Trust and Obey

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TRUST AND OBEY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

trustandobey This weekend we’re back in our series on the Sermon on the Mount titled “Salt and Light.” So many of you enjoyed the Beatitudes! But it’s about to get better! Jesus is about to raise the bar of discipleship. Please turn to Matthew 5:17 for our message titled – “Trust and Obey.”

Matthew 5 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mount of Beatitudes 1

Mount of Beatitudes (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Mount of Beatitudes

Mount of Beatitudes (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: Verse 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Back in January of this year Nicole and I stood around the very spot where Jesus spoke those words. It was everything and more than we had ever imagined. The atmosphere was just heavenly – the Sea of Galilee in the background, the sun shining on the beautiful green hillside, and the natural amphitheater carrying His voice far away. We could almost hear Him say – “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” You can almost visualize the multitudes and the disciples listening with rapt attention. But just when you think everyone was positive and supportive, Jesus says – “Stop thinking that I’m tearing down the Law or the Prophets.” Who was thinking that? Not the multitudes or the disciples but there was another group in that crowd, whose intentions were not that pure. They were there not to hear the truth but to find some fault. They were there to trap Jesus and accuse him of inciting the people to break the Law. These were the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus knew that and so He affirmed the authority of the Law but then also added in verse 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” You can almost picture Him pointing towards the scribes and the Pharisees and saying, “I’m not here to destroy the Law but fulfill it. And guess what – If you think their standards are high, mine are much higher.”

This message is very critical for our personal life and for our culture today. First, for the believer – we’re living in a generation where some Christians almost find a sense of thrill in crossing previously established boundaries. They act giddy like a teenager first time away from home, staying up past their bedtime of 9 o’clock, no one to tell them to go to bed, they’re all grown up, and can do whatever they want. “No rules for me cause I’m free in Jesus! If you tell me I’m wrong, then you are so legalistic. And just cause you say I can’t, I’ll show you I can.” Yes – Jesus did come to set you free but not from holiness. I’m not talking about being old-fashioned. I’m talking about being holy.

Then for the unbeliever this message is important – Couple of weeks ago, when the Supreme Court gave their decision legalizing same-sex marriage, people were on the Internet expressing their views and opinions and Nicole posted an article on how this decision does make a difference in our lives. By the way, it’s naïve to think it won’t. But someone she knew in High School came by and began to challenge her and one thing that really got me was, he asked, “What does Jesus say about homosexuality?” He was implying that we’re no longer obligated to the Old Testament Laws, just to Jesus. I came by and typed – Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law…”

Listen carefully – Trusting Jesus does not absolve you from obeying God’s commandments. If anything, you will see in this message that Jesus made them even harder. Here are several questions: Are you an obedient Christian? Are you obedient to God’s Law or Manmade Rules (Legalism)? Are you saved? 3 questions in this passage:

I. WHAT IS THE LAW? 

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. Several questions here:

Question #1 – Who came up with the Law? Exodus 24:12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” God gave His Law to His people Israel through His servant Moses. God is the author of the Law. Before we abrogate or abolish the law we need to make sure that God is okay with it!

Question #2 – What did it contain? First and foremost, it contained the moral Law of God. It was reflected in the life of people like Enoch, Noah, and Abraham who walked blamelessly before God. Keep in mind that the Law does not begin at the 10 Commandments but in Genesis 1:1. The books of the Law are actually the Torah, the first five books of the Pentateuch. The 10 Commandments are a summary of the moral Law of God by which people were already living. But later God expanded that moral Law and intertwined it with civil laws, penal code, and ceremonial laws and gave it to Moses.

Question #3 – Was the Law given to save the people? Absolutely not! It was given to teach people the character of God. Leviticus 20 7 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you. What else? Deuteronomy 4 5 “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ Meaning: Keeping these laws would set them apart as a distinct people before the watching world.

Our message is far from over. There’s much to be clarified. But let’s get one thing straight – God’s Law reflects God’s character. Any person or society that begins to trash the Law of God will find himself/herself/itself on the trash heap of history.

Application: How do you see the law of God?

II. IS IT ENOUGH TO KEEP THE LAW?

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

Background: Although Jesus did not come to destroy the law of God; He did come to fulfill it. What did Jesus fulfill? He fulfilled all the ceremonial aspects of the law. He was the original of which all the laws, rituals, and sacrifices were just a pattern. This is not a new interpretation. God had clearly told Moses that all that He was telling Him to do and make for the tabernacle and then later for the temple was according to a pattern. Listen to Exodus 25:40 “And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” The civic and ceremonial laws were simply a prototype or a model. Jesus came and fulfilled the pattern.

I’m tempted to run to the New Testament – to Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews – to prove this even more but I’m holding back because some people believe that Paul and others have changed the way the people of Israel looked at the Law. God’s people understood that their civic and ceremonial laws were simply a picture of what was to come in Christ.

When they lost sight of that, the prophets got on to them:

1Samuel 15:22 So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.

Isaiah 1 11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats…13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting…18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

Psalm 51 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.

I don’t have the time to go through all the prophecies about the coming of Jesus. He was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The people of Israel had to look to Him to be saved. Jesus said something else here – 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (There is more that God has promised to His people that still remains to be fulfilled.)

Application: What are you trusting in to be saved? Are you trusting in the 10 Commandments? Are you trusting in your own personal 10 Commandments? Your good works, traditions, and good intentions will still send you straight to hell.

III. SHOULD WE OBEY THE LAW OF GOD TODAY?

19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Background: Even though the ceremonial and the civic laws are no longer applicable, the moral law stands just as valid today as it ever did. That’s why homosexuality is a sin. We don’t go around stoning people but God’s character comes through His laws and if He called it a sin back then, it’s still sin.

But Jesus has taken the standard much higher. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Just when you’d think that Jesus would laugh over sin, He raises the bar. Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Regarding Enemies – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

How can we live up to such high standards? We can’t without the help of the Holy Spirit. Are you saved?

Go and Be the Difference

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GO AND BE THE DIFFERENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Go and Be the DifferenceWe are in our series called Salt and Light on the Sermon on the Mount and today we are looking at a very familiar passage from Matthew 5. We’ve been going over and over again on this one passage because it is critical that we get it – critical for us individually, for our children and grandchildren, for our nation, and for our church. Our message is titled – “GO AND BE THE DIFFERENCE.”

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

Overall Background: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” When Jesus spoke these words 2000 years ago, the world was in a big mess. Tiberius Caesar was ruling Rome – a cruel man, an open homosexual, perverse beyond your wildest imaginations. Herod’s sons were controlling the various regions. One of them (Herod Antipas) had even taken his own brother’s wife and had John the Baptist beheaded. Annas (father-in-law) and Caiaphas were running the temple. They cared more for money, politics, and power than anything else. The people were struggling under heavy tax burdens. You can imagine them saying – “It’s just getting worse and worse.” “How long will God let this go on?” “When will He step in and make things right?” Just when you would’ve expected Jesus to tell the multitude to sit tight and hold on, He challenged them to stand up and head out – “Go be the Salt and Light!”

Our world is in a big mess – politically, financially, morally, and spiritually. As a nation, we’re divided. As a people, millions are struggling to make ends meet. As a culture, we’re losing the battle for traditional values. As Vance Havner would say, “Sin that used to slink down back alleys now struts down main streets.” As a world power, we don’t have the respect we once did. As a church, we are barely keeping up with the lostness around us. What is Jesus saying to us in 2015? Same as back then – “Go be the Salt and Light.”

Application: Are you concerned about the condition of our world? Does it bother you how our nation and our world are sinking in every way? Have you asked God what He wants you to do? Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior?

Here’s the essence of this message – When the beatitudes become a part of your nature, you will become the salt and the light of the world. As we walk through this message, ask the Holy Spirit to help you be the difference makers in this world.

I. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HUMBLE SPIRIT.

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit…5 Blessed are the meek…”

Background: They are 2 different aspects of humility – “Poor in spirit” means people who have very little of self. “Meek” means people who wait upon God. As poor in spirit they know that all that they are and all that they have is by the grace of God. As meek, when people offend them, instead of getting angry, frustrated, or disappointed with people or God, they give everything over to God. Humility has nothing to do with how much or how little you have in your bank account. It has everything to do with how little you think of yourself and how more you think of others.

The Christian spirit of humility transformed the Western culture. Men and women full of the Holy Spirit began to put others ahead of themselves. People became gentlemen and ladies and started greeting each others with “good morning,” “good evening.” They began saying things like excuse me, pardon me, my bad, or go ahead. They began standing in lines instead of jumping in front of others. Have you traveled overseas? People will climb all over you to get into a bus or a train. It’s considered normal. The further we get away from Christian values our world becomes more barbaric.

Application: Are you a humble person? Better question – do people consider you a humble person?

II. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A COMPASSIONATE HEART.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Background: Many of us found comfort for personal grief and loss when I preached on this few weeks ago. But Christians saw so much more in this beatitude. They heard their God and Master telling them that if they see someone mourning, it was their obligation and privilege to provide comfort to them. In fact, another beatitude says 7 “Blessed are the merciful…” Meaning: if you see someone in need of mercy, you be merciful. It’s a step beyond humility.

The Christian spirit of compassion transformed the Western culture. In Hinduism, there is not much compassion for the poor. Simplistically speaking, the poor are in that state because of their previous life. For you to help them would be to interfere with karma. Somebody might say – “How about Gandhi? Didn’t he fight for the rights of the untouchables?” What many people don’t realize is that Gandhi was greatly influenced by Christianity. Someone else might say – “Wait a minute! Didn’t he say that he would be a Christian if it wasn’t for Christians.” That’s very hypocritical of Gandhi. When he was attacked by fellow Indians in the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa and left for dead, a Baptist pastor by the name of John Joseph Doke took him into his home and nursed him back to life. Gandhi was grateful but he was also forgetful.

How about Islam? If you are a Muslim beggar, maybe you’ll get something. But if you are anything else, you don’t count. I can go on and on. It’s the coming of Christianity to the east that brought orphanages, women’s shelter and relief societies.

Everywhere people are talking about fairness and equality. Unfortunately, Christians are looked upon as being bigoted, racist, and prejudiced. How did this happen? We’re the people of Wilberforce, Newton, and Wesley! We should be leading that fight!

Application: Are you a compassionate person? Do you care about others or is it all about you? How do you respond when you hear people suffering?

III. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HOPEFUL ATTITUDE.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Background: Who is a peacemaker? They are not people who compromise the truth or sweep things under the rug but they actively seek to bring a resolution in conflict. They do whatever they can to promote peace in their family, neighborhood, church, community, nation, and world. They are hopeful that people can live in peace. Why? Because Jesus is the Prince of peace. Wherever Jesus goes, peace follows.

The Christian spirit of peacemaking transformed the Western culture. Instead of lex talionis or the law of retaliation (what we know as “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth”), men and women full of the Holy Spirit began to put down their battle-axes and reach out with love and compassion. It did not mean that didn’t have laws and consequences for crime. It just means that they stopped being bloodthirsty. I wish I could say that with the coming of Christianity there was never another battle or war in the West but that would be a huge lie. As long as there are sinful, self-centered, and greedy people, there will be conflicts but true Christians have always called for peace.

Application: Are you a peacemaker? Or, are you a troublemaker? Do you pray for peace in our community, our nation, in our world? Are you hopeful that there can be peace?

IV. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HIGHER CALLING. 

5 “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.”

Background: Have you thought about what it means to “inherit the earth?” It goes back to the book of Genesis 1 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Have you ever wondered why the Western culture has been so successful? Because we don’t worship the Sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the rivers, animals, trees, spirit beings, and any carved image. We worship the living true God. We believe that He has given us authority and power over everything. We don’t worship nature. We transcend it. We harness it. No we don’t destroy it but we use it for our benefit and the benefit of all human beings.

There was a time when Christians were the most creative people but unfortunately we’ve become a stick in the mud. Lost people seem to have the market on art, music, education, exploration, business, and the list goes on! We’re not just conservatives but we have become preservatives! We’re looked upon as being the fun killers. I don’t have time to list for you all the scientists, artists, and innovators in history who were born again Christians or operated under the Christian worldview.

Application: What is your calling? Are you a conservative or a preservative? Have you taken God’s command to go out and create like Him?

V. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HOLY LIFESTYLE.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

Background: Righteousness is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings about an external change in our lives. “Pure in heart” is a person who is no hypocrite. They our holy externally as well as internally.

Our society definitely needs people who hunger for righteousness and are pure in heart. What do you think will happen if people are pure in heart in businesses, media, and the courtroom? They do what is right not because they’ll be caught by some law enforcement but because they have to answer to someone much higher, i.e. the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you holy both externally as well as internally? Do people refer to you as a person who is genuinely pure in heart?

VI. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A RELENTLESS PASSION FOR LOST SOULS.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Background: there’s more to being a Christian than just being a good citizen. It involves telling people that they are sinful and headed to hell. Unfortunately, many people don’t want to hear that. You will lose friends, opportunities, privileges, and even your life. But that is the most important thing about being the salt and the light. When the salt is put in the food, it disappears. When the lamp is lit, it burns away.

Dirk Willems - Love your enemies

Dirk Willems – Love your enemies

For e.g. Dirk Willems was imprisoned in his hometown of Asperen in the Netherlands for being an Anabaptist. He escaped the prison by making a rope of strips of cloth and slid down over the prison wall. He ran across the frost-covered pond over a thin layer of ice. Dirk had been eating prison food and was very thin but his pursuer fell through and began crying for help. Dirk turned around and pulled the man out. You would’ve thought that they would let him go but they didn’t. The burned him at the stake on May 16, 1569. His tongue was not clamped and so you can imagine him screaming. The wind blew the flame away from him so that his death was long and miserable. Time and again Dirk cried out to God. Finally one of the authorities could not bear to see him suffer any longer and ordered an underling to end his torment with a quick death.

Are you willing to go and be the difference? Are you saved

The Blessing of Spiritual Vision

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THE BLESSING OF SPIRITUAL VISION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofspiritualvisionIntroduction: So glad all of you are here this morning and also glad to have all those who are joining us by radio! Thank you for tuning in! We’re back in our series called Salt and Light on the Sermon on the Mount and this morning we will be looking at the sixth beatitude in our message called – THE BLESSING OF SPIRITUAL VISION.

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

Overall Background: 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Just when you think that you have a handle on these beatitudes, this one throws you for a loop. Think about this – As a Christian you can be poor in spirit and have the kingdom of heaven, mourn and be comforted by the Holy Spirit, meek and inherit the earth, hunger and thirst for righteousness and be satisfied, merciful and receive mercy but if your heart is impure, you’ll never see God. In other words, you can be stable emotionally, growing biblically, and acting mercifully but if you are living sinfully, then you will be blind spiritually. You can do a lot of things right as a Christian and even be a salt and light to the world but if there is sin in your life, then God will be hidden from you.

There are two words that have all but disappeared from Christian vocabulary. First is the three-letter word – Sin. We talk about everything from prayer, worship, ministry, God’s will, conservative values, and reaching the world but sin? Who wants to talk about that! Another word that has gone out of her vocabulary is holiness. In fact, that word is looked down upon as legalistic, negative, old-fashioned, judgmental, and boring.

Question: How is your sin life? What do you think about holiness? When was the last time you repented before God? Has the Holy Spirit convicted you recently of some sin in your life? Have you done anything about it? There is no substitute to holiness in the Christian life. Here’s the heart of the matter – are you saved? If there is no conviction of sin, it’s probably because there is no Holy Spirit in your life. You’ve never seen God and you’ll never see God until you see Him on the Day of Judgment.

This morning ask the Holy Spirit to remove the trash in your heart so that your vision may be clean enough to see God. Once again – three questions in this passage:

I. HOW TO HAVE A PURE HEART?

“Blessed are the pure in heart…”

Background: Before we run to Webster’s to define purity, we need to look in the immediate context. Jesus was quoting this beatitude, almost word for word, from Psalm 24, a psalm of David. To give you a little context – this psalm begins with the declaration that everything belongs to God – 1 The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. This earth, this universe, and all of us human beings are God’s property and He is the Creator King but He is not satisfied with just that. Listen to vs. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Meaning: God is not some almighty sovereign ruler, despot, and dictator who lives in His grand palace and can never be seen and approached by the common people. To the contrary, He wants to meet us, talk to us, and connect with us. He wants us to come to Him, hang out with Him, and live with Him. But there’s a problem – “Or who may stand in His holy place?” There’s a barrier/barricade that keeps us from getting near Him. It’s God’s holiness. He is holy and we are sinful.

People ask, “What is sin?” Paul gives a detailed list in Galatians 5 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 1 John 5:17 simply says, “All unrighteousness is sin…” Bottom Line: Sin is anything that is contrary to the nature of God and goes against the will of God. It is neither neutral nor passive. It wants to spread and take control and destroy everything. But God is holy and He cannot and will not let sin rule. That’s why His wrath is against sin and since we are sinners, it is against us. In fact, Romans 5:10 tells us that sin has made us “enemies of God.” Don’t misunderstand – God’s wrath is not some bad temper. He’s not some bully going around threatening people or a cantankerous old man, always angry and yelling at people to get out of His yard. Isaiah 28:21 reminds us that God’s wrath is His unusual act.” Think of it this way – “It is a love which is so jealous for the good of the loved one that it blazes out in fiery wrath against everything that is evil.” (Leon Morris, Apostolic Preaching of the Cross)

So sin invokes God wrath but that’s not the final word. To the question, who can stand in His holy place, the answer comes in vs. 4 “He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” Meaning: To come close to God you need to purify yourself, externally and internally. In other words, you need total holiness. No hypocritical, half-hearted, pretend holiness will do. God sees the heart. We are like an open book in His sight.

Application: Are your hands clean before God? Is your heart pure before God? Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin’?” It’s a rhetorical question. Jeremiah 17 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart…” David clarifies in vs. 4 “…Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.” 2 things God hates: 1. False gods – anything that is taking the place of God in your life. It’s more than just some idols in a temple. 2. False swearing – claiming God’s name falsely. When you say you are a Christian and yet disobey Christ and His Word, that’s swearing deceitfully.

Application: Is someone or something playing God in your life? Are you taking God’s name in vain? Have you ever received a spiritual heart transplant? Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? That’s the only way you can receive a clean new heart.

II. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SEE GOD? 

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

Background: How does that work? We have to go back again to Psalm 24. Listen to vs. 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5 “He shall receive blessing from the LORD…” Now listen carefully to vs. 6 “This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face.” For over 2000 years people have struggled with this verse. What exactly is David saying here? “Those who cleanse their hands and purify their hearts will receive a blessing from God. They will be called the Jacob generation. Who are they? They are those who are determined to see the face of God.”

Who was Jacob? Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and twin brother of Esau. Esau was the firstborn but despised his birthright. Jacob wanted that blessing and bought it for a bowl of stew. Later when Esau tried to get the blessing back, Jacob went as far as to deceive his father to get what was rightfully his. By the way, the Bible never condemns him for that. Esau made a vow that he would kill Jacob and he had to flee for his life. Twenty years later, it was time for Jacob to head home but he had to face Esau. The night before he prayed to God foe help. What was God’s response? Genesis 33:24 “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” How strange?!! Just when you’d think that God would have sent a cool breeze, put some angels around him, and given him sweet dreams on a soft bed so Jacob could wake up fresh and ready to take on Esau, some stranger jumps on him and tries to pin him to the ground! This goes on all night but the worst is about to come. Genesis 39:25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint…” Ouch! So now he’s sleep deprived, physically exhausted, and limping in incredible pain. Will he finally give up?

What in the world is God trying to do? God is testing Jacob. “You tricked Esau and got the birthright. You tricked Laban and got your Jacob wrestling with Godfamily out. You are about to trick Esau and head back to your home. Are you going to trick Me too? But how much do you really want the blessing?” Somewhere between the grappling and tussling, pushing and shoving it hits Jacob – his opponent is not just some man or even some angel (He had seen some earlier in Mahanaim). This person is a whole different being and immediately he tightens his grip. Did he pass the test? Maybe. The person says in vs. 26 “…Let Me go, for the day breaks” but Jacob replies, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” It was no longer about Esau. It was no longer about his livestock. It was no longer about his family. Did he pass the test? Maybe. 27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Meaning: You wanted the blessing. You fought for it and got it. Did he pass the test? Maybe. 29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. Did he pass the test? Now he passed the test.

Listen to Jacob’s response in vs. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Who was this? There’s only one who qualifies to be both God and man. It’s Jesus Christ pre-incarnate. The same way he came to Abraham and later to Moses, Daniel, and others, he came to Jacob.

Application: Do you really want to see God? God doesn’t reveal His face so easily and cheaply. How much are you willing to purify your heart? What would happen if you and I had that kind of determination to seek after God? The Holy Spirit is waiting to do that kind of work in our lives.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK? 

Jacob and Esau reconcile by Francesco HayezBackground: Keep in mind the true blessing of the beatitude is not to self but to others. We are blessed in order to be the Salt and Light to others. Let’s go back briefly to Genesis 32:31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. You can silhouette of a truly broken man. He sees Esau and bows seven time to the ground. What was Esau’s reaction? Genesis 33 4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. What a beautiful sight! 8 Then Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company which I met?” Remember the hundreds of animals – goats, ewe lambs, rams, camels, cows, bulls, donkeys, and foals? And he (Esau) said, “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 And Jacob said, “No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.

Our world is so broken right now. Our country is so divided right now. What is the answer? It may sound simplistic but here goes – “Men and women, boys and girls with clean hands and pure hearts who have only one desire – to see the face of Jesus.” When we go out like Jacob who saw the face of Jesus, then and only then will forgiveness and salvation come to the Esaus. Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Is your heart pure before God? David said in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do you need a new heart? Are you saved?

The Blessing of Not Getting Even

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THE BLESSING OF NOT GETTING EVEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

theblessingofnotgettingevenIntroduction: In our series SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount we come to the fifth beatitude from Matthew 5. Thank you for joining us this morning and especially thank you to those who are joining us by radio. This morning’s message is titled – “THE BLESSING OF NOT GETTING EVEN.”

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

Overall Background: 7 “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.” So far the beatitudes were primarily dealing with our personal relationship with God.

  • You are to be “poor in spirit” and have more of the Holy Spirit.
  • In times of loss and pain, trust the Holy Spirit and He will comfort you.
  • Be meek and give your problems to God and you will inherit His riches.
  • You are to hunger and thirst for His righteousness and you will be satisfied.

All of these are important but they focus primarily on our personal relationship with God. But the fifth beatitude – “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy” – has to do with our relationship with people. When people take advantage of us, hurt us, mistreat us, or insult us, instead of retaliating, getting revenge, paying them back or getting even with them, we are to show mercy to them. People think that mercy is showing compassion towards those who are less fortunate and cannot do anything for you. That may be true but it’s much more than that. It is showing compassion towards those who have done something wrong to you, hurt you, and maybe even hate you.

Question: Are you a merciful person or are you a person who gets even? Are you a person who forgives and reaches out or are you a person who pays people back? Do your family members and friends say that you always get the last word and you always come on top? Let me ask you a deeper question – Have you ever accepted the mercy God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? If not, no wonder you can’t show mercy.

This message is very important because how you show mercy is how you obtain mercy. If your life is only full of justice and only eye for an eye and only tit for tat, it’s because that’s how you are. Do you often say, “I wish I could get a break?” Then “Start giving others a break.” Let the Holy Spirit help you today. 3 Questions this morning:

I. WHAT IS MERCY? 

“Blessed are the merciful…”

Background: There is a lot of confusion over the meaning of the word “mercy.” People confuse it with so many other things. Let me explain with four scenarios:

  • First Scenario: Joe insults Mike so Mike insults Joe back. That’s JUSTICE. He has every right to do that. We do that all the time especially in our culture. We have a very tit for tat society. We like to put people back in their place. We like to have the final word. We see that even in how we joke with each other – “If you can’t take it, don’t dish it.” The problem is – We don’t just dish it back, we dash the other person! But that’s JUSTICE and we understand that very well.
  • Second Scenario: Joe insults Mike but Mike instead of insulting Joe back and getting justice, just walks away and gives it to God. That’s MEEKNESS.

(Qualifications – all this is in the context of personal relationships. When it comes to individual safety and national security, we have to defend the helpless and ourselves and even make preemptive strikes against the enemy. That’s a very different issue.)

  • Third Scenario: Joe insults Mike and Mike gives it to God but instead of just walking away and distancing himself from Joe, Mike does something else. He forgives Joe. He refuses to hold a grudge. He refuses to be bitter. He doesn’t want to carry that extra baggage in life. That’s FORGIVENESS.
  • Fourth Scenario: Joe insults Mike and Mike gives it to God and even forgives Joe but he doesn’t stop there. He puts his guard down, sets his pride aside, and reaches out to Joe. As hard as it is, he tries to see things from Joe’s perspective. He tries to be patient and kind to Joe. He tries to redeem and restore the relationship. That’s MERCY.

Mercy is forgiveness plus much more. If you want to understand it, you have to turn to the Bible – 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), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, What is salvation? It is a gift originated in God’s love, worked out in his mercy, and offered to us by his grace. It not only forgives us but it raises us up and seats us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. All we can do is receive it by faith. Listen to verse 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” We have offended God but because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God has not only forgiven us but also given us all the riches in Christ. No other religion can demonstrate mercy. It is an exclusive Christian virtue. Other religions may have justice, self-control, self-restraint, and even forgiveness. Only Christianity tries to redeem, restore, rebuild, reaffirm, reassure, and a lot of words starting with “re.”

What happens when we are touched by the mercy of God? We abdicate our right to revenge and retaliation. We relinquish our right to get even. We hand over the gavel of justice. Just like how God is towards us, we too forgive the person who has offended us but don’t stop there. We try to reach out and bring out the best in that person’s life.

Application: Have you ever received God’s mercy in your life? He worked out the plan of salvation when you were so undeserving. Unless you get saved, you cannot even begin to understand mercy. F.B. Meyer said – “It (mercy) is an exotic which Christ brought with Him from heaven.” Are you holding out mercy towards someone in your life? Are you only giving justice or forgiveness? Are you willing to go beyond?

II. HOW DO WE OBTAIN MERCY? 

“Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy”

Background: What does it mean to “Obtain Mercy?” It means having God’s forgiveness and restoration in our lives. Mercy is not just something that we need when we get saved but it’s also something we need every day after we get saved. Everyday we need God’s forgiveness towards us. Everyday we need God’s restoration in us. Why? Because we are weak. Because we cannot keep God’s standards. Because we fail so often. Of course our salvation is intact. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our eternal destiny is secure. But because of sin our relationship with the Father get’s broken. Even though we are headed to heaven, life begins to feel like hell.

How do you get mercy (forgiveness and restoration) in our lives? Some people think we need to pray for mercy. Some people think we need to ask God to forgive us for our sins. What does God have to say? “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy” Meaning: If you want mercy in your life, you have to show mercy to others. If that’s not enough, in the Lord’s Prayer or Disciples’ Prayer, Jesus said it again in Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” Then he gave an amazing parable in Matthew 18 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Application: Are you known for justice? Are you known for just forgiveness? Are you known for giving people three strikes and then out? If so, then you are setting the course of your life. James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

When you show Mercy and in return have God’s Mercy in your life, your life becomes a blessing to those around you. When Jesus was in this world He often reprimanded the scribes and the Pharisees for failing to show mercy. They were not horrible people. They tried to keep God’s commandments. They even tried to witness to others. Matthew 9  10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ (Jesus was quoting Hosea 6:6) For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

What the world needs to see are people who are so full of God’s mercy that they cannot help but show mercy to others. It will call on us to reconcile with the fact that some people who have offended us may even get away with what they did to you. You will have to kiss revenge goodbye. You will have to refuse to talk bad to people’s faces and even behind their backs.

In return not only will God show you mercy but people will also show you mercy when you need it. Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Corrie ten Boom Story on Forgiving (from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive”)

Nazi Holocaust

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. “It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’ “The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue Jewish Women Holocaust 2uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.] “Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? “But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. “‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me. “‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’ “And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

Corrie Ten Boom and Billy Graham“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. “For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ “I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ “And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ “For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.”

That’s MERCY – forgiveness that calls the person a brother or sister. The only way we can do that is if we have the love of Christ in our hearts. That’s what this fallen world needs to see. Do you have it?

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

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