Debt by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEBT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Someone said, “There are 3 kinds of people in this world: the have’s, the have-not’s, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-have’s.”I think most of us are in that last group. To be honest, debt is not all that bad. It’s debt collection that is bad. Having to payback what you owe is not that fun. I found some memes online that I thought were really funny: “Run for your life, the debt collectors are coming”; “I will find you and I will get my money”; and “I paid off all my debts and now no one calls me.” Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is not as much about debt as it’s about debt collection. Of course, by that we are referring to our sin debt and by cancellation of that debt we are referring to forgiveness of sin. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Unless you understand how God has cancelled your sin debt towards him through his son Jesus, you will never truly understand how to cancel the sin debt of others towards you.

Matthew 18     23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But 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. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then 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 tookhimby the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And 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.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. Can you see yourself in this story? Are you the servant who was forgiven a big debt but went out and took his fellow servant by the throat for a small debt? Have you ever experienced the forgiveness of sins? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is very basic and clear on the surface but it’s very baffling and complicated when studied in depth. Think about it for a moment: 

  • Why is Sin described as a debt? Does God loan us a certain amount of holiness?
  • What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us?
  • Why is it so hard for us cancel the debt of others to us?
  • Is it really that we cannot cancel a single sin debt or is it more the fear that if we let this one go, more will follow, it will happen again?
  • Can I be saved if I refuse to pardon the sin debt of others towards me?

There is no way that we can answer all those questions in the next 20 minutes. That’s why this is will be a multi-part message. We will take on a couple of those questions today and the rest next time. (A word to the wise – “Don’t miss these messages. They have the potential to change your life and relationships.) So, let’s begin:

Question #1 Why is Sin described as a debt? The common mistake people make in studying this parable is that they quickly jump over the word “debt” and start talking about “sin.” Of course, this parable is about sin (our sin towards God and others sin towards us), but we cannot truly understand the force of this parable until we understand the significance of debt in that society. To understand this, let’s back up and look at the context of this parable in Matthew 18     21Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” We’ve all heard what that implies. Jesus was not saying 70 X 7 = 490. He was saying unlimitedtimes. All that is true but there’s a reason why Jesus used the number 7 and not 3, 5, or 10. Because 7 in the Old Testament is the number of fulfilment. It is the number of Sabbath. It is very significant when it comes to debt.Listen to Deuteronomy 15     1“At the end of everyseven years you shall grant a releaseof debts.2And this isthe form of the release: Every creditor who has lentanythingto his neighbor shall releaseit;he shall not requireitof his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’S release.” Not only that but even debt slaves were set free. Leviticus 25     8“And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenthdayof the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement…10And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout allthe land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 17Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for Iamthe LORD your God. 19Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety… So when Jesus said to Peter, “not just seven times but seventy times seven,” his listeners knew that he was hinting at the Year of Jubilees.But something else–23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.Not just the land of Israel. Exodus 19:5“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 earthisMine.” In other words, it doesn’t matter who has the title, God owns it all.

To us, it doesn’t seem like a big deal but to those people it was nothing short of a revolution.Why? Because the Pharisees had created a system called “prozbul.” According to this system, the debt collector could give someone’s debt over to the court. This way it was no longer an “individual” holding the debt but a court and did not have to be forgiven in the seventh year. Now the creditors could lend in the sixth year and know that their money would be safe and the borrower could borrow money to do their work. On the surface, this seemed like a win-win, but can you imagine what this did to those in big debt. They could never get out of debt. The debt would keep mounting until it would be a foreclosure or slavery. Think about Jesus’ parable for a moment. How much did the servant owe the king? Ten thousand talents. A talent was about 60-90 pounds depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). So, 10,000 talents would be about 225 tons. Let’s say a talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. 10,000 talents would be 60 million denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. Herod’s annual salary was 900 talents. It would take Herod 10 years to pay back as long as he didn’t spend at all. How long will it take for the servant to pay back 60 million denarii? It’s impossible.

When Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he talked in terms that the average person could understand. In the Lord’s Prayer inMatthew 6:12“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Also, remember the parable of the Two Debtors, one owed 500 and the other only 50. Both were forgiven and Jesus asked “Which one would love more?” You can imagine how this must have impacted the people–“That person has been holding the lien on my property for the past 200 years. I wonder what he will do now.” Here’s a reminder:  Are you generous towards those who are less fortunate? I believe in Capitalism but Generous Capitalism. At Clearview we have many very generous people. How about you?

Now we understand the gravity of why Jesus talked in terms of debt but the question still remains – “How is sin a debt against God?” In the Bible, sin is defined by metaphors:

  • Sometimes it is a burden (bear your iniquities – Lev 20:20) and Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden.
  • Sometimes it is a stain (sin be like scarlet – Isaiah 1:18) and it has to be washed (Eph. 5:26).
  • Sometimes it is slavery (Egypt as house of bondage) and it has to be set free (Romans 6:18)
  • And some other metaphors

Sometimes it is also described as a debt. Lev. 5:1“If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and isa witness, whether he has seen or knownof the matter—if he does not tellit,he bears guilt.” It has the idea of assuming a debt. This idea became very prominent after the children went into Babylonian Exile. They had lost their land. Don’t misunderstand: They didn’t lose it to the Babylonians but to God.Remember, God had told them “the land is mine” and “the whole earth is mine.” They were in debt because of sin. They were in the land but it was God’s land. They still had a debt to pay which was impossible to pay. The prophets repeatedly talked in the language of earning your wages.Jeremiah 31:11For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.” Zechariah 9:12“Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare thatI will restore double to you.” Why did Jesus come? He came to pay a debt that we owe to God that we can never repay. Matthew 20:28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus went about offering forgiveness of sins to all those who came to him. He undermined the authority of the temple priests and messed up the nice system of financial security of the Pharisees and the religious leaders. No wonder they hated him. 

Listen to how Paul describes our salvation inColossians 2     13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Invitation: There are no bargain pardons. God himself had to pay our debt of sins by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins. Have you received his pardon? Do you understand how everything you have is his? Are you holding someone’s lien in your hand? Are you saved?

Desperate by Pastor Abidan Shah

DESPERATE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: It’s amazing how God lines up our activities at Clearview. He knew that this weekend Curt Mulhollen will be called home and so he set up our 24-hour prayer vigil during the time that he was dying. Also, as many of you know, Curt was very active with our Men’s Monthly Breakfast. It happens(ed) to be this Sunday morning. Then, today’s sermon in our series on the parables of Jesus is on prayer. This week many of us prayed in desperation to God for Curt. Our message today is titled “DESPERATE” and it will teach us how to come to God in our time of need and trust him to answer what’s best. We will be looking at 2 parables by Jesus on prayer. There are similarities and there are differences but the main point is the same –God eagerly hears the prayers of desperation by his children. We as believers should eagerly seek and expect the help of our Heavenly Father and trust him that he will answer in his way and his timing. 

Parable #1 – Luke 11     5And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessnesshe will rise and give him as many as he needs…13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much morewill yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Parable #2 – Luke 18      1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ” 6Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7And shall God notavenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?

Question:  Do you have a desperate need in your life today? Are you praying to God for it? Even more so, are you expecting an answer from God? Is he your Heavenly Father? Have you prayed to receive Christ as your Savior?

Context:Both these parables are known as the “how much more” parables. They each tell a story and then draw a contrast between the antiheroes and God. People mistakenly think that these parables are about persistence in prayer. We need to persist in prayer but that’s not the point of these parables. The point is that God will do so much more for us compared to the antiheroes who scornfully and grudgingly did so much less. It’ll make more sense as we look at them side by side:

Parable #1Parable #2
SettingFriendship
Friend goes to a friend at midnight to borrow 3 loaves of bread for another friend who is visiting.
Court System
A widow repeatedly badgers a judge to get justice for herself.
AntiheroSleeping Friend
 
“Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you?”
 
This is understandable because houses back then were basically a one-room affair. Imagine waking up your children, especially babies.
Unjust Judge
 
“who did not fear God nor regard man.”
 
This is also sort of understandable because judges have to be unbiased. At the same time, this judge did not even fear God, which means that he was totally heartless.
OffenseInhospitality
 
Don’t misunderstand. The charge of inhospitality is not against the friend who was asleep. It is against the friend who asked for bread. The clue hinges on the meaning of the Greek word “anaideia” – “yet because of his “anaideia”he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” Typically, translators have translated this word as “persistence” or “importunity” (annoying persistence). It almost makes the friend who is asking seem noble for coming in the middle of the night and waking up his neighbor friend. Scholars have rightly concluded that its true meaning is “shamelessness.” One more thing: It’s not “shameless persistence.” This word is always negative. The sleeping friend gave the bread because of the shamelessness of his friend. What does that mean? We will see next.
Delayed Justice
 
Don’t misunderstand: The charge against the judge is not about justice but about delay in justice. Listen to 3“…she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while.” Why was he delaying? Maybe he was looking for a bribe. Or maybe he was in cahoots with the adversary. Either way, the story leaves us believing that he wasn’t right.
ResponseOut of Contempt
 
8I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessness
he will rise and give him as many as he needs…”

 
The friend ends up giving bread but not because of friendship. He gives it out of contempt, disgust, and scorn over his lack of hospitality and common courtesy!Apparently, this friend who asked for bread knew that his friend was coming but he did not plan ahead. His shamelessness is not in waking people up at night but in failing to be a good host in planning ahead for his visiting friend.
Out of Annoyance
 
5“…because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ”
 
The judge ends up giving justice but not because of justice. He gives it out of annoyance, irritation, and exasperation over her constant badgering and pestering!
PointUnlike the Sleeping Friend who gave out of contempt, God is our loving Heavenly Father – Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much morewill yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”Unlike the Unjust Judge who gave a verdict out of annoyance, God is our loving Heavenly Father – Luke 18:7And shall God notavenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”

How do you pray? How do you see your Heavenly Father? Do you doubt his love and mercy? Do you think he looks down on you when you ask in desperation? Does he give so you would stop pestering him? Absolutely not! 

He is a loving father. He wants you to come and ask what’s on your heart. He wants you to believe that he will answer. He will not call you shamelessness. He will not call you a pest. He wants you to seek and eagerly expect the best from your Heavenly Father. 

Are you doubting his best? Listen to Luke 11:9  “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asksfor a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Are you losing heart? Listen to Luke 18      1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…8I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.

God’s answer may not always be what we ask. It will be better than what we ask and it will come at a time we do not expect. Trust him.

Are you saved? That’s the prayer he is waiting to hear from you. Ask Jesus to save you today.

Prodigal by Pastor Abidan Shah

PRODIGAL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Has anyone here ever been lost? Thank goodness we’re living in the age of GPS technology. How did we survive before that! What is worse than getting lost? Its losing someone, especially a child. Have you ever lost your kids? If I’m not wrong, we have lost all of them at least once. One of them we locked in the church, twice! It’s a horrible feeling! There’s a kind of lostness that no GPS can fix and its nothing to laugh about. It is spiritual lostness. It is much more than just losing your way or being temporarily out of sight. It is rushing headlong away from God and towards the eternal chasm. It’s only through Jesus Christ that we can be found or saved before it’s too late. Our message today is titled “PRODIGAL” in our series on the parables of Jesus.

Luke 15     11Then He (Jesus)said: “A certain man had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to hisfather, “Father, give me the portion of goods that fallsto me.’ So he divided to themhislivelihood. 13And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave himanything.17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ 20“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and putiton him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals onhisfeet. 23And bring the fatted calf here and killit,and let us eat and be merry; 24for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

Question:  Parables are like mirrors. They expose to us who we are. Who are you in this parable? Are you the lost son? Are you one of the onlookers? Are you seeking the lost? Are you rejoicing over their salvation? If you’re lost, do you hear the Savior calling your name? Take the hand of Jesus and be saved today. 

Context: The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most popular parables of Jesus. It’s up there with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Many artists, especially the old Dutch Masters and Baroque painters, loved painting the scene of the Prodigal Son. The story is so simple and so true to life that we cannot help but be moved by it.Unfortunately, this parable is often misunderstood. To understand the true intent of this parable, we need to ask the question – “Why did Jesus give the Parable of the Prodigal Son?” To answer that, we have to understand the context in which Jesus gave this story. We have to back up to Luke 15and verse 1Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’ 3So He spoke this parable to them…” The reason for the parable was the Pharisees’ complaint against Jesus’ eating habits – his frequent dining with tax collectors and sinners (prostitutes, soldiers, business owners, and gentiles). 

Why did the Pharisees have a problem with Jesus’ dinner company? Do you remember when we talked about the “Table Fellowship” of the Pharisees? They called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. They believed that what you put inside you is what makes you holy or unholy before God. Not only that but who you eat with is also very important. Here’s a case in point – Luke 11    37And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. 38When the Pharisee sawit,he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.Listen to Jesus’ response: 39Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. 40Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 42“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone…” What was the response? Now Jesus had 2 groups of people around him: the haters and the fans. The Pharisees hated him even more and the lost people loved him even more! In this tense context, Jesus gave this parable!By the way, it’s not “parables” plural but “parable” singular. It has 2 short stories and one long one:

#1 Lost Sheep – Luke 15      4“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? Don’t read more into it than is intended. The imagery is of a helpless lost sheep. The shepherd knows that if he doesn’t go after the sheep, it is a matter of time before it is killed or seriously hurt. So also, we are to seek after the tax collectors and sinners as helpless lost sheep. 5And when he has foundit,he laysiton his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls togetherhisfriends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. What’s the point? You should be happy to see the tax collectors and sinners around Jesus!

#2 Lost Coin – Luke 15      8“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she findsit?Again, don’t read more into it than is intended. The imagery is of a valuable coin. The word for coin is “drachma” which was like a “denarius,” one day’s pay for a laborer. This meant a lot for a common woman in those days. So also, we are to seek after the tax collectors and sinners as invaluable coins to be retrieved. 9And when she has foundit,she calls herfriends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” What’s the point? You should be happy to see the tax collectors and sinners repenting before God!

#3 Lost Son –The father had 2 sons: the older who responsibly served his father and the younger one who did everything opposite:

  • To start with, he was rude and ungrateful – 11“Father, give me the portion of goods that fallsto me.”
  • Next, he was immoral and self-indulgent– 13“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
  • He was alsoirresponsible – 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
  • He was degenerate and shameless– 15Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave himanything. The Mishnah and the Talmud had forbidden raising pigs. The point is that just like the prodigal son the tax collectors had joined the Romans in fleecing their own people.
  • He finally wakes up and realizes what has happened. He comes with a preplanned confession– 18“…Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”

What was the Father’s response? 20 “…But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”While the son is still giving his confession speech, the father orders the best robe, the family ring, the sandals, and a big feast with a fatted calf.

The story is not over. Here comes the real point of the story. The older son is in the field and hears what the noise and finds out what has happened. What was his response?28“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29So he answered and said to hisfather, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.”Who is really disrespectful and ungrateful now? The older son! He knows better. The Pharisees and scribes should have known better but they were disrespecting Jesus.

What was the father’s response? 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.Again, don’t read more into it than is intended. It does not mean that the Pharisees and the scribes were saved.32It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” 

Invitation:How many Christians and churches need to hear this parable today! We are so quick to look down on our culture and the depravity around us that we fail to see the lost as the helpless sheep, the invaluable coin, and the unworthy son.

Jesus did not compromise with sinners or condemned them. Instead, he converted them. How about us? Are you the lost sheep, the lost coin, or the lost son or daughter? Come today and be saved.

Episode 41: Communicating Through Story

Episode 41: Communicating Through Story

This week the Clearview Church staff sit down to discuss the importance of using story as a means of communication. If you have any questions or have a recommendation for a topic send us an email at carpemanana@cleaviewbc.org. If you like this episode leave us a rating and share it with your friends!

Links: “Heart Exam” by Pastor Abidan Shah: https://youtu.be/6LbO-VqpYHY

Heart Exam by Pastor Abidan Shah

HEART EXAM by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: When the kids were young, we bought them a toy doctor’s kit. It had everything – stethoscope, thermometer, blood pressure cuff, syringe, tweezers, etc. They would go around taking our temperature, checking our blood pressure, and listening to our hearts. Then, like many of you, we would say – “My turn. Let me check your heart” – and we would take their toy stethoscope and listen to their heart – “Oh, it sounds good!” Here’s a question – how seriously did you take that test? Not really. It was all pretend. Would you do that at a real doctor’s office? Would you say to your cardiologist – “My turn! Let’s check your heart now.” Of course not. It’s real. Today, we’re going to take a heart exam and it’s not pretend. It’s very real. We’re checking our hearts, not our physical hearts made out of muscles, tissues, and blood vessels, but our spiritual hearts made up of our minds, our thinking, and our attitude towards the things of God. The Stethoscope is the Scriptures, the Examiner is the Holy Spirit, and the Goal is the heart of the disciple of Jesus. This is a very critical exam. A physical heart exam can determine how longyou will live. A spiritual heart exam determines ifyou are alive.

Matthew 13     10And 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. 12For 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. 13Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15For the hearts of this people have grown dull…’”

Question: How is your spiritual heart? Is it out of rhythm with the things of God? Is there a blockage due to sin? Is it dead? Only Jesus can make your heart alive. Are you saved?

Context: This is the first message in our series on the Parables of Jesus. It’s an introductory message in which we will answer the question – “Why did Jesus use parables in his teaching?” In fact, it’s the question that the disciples asked Jesus inMatthew 13:10“Why do You speak to them in parables?”We tend to think of the parables as stories given by Jesus to make his message clearer but that’s not altogether true.Listen to his answer in verse11He 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.” Before we unpack that verse, let’s first identify the two groups that are around Jesus. The first is the “you” group who understand what Jesus is teaching and the second is the “them” group who seem to be missing it. Who are the “you” and who are the “them?” That information is available in the surrounding chapters. 

Who is the “you?” The “you” were the disciples, the tax collectors and the prostitutes (Matthew 9:11And when the Pharisees sawit,they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”), the multitudes (Matthew 12    15“…And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. 16Yet He warned them not to make Him known.”), demon-possessed, blind, and mute. This group was open to the things of God and they understood more of the things of God. Listen to verse12“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.” 

Who is the “them?”

1. Pharisees: 

Matthew 12:2And when the Phariseessawit (Jesus disciples eating grain in the field),they said to Him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” Matthew 12:14“Then the Phariseeswent out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Matthew 12:24Now when the Phariseeshearditthey said, “Thisfellowdoes not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

The Pharisees were mostly a lay movement of people who were trying to live a pious life. They believed in the right doctrines. They advocated a simple lifestyle. They were popular with the common people because they would help them keep the law. They focused on “Table Fellowship” – they called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Every household was held responsible. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. This does not mean that they rejected the priesthood or the temple. Their meals were exclusive and hierarchical because they believed that what you put inside of you matters and who you have around matters. They couldn’t get over Jesus’ eating habits and association with sinners.

2. Scribes:

Matthew 9:3And at once some of the scribessaid within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” Matthew 12:38Then some of the scribes andPhariseesanswered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 

The Scribes interpreted and taught the Law to the people. They were closely connected to the temple in Jerusalem and in the smaller villages, they held positions of authority. They were envious of Jesus’ knowledge of the bible and popularity with the people.

3. Sadducees:

Matthew 16:1“Then the Pharisees andSadduceescame, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.” Matthew 22:23The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him…a trick question.

The Sadducees considered themselves to be of priestly descent but no one knows for sure. Much of it was just political.They controlled the Temple. Unlike the Pharisees, they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the righteous, angels, or spirit as much. They denied the eternality of the soul, punishment in the underworld, and rewards. They were not very popular with the people.They worked in cooperation with the Romans in order to maintain peace and carry on the responsibilities of the Temple in Jerusalem. They were afraid that Jesus was messing up the power balance.

4. Jesus’ Family Members:

Matthew 12     46While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Someone informed him and listen to his response –48But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” They were embarrassed of Jesus.

These 4 groups of people were not evil. They were what we would call “church going” folks but their hearts were not open to what Christ was teaching. Listen to what he said about them in verse13“Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Why would Jesus do that?He actually tells us in the very next verse –14“And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; 15For the hearts of this people have grown dull…’” Listen carefully: Just like in the time of Isaiah there were religious people who were rejecting the message of God, these Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, and Jesus’ family members were also rejecting Christ. The more they rejected him, the less they could understand him. The parables were much more than just stories given to illustrate a point. They were the tools of the prophets to confront the people of God and to expose the true condition of their hearts. If their hearts were open to the things of God, they would understand even more. If their hearts were closed to the things of God, they would understand even less. 

1. The Pharisees had a self-righteous heart that was hung up on traditions and could not see the need for Christ.

2. The Scribes had a show off heart that could not see Christ in all their bible knowledge.

3. The Sadducees had a status quo heart that was more interested in power than submission to Christ.

4. The Jesus’ Family Heart was the cynical heart that had become overly familiar with Christ.

Jesus’ family did come around but the others help put Jesus on the cross.

Invitation:What kind of a heart do you have? Is it even alive to the things of God? If not, you need to get saved today. This is not a pretend exam.

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