Shrewd by Pastor Abidan Shah

SHREWD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Have you heard someone say “so and so is book smart but not street smart”? It means that a person has a lot of book sense but no common sense. Scientists and professors are known for that. I knew some professors from back in college who were brilliant when it came to books but clueless when it came to day to day activities. One was a genius in Physics but could not operate the coffee machine. Another one was a Math whiz but could not manage his money. So also, there are many Christians who are the “Good Book” smart but a failure when it comes to daily life decisions. They have a lot of spiritual knowledge but no relational and financial wisdom. Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is very different than anything I’ve ever preached. It’s on learning how to be “SHREWD” and that’s the title of the message.

Luke 16     1 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 So he called him and said to him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

Question: Parables reflect who we are in the story. Are you the wise steward or a foolish one? Have you been a good steward of what God has blessed you with? How are your finances? How do you see money? Do you use money or love money? Do you have the true riches in Christ? Are you saved?

Context: Previously in this series, you’ve heard me say that this parable or that is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. Today’s parable is the most difficult parable of Jesus. The reason it’s so difficult is because on the surface it appears wrong on many levels. But, if we suspend our judgment for a little bit, it will begin to make a lot of sense. So, let’s review the story again: The steward has been fired for wasting his master’s goods but before he cleans his office, he decides to take advantage of his access to the financial records and pardons part of the debts that others owed to his ex-boss. Listen again to verse 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’” I did some math and that’s about 400-500 gallons of oil. This would take about 75 olive trees to produce and it would be the wages of an average worker for 2 years. That’s a lot of money! Again, verse 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’” Losing 20 measures of wheat would come to losing the produce of 20 acres of land. That would be equal to losing about 500 denarii. Again, that’s a lot of money! Also, these were just two examples listed but he did that with all his ex-boss’s debtors. Here’s a question: Why didn’t he just steal some money and goods? If he had been caught stealing, he would have been punished severely. So, why did he do this? He was doing favors on his ex-boss’s expense to cash in later when he would be jobless. In other words, he was using his ex-boss’s debt ledger to build friendships that he could call on in the future for help.

What was his boss’s reaction? 8 “So the master commended (epaineo = praised) the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.” Why didn’t he call the authorities? What boss/owner in his right mind would do that! Keep in mind that this is just a parable, a made-up story given to make a point. The point was that the steward did not steal from his ex-boss. Instead, he made a clever decision to take advantage of his situation and make friends for a rainy day. This act even impressed his ex-boss! Just when you want to say that there must’ve been a misunderstanding in the wording, listen to Jesus’ conclusion—“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” The Greek word for shrewd is “phronimos” which means insight and wisdom, sensible, thoughtful, prudent, and wise. The same word is also used by Jesus in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” What Jesus is saying is that lost people are wiser in using money than God’s people. 

Of course, people have tried to explain this point in more palatable ways. Some have said that Jesus would never commend such a behavior or commend lost people. There must be some misunderstanding. Nope. Listen to verse 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” In other words, Jesus was telling his listeners to use money to make friends so that when life does not go as planned, their wise investments would help them out. Again, some people have claimed that this could not be. Maybe, Jesus was simply using irony or sarcasm here. Listen to verse 10 “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the trueriches?” In other words, if you haven’t learned how to use money wisely, why should God trust you with his true riches. Keep reading—12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Now it begins to make a little more sense. Jesus was NOT saying—

  • God’s people should be more like the people of the world.
  • God’s people should use other people’s money to outsmart them.

Instead, Jesus was saying—

  • Learn from those sons of this world who use money to make friends.
  • If you don’t know how to use money properly, why should God trust you with his true riches.
  • If you claim to serve God, stop serving money. You cannot serve both. You will love one or the other.

Why did Jesus go through all this trouble to explain all this? 14 “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money (philarguros = fond of money), also heard all these things, and they derided Him.” There is the clue! The Pharisees loved money. The tax collectors and sinners used money to their advantage but the Pharisees were only lovers of money. Listen carefully: The Bible does not condemn money. It only condemns the love of money.Listen to I Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 2 Timothy 3    1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers…”

What happens when you love money? You begin to worship it. It controls your life. It dictates how you live. It decides your priorities. Of course, there are many lost people who love money and they destroy their lives chasing after it. But, unfortunately, many saved people do the same thing. They claim to know God but they worship money. They give their lives to chasing it and pierce themselves with many sorrows. They are money lovers. They condemn the rich (U-Haul behind a hearse) but many rich are not money lovers (most philanthropists)! To the contrary, the sons of light are money lovers:

  • Instead of teaching their children the proper perspective on money, they only teach them to love money.
  • Instead of focusing on relationships and investing to build them, they watch them fall apart and they blame the church or circumstances or even God.
  • Instead of finding true purpose in life, they only live selfish and self-centered lives.
  • Instead of investing in God’s eternal kingdom, they only live for the here and now.
  • Instead of being a solid testimony for Christ, they repel the lost world from the gospel.

Is there any wonder that God does not give his own any true riches? Is there any wonder that many of God’s people are living beggarly lives? Is there any wonder that many of God’s children are pierced with many sorrows? Is there any wonder that we are not winning the lost world?

Invitation: Are you shrewd? Do you love money or use money? Are you saved?

Fruitful by Pastor Abidan Shah

FRUITFUL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Farm life is often romanticized in advertisements, on school field trips, and especially in country music videos. We have some farmers in our church and they’ll tell you that farming can be rewardingbut it’s far from romantic. It’s hard work, long hours, and very unpredictable. It’s not as much “She thinks my tractor’s sexy” but more like “Farmer’s Blues”! I believe that if God were to come down and choose an occupation, farming would be on the top of his list. In fact, Jesus used the analogy of a farmer sowing seeds to describe his preaching of the gospel. The seed, the word of the kingdom, falls on every heart, but it is the nature of the soil, the nature of the heart, that decides whether or not it will bear fruit.That’s the title of our message today – “Fruitful.”

Matthew 13     3Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, someseedfell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Question: What kind of a soil is your heart? Is your life bearing fruit? Do you have ears to hear? Are you saved?

Context: Before we dive in and start exploring the Parable of the Sower, we need to once again clarify the reason why Jesus used parables in his teaching. We tend to think of the parables as stories given by Jesus to make his message clearer but that’s not altogether true. The parables were used by the prophets to confront the people of God when they sinned and to expose the true condition of their hearts. A good example of this was when David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah the Hittite murdered. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David. Nathan didn’t come and say, “David, why did you sin like this?” Instead, he told him a story of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had many flocks and herds but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb, which had grown up with his family and it was like a daughter to him. She ate from his table and drank from his cup. One day, the rich man had a visitor and instead of taking from his own flock and herds to prepare the meal, he took the poor man’s only lamb. What was David’s reaction? As the Lord lives, that man will sure die and he shall have to restore four times! What is Nathan’s response? “You are the man!” David realized what had happened and he could only mouth – “I have sinned against God.”You have to think of the parables like a mirror. Why do you use a mirror? To see what condition you’re in. You don’t look in the mirror to see what condition the mirror is in or to find fault in someone else. So also, you look in the parables to see the condition of your own heart. When we come to the parables, our question should not be – “I wonder who this story is for?” That’s the mistake the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees made. Our question should be – “I wonder which character I am playing in this story.” If you do that, you will see yourself even more. If you don’t, you will never see yourself.

With that in mind, let’s look at the Parable of the Sower.To start with, it’s known as the foundational parable. As someone (Klyne Snodgrass) said, “It is theparable about parables.” In other words, the Parable of the Sower is the guide to all the parables that Jesus gave. On the surface, the story is very simple – One sower, 4 kinds of soil, and only one fruitful ground. Pick which one you are when you listen to Pastor Shah preach. Not so quick. Let’s back up for a moment and first identify each element in this story:

1. Who is the Sower? Jesus or any of us who is sharing the good news about Jesus.

2. What is the Seed? Matthew calls it the “word of the kingdom” and Luke calls it the “word of God.” Either way, it’s the gospel of the kingdom.

3. What are the different kinds of Soils? Wayside, Stony Ground, Thorny Ground, and the Good Ground. There is no problem identifying the first and the last soil.

1stSoil – Wayside

19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understandit,then the wickedonecomes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

The Wayside is the path on the side of the farms where people, animals, and wagons have travelled for so long that the ground has become hard. Of course, it represents the heart of the religious leaders – the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees. They cannot understandwhat Jesus is saying. That word in Greek “suniemi” means “to have an intelligent grasp of something that challenges one’s thinking or practice.” This is not understandas in “comprehension.” This is understandas in “reception.” For the religious leaders, it is the foot traffic of traditions and the animal wagons of rituals that have packed their heart solid. It has become stubborn towards the things of God. Unfortunately, Satan is perched nearby waiting for the opportune time to swoop in and snatch away the seeds of the gospel that lie on their hearts.

4thSoil – Good Ground

23“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understandsit,who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

The Good Ground is the heart of the disciples. They hear the word, understand it, and bear fruit. The quantity of fruit may vary but they will bear fruit.

But how about the 2ndand the 3rdSoils? Who are they?

2ndSoil – Stony Ground   20“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”

3rdSoil – Thorny Ground   22Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 

Some people have tried to identify these two soils as the immature Christians, carnal Christians, and baby Christians. They will say something like – “None of us are perfect. All of us are a work in progress. Of course, we need to be like the 4thSoil but sometimes the world gets the best of us. Other times, our own flesh gets the best of us.” Based on this kind of thinking, we have 4 kinds of people when it comes to the gospel – the lost, the saved, the sort of lost, and the sort of saved. The 1stSoil is definitely lost but the other 3 are definitely going to heaven. God grades us on a curve! He knows our hearts. Problem solved! Right? Not really. Jesus completely negated this! Listen to what he said in Matthew 13    10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

How do we solve this problem? Go back to the mirror analogy. How do you know whether or not you belong to the second or third soils? If you can see that it’s you and you are willing to change, then it’s not you. If you can’t see that it’s you, then it’s you. You can only see for yourself, not for others.

Question:

  • Has your heart become hard towards the things of God? Are you willing to let Christ soften it with his grace and mercy?
  • Has the sun of trials and tribulations been beating down on you? Do you see how shallow you are in the gospel? Are you willing to let him replant you?
  • Have you been caught among the thorns of the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches? Are you willing to let him entangle you?
  • Are you the bearing fruit but its only 30 or 60 when it could be more? Are you willing to let him prune you and fertilize you so you could bear more?

Can you not see yourself in the mirror? Come and let the Savior open your eyes.

DIGGING DEEP – 4 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 4 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

Some preliminary remarks:

  • Again, remember the tool imagery from last week. We are trying to put together the most well rounded system of interpretation (comprehensive, congruent, consistent, and coherent) – from David L. Wolfe, Epistemology, The Justification of Belief.
  • Find a balance between “commitment to literal” and “appreciation of genre”

Today we will be looking at what’s known as Genre or Type of Literature found in the Bible. My information is coming from Grant Osborne’s Hermeneutical Spiral.

  1. Narrative – Found in OT books like Genesis, Exodus, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Nehemiah, etc.; NT books like Gospels, Acts, etc. They contain both history and theology. The basic method to study them is to “Read them” and look for the various dimensions of the story – plot, characters, and setting. Also look for the various dimensions of the discourse – implied author, point of view, and implicit commentary, implied reader.
  1. Poetry – Found in some OT historical books (Gen 49; Ex 15:1-18, I Sam 2;1-10), some entire prophetic books (Hosea, Joel, Amos), some extensive portions of other prophetic books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah), and especially in Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, Song of songs, or Job. Types of Poetry – War Songs, Love Songs, Lament, Hymns or Praise Songs, Thanksgiving Hymns, Songs of Celebration and Affirmation, Wisdom and Didactic Psalms, and Imprecatory Psalms. In the NT, there are many quotations of psalms; quotations from ancient poets (Acts 17:28); poetic passages in the form of Hebraic hymns (Luke 1-2); passages without meter but containing exalted expressions of poetry (Mt 5:3-12 or John 1)
  1. Wisdom – Found in OT books – Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. Various forms of Wisdom Literature – Proverb, Saying, Riddle, Admonition, Allegory, Hymns and Prayers, Dialogue, Confession, Beatitudes. Found in the NT books – Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5), Romans, 12, James 1-3,
  1. Prophecy – predominant in the latter part of the OT and in the NT. The writing prophets were active in only three centuries (from the 8th – 5th). The prophet was a “forth-teller” before he was a “foreteller.” They were not angry with the Jewish system but with the apostasy and false religion that was practiced in both Israel and Judah. They stood for the Torah and condemned Israel’s worship because it was impure. The key to understanding prophecy is to determine the original context.
  1. Parable – One third of Jesus’ teaching in the synoptic gospels comes in parables. The Hebrew term is “masal” which is also the word for proverb and riddle. It has the basic idea of comparison. Again, carefully read the original setting.
  1. Epistle – most of the NT. To correctly understand the epistle – study the logical development of the argument. It is a letter.
  1. Apocalyptic – In the OT – Daniel, Zechariah, visions of Ezekiel (37-39), Isaiah 24-27, locust plague of Joel; in the NT – Olivet Discourse (Mk 13 and parallels), I Cor 15, II Thess 2, II Peter 3, Jude and Revelation. It covers the period from the seventh century BC to first century AD. The term “apocalypse” means to reveal or uncover. Again, begin by looking at the original context and then seek to understand the present application with humility. The reason for cryptic symbols is to keep the reader from being to confident in applying the passage to his/her present setting.

 

Test Passages:

  1. John 3

 

  1. Gen 24

 

  1. Psalm 91:1-4

 

  1. Malachi 3:1-3

 

  1. Ecclesiastes 2:9-17

 

  1. Matthew 5:20 vs. Galatians 2:21

 

  1. Luke 15

 

  1. Revelation 9:1-3 in light of Joel 2

 

  1. Revelation 13:5 along with Daniel 12:11
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