When the Body Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN THE BODY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When the Body Grows

Introduction:  Back in 2009 our family decided to take a trip out west. We were all able to get in my truck with our luggage under the bed cover. We all had plenty of room. It was a trip of a lifetime! The other day I said to Nicole – “That was so much fun! Maybe we can do that again one day.” To which she replied – “If we all tried to get in your truck and ride 5000 miles, we would kill each other.” So also with our church body. There was a time when 20 people on a Sunday morning was a good Sunday. The children’s ministry had 2 kids, that’s Rebecca and Abigail. We would count anything that breathed. Things have changed since then. God has truly blessed us and our church body keeps growing. If were not careful, we would kill each other. With that said, let’s turn to the book of Ephesians for our message titled “WHEN THE BODY GROWS.” We will do a series through this book soon but for now just a few verses from chapter 4.

Ephesians 4   14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Question: How do you relate with others in the body? What is your role in this church body at Clearview? Are you helping to edify this body in love? To be a part of this church body, you have to be saved. Are you saved?

Context: Before we can understand the meaning and application of the passage we just read, we need to first ask “Why did Paul write this letter to the Ephesians?” Although there is no clear consensus, most scholars believe that Paul’s main purpose was to promote unity and love among the Ephesian Christians. He wanted them to love one another with the same deep love with which they love God and Christ. Those two are interconnected. Why did he feel that this was important? Maybe because he sensed that they were losing their grip on love. Was he right? Yes. Just a few years later, listen to what John wrote in Revelation 2   1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: (that’s Jesus) 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” What will people say of our church a few years from now?

With that in mind, let’s return to the passage but let’s begin in Ephesians 4 verse 1 to truly understand what we read. 1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord…” Meaning: He is bound to Christ. He goes where Christ goes, does what Christ tells him to do, and says what Christ tells him to say. In other words, he is not writing on his own authority but Christ’s. What does Christ demand? 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” Paul begins this section by urging the Ephesians to remember the Christian graces. They are given in 2 Peter but some are here as well. Lowliness means humility. Nothing will destroy unity faster than pride. Gentleness means meekness. It is not weakness. Instead, it is knowing when to be angry and when not. Longsuffering means patience. It means don’t say what comes to your mind and your mouth. Bearing with one another in love means learn to tolerate each other and do it with “agape” love. Don’t resent the other person. What’s the goal? 3 “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It makes a difference in how you treat and interact with each other.

Application: Are you marked by Christian graces?

Now, if I were to end the message here and tell you to remember the Christian graces and be nice, kind, and loving to each other, it probably won’t last 10 minutes. Our Christian graces are linked to our foundational beliefs. We stand upon a 7-layered foundation:

  1. One Universal Church – 4 “There is one body…” Paul was dealing with issue of Jews and Gentiles coming together. So also today, there are many churches and denominations but if you are willing to receive Jesus Christ as your only Savior and God, then we are part of that one body.
  2. One Spirit4 “There is one body and one Spirit…” The same Holy Spirit indwells you who indwells me.
  3. One Hope – 4 “…just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” We have the same expectation that God will work his plan out for us and this world and Christ will ultimately come for us (the blessed hope and glorious appearing).
  4. One Master – 5 “one Lord…” The same second person of the godhead who became man and died for me and rose again on the third day is your master as well.
  5. One Faith – 5 “…one faith…” There is one settled body of truth which Jude calls 3 “…faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
  6. One Baptism – 5 “…one baptism…” This refers to the baptism Paul talks about in Romans 6 where we “were baptized into His death,” “buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised with him to “walk in newness of life.” The water baptism is the demonstration of this inward spiritual baptism.
  7. One God and Father – 6 “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Through Christ we have the same God the Father and we belong to the same family. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my father” but “our father.”

If you are willing to stand on this 7-layered foundation, we can work out any other disagreements we may have. If we step off any of these layers, no amount of pretend niceness is going to hold us together.

Application: Do you know our foundational beliefs?

Remember our Christian graces. Remember our Foundational Beliefs.

Remember our role in the body.  7 “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, (established churches along with signs and wonders and miracles. Today we don’t have this gift but we do have missionaries) some prophets, (communicated the divine revelation of God. Today we don’t have this gift because we have the New Testament but we do have revivalists) some evangelists, (preach and explain the good news of salvation like Philip the evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch but today Billy Graham) and some pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping (katartismos = “mending” restoring, putting things right) of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (This is my goal as the pastor/shepherd of Clearview) 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” It’s like a spiral. The more it turns the deeper the unity grows.

Our church body is growing but we need to be aware of our Christian graces, our foundational beliefs, and our role in the body.

Are you doing your part in the body? Are you in the body? Are you saved?

Comfort and Joy by Pastor Abidan Shah

COMFORT AND JOY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

comfort-and-joyIntroduction: We’re in our final message in our Christmas series – BELIEVING IS SEEING. If you want to see Jesus, you have to believe in Him first and then you begin to see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and personal life. Jesus gave us a clue to find Him in Scripture when He said, “Moses wrote about Me.” We’ve examined two such passages already. Today we’ll look at a third one and the message is titled – COMFORT AND JOY.

Deuteronomy 18   15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Bridge: Everyone has a favorite Christmas carol. The one I like is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Unfortunately, many people don’t know what it means. To start with, it’s not about some merry gentlemen taking the time to rest. The comma should come after “merry” – “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” What do those words mean? The word “rest” means keep/stay, like “rest assured.” The word “merry” means “joyful” and the word “gentlemen” does not refer to some Victorian gentlemen in top hats. It’s a generic reference to “people.” So the first line should read “God Keep You Joyful, People.” Why? “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay, Remember, Christ, our Saviour was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.” That is beautiful! We can have comfort and joy because Christ our Savior has come but I want to suggest a correction – “It’s not to save us from Satan’s power but from God’s power.” In today’s message we’ll learn about the real reason to have comfort and joy at Christmas.

Question: Before we go any further, what emotions come to your mind when you think about the coming of Jesus? Does His coming bring comfort and joy to your heart? Do you understand why Jesus really came into this world? Do you know that He has come to be the mediator between God and us? Do you realize that you cannot come to God on your own? Have you ever asked Jesus to be your mediator? Are you saved?

Today we’ll learn the biblical reason to have comfort and joy. 3 things to understand:

I. THE DREADFUL AND AGGRESSIVE HOLINESS OF GOD

Background: In the passage we just read from Deuteronomy 18 Moses is making a solemn promise to the people of Israel that after his own death God would raise up a prophet for them who would just like him be a Mediator between God and them. Why did they need a Mediator? Because of an incident that took place at Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb. To learn about this incident we have to turn to Exodus 19. The people had just left Egypt and they had made it to the foot of Mount Sinai or Horeb. It was time for them to come face-to-face with the God who had set them free. God spoke to Moses from the mountain and said, 4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” In other words, being set free from slavery is just the first step in where God wanted to take them as a people. He wanted them to be His special people. 6 “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Meaning: You are to represent me before the world just as a priest represents the people before God. But here was the key requirement – Holiness. Why? Because God’s holiness is His first and most distinctive attribute. If you’re going to be His special people and represent Him, you have to be holy as He is holy. Don’t misunderstand – holiness is not some puffy clouds or the sound of organ music or the smell of incense. Negatively, it is a “complete absence of sin” and positively, it is a “passionate desire for righteousness.”

God instructed Moses that before He would come down, the people had to consecrate and purify themselves. Furthermore, no one could approach the mountain except Moses. Then it happened on the third day – 16 “…there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. 20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Meaning: This was not some Hollywood theatrics. This was God the Holy Creator entering into His sinful creation. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Meaning: Not sure exactly what happened right then but there must’ve been some thrill seeking types who wanted to get as close to the fire without getting singed. God warned them that this was not some pull out your lawn chairs and enjoy the show time. They will die from this. 22 “Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” Meaning: Even the priests better be careful. This was the kind of holiness that would come after anyone who was unholy in its sight. How did the people perceive all this? Listen to Exodus 24:17 “The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Needless to say, the people of Israel were terrified of God. He was not someone to play with. Not even the priests could get near Him. His holiness was unbearable.

Application: What do you think about the holiness of God? Is it to you long dresses, three-piece suits, and hard straight back pews? Is it to you a long list of do’s and don’ts? Do you understand that God’s holiness is negatively a “complete absence of sin” and positively a “passionate desire for righteousness”? Do you understand that being saved means being saved from God’s holy wrath against your sin?

II. THE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING MERCY OF GOD

Exodus 20   18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. They were terrified and petrified of God. They were scared for themselves, their families, and their children. They stood far away. By the way, who told them to stay far away? God. As we just read, God had to send Moses down from the mountain to warn the people to stay away. If I were God, I would’ve let a couple of them turn extra crispy and that would’ve taken care of the rest! But God is so merciful, isn’t He? 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The people told Moses something that sounded like an affront to God. They told Moses that they would rather talk to him than to God. Again, if I were God, I would’ve said, “You don’t get to decide the terms of our communication.” By the way, these were the same people who later worshipped the golden calf at the foot of the mountain. I would’ve said – “Nope. People like you don’t deserve any breaks. You need to live under constant fear and an iron fist, that’s it.” 20 “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Meaning: God in His patient and understanding mercy allowed Moses to be the Mediator between Him and the people.

Application: Do you realize how merciful God is towards His people? Do you realize how without His mercy we would be consumed by His holiness? Do you realize how much He is willing to work with us even when we don’t deserve it? Do you realize how many chances He keeps giving to us?

III. THE FUTURE AND ULTIMATE PROMISE OF GOD

17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.’”

Background: When God gave this promise, He intended a double fulfilment. On one hand, after Moses’s death, God sent many prophets through the centuries to His people to mediate for them. Some of them we know by their books – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and others. But there was another fulfillment that God intended – a much deeper, longer lasting, and ultimate fulfillment. One day God would send the Prophet who would have all the words of God in His mouth and He would be their Ultimate Mediator before God forever. God’s people were waiting for this prophet:

  • When John the Baptist came, the Jewish religious leaders questioned him – John 1   19 “…Who are you?” 20 He confessed…“I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “…Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
  • After Jesus fed the 5000, his own disciples said in John 6:14 “…This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
  • After seeing his numerous miracles, many in the crowd said in John 7:40 “…Truly this is the Prophet.”
  • When people were offended at him, Jesus himself said in Matthew 13:57 “…A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

Not only that but Jesus also repeatedly talked about having God’s Words in His mouth:

  • John 7:16 “…My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
  • John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”
  • John 17:8 “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”

I don’t have time to talk about how He prophesied about the future. The point is this – When Jesus said, “Moses wrote about Me,” He also had Deuteronomy 18 in mind where Moses promised the people that God would send them the Ultimate Prophet one day.

  • Just as Moses was a symbol of comfort and joy to the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate symbol of comfort and joy for us.
  • Just as Moses was a temporary mediator for the people of Israel, Jesus became the ultimate mediator for all who believe in His name.

But there’s something Jesus did for us that Moses could never do. Hebrews 10   19 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw 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.” Whereas Moses told the people to stay away from the mountain of God, Jesus has invited us to boldly enter the Holiest by His blood.

Invitation: Does the coming of Jesus truly bring comfort and joy to your heart? Has he saved you from God’s holy power? Is He your Mediator?

God’s Calling Card by Pastor Abidan Shah

GOD’S CALLING CARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

gods-calling-cardIntroduction: This is our third message in our Christmas series “BELIEVING IS SEEING.” When you believe in Jesus, He becomes real and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives. Today’s message is titled – “GOD’S CALLING CARD.”

John 1:10   He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Bridge: Many of you carry calling cards or business cards with you. They have your name, your contact information, and your capacity/stature on them. You give them out when you meet a potential client or someone you want to connect with in the future. What happens to those calling cards or business cards? It depends. If there’s a genuine connection or if they need a favor or if there’s a definite need, they keep your card. If not, they chunk it. God also has a calling card and it also has his name, his contact information, and his capacity/stature. He is constantly giving it out to every human being. Unfortunately, many people don’t see its significance and they chunk it.

Context: In this series we are examining what Jesus meant when He told His opponents “Moses wrote about Me.” The question is – how and where did Moses mention Jesus in the Old Testament? Last weekend we learned that where grace and truth come together, there Moses wrote about Jesus. What we’ll learn in this message is that when Jesus came into this world he gave his calling card with his name, position, and contact information. When you study that calling card carefully, it looks very much like the calling card Moses gave for God in the book of Exodus 33-34. The font is a little different. The information is in a different order. It has a few smudges on it because of time but it is identical!

Question: What have you done with God’s calling card? Let’s get more specific – what have you done with Jesus’ calling card? “Oh, I don’t remember getting it…” Every person in this world at some point has an encounter with God/Jesus and receives his calling card. Unfortunately, many never see any need for him in their lives and they chunk it. How about you? Someone might say, “I don’t even know what it looks like…” We will examine it today. But here’s the question – “When you find it, what will you do with it?” Are you willing to be saved?

Let’s look at what God/Jesus’ calling card looks like. We’ll begin with the calling card in the Gospel of John and then go back to the calling card Moses presented:

I. RECOGNIZE THE PATTERN OF THE CALLING CARD

Background: The pattern for God’s calling card is found in the Gospel of John chapter one. John introduces us to Jesus, not as the baby who was born in Bethlehem but as the Word who was in the beginning – 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then in verse 10 he gives us the initial reaction of the world to the coming of Jesus – “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” Meaning: Even though the world was a creation of Jesus, it failed to recognize its Creator. Verse 11 “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Meaning: This was not just some innocent failure to recognize but a deliberate act of rebellion and rejection.

Listen carefully – We don’t seek after God. God seeks after us. Even when we go seeking after God, it’s because He has first come to us and given us his calling card. What does it look like?

  1. The first thing on the calling card is the NAME of Jesus.

12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Have you ever seen a calling card without a name, just a phone number or an email? So also Jesus’ calling card had His name on it – “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel (God with us), Jesus (God Saves), Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, the Lamb of God, and the list goes on and on.

What’s next?

  1. The second thing on the calling card is the CONTACT INFORMATION of Jesus.

13 “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Have you ever seen a calling card with no contact info? So also Jesus’ calling card had his contact info. He “dwelt among us” means “He has set up a branch in your area, where you can easily reach Him.” Have you ever try to reach a business or a service only to find out that they don’t serve your region? Jesus is in your location. Anyone, anywhere, anytime can call on Him.

  1. The third thing on the calling card is the CAPACITY/STATURE of Jesus.

14 “…and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father…” Have you ever seen a calling card that only has a person’s name and contact information but nothing else about him or his services? Listen to what was on Jesus’ calling card – “we beheld His glory.” “Glory” implies that “He is powerful.” How powerful? the glory as of the only begotten of the Father…” As powerful as God the Father himself! He can do anything and everything. What does He offer? “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” We looked at those two last weekend.

Listen to what the sales rep John the Baptist had to say about him in verse 15 “…This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” Meaning: You don’t need me anymore. The boss is here. 18 “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Meaning: This is none other than the owner Himself!

Application: What have you done with the calling card of Jesus? Have you chunked it or have you called upon him? Do you realize how much you need his services in your life? Do you realize that you cannot circumvent him? He is the Boss, the Savior.

II. COMPARE THE ORIGINAL CALLING CARD

Background: Let me begin by giving you the context in which Moses handed God’s calling card to the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus. You remember the time when Moses was on top of Mount Sinai with God and the children of Israel had intimidated Aaron into making a golden calf for them. God was furious with them and wanted to destroy them but Moses interceded for them. Even though many died, God agreed to again lead his people. But Moses needed assurance from God that He would still lead them. Listen to Exodus 33 12 Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, “Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” What Moses is asking for is God’s calling card. He is asking for God’s assurance that He will not abandon His people when they sin against him again and make him mad. God promises him in 14 “…My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Now Moses makes an unusual request in verse 18 “…Please, show me Your glory.” God agrees but warns him that he cannot see his face and live.

Now comes the moment for God’s original calling card in Exodus 34. The order may be different but all the elements on the two cards are identical:

First thing on the original calling card is the CAPACITY/STATURE of God. Exodus 34:5 “Now the LORD descended in the cloud…” That is God’s glory. It is the visible presence of how powerful and capable He is. God had to veil His glory because no one, including Moses, could see it and live.

Second thing on the original calling card is the CONTACT INFORMATION of God. Exodus 34:5 “…and stood with him there…” Just like Jesus came and “dwelt among us,” so also God came down and stood with Moses. Meaning: God set up a meeting place with the people of Israel.

Third thing on the original calling is the NAME OF GOD. Exodus 34   5 “…and proclaimed the name of the LORD. Just the way those who heard the name of Jesus and believed in Him, so also Moses and the people of Israel heard the name of Jesus – 6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” What a long and powerful name! Again, did you notice how it is full of grace and truth?!!

The point is this – How do we know Moses wrote about Jesus? Look at the calling card Jesus gave and the calling card of God that Moses gave. They are identical! They guy in the mailroom cannot walk around with calling card of the president of the company. Even the vice-president cannot walk around with the calling card of the president of the company. Only the president of the company can. Everyone else is an imposter. You have to decide if Jesus was an imposter or is He who He said He is – God come to dwell among us in all His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Invitation: The calling card is in your hand. Are you going to make the call? Or will you reject him and chunk his card in the trashcan? Who is Jesus to you? If you’ve never asked Jesus to be your Savior, today is the day. Make the call. He is waiting to come to you. If you are saved, when was the last time you called on Him? The king of kings has given you his personal calling card. What is keeping you from calling on him

Hoi Polloi Episode 9 – History of Biblical Interpretation 2

In this episode, Pastor Abidan Shah focuses on first century techniques for interpreting Scripture. He addresses the three schools of thought related to biblical interpretation and how these are utilized today.

For more information on Digging Deep, Clearview Church’s summer Bible study, check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/ClearviewDiggingDeep. You can also find the notes from each week on Pastor Shah’s blog.

PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE

PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

PRAISE UNDER PRESSUREWe are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning I am preaching a message from Luke 1:46 titled, “PRAISE UNDER PRESSURE.” It is easy to praise God when things are going great – no bills, no pain, no bad news – but it is very hard to praise Him when things are tough. Many of us become obsessed with our problems, get discouraged, destroy relationships, and make bad decisions. But, when we deliberately choose to praise God, we not only please Him but we open the door for Him to take charge and work all things together for good.

Luke 1:46   And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is traditionally known as the “Magnificat.” It comes from “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” which is the Latin translation of “my soul magnifies the Lord,” the first line of Mary’s hymn. This song has been a part of liturgies, music, and art for centuries. Sadly, we have lost the real meaning and purpose behind it. Mary wrote it at a time when she was going through extreme doubt, worry, and fear. This was her song of praise and submission to God’s will.

Here’s the gist of the message – During times of pressure, you can either continue in doubt, worry, and fear or you can turn to God in praise. You can either get angry with people and be down at your circumstances and indulge in some destructive habit or you can “lift up your eyes to the hills – from where comes your help.” You can say with the psalmist, “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” When you do that, you open the door for God to step into your life and take charge of the situation. After all, He allowed it to come for a reason. When you praise Him, you invite Him to switch seats from the passenger to the driver. But let me also warn you – just because you praise God in the midst of pressure doesn’t mean your problem will disappear. It only means that God will steer your life to bring glory to His name.

Application: What trial or pressure are you facing this morning? How are you handling it? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Without Him you can try to be positive, optimistic, and even pray but you are lost like a sailboat in a storm. You need Him to be your Savior.

Let’s look at Mary’s song and see how we can praise God under pressure:

1. CONTEXT OF PRAISE

Luke 1:39   Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

Background: When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be pregnant with a child who is the Son of God, she was afraid and full of worries. A baby was growing inside of her and she had nothing to do with it. How would her family deal with this? She’s not married but engaged to a good man. How will Joseph deal with this? She comes from a priestly family. How will her community deal with her? Will she be stoned to death? So the angel suggested that she visit her relative Elizabeth who was also pregnant. Mary left immediately from her home in Nazareth of Galilee and travelled 80-100 miles to the hill country of Judea, South of Jerusalem. It probably took her about 3-4 days in journey. You can only imagine how exhausted she was. I doubt she had a full night’s sleep since the week before. Now she came to Zachariah and Elizabeth’s home. How will they treat her?

Picture – Mary, a young girl who was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted.

Application: Have you ever been in that situation? Maybe it wasn’t as intense but it was exhausting. Maybe you are in that situation right now. How are you handling it? Are you getting angry? Are you discouraged? Are you afraid? Are you praying? Luke 18:1b “men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” The antidote to losing heart is prayer.

How did Elizabeth greet her? 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Meaning: No condemnation, criticism, and condescension but only uplifting, encouraging, and faith filled words.

Application: Let me ask you – When people get around you, do they feel uplifted, encouraged, and faith filled. I guess the deeper question is – “Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?” “Is your life under His command and control?”

2. CONTENT OF PRAISE

Luke 1:46 And Mary said:

Background: Let me stop here for a moment – Some people mistakenly think that Mary immediately launched into her song of praise when Elizabeth finished saying verse 45Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” It is as if Mary was like – “I’ve been writing a poem all the way from Nazareth to Judea. It’ll make a great song one day. Tell me if it rhymes.” This is my opinion – I don’t think Mary wrote this song of praise until sometime in the last month of her three months with Zachariah and Elizabeth. It was after day after day and week after week of listening to Zachariah and Elizabeth that Mary began to jot down her thoughts and prayers.

Spiritual growth does not happen overnight. It grows in the crucible of suffering and pain. Some of the greatest melodies and lyrics were written when a person was going through a time of loss and pain. Charles Spurgeon said, “Pain makes every note come out with great effort, yet I believe God bends down His ears to hear such singing as that. I have known birds in cages sing better than those outside—and the Lord sometimes puts us in a cage on purpose that He may hear us sing the sweeter.”

Now listen to her words of praise – it can be divided into three sections:

  1. She focused on God – “My soul magnifies the Lord…

Meaning: This was not a song of self-determination and resolve. It was a song that magnified God. How do you magnify God? How do you make God great? It’s not like you put God under a microscope. It’s more like walking up to the Washington Monument and realizing how immense it is. Magnifying the Lord means drawing closer to Him and realizing how great He is in everything. It begins by thinking upon Him and His many attributes. Sometimes we focus so much on our problem that it is magnified more than it needs to be. Instead, the more you magnify God, the more you want to magnify Him. You may start to magnify Him in a whisper at the bottom of the hill but as you start climbing up and draw closer to the top, you find yourself shouting praises to His name!

When was the last time you focused on how great is our God?

  1. She returned to the basics – 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

Meaning: As Mary begins to magnify God, she does not get into the deep things of the Christian life. She does not talk about pneumatology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. She does not get into the various views of sanctification. She goes back to the fundamentals. She rejoices in “God my Savior.” No matter how deep you grow in your knowledge of the Bible and no matter how much you understand the deep things of the Christian life, you never get too far from “God be merciful to me a sinner.” You might say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven” and that’s wonderful. At the same time, this same Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” At the end of the day, I’m just a sinner saved by grace.

When was the last time you got on your face before God and said, “God be merciful a sinner.” Do you know what that does? It takes the pressure off of us and puts it upon God.

  1. She was grateful to God for everything:

– First, for her own self. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

During trials it is good to look back and thank God for how far He has brought you.

For e.g. Visiting a lady at the hospital and how she encouraged me to be thankful.

49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.

Meaning: When God shows His grace, He does not compromise with sin. Don’t ever think that grace means God overlooks your sins. It only means that God looks at Jesus instead of you.

– Second, for all people. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.

Anytime good things happen to people, it is God. He is the source of all good things.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. Meaning: The wicked rich He has sent away empty.

– Third, for God’s people. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Meaning: There’s a difference here in how God blesses all the people in the world and how He especially takes care of His people.

For e.g. If I see a child hungry, I’ll find a way to feed him/her. But, if it is my child, I don’t wait till I see him/her hungry. I have a purpose for his/her life.

Application: Are you going through a time of pressure, have you praised God? Have you thanked Him for what He has done for you, for others, and for His people? What are you magnifying in your life? Are you grateful for being saved?

3. CONSEQUENCE OF PRAISE

Luke 1:56  And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

She had to go back. We live in a time where people want to run away. Nobody wants to go back. Everybody wants to move somewhere else.

But, how did she go back – reluctantly, bitterly, or angrily? We get a glimpse of her new personality after the shepherds came to visit the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Luke 2 17 Now when they (shepherds) had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it (crowd) marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Another translation has it – “And Mary was pondering all these matters, trying to put them together in her heart.”

Meaning: She did not lose heart, bail out, get angry, feel sorry for her self, and wish she had another life. Like a servant, she knew that her Master knew best and she submitted willingly.

Application: How are you dealing with your pressures? Do you know Jesus?

Hoi Polloi Podcast Episode 4 – Dr. David Alan Black

In this fourth episode of HoiHoi Polloi Pod Cast Image Polloi, Abidan Shah interviews Dr. David Alan Black, a noted New Testament scholar and the Dr. M. O. Owens Jr., professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest. In this episode we discuss Dr. Black’s book “Why Four Gospels?: The Historical Origins of the Gospels.” Along with a brief intro to the synoptic problem, Black introduces us to the Four-fold Gospel hypothesis. If you have any questions or topics you would like to be discussed, tweet them to @hoipolloiradio.

Hoi Polloi Podcast Episode 3 – Dr. Maurice A. Robinson

Hoi Polloi Pod Cast ImageIn this third episode of Hoi Polloi, Abidan Shah interviews Dr. Maurice A. Robinson, a noted New Testament textual critic and Research Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Robinson is the co-editor of the “The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform” and many other books and articles. In 2014, he was awarded a Festschrift by his friends and students for all his contributions in the field. In this interview we will chat with him about his reflection over the past four decades in New Testament Textual Criticism. If you have any questions or topics you would like to be discussed, tweet them to @hoipolloiradio.

OUTLINE OF NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES – UNIT 7

OUTLINE OF NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES – UNIT 7

The following is my outline of the critical study of the New Testament based upon the following works: Werner Georg Kümmel, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems, William Baird, History of New Testament Research 3 volumes, Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986, and Scott McKnight and Grant Osborne, The Face of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research.

The scientific study of the New Testament was the work of the “neologians,” who were influenced by the historical critical works of two very important German scholars.

The first one was Johann Salomo Semler (1725 – 1791). He tried to avoid the “pitfalls” of orthodoxy, Pietism, and extreme rationalism. Instead, he proposed a new way wherein he could have an unrestricted use of criticism without compromising the faith. He advocated distinguishing faith and theology. The former, he argued, was a matter of religion and hence outside the bounds of criticism. The latter was not part of religion and, hence, open to ruthless critical research. In doing so, he was trying to protect faith but ended up doing more damage. He also focused on the canon, specifically, rejecting the orthodox view. Again, he tried to distinguish between the Bible and the word of God. Here too, in Semler’s view, the biblical canon could be freely debated while the word of God remained outside the realm of criticism.

Semler, in attempting to safeguard faith, opened the door to a dangerous bifurcation. His influence on eighteenth century biblical scholarship and later biblical studies cannot be overstated. One can notice the germ of neo-orthodoxy much before it’s time.

The second scholar to make a great impact in the field of New Testament studies was Johann David Michaelis (1717 – 1791). He was more conservative in his views than Semler. He believed in fulfilled prophecies and miracles and even agreed that the resurrected Christ was the “cornerstone of Christianity.” Nonetheless, he did not consider the Gospels to be infallible. In his monumental Introduction to the New Testament, he also dealt with text criticism. He believed that the early text could be classified in four early recensions: Western, Alexandrine, Edessene, and Byzantine.

In many ways his work appeared to be conservative but in the view of many it weakened the foundation of Christianity. In trying to bridge the gap between faith and reason, he destroyed the bridge itself.

Both Semler and Michaelis achieved quite different results than what they anticipated.

OUTLINE OF NT STUDIES – UNIT 4

OUTLINE OF NT STUDIES – UNIT 4

The following is my outline of the critical study of the New Testament based upon the following works: Werner Georg Kümmel The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems, William Baird, History of New Testament Research 3 volumes, Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986, and Scott McKnight and Grant Osborne, The Face of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research.

New Testament scholarship saw a radical shift with the coming of deism. Deism was the birth child of the cosmology of Newton (1642-1727) and the rationalism of the Enlightenment. For the deists God was not some orthodox creed or some authoritarian establishment but just a natural, universal religion.

The works of John Locke (1632-1704) were instrumental in creating the framework for the impact of deism on NT scholarship. Even though Locke himself was not a deist, he formulated the philosophy that was exploited by the deists against NT. Contrary to the notion of innate ideas, as proposed by Descartes (1596-1650), Locke advocated an empirical epistemology. According to this view, there are two kinds of knowledge: external sensation and internal sensation. The mind is a blank slate wherein all knowledge comes in via external sensation. This knowledge is then appropriated and arranged by the reflection of the human mind. What cannot be known by reason is revealed by God through supernatural revelation. This revelation will not contradict reason. To this the deists retorted – if the supernatural revelation does not contradict reason, what’s the use of revelation. After all, the ordered universe and the rational mind was enough. Hence, fulfilled prophecy and supernatural miracles were no longer viable or necessary.

Locke was considered to be a pious Christian but he rejected the doctrine of original sin and was not fully orthodox with regards to the doctrine of the Trinity. He also rejected the idea of propitiatory, substitutionary atonement. He considered faith to be simply an assent to doctrines. Although Locke laid down the famous dictum: “The most certain interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself, and it alone is infallible,” his views on Scripture were far from orthodox. He held to the opinion that the Scripture has errors. He also argued that human beings did not inherit Adam’s guilt but only his mortality. Other divergent views of Locke were that speaking in tongues in Corinth was actually speaking in Hebrew.

The father of deism was Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648) and the leader of the cause was Charles Blount (1654-1693). Deists claimed that God established a rational order at creation and then stepped away. Leading propagandists were John Toland (1699-1722) and Matthew Tindal (1657-1733). Toland’s basic thesis was that “there is nothing in the gospel contrary to reason, nor above it; and that no Christian doctrine can be properly call’d a mystery.” In other words, when the doctrine of the Gospels is exposed to reason, it is rational and free of any mystery. It is the clergy who have conspired to create the idea of the mysterious. He gave another important thesis: “Nor is there any different rule to be follow’d in the interpretation of Scripture from what is common to all other books.” Although, Toland allowed for miracles, he considered them compatible with reason.

Tindal, however, was sharper in his criticism of the Bible than Toland. He considered reason to be supreme and no scripture to be beyond the reach of reason. He further asked the question – how could anyone be certain of the text of the bible, if it has so many variants. He argued that Jesus simply revived the old religion and called people back to the religion of nature, the religion of reason.

Another deist, Anthony Collins (1676-1729) rejected fulfilled prophecy as legitimate to claim the authenticity of scripture or Christianity. He argued that since the Jewish people had manipulated the Jewish text to prevent the Christians from claiming the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy in Jesus, there was no use in trying to advocate fulfilled prophecy as a viable defence. Using allegorical interpretation of prophetic passages does not prove the truth of Christianity.

The charge against miracles was taken up by the deist Thomas Woolston (1669-1733). He tried to make a fool out of the clergy about miracles. Much can be said against Woolston’s approach. One major counterpoint is that if scripture itself lends natural explanations that invalidate miracles, then why didn’t the writers and scribes remove the incriminatory details.

Deism continued to flourish in England in the eighteenth century. Notable mentions include Peter Annet (1693-1769), Thomas Morgan (d. 1743), and Thomas Chubb (1697-1747). Annet called Moses an impostor and pointed out the discrepancies between the Paul of the letters and the Paul of the Acts. So also Morgan who blamed Moses for introducing senseless rituals of the Egyptians in the place of the rational religion of nature of Abraham, Noah, and Enoch. Christ was not the Messiah but a restorer of the natural religion. His attack of the OT is reminiscent of Marcion. He also denied the substitutionary atonement of Christ. Finally, Chubb questioned the authenticity of the Gospels. He rejected the notion that the Gospel writers were supernaturally inspired. To this can be added the doctrine of atonement, original sin, and Trinity.

Even though the deists were not biblical scholars, they raised some very important questions for biblical research. Their attacks were usually marked with sarcasm and ridicule. This did two things: open the door for more moderate attacks and open the door for defense of the scripture and orthodox Christianity. The latter somewhat impeded serious study of scripture. The deists assumed that nothing would be left of Christianity by the end of the eighteenth century but they failed to expect the coming of the Wesleyan revival. Neither did they expect the coming of David Hume (1711-1776) who argued that deism was not skeptical enough. Deism did not survive long in England but was revived in Germany.

OUTLINE OF NT STUDIES – UNIT 3

OUTLINE OF NT STUDIES – UNIT 3

The following is my outline of the critical study of the New Testament based upon the following works: Werner Georg Kümmel The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems, William Baird, History of New Testament Research 3 volumes, Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986, and Scott McKnight and Grant Osborne, The Face of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research.

Unit 3

The Greek text of the New Testament was first published in Spain in 1514 in a polyglot edition of the University of Complutum (Alcalà). Two years later in 1516, Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) published his edition of the Greek NT. In the years to come, Erasmus’ Greek text gained more prominence than the Complutensian polyglot and, after 1633, became known as the Textus Receptus. Richard Simon (1638-1712) was also an important player in the development of what later became known as Textual Criticism. Simon’s goal was to bring out the necessity of the tradition of the Catholic Church along with the Bible. To prove this thesis, Simon laid undue emphasis on the unreliability of the NT text as seen in the number of variants. In doing so, he unwittingly undermined the scriptures.

About the same time, the Anglican theologian John Mill (1645-1707) embarked on the monumental task of putting together a critical version of the Greek NT. He used the text of Stephen (1550), except for a few places, “whether by accident or design” (per Scrivener), and added a list of the vast number of variants at the bottom of each page. This was a bold step indeed. Mill began the work with a Prolegomena in Latin that laid out valuable information and gave his method in listing the readings. Not everyone was as appreciative of his untiring effort. His work was attacked vehemently by the likes of Daniel Whitby (1638-1725), who represented the old guard against deism. His view could be described as moderate or even progressive for the day with regards to NT scholarship. Nonetheless, he held to a preservationist view of the transmission of the NT text. On the other hand, scholars like Richard Bentley (1662-1742) did come to his rescue. Nonetheless, as Scrivener remarks: “Of the criticism of the New Testament in the hands of John Mill it may be said, that he found the edifice of wood, and left it marble.”

Mill’s work was not without its faults. Bristol notes, “It is true that his collations were not always correct, but the errors were usually in collations made by others rather than in those made by himself. In this early period, at the very beginning of textual criticism of the New Testament, he could not be expected to go far beyond his generation. Therefore, we must not be surprised that he did not make notes of such things as transpositions of words, homoioteleuta, and itacisms.” (Lyle O. Bristol, “New Testament Textual Criticism in the Eighteenth Century,” in Journal of Biblical Literature, 69 no. 2 (June 1950), 103)

Tregelles affirms the problem with the collations from the early days of the discipline and points out that Mill based his use of the versions on the Latin translations of the versions in Walton’s Polyglot. He rightly remarks: “thus, whenever they are inadequate or inexact, he was betrayed into error.” Furthermore, Mill focused heavily on patristic citations but here as well, they were “often less complete.” Metzger further cautions that: “The Fathers are referred to merely by their names, and only occasionally does Mill provide the title of the patristic treatise in which the citation is preserved.”

Although a monumental attempt no doubt, Mill’s work is not the perfect gauge to measure the number of variants. Fox points out that “there are very numerous corrections of errors both typographical and editorial. J.J. Wetstein in his Greek Testament of 1751 estimates that there were 10,000 errors in Mill, and he is probably right.” If Mill’s data were recorded according to today’s standards and progress in the field, it would be much less spectacular.

Another scholar worthy of mention in the field of textual criticism in this period was Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687-1752). He attempted to regain the confidence in the reliability of the NT text. He was the first scholar to classify the NT Greek manuscripts into families. He also formulated the classical precept: “The most difficult reading should be preferred.” Bengel’s Gnonom (a Commentary on the New Testament) served as a model for combining critical studies along with figures of speech and also devotional applications.  A contemporary of Bengel who also deserves to be mentioned was Johann Jakob Wettstein (1657-1740). He too focused on the variants at the bottom of the page, claiming that many of them were the original text.

Such was the beginning of the discipline that became known as textual criticism of the New Testament.

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