this had become the main focus of his ministry? People would be digging up their dead loved ones and bringing them to Jesus so he could resurrect them! They would be trying to touch him with the bones of their loved ones. Imagine that! Not only would this quickly get out of hand but also it would detract from the main reason why Jesus came. He did not come to bring the physically dead to life. He came to bring the spiritually dead to life. Don’t forget, each of them died again. Jesus came for more than holding back the inevitable. He came to bring eternal life.

So why did Jesus do this particular miracle of raising the dead to life? Listen again to verse 12 “And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out.” Let me quickly point out that the reason he saw them at the gate of the city is because they used to bury the dead outside the city in those days. Cemeteries were considered to be unclean. But there is something very important to understand. This man probably died that day, maybe even a couple of hours earlier. Unlike our funerals that take 2-3 days to happen, their funerals were immediate because it was too expensive for common people to try to preserve the body. Can you imagine how difficult this must be for the loved ones? In this particular case there was something more – “the only son of his mother; and she was a widow…” Luke mentions 2 things here: first, the loved one was a woman; second, this was her only child; third, she was a widow. Think about that for a moment. Losing a child is hard as it is, probably the hardest thing anyone can ever face. Then, it was her only child. That just makes it even worse. But, there’s more. She was a woman and a widow. In those days, it was so hard for a woman to survive on her own. Her son was probably her only source of help and now he was gone. Luke adds, “And a large crowd from the city was with her.” It may appear that all those people would help her out now but it’s my opinion that they probably didn’t come for her. Maybe the son was a prominent person. As it happens all too often, people say, “Don’t worry, we’re here for you” but then everyone moves on with their lives.

Jesus being God could see all this. Listen to verse 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Let me pause here and draw your attention to something that is easily missed. The word “Lord” is the Greek word “kurios.” This is the first mention of that title for Jesus in Luke’s gospel. This is very important. Now, what does that word “kurios” really mean? It’s an old Greek word that comes from word “kuros” which means “authority.” So “kurios” meant someone in authority and control, someone who was a master or owner, someone superior. Sometimes it was even applied to gods. But there’s more. When the Jewish people translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek, over 6120 times they translated “Yahweh,” the name for God as “kurios” and over 530 times they translated “Adon,” another name for God, as “kurios.” It means that “kurios” was more than just someone in authority to the Jewish people. It meant God! If I may add, Luke wrote his gospel to the gentile world. He is in every telling them that Jesus is God. Not only that, Luke is also telling them that Jesus is a compassionate God unlike their gods who were more concerned about their pleasures and powers.

Application: What do you believe about God? What do you believe Jesus as God? Does he care about your suffering and pain? Is he too concerned with his agenda and plans for his world? Or, does he hurt when he sees you hurt?

What happened next? 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. Something very important here – Jesus touched the open coffin. He was not afraid of being unclean. Paul says it best in Romans 14:9 “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Now listen to the authority in his words – “And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.” Can you feel the authority and power of Jesus in this miracle? The young man not only sat up but also began to speak. Meaning: This was no illusion or some evil magic or some séance. This was the real deal.

What was the response? 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” Don’t misunderstand. They were not proclaiming that Jesus was God. They were comparing him to the prophets Elijah and Elisha in the Old Testament. Have you ever heard “little knowledge is dangerous”? What they failed to consider is that unlike Elijah and Elisha who both had to stretch their body over the corpse to bring it to life, Jesus commanded the dead to rise. In other words, they missed the fact that Jesus was God. 17 “And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.” Why doesn’t God go around raising the dead today? Why should he? Just like then, people will miss the point!

The real miracle that God wants to do in your life is to raise you spiritually. Listen to what Jesus said in John 5   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.” Paul confirms this in Ephesians 2   4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

You can have this spiritual resurrection today by asking Jesus to save you. Are you disappointed with God because he didn’t do some miracle in your life? How about taking by faith that he has a better plan for you.

Bad Start, Good Finish by Pastor Abidan Shah

BAD START, GOOD FINISH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Bad Start Good Finish

Introduction: Does it matter how you start a race? If you ask Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, he’ll say, “Absolutely, it matters.” Back in 2011, he made a false start at the World Championships in South Korea and was disqualified. At the same time, Bolt confesses that he’s a poor starter. So, once the gun goes off, the first 30m is what he calls his “drive phase” where he puts his head down and drives himself forward. After that he goes into his “tall phase” where he gets as straight as possible. It’s time for top speed. At 50m, he glances left and right to see where he is in the race and at 60m he becomes a beast. He gives his everything. The last 15-20m of the race is his strongest. He checks one more time in the final 10m but at this point no one can catch him now. He knows that he’s won. Here’s the point: Yes, it matters how you start the race but no, the start doesn’t ultimately determine how you finish the race. You can have a good finish even with a bad start if you do certain things right along the way. That’s the title of the final message in our family series on the – “BAD START, GOOD FINISH.” In life and marriage it helps when you have a good start but it’s not everything. You may’ve had a bad start but you can still have a good finish if you do certain things right along the way.

Genesis 50   22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees. 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Question: For the past 9 weeks we’ve been studying the life of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. We’ve looked at their good decisions, their bad decisions, and the impact of those decisions on their later generations. In this final message, we’re going to see what things helped this family to finish well. There were so many negatives but what were the positives that gave them a good finish. But before we do that, here are some questions to consider: Do you think that you will finish well? Do you believe that your marriage will finish well? Do you believe that your kids will finish well? Or, do you believe that it’s too late? Do you live in regrets? Have you lost all hope for the future? Are you saved? When you receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and brings hope where there is hopelessness. If no hope, then either no Holy Spirit or he’s being quenched.

Context: The passage we just read is the final words to the Book of Genesis. We see Joseph lying on his deathbed giving his final instructions to his family. By the way, twice (verses 22 and 26) it tells us that Joseph was 110 years of age. Why? Because in the Egyptian culture and society, 110 years was considered to be the ideal age for a person to live. Joseph is the picture of a good finish. This is very important because Joseph’s good finish is symbolic of the good finish of the family of Abraham and Sarah. In this final message we’re going to see what helped them have a good finish:

  1. THEY HAD A CHAIN BREAKER.

If you remember the first message in this series, we looked at Terah, Abraham’s father. Terah was the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan…” Terah was the first chain breaker. He had to leave behind a comfortable and successful life, abandon his ancestral gods, and step out into the unknown.

For e.g. My father left Islam and became the chain breaker for us.

Application: Who has been the chain breaker in your life? A father, mother, grandparent, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. Sometimes, you have to be your own pioneer. There’s no one who has broken the chain in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. If you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the chain breaker and pioneer for your family.

  1. THEY FACED THEIR SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET.

In the second message we learnt about an embarrassing secret in the life of Abraham and Sarah. He had made a deal with his wife that everywhere they went she was to say that he was her brother. They did it in Egypt and if that weren’t enough, 25 years later, he did it again in Canaan. Listen to how the King of Gerar spoke to Abraham at 100 years of age. Genesis 20:10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?” Translation: “What’s wrong with you?” When confronted, he admitted that Sarah was his half-sister. Later, like father, like son, Isaac did the same with his wife Rebekah and claimed that she was his sister, which, by the way, was a lie. There were other incidents that were just as embarrassing like Sarah offering her maidservant Hagar to Abraham, Jacob ending up with two wives, Judah sleeping with his own daughter-in-law by mistake.

Here’s the principle: There are no perfect families. We all have some skeletons in our family closet. We all have some rotten fruits hanging somewhere on our family tree.

Application: What are you doing with your family skeleton? Are you pretending to be perfect? The more you try to hide your secret, the more it controls your life. Or, do you blame your skeleton for all your mistakes? Turn them over to God today.

  1. THEY REFUSED TO BE COATTAIL HANGERS.

In a message titled “Keeping Your Kids Out of Hell,” we met Lot, Abraham’s nephew. He attached himself to Abraham in Haran and followed him everywhere he went. He was the proverbial coattail hanger. When there was a conflict between Abraham’s herdsmen and his, Abraham gave him the option to pick which direction he wanted to go and he picked the plain of Jordan towards Sodom and Gomorrah because it reminded him of Egypt. This was more than the terrain. It was the culture he loved. What was the cost? He not only lost his testimony but also his family, including his wife, when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m sure you also remember the incident of how his daughters had him drunk and slept with him. Even if Abraham and Sarah’s family was not perfect, they were not coattail hangers. They were willing to stay in tents and wait on the city that had foundations. Hebrews 11 9 By faith he (Abraham) dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Application: Are you a coattail hanger? How do you make decisions in your life? Do you go after the exciting and the alluring or after those things that please God?

  1. THEY ACCEPTED THE ROAD OF BROKENNESS.

In a message titled “Facing Old Foes,” we saw how Jacob had to face his brother Esau after 20 years. If you remember, Esau didn’t care for his birthright and had sold it to Jacob who had stolen his rightful blessing from his father Isaac. God never condemned Jacob for that. Later Esau wanted it back but he couldn’t and his last words for Jacob in Genesis 27:41 were “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” On that fateful night before he came face to face with his brother, Jacob prayed and asked God to deliver him. Instead of giving him a good nights rest and strong arms or sending his angels to fight for him, the pre-incarnate Christ came down and wrestled him all night and when he realized that he couldn’t defeat him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it went out of joint. Now a sleep deprived, physically injured, and emotionally spent Jacob hobbled along towards his brother. Genesis 32:31 “Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.” How did Esau respond? God used Jacob’s brokenness to pour his grace upon him and move Esau’s heart to forgiveness.

Here’s the principle: Those weaknesses that we find to be a hindrance to our growth and prosperity are actually the thorns in the flesh that Paul talks about. They are opportunities for God to pour his grace upon us.

Application: How do you receive the painful events and incidents in your life? Do you realize that those things that you consider to be a hindrance are actually God’s blessings in disguise?

  1. THEY REFUSED TO LOSE HOPE.

So many other things happened in this family: Simeon and Levi killing the men of Shechem and stealing and enslaving the women and the children; Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery; Judah defrauding his own daughter-in-law and then being tricked by her into sleeping with her. But, this family did not lose hope in the promise that God had made to Abraham that in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed, that they are the carriers of the promise of salvation. Listen again to final words to his family – 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” Joseph’s end is not the end. It is the promise of a new beginning in the near future. They were words of hope. They were words full of the Holy Spirit.

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.”

Invitation: Do you have this hope for yourself, for your family, for this church, for our community, for our nation, for this world? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you saved?

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