Guaranteed by Pastor Abidan Shah

Guaranteed.jpgWe are moving forward in our series through the book of Philippians titled “GRATEFUL.” This series has forced me to examine my life and make sure I am someone who brings hope and joy to others. I am so grateful for all of your kind words and posts about how God is using this series to touch your lives. We serve and amazing and gracious God!

The title of this message is “GUARANTEED.” Paul wanted the Philippians to understand that God would not start doing something in their lives that He didn’t intend to finish. He is a God who brings things to completion.

Sometimes, we lose sight of God’s track record. We wonder if He’s going to move and worry that He will leave us to fend for ourselves. We have to understand that what God starts, He always finishes. Are you trusting in God’s promise to finish what He started in you? Invite your friends and family who need that reminder this weekend!

Pastor Shah

Impact by Pastor Abidan Shah

IMPACT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Impact

Introduction:  Have you been to restaurants where the food may be great or not so great but the service is wonderful and friendly? What emotions come to your mind when you think about that place? You want to go back. You even recommend it to friends and family. Now, how about restaurants where the service is horrible and unfriendly? What emotions come to your mind when you think about that place? You don’t want to go back. So also with churches, they can make a positive impact on you or a negative impact on you. Today we will see how the Philippian church made a very positive impact on Paul and this is the kind of church Clearview needs to be. The message is titled “IMPACT” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1     1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 

Question: Paul says in verse 3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” In other words, every time Paul thought of the Philippians, his heart was filled with gratefulness. What emotions come upon people when they think of you? What impact have you made on the lives of those around you? A major reason for the positive impact was that the Philippians were saved. Paul calls them “saints in Christ Jesus.” Are you “in” Christ Jesus? Are you saved?

Context: Unlike the Galatians and the Corinthians, the Philippians had made a very positive impact on Paul and his ministry. His heart was filled with joy when he thought of them. As he says, “every time I think of you, I thank God for you.” What a beautiful complement! In a few minutes, we will be celebrating the Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and the opening verses of Philippians are perfect to help us examine our hearts, individually and collectively. Are we Christians who make a positive impact on others? Are we a church that makes a positive impact on others? There are 3 things that stand out in the opening words of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. First is TRUST. Let’s begin in Philippians 1:1 “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ…” Typically Paul would have referred to himself as an “apostle” of Jesus Christ, as he does in Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians. He would do that to remind his readers of his authority. Let me give some examples – Galatians 1   1 “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)…6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel…3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” We find a similar tone in his letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 1   1 “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God…4:15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 2 Corinthians 10:10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” In other words, they were saying that Paul is ugly and he can’t preach!” But not with the Philippians. He knows that they respect him already. Paul trusts them and he doesn’t pull rank on them.

Listen also to how he addresses the Philippians – “…to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons…” First, he addresses them as being “in Christ.” It means that they are united with Christ in his death, resurrection, and their new life. He especially acknowledges the bishops and the deacons, the episkopos and the diakonos. Who are these two groups? The episkopos are the same as the presbuteros or the elders. They are the ones who oversee the work of the ministry, give it spiritual leadership, and serve as pastors, depending on the size of the church. The diakonos are the servants who serve by taking care of the needs of the congregation and any other need that might arise in doing the ministry. These are the 2 positions we have at Clearview. Then he says – 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The two words he focusses on are “grace” and “peace.” Grace is what you need to get saved. Peace is what happens when you get saved. Romans 3   23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

Application: Are you like the Galatians and the Corinthians or like the Philippians? Are you a trustworthy person? Are you full of grace and peace?

The second thing that stands out in Paul’s opening words is JOY. Listen to verse 3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” When Paul wrote these words, he was sitting in a prison in Rome with Timothy his co-laborer, his student, and his son in the ministry. How do we know that? Philippians 1:7 “…both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” 14 “most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” More than likely Paul was under house arrest in Rome since Acts 28 tells us that he was able to send letters and receive friends. But don’t misunderstand, this was every bit serious as he remarks in Philippians 1:20 “…as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Meaning: Paul knew that there was a strong possibility that he will not come out of this prison alive. In the midst of fear, doubts, anger, stress, frustrations, disappointments, when his mind turned to the Philippians, a smile came over his face. Charles Spurgeon once said, “I know several Christian people with whom I would sooner sit in heaven throughout all eternity than sit ten minutes with them on a sofa here below—distance—in their case, might add enhancement to the view.” 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy. The words for joy are found over 50 times in Paul’s writings. In fact, he lists it as one of the fruit of the Spirit. Why does he have this feeling of joy? 5 “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul remembers how they cooperated with him and helped him from the very beginning.

Application: Do you bring joy in the minds of others? Are you fellowshipping in the gospel at Clearview? Are you here to win others to Christ?

So far we have seen TRUST and JOY. Here comes the third thing – HOPE.

6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” We will look at this verse again but next week but what a complement! The word for confident is “pepoithos.” It is the perfect participle of “peitho.” He uses it several times in this letter. Philippians 1:25 “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” 2:24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. Just the thought of the Philippians inspired hope in Paul as well.

Application: Are you a person that others can look at with hope? Are you a person who inspires hope in others?

What kind of an impact are you making? Are you in Christ? Are you saved?

Transformed by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRANSFORMED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Transformed

Introduction:  Have you seen people transformed at the snap of a finger? Back in the day when people still answered home phones, you’d be having a horrible day yelling at the kids, and then the phone would ring. What did you do? In the nicest voice possible – “Hello!” There was a transformation but it was temporary and fake. There’s another transformation that comes when a person comes to know Christ as their Savior. It is permanent and real. That’s the title of today’s message: TRANSFORMED. 3 different individuals were transformed in Acts 16 through the power of the gospel.

Acts 16   13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Question: The Lord opened Lydia’s heart and she heard the gospel and was transformed. Has the Lord ever opened your heart? Have you ever heard the gospel? Have you ever been transformed? On a different note, Paul was faithful in sharing the gospel with Lydia. Are you faithful in sharing the gospel with others in your life?

Context: After receiving the Macedonian call at Troas, Paul and his missionary team (Silas, Timothy, and Luke) concluded that God had called them to Greece and they set sail. Listen to Acts 16   11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis…” Keep in mind: The distance from Troas to Neapolis was over 150 miles. The island of Samothrace was the perfect halfway point. Neapolis, which is modern day Kavalla (Nicole and I have been there), was the port city for Philippi, which was 10 miles inland. Why am I mentioning all this? All these details again prove the historicity and accuracy of the Bible. Let’s keep reading: 12 “and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony…” I don’t have time to go into all the details as to why Luke calls it a “foremost city” but here are just a few facts about Philippi – First, it was a very important and prosperous city in the Roman Empire. One reason was because it was a Roman colony inhabited by Roman veterans. You can imagine the sense of pride among the citizens. The Via Egnatia, a major Roman Road connecting the Adriatic Sea with Byzantium, was the major east-west road through the city. Philippi was no Athens or Rome but visitors would be amazed by the large Roman agora, the temple, the library, the Commercial agora, the palaestra (Greek wrestling school), the theater, the 42-seat toilet with running water, the Roman baths, the acropolis, and the many shrines to the various gods and goddesses. Listen carefully: When Paul got the call to the region of Macedonia, he could have chosen a less prominent, less intimidating, and a little safer place to begin but he didn’t. He chose Philippi because it was different than the cities back home in Asia and it was time for the gospel to step out of the familiar and the safe.

Application: God is doing some amazing things at Clearview. He is taking us into regions that we have never been before. It is intimidating. It is unnerving. But, let’s not be afraid of stepping out of the familiar and the safe. Are you ready for what God has for us?

Now we are going to see 3 very different transformations of 3 very different people by the same gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by Paul:

1st TRANSFORMATION – 12 “…And we were staying in that city for some days.” Paul must have tried to make inroads into this new culture and social environment and maybe he hit some brick walls but he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t pack up and head home. Instead, he changes his strategy. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made…” Back in the east, Paul would begin by going to the synagogue but there’s no synagogue in Philippi. Paul hears about some people praying and practicing Jewish customs outside the city by the Zygaktis River or the Krenides River. Why by the river? Water was necessary for purification. “…and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.” If Paul had stayed in the city, he would’ve never met these women. He stepped out in search and God sent these women. What happens? 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. Don’t you find this ironic! Paul had a vision of a Man from Macedonia asking him to come and help them. Instead, he finds a Woman from Thyatira! “Seller of purple” meant that she was a business woman who sold those famous dyes from Thyatira which came from the root of the local madder plant. “…The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Application: Let me give you a less than impressive principle: “If you go looking for lost souls, you will find them.” The reason many of us don’t have any lost souls is because we are not looking for them. Our Mission at Clearview is to lead all people into a life changing ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” That’s why we keep finding them! Let me add, don’t be alarmed when God sends a “Woman from Thyatira” instead of a “Man from Macedonia.”

2nd TRANSFORMATION – 16 “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.” This slave girl was much like those oracles of Delphi who told the future through ecstatic utterances. There was no truth in these prophecies since Luke does not use the Greek term “propheteuw” but “manteuomai,” which is pagan and false prophecy. But there’s something darker here. Luke says that she had literally, “numa puthonos.” Our translators say “a spirit of divination” but it’s really the “spirit of the python.” It is based on the myth of Apollo defeating the giant serpent “Python” and then this name was given to Apollo’s priestesses at Delphi. The Romans would’ve enjoyed this display of Greek culture and history and must have paid good money to her owners but think about it – she was someone’s daughter or sister or grandchild who was in the clutches of the Devil and was being destroyed from within.

Listen carefully: Don’t open the door of your home, your family to evil Satanic things. You may say, “It doesn’t bother me.” My answer: “Who says the devil is going for you.”

17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” This seems odd that the Devil will go around broadcasting the gospel. Don’t misunderstand. This has nothing to do with the gospel. This was only to distract and gain publicity for himself. 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her…” Why didn’t Paul deal with her the very first time? Maybe he didn’t want to draw attention yet. Maybe he didn’t want the girl to get hurt. “…And he came out that very hour.” Don’t miss this: There was no long drawn out discussion and process of deliverance. The name of Jesus through a man of God set the girl free.

Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not she accepted Christ as her Savior. I hope she did. But there was definitely a transformation that came into her life. The name of Jesus sets people free.

3rd TRANSFORMATION – Let me quickly summarize: The masters of that girl were angry because Paul had messed up their business. They accused them of being Jewish troublemakers and had them beaten with rods and thrown into the prison. Now comes that familiar incident – Acts 16    25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. Someone said “that’s the original jailhouse rock!” 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

You never know what God is doing in someone’s life. He is preparing them to meet you so they can meet Christ.

For e.g. Young man whom Dr. Shelander met on the train who was on his way to commit suicide.

Have you been transformed? Are you helping someone else to be transformed?

Redirected by Pastor Abidan Shah

REDIRECTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

JourneyWithChristChurchPowerPoint_presentation

Introduction:  How many of ya’ll have ever been frustrated with your GPS? I get angry at mine all the time – “Why are you taking me this way?” “No, I’m not turning here!” “This thing took me around my elbow to get to my thumb!” Sometimes I even want to throw mine out the window! But, there’s another kind of GPS. It stands for GOD’S POSITIONING SYSTEM. Unlike the one in my truck, this one has always rerouted my life for the best! With that in mind, this is our first message in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians called GRATEFUL and this message is titled REDIRECTED and we’re actually going to begin in the Book of Acts.

Acts 16    6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Question: Paul concluded, through the Holy Spirit and a vision at night, that God was closing some doors for a reason and opening a new one. What doors have closed for you in the past year? What have you concluded? Have you concluded that God is in control of your life and he is redirecting your life for the best? Or have you concluded that God doesn’t care and your life has no direction? Can you see His divine hand directing and redirecting your life? Is Christ your Savior?

Context: The passage we just read gets misinterpreted and misapplied a lot. Any little obstacle is considered to be the hand of the Holy Spirit. Any odd dream is taken as a vision from God. Before we can correctly interpret Acts 16, we need to first correctly understand Acts 15. Listen to how Acts 15 begins 1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Who were these men from Judea and why were they insisting that the Gentiles should be circumcised in order to be saved? Paul gives us more information about them in Galatians 2 where he tells us that these certain men were from the “mother church” in Jerusalem where James, the half-brother of Jesus, was their pastor. This church was composed of only Jewish background believers with the goal of reaching other Jewish background people with the gospel. But, something changed in Acts 10 when God sent Peter to a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius. Remember, God had to convince him first with a vision of the clean and unclean animals coming down on a sheet from heaven. As Peter was preaching, Cornelius and his family and close friends responded to the gospel, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. When the Jerusalem church leaders heard this, they were hesitant to accept them but when Peter explained to them what had happened, they glorified God saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Acts 11:18) In other words, they informally approved the conversion of the Gentiles. This was always God’s plan but what a big step for them! Think about it – the Jewish believers moved over to let you and me climb on to their family tree! How many of us would’ve done that!

But, as more and more Gentiles started getting saved, some of the Jewish believers from James’ church in Jerusalem became concerned that these new converts were going to weaken the moral standards of their community and change their identity as God’s covenant people. So, some of them took upon themselves to go from place to place telling the newly converted Gentile Christians that they were not saved unless they were also circumcised. Circumcision is what set the Jewish people apart from the world. It brought great persecution and suffering to them. It was central to their identity as God’s people. They felt that Gentiles needed to suffer a little before they could have equal status among God’s covenant people. These men were “the circumcisionists” or “the Judaizers.” Imagine the confusion and the division this brought in the early church. People were questioning each other’s salvation. They were questioning the truth of the gospel. What was Paul’s response? Listen to verse 2 “Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them…” Meaning: There was a big fight. Souls were hanging in the balance. As they say, “this was a hill worth dying on.”

Application: Church people fight over silly stuff. They die over ant hills and give up the mountains of doctrine and theology. Paul fought for what mattered. Salvation is a mountain worth fighting for. Ephesians 2   8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Don’t let anyone add any rituals, traditions, or personal convictions to your salvation. There are other doctrines like Trinity, Incarnation, Inerrancy, Resurrection, etc.

What happened next? The church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and the elders at the Mother church. Again, Acts 15:7 says, “when there had been much dispute…” Meaning: Hours and days of arguing and debating, proving and disproving went on. You can imagine the frustration and stress, harsh words and hurt feelings. Then Peter stood up along with James and John and others apostles, elders, and brethren and made the decree that the Judaizers had no authority to interfere with the salvation of the Gentiles and that salvation is only by grace through faith. As Paul says in Galatians 2:9 “they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship…” What a powerful decision! If it wasn’t for this, we wouldn’t be here today.

When I think about all this, I can’t help but wonder “why did God allow all this mess?” Why did he allow the Judaizers to go around confusing the people? Why did he allow Paul and Barnabas to go through all these arguments and struggles? Why did he allow this controversy to rock the church? Listen carefully: All this mess was a blessing in disguise. It helped clarify and solidify Paul’s thinking. It prepared him to write letters like Galatians and Romans. If it wasn’t for this controversy, we would’ve never heard of Galatians 2   19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 3   28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And…Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Romans 3   21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…22…through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Application: You can look at the frustrating times and seasons in your life as a hurdle or you can look at them as a gift from God. You can get bitter and angry with God or you can trust God that he’s still working in your life. You can become discouraged or you can be teachable. The choice is yours. Paul grew the crisis in the church.

I believe that Paul chose to trust God and God helped him to grow in his knowledge and wisdom. But that’s not all. Something more was about to happen. Paul wanted to go and visit those churches that were rocked by the controversy but then there was a falling out between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark. Paul chose Silas and started going through Syria and Cilicia. What if Paul had become bitter over that matter and decided to take a break from God? I believe that would’ve been the last we would’ve heard of Paul. Paul remained faithful in his calling.

Then he came to Derbe and Lystra where he met a young man named Timothy whose mother was a Jewish believer and his father was a Greek. Hint! Hint! When God wants you to head in a new direction, he will bring certain people into your life who will help you in the journey. Now as he was travelling through Phrygia and Galatia, the Holy Spirit closed the door to Asia. As he came to Mysia and tried to go into Bithynia, the Holy Spirit again closed that door too. There is a direction in which he was talking Paul. Then when he came to Troas, there was a vision of a Macedonian man saying “Come over to Macedonia and help us” and it finally dawned on Paul that God was leading him to Europe! If you read Acts 16 without taking into account what has happened in Acts 15, any obstacle and any dream may appear to be God’s will when it’s not. The controversy was being used by God to prepare Paul to go to Europe. We wouldn’t have the Letter to the Philippians if Paul had failed to answer that call.

I’m often shocked at the way people make decisions – They move, change jobs, start relationships, break relationships thinking somehow that the Holy Spirit is leading them when he’s actually a million miles away. It’s only when you are submitted to his leading and guiding, it’s only when you are teachable and obedient, that you can conclude that it’s God who is directing and redirecting your life.

Invitation: What have you concluded? Is the Holy Spirit leading your life? Is Christ your Savior?

 

 

 

 

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?

Heart Search by Pastor Abidan Shah

HEART SEARCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Heart SearchIntroduction: Couple of years ago we visited “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of it or probably been there with your family. It is considered to be hallowed ground because interred below are soldiers from the various wars that were never identified. On the Western Panel of the tomb are the words, “Here Rests in Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But to God.” The Honor Guard keeps watch over the Tomb 24/7 even through bad weather. The soldiers who “walk the mat” are held to the highest standard of behavior. If they do anything that is considered disrespectful to the Tomb, their badge can be taken away if they’re no longer serving at the Tomb. Thousands upon thousands of people come each year to watch the changing of the guards. But if they get loud or sit during the ceremony, the guard will immediately step off the met and call them out – “It is requested that all visitors maintain an atmosphere of silence and respect at all times.” Why such respect? The Tomb is a reminder of the price that was paid for our freedom. It is a time for self-reflection to see if we are living up to the sacrifice that was made for us. We need a similar understanding and self-reflection when we come to the Communion. Our message is called “HEART SEARCH.” It’ll make more sense as we go further.

1 Corinthians 11   23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Context: Usually we tack on the Communion at the end of every Easter service. We fail to understand the true meaning and serious consequence of sin in our lives towards each other. The true understanding of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ changes the way we treat people.

Question: How are you treating each other in your life? Do you see others through the lens of the cross? When did you last search your heart? Are you saved?

In today’s message, we will see why and how we need to do a heart search:

1 Corinthians 11:18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

Background: When we went through our series on love from I Corinthians 13, we learned how Corinth was a Roman colony and it’s population was made up of former slaves, army veterans, business people, and laborers. Yes, there were people there who were original Greeks but most were Roman citizens. We have documentary and archaeological evidence that the Corinthians of the time were known for their pride, arrogance, and self-importance. Unfortunately, this attitude was also creeping into the church. Now they were treating each other with condescension and selfishness. They were divided into groups of haves and have-nots and spirituals and super-spirituals. They were even mistreating each other during the Communion service. Paul wrote the letter to rebuke, to correct them, to instruct, and to bring them to a proper understanding of how believers in Christ should treat each other.

Application: Is there a difference between how you lived before Christ and how you live now in Christ? Has there been a change in attitude and behavior in you treated others before you got saved and how you treat people now?

20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

Background: The early church used to have a love feast (fellowship dinner) every week along with the Lord’s Supper. They used to have a “better room” known as the triclinium (lit. three couches), which was a formal dining room in Roman buildings. Some of the Christians would get there early to beat the rush and get the better seat in the dining room while the latecomers had to crowd into the Atrium. “…and one is hungry and another is drunk.” While people were in the Atrium waiting to get in, many of them were taking their time eating and drinking and actually getting drunk! In essence, they had lost the true meaning and purpose of the Communion.

It’s very interesting how Paul deals with this kind of a behavior. He does not just tell them to grow up or be unselfish or be kind to one another. Instead, he takes them back to the fateful night when Jesus gave the institution of the Communion. 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread…”

Before we go any further, here’s an important principle: Nothing is more life changing and behavior altering than the cross. There’s something about the cross that has the power to bring us to our knees. It has the ability and potential to bring things into perspective. If I may add, if the cross doesn’t do it for you, either your heart is too hard or you’re lost.

Now Paul wants these Corinthians to really understand the meaning of this meal. Keep in mind that most of them did not have a Jewish background. All many of them were used to was going through their temples and taking part in the sacred food offered to the idols. Paul is giving them a crash course in what the Lord’s Supper really means. Listen again: 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;

Background: People have argued over whether or not this was a Passover Meal because John talks about Passover being the next day. I believe that Jesus chose to make the meal of Thursday evening into a New Passover meal. This is important because when the Hebrews or the people of Israel or the Jewish people celebrated the Passover, they were told to include themselves in the events that took place on the night when God led the Hebrews out of Egypt. The Passover Haggadah says, “In every generation a man must so regard himself as if he came forth himself out of Egypt…‘What the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.’” The lesson here for the Corinthians was – “Don’t just do the Lord’s Supper. Picture yourself there in the upper room, watching, and listening to Jesus speaking.”

Application: What goes through your mind when you take part in the Lord’s Supper? Do you picture yourself in the upper room, sitting across from Jesus? Can you see the stress on his face, knowing that in just a few hours he would be brutally nailed to the cross for the sins of the whole world?

What’s next? 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you.” Jesus gave a whole new radical meaning to the Passover Meal where He became the bread. Then he said – “do this in remembrance of Me.” What does that mean? It has several levels of meanings: remember in gratitude; identify with the crucified Christ; return to where it all began for you; and look forward to what God has in store for you. There’s one more – remember how guilty you are in the sight of God and how much you need his forgiveness and grace in your life. The Corinthians were so focused on status and pride, this was the farthest thing on their minds.

Application: What will help a husband and a wife to forgive and love is Christ on the cross. What will help loved ones get along is Christ on the cross. What will help a divided church find healing is Christ on the cross. Have you turned to him yet?

25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.

Background: Going back to our Passover imagery, this Cup of Blessing came at the end of the meal and Jesus also recast it and called it the New Covenant. What Paul was telling the Corinthians is that under the New Covenant even God set aside his rights and was willing to pour his blood for sinful human beings. If they claim Christ, they were part of a whole new community where personal rights and free choice to treat people any way they want to is also over. Under the New Covenant, they were obligated to act the way Jesus did. And again – “This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Application: Do you believe that you are part of this New Covenant in Christ? Do you actions match the actions of Christ?

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Meaning: Don’t use my name if you don’t live by my example.

For e.g. Parents reminding their children, “Don’t forget. You carry our name.”

What needs to happen? 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For the Corinthians it meant, remember that you are standing on hallowed ground. Don’t forget that someone died for your freedom. Meaning: Do a heart check and see if you are truly in Christ. Have you truly died with Christ, buried with him, and risen to walk in the newness of life in him?

What if you don’t? 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

People ask me – “Does God take the lives of people if they take the communion with sin in their hearts?” I remind them of Ananias and Sapphira in the Bible. God struck them dead after they lied about how much they had given. If that were happening today, we would need funeral directors at every service in every church across the world! They were set as an example for us to know that God takes lying and stealing very seriously. So also with how we treat each other in the Body of Christ. God takes it seriously.

Are you saved? Have you done a heart check? Are you somber and treating others in light of the cross?

Love is Liberating by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS LIBERATING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Love is LiberatingIntroduction:  If you keep up with politics, I’m sure you’ve heard of Congressman Sam Johnson from Plano, Texas. He has served in the House since 1991 and will be retiring next year. He is an Air Force Veteran and a POW in Vietnam for 7 years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” also known as “Hell’s Hole.” In recalling his experience, he said, “Starvation, isolation and torture were constant companions. There was no news from home, and the enemy worked hard to make us feel alone and forgotten.” He describes one of the torture treatments – “I could recall nothing from military survival training that explained the use of a meat hook suspended from the ceiling…During a routine torture session…the Vietnamese tied a prisoner’s hands and feet, then bound his hands to his ankles—sometimes behind the back, sometimes in front. The ropes were tightened to the point that you couldn’t breathe. Then, bowed or bent in half, the prisoner was hoisted up onto the hook to hang by ropes. Guards would return at intervals to tighten them until all feeling was gone, and the prisoner’s limbs turned purple and swelled to twice their normal size. This would go on for hours, sometimes even days on end.” The torture and malnutrition made Johnson stoop-shouldered and mangled his right arm, besides a cracked back and broken arm when his plane went down. After 42 months in a dark solitary cell with rats and filth, he was finally released and he remembers the sweet embrace of his wife Shirley and their three kids. He said, “I got through those hellish years by the grace and mercy of God.” Our final message in this series on love is titled, “LOVE IS LIBERATING.” There’s no true love in hate-filled, torture like environments. True love flourishes where there is true freedom.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: At the heart of all the problems in the Corinthian Church was the problem of love. They didn’t know how to love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to teach them how to love each other the way Christ loves us. In today’s message, you will see that Christ never exposes, never suspects, never discourages, and never threatens.

Question: How do you love people? Do you at times expose the weaknesses and failures of the ones you love? Do you constantly suspect and doubt the ones you love? Do you discourage and steal hope from the ones you love? Do you give up on or threaten the ones you love? Are you saved? Have you truly experienced the love of God in Christ?

Let’s look at the words in Greek: The first is “love bears all things.” The Greek word for bears is “stegei.” It comes from the noun “stegei,” which means “roof.” I’m sure the Corinthians knew what this word meant. Archaeologists have found evidence that by the 7th century BC the temples and houses in Corinth had started replacing thatched roofs with fired tiles. Why? Because thatched roofs were a huge fire hazard, especially in a growing city like Corinth. These tiles were heavy, weighing about 60 plus pounds but they were durable, long-lasting, and protective from the rain, sun, heat, snow, and cold. The word “stegei” took on the idea of covering, sheltering, protecting, keeping out, and keeping in. When Paul says, “love bears all,” he is really saying, “love always covers and never exposes.” Meaning: Love does not find pleasure in exposing others to harshness. Love does not get joy in watching the other person squirm in fear or shame. In the Corinthian culture, it might have been okay to expose your enemy but not in Christianity.

Application: Do you cover people or do you expose people? In the Greco-Roman world, sometimes when the renters would not pay on time, the landlords would remove the front door or even strip off the tiles from the roof. Does that sound familiar? Someone is bound to say, “Are you suggesting we hide someone’s sin?” No. I’m simply saying what Peter also said in I Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Even though Peter uses a different word for “cover” than roof, the idea is the same. Love does not get pleasure out of exposing the other person but wants to help them in their moment of weakness and shame.

The second statement: “Love believes all things.” The Greek word for “believes” is “pisteuei,” which has the idea of trust in others. Again, the Corinthian culture was very competitive and status seeking. They were constantly striving to get ahead of one another by whatever means necessary. You always had to watch your back. Unfortunately, this mindset of distrust and suspicion had also entered the church. Even Christians didn’t trust each other. When Paul tells them “loves believes all things,” he was really saying, “love does not live in the zone of perpetual suspicion but is willing to trust others. It is the foundation of all relationships.”

Illustration: When God called me into the ministry, I went to Nicole’s dad and he helped me with my decision. I asked him if he would also help me find a good seminary. He took me to one. On the way, he told me that one of his good friends was a pastor nearby and he wanted to come visit with us. That sounded fine to me. This man came and after they caught up, he turned to me and began telling me how terrible people were and how they would stab me in the back and how they could not be trusted. He spent the next hour or two emotionally vomiting. I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t naïve about church ministry. My dad was a pastor and still is. But I didn’t know how to take what he had just told me. After he left, Nicole’s dad said to me, “Don’t pay attention to anything he said. He must be going through some mess. Without trust, you cannot minister to people.”

Here’s the point: If you constantly operate as some kind of a KGB agent, always frisking people, always looking over your shoulder, always questioning their motives, you will never be able to love people. Your relationships will always be sporadic, seasonal, and short lived. By the way, get used to the idea that people will fail you. They will break your trust. If I may add, many times, people will rise or fall to the level of your expectations. If you keeping suspecting them, they will become suspicious. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, there’s no true love.

The third statement: “love hopes all things.” The Greek word for “hopes” is “elpidzei,” which has the idea of expectation and wish. People often confuse faith with hope. They are related but they are not the same. They are related in the sense that they are both looking to something that is invisible and unprovable. But they are different because just a few verses later Paul says in verse 13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” What is the difference between faith and hope? Faith is what you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is what you can’t see but you are looking for. If faith is the foundation that you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is the window through which you are looking for what you can’t see yet.

Illustration: In the past few years, the Robertson family from West Munroe, Louisiana has become a household name. You’ve heard of their show – “Duck Commander.” They came from very humble background through some very difficult times. In the book “Duck Commander Family,” Willie Robertson writes this in the prolog: “The dinner table is where I learned to follow my dreams. This is where Dad told us he was going to start Duck Commander, and where I told my family I was getting married and heading off to college. Our hopes and aspirations were never shot down, never debated, only encouraged. We might have been eating fried bologna at the time because that was all we could afford, but there was hope that one day we would be feasting on a big fat rib-eye steak.” Would you agree that they are loving family? Would you agree that their hope has become more than a reality?

Here’s the point: You can have all the covering and all the trust but if you don’t have hope, you will shrivel and die. When a marriage loses hope, when a friendship loses hope, when a church loses hope, when a community loses hope, when a nation loses hope, it is the beginning of the end of love.

Application: Are you a hope giver or are you a hope stealer? Do you open the windows to your loved ones’ dreams and goals or do you lock them up like Congressman Sam Johnson in a dark, hopeless prison cell?

The fourth and final statement: “love endures all things.” The Greek word for “endures” is “hupomenei,” which carries the idea of being patient, remaining, and enduring. In other words, “love does not give up, doesn’t run out when things get tough.” In a transient culture like the Corinthians, when things didn’t work out with one person, move on to the next. If it doesn’t work out again, move on to the next. You don’t have to take anyone’s mess. How do we know this? Think about the different groups in the Corinthian church. I Corinthians 1   12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? The Corinthians had moved from one group to another when things didn’t work out with one.

Let me clarify: There are times when you may have to cut relationships because of physical or mental/emotional abuse. Having said, we need to learn to bear with others and their faults and failures. Listen carefully: When you love somebody, be prepared to be hurt. Hurting people will hurt people. But if you drop them, they will never get the chance to heal. In your marriage, family, church family, community, neighborhood, and workplace, you will come across people that you have to be patient with.

Application: Are you willing to endure? Are you willing to look over their failures and hang-ups? Are you willing to cut others some slack?

How can you have this kind of love? First, understand how God loves you. Remember, you can substitute Christ for every time love is mentioned in this verse – “Christ bears all things, Christ believes all things, Christ hopes all things, Christ endures all things. Christ never fails.” Second, understand how to love people. Begin today by setting people free. Think of yourself as a prison warden with keys to 4 cells:

  • Cell #1 Exposure (Remember, love covers all. Let the inmates know that you will always cover them.)
  • Cell #2 Suspicion (Remember, love trusts others. Let the inmates know that you will never doubt them.)
  • Cell #3 Pessimism (Remember, love gives hope. Let the inmates know that you see a bright day in the future.)
  • Cell #4 Threats (Remember, love endures all. Let the inmates know that you will never give up on them.)

True love will being to flow when you set the captives free.

Are you free? Are people in your life free? Are you saved

Love is Purifying by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS PURIFYING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love is purifyingIntroduction:  Sometime back I was watching a basketball game between two college rival teams. Please don’t ask me which one I was rooting for. I don’t want my tires slashed! Nonetheless, a player on the rival team travelled. He just lost his balance. What was amazing to me is that the home crowd cheered at the top of their lungs, including me. This is nothing new and I’m sure you’ve seen it before and probably cheered too. The player was embarrassed. He dropped his head and slumped back to his seat. But I thought about it. We weren’t cheering for our player who made a basket. We weren’t cheering for our team that made a good play. We were cheering for a player on the opposite team who made a mistake and cost his team possession of the ball. If you really think about it, we were actually happy over someone’s mistake and misfortune! Sadly, this happens not just in sports but also in real life. Today’s message will not only expose this ugly sinful side in all of us but also give us the solution so we can truly love others the way God loves us. The message is titled: LOVE IS PURIFYING.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian church was fraught with some of the worst kinds of sins. It was damaging the unity of the church. They couldn’t love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to confront them, to help them deal with those sins so they could love each other the way God loved them. By the way, when the Holy Spirit deals with us, he doesn’t leave any stone unturned. Now we come to another sin in this church – “rejoicing in iniquity.” We’ll try to understand that in a few moments but believe or not, it means feeling joy and cheering over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others.

Question: I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands this morning if you ever felt joy over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others. I’d hate to make a bunch of people lie at the same time in church. But would you agree that sin is deeper and uglier and more heinous than we pretend it is. The difference between the guy in prison and us is that he took the next step and by the grace of God we haven’t. Are you saved? Sometime people ask me – “What do I have to be saved from? Besides hell, the Devil, this life, yourself. This message will expose you to the “Resident Evil” inside you. It’ll show you why you need Christ to save you.

Let’s look at the words in Greek: “Love does not rejoice in iniquity.” First, the word for rejoice is “charei,” which carries the idea of being glad or taking pleasure in something. Second, “in iniquity” is the combination of the words “epi” = upon and “adikia” = wrongdoing, injury, injustice, or unrighteousness. Together they carry the idea of someone’s loss or wrong action. So Love does not rejoice in iniquity” means love does not get joy because of someone’s injury or wrong doing.

What in the world was happening in the Corinthian church? Keep in mind that the Corinthian culture was a very competitive, status-seeking culture in the ancient world. The American School of Classical Studies in Athens unearthed 1500 inscriptions from the Roman period (44BCE – 276CE) that brag on self. Scholars note that boasting about self was almost considered to be an art form. It was totally acceptable to not only brag about self but also secretly and sometimes even openly wish for the other person to fall and even cheered when they fell. In other words, it was normal for people in Corinth at the time to climb over each other in order to move up the social and financial ladder. Talk about Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest.” Unfortunately, this thinking and behavior had also infiltrated the church. Now the Corinthian Christians were not only boasting about self but they were also secretly and sometimes even openly wishing for the other person to fall and cheered when they fell.

Some of y’all are saying – “What kind of degenerate person would wish for someone to fall? What kind of evil hearted people would cheer when someone falls into sin or when something bad happens to someone?” Us kind of people. I can hear some of y’all saying, “Oh no! Not me! I always feel for people when something bad happens to them.” Some of y’all are saying, “When I heard what happened to them, I sent them a card…I even stopped by and told them ‘I was sad to hear what happened.’” Sure, we’re sad when bad things happen to our children or our best friend or someone we like or someone who is helpless or less fortunate but how about when something bad happens to those we don’t like very much or those we don’t care for much. I am referring to what goes through our minds when we hear that someone we envy just received bad news from the doctor. I am referring to what flashes in the secret chambers of our hearts when we hear that someone who seems to be ahead of us in life is going through a divorce or their son/daughter is making bad choices. I am referring to our first reaction when someone who always seems so strong and self-sufficient loses his job or has a wreck. I’m not suggesting that we call them and tell them how happy we are or throw a party in their dishonor. We are more cautious and polite and have more decency than that. I’m referring to the subtle feeling of satisfaction, amusement, and glee that comes over us and says, “Now I feel better. Now I’m one step ahead of them.” It’s the voice in our head that says, “I feel bad for em…but that’ll take em down a notch or two” or “Maybe that’ll teach em a lesson” or “We must be doing something right because we’re not going through what they are…thank God…” Germans call this thought and feeling “Schadenfreude,” which is the combination of two words – Schaden = damage and freude = joy. It means “the emotion of pleasure we feel in the misfortunes of others.” 99.9% of the time we will never share this with anyone, even people we trust but its there.

Question: No need to raise your hand but has this feeling ever come into your hearts? If you’re human, it has. The sooner you acknowledge it the better. If you pretend it’s not there, you will not be able to deal with it. If you don’t deal with it, you won’t be able to love others the way God loves you. It will corrupt the channel of love in your heart. Illustration: Imagine if you asked someone for a glass of water. They bring you clean water but the container is dirty. No matter how clean the water is, the dirty container will contaminate it. So also, it doesn’t matter how pure the love is in your heart but if your heart is dirty, it will contaminate your love. It will corrupt even the love you have for your loved ones. It will the Devil the foothold he wants in your life.

The place to begin is to recognize the source of this “Schadenfreude.” No one has to give you a lesson in it. It comes from the sin that resides deep within all of us. Keep in mind, this was not just some Corinthian problem. It is an age-old problem. In the oldest book in the Bible, the Book of Job, listen to what he says, Job 31  29 “If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, Or lifted myself up when evil found him 30 (Indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin By asking for a curse on his soul).” Job calls this a sin. Psalm 17:5 “…He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 24   17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; 18 Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him. God told his people in the Old Testament to refrain from rejoicing even over the downfall of their enemies.

Application: If we were truly honest, all of us have some repenting to do.

But Paul didn’t stop there. It’s not enough “not to feel happy at the misfortunes of others.” He went one step further to say – “Love rejoices in the truth.” First, the word for rejoices is “sugcharei,” which is more than just rejoicing. It is actually “joyfully celebrating” or “congratulating” or “applauding.” Truth is the word “aletheia” which is somewhat complicated. Truth here is not gospel truth. It’s not just the good things of life. Truth here is something objective. It doesn’t matter if it benefits me or hurts me. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the social ladder. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the financial ranking. Truth is truth.

Illustration: Sometime back someone invited me to go watch a basketball game. One of the players of the rival team made an amazing play and someone said – “It doesn’t matter which team you’re rooting for. That was a good play.” Meaning: Truth is truth. It doesn’t matter if that point goes against us or not. That player had just made an excellent play.

Love not only refuses to be happy at the misfortunes and mistakes of one’s enemies but it acknowledges and applauds the good it sees in the other person, without any regard to how it impacts self.

So how can you do this? First, you have to see how God loves you. If you want to know how God loves you, look to the cross.

I Corinthians 1   18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Why did Paul begin his letter to the Corinthians by focusing on the cross? Because he wanted them to know how contrary it was to their way of thinking. In the Corinthian culture, it was acceptable to climb on others, wish for their failures, and even rejoice in their misfortunes. To the contrary, Jesus gave his life on the cross for the very ones who were nailing him. He rejoiced in the truth that what he was doing would bring life to them. Instead of wishing for their failure, he prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When you receive Christ as your savior, not only are your sins forgiven but it also changes your definition of love. God the Holy Spirit purifies our misunderstanding of love.

How do you love others? Now with the help of the Holy Spirit you can actually love people through the cross. It’s not just Jesus on the cross but also you crucifying your sinfulness and selfishness and loving people with a purifying love.

Are you saved? Are you loving others with a purifying love

Love is Disarming by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS DISARMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love-is-disarming

Introduction:  Today’s message is titled – “Love is Disarming.” In other words, love allows you to drop your guard. Have you been around people who have their guard up – they’re always tense and uptight, they have a defensive perimeter around them? Have you been around people you have to be really guarded with – what you say, how you say, when you say? What is the common problem in both situations? Lack of trust. Why? Maybe at some point in time trust was violated. Something personal or private was shared, some weakness or vulnerability was exposed, and now it is used against the person. During counselling, the wife will say – “He’s so shallow.” Then the husband will reveal – “I messed up years ago or I told her something privately and now she brings it up every time we have an argument and has told everyone about it.” The wife is provoking her husband and he is arming himself. Other times, some people are just easily provoked. Nothing is being done to them but because of their personality or their past experience, they immediately react. Like siblings in the backseat – “She’s touching me!” but the other child is 3 feet away. Love creates a safe zone where no one provokes or is being provoked, where people trust each other and disarm.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian Church had many problems. One major reason for their problems was their nature of provoking and being provoked by each other. Their culture of jabbing and poking each other had come into their church body.

Question: Are you a person who is easily provoked? Are you the person who is provoking someone? I am talking in the context of marriage, family, church, neighborhood, workplace, and community. Do you feel like you are in an unsafe zone? Are you causing an unsafe zone? Are you saved? Without Christ, you are in the unsafe zone. He is the one who can bring you in the safe zone with God.

Let’s look at the words in Greek: “Love is not provoked.” The word is “paroxunetai.” It has the idea of “to irritate and to exasperate someone.” It means poking and jabbing someone in a subtle way that they finally react. It doesn’t immediately lead to full-blown rage but it does make a person feel “wounded or punctured by some sharp point.”

Paul also adds to this“love thinks no evil.” The verb “think” in Greek is “logizomai.” It can have several layers of meaning. It can mean “to count or to evaluate,” like Paul says in Romans 6:11 “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s like “thinking and mulling over a matter.” In some contexts, it can go a step further and have the idea of “planning or plotting evil.” In our context, it may have a double meaning of “sitting around and suspecting your neighbor of evil or sitting around and plotting evil against your neighbor.” There is one more meaning, a secondary one – “giving value or making much of.” This is especially strong when it is in a negative context like the one we are looking at. It has two implications. First, it means that you focus a lot on the evil you see in your neighbor. Second, it also means that you pay a lot of attention to the evil done to you by your neighbor.

Why did Paul bring this up in his description of true love? Because there was a lot of irritation causing behavior going on in the Corinthian church. There was a lot of poking and jabbing each other that was happening. History tells us that this was kind of common in the Corinthian culture. Let me give you one example. As you know, about a month ago Nicole and I were in Corinth, Greece. One of the most interesting sites is on the west side of the Agora, the marketplace, known as the Babbius Monument. It was a circle of Corinthian columns set on a square pedestal. What is very interesting is the inscription on the band above the columns. It says, “Gnaeus Babbius Philinus, aedile and pontifex, had this monument constructed at his own expense, and he approved it in his official capacity of duovir.” There are many monuments in the ancient world but not like this. You have to read between the lines to know what is really being implied. First, his name is a slave name. Apparently, he was a freedman who rose to power and became an aedile, a city manager. His job was to maintain the roads, supervise the food and water supply, organize the local games, among other things. He was telling those who were looking down on him for being a former slave – “I am no longer a slave. I am the city manager. Show me some respect.” But he doesn’t stop there. He adds another title to his name – pontifex, which means priest, probably to the patron god of the Isthmian games. Now, he was telling those who might be treating him like an outsider, “I am also the priest. I have spiritual authority now. You better show me respect.” Then he adds the line – “had this monument constructed at his own expense.” Apparently, people were spreading rumors that Babbius stole the city’s money to build the monument. This was his way of firing back – “Stop saying that. This is my own hard earned money.” The final line is really odd – “and he approved it in his official capacity of duovir,” which was a chief magistrate. Someone must have said – “He ain’t gonna last. Once he gets fired, we’ll take down his monument.” Babbius was sending a warning to them, “Don’t you think even about taking down my sign. I am the chief magistrate now.” This was a threat. By the way, he put a similar sign in four other places in the city! Every time people walked through the marketplace, they had to see those signs. This was part of the Corinthian culture – people were being provoked and they knew how to provoke others.

Now, there is a similar inscription nearby that we did not get to visit. It reads, “Erastus, in return for his position as aedile, laid the pavement at his own expense.” Again, this man Erastus was also a former slave who became the city manager. He was also sending a message to his critics that he did all this of his own money. Here’s something interesting – We don’t know about Babbius but Erastus was actually part of the Corinthian church. Paul actually mentions him by name in Romans 16:23 “…Erastus, the treasurer of the city greets you…” (Keep in mind that Paul wrote Romans from Corinth.)

Here’s my point: Provoking and being provoked was not only part of the Corinthian culture. It was also in the church! Paul mentioned this because there was a lot of jabbings and pokings going on in the church. You would hear a lot of – “Did you see how he looked at me?” “I know why she said that to me.” “One of these days, I am going to show her.” There was a lot of thinking and mulling over and planning and plotting evil happening. People didn’t trust each other. They only saw the evil in others. They only remembered the evil others had done to them. The Corinthian church was not a safe zone.

Sadly, this is true even today in churches, marriages, families, community, workplace. People are constantly constructed their subtle and not so subtle Babbius monuments and their Erastus inscriptions to provoke each other or respond to someone’s provoking. Are you the one who is provoking someone? Are you the one who is being provoked by someone? Are you the one who is constantly looking for the bad in others or thinking about the bad others have done to you? You constantly have your guard up.

What is the solution? To start with, remember how God loves you – He gives you a new identity in Jesus Christ. Listen to what Paul says in I Corinthians 7:22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise, he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.  If the world calls you a slave, God calls you free in Christ. If the world calls you free, God calls you his slave in Christ. Either way, God has given you a brand-new identity. You don’t have to live by your past or what the world says about your past.

So how are you to love others? 23 “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” In other words, stop giving in to the opinion and treatments of others. Stop worrying about what they are saying or thinking about you. If you have a lot of time on your hands, guard your mind. If not, you will pout, get upset, and start problems and then refuse to stop until those problems are resolved according to your personal satisfaction. You will become paranoid and build a Babbius monument to yourself. I’m not suggesting that you drop your guard against evil people. Instead, learn to be vulnerable. Disarm. Admit when you’ve messed up. Admit when you’re frightened. Admit when you’re lagging behind. Admit the truth about yourself.

For e.g. Swindoll gives the illustration of Uncle Zeke from Muleshoe, Texas. One of Uncle Zeke’s buddies was the blacksmith. They would spend time together and talk about stuff old guys talk about. One day, the blacksmith was working on a horseshoe before Zeke got there. He kept sticking it in the fire, pulling it out and hammering it. He did it again and again. It wasn’t cooperating so he tossed it on the sawdust on the ground just about the time Zeke walked in. Zeke didn’t know it was hot. He walked in, looked around, saw the horseshoe, reached down, picked it up, and dropped it right away. The blacksmith said – “Kinda hot, ain’t it Zeke…” Zeke said, “Nope, Just don’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.” How true that is of so many of us… Instead of saying, “Yeah, that was kind of dumb of me to pick that up” or “I should’ve checked with you first,” we say something similar that keeps us from looking vulnerable.

I think about Erastus who had his inscription on the ground. Why didn’t he remove it after he got saved? This is just my imagination. One day, Erastus and Paul were walking through the Agora and they came to that inscription on the ground. It was filled with bronze and fastened with lead. Erastus turned to Paul – “Paul, every time I look at it, it reminds me where God has brought me from. That’s how I used to think and live. Always telling my opponents how great I was and how I had climbed the ladder of success and power. But now, I walk on it and I remind myself that God has called the foolish, the weak, and the base things of the world so that ‘no flesh should glory in his presence.’” Later that evening when Paul was finishing his letter to the Romans and warning them to “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17) and as he lists the names of his fellow ministers – Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Tertius, Gaius, he says, “Oh yes, Erastus, the treasurer of the city greets you.” If he wasn’t a changed man, God would not have included him in his Word.

Are you saved? Are you provoking or easily provoked by others?

 

Love is Maturing by Abidan Paul Shah

LOVE IS MATURING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

love-is-maturing

Introduction: Have you ever said about someone – “He/she is so immature”? Why do we call someone immature? Because they do something that is improper. When little kids do something improper, we just laugh and call it childish. As a little boy I was fascinated by superheroes (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America, Flash Gordon). What is one thing all Superheroes have in common? They all wear their underwear on the outside. They’re really underwear like shorts over their leggings, kind of like circus athletes and wrestlers of the time. One time we had some people visiting our home and I decided to impress them with my superhero outfit. Unfortunately, they just laughed at me. But, if I were to do that today, you wouldn’t just laugh at me. You would call me immature. Unfortunately, many times, immaturity is not funny but frustrating and hurtful to others. Today we’re going to learn why immaturity and love cannot coexist. Turn to I Corinthians 13 for our message titled, “LOVE IS MATURING.”

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian church was unlike any church in Paul’s ministry. They were very immature, spiritually, and Paul was frustrated with them. Listen to how he addressed them in I Corinthians 3   1 “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes (children/infants) in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able…” Meaning: You’re just as spiritually immature as before. Why? 3 “for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” Meaning: “You’re still spiritually immature because you are so inconsiderate, hateful and rude to each other. You haven’t learnt how to treat each other with honor, dignity, and decency.” Did you know that spiritual maturity is connected to your treatment of others? This is in the context of the church, home, and life. Today’s passage on love takes it one step further – “love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own” – if you love someone, you will treat that person with honor, dignity, and decency. In other words, love and maturity are one and the same. That’s our message today.

Question: Are you a spiritually mature person? Have you grown in your maturity in Christ or are you still pushing, shoving, and pulling at those around you? How do you treat the people you are supposed to love? Are you saved? Before you can grow, you have to be born. Before you can spiritually grow, you have to be born again.

Let’s begin by examining the words that Paul used to describe love – “(love) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own.” The first one “does not behave rudely” is the Greek word “askhemonei.” This word belongs to the family of words that convey inappropriate behavior, shameful attitude, repulsive acts, vulgar actions, and unattractiveness. When the Jewish people translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek (LXX), they used this word group to translate the idea of nakedness, private parts, and even sex. In the New Testament, Paul used this word several times with the same idea. A prominent one is in Romans 1 where he used it to describe homosexuality as indecent and shameful. So why did Paul use it here in I Corinthians 13 to describe love? I believe that Paul had much more in mind than just – “love does not behave rudely.” He wasn’t saying, “if you love someone, you’ll be polite to them, hold the door for them and say please and thank you to them.” You can do all that for someone and never truly love them. If you take the real meaning of the Greek word (inappropriate, indecent, and disgraceful), Paul was telling the Corinthians that if you love someone you will respect them – give honor, show dignity, and act decently to the other person.

Why did Paul say this to the Corinthians? Because the Corinthians were disrespecting each other. Let me give you a few examples of where they did this:

1 Corinthians 5:1 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!” Even though the word “askhemonei” is not used here, Paul was telling them that this was inappropriate on so many levels. To start with, it was dishonoring for this man to do this to his own father. Next, it was degrading to this woman. She was no longer a respectable woman. Now the couple was sitting in church without any sense of shame. This was disrespectful to the church family. You can imagine the negative impact this was making on the young people. How about the community? People in Corinth were shocked by this behavior as well. Overall, this was a sexually shameful behavior.

I Corinthians 6:6 “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!” Again, the word “askhemonei” is not used here, but you can tell from Paul’s tone that this was a disgraceful behavior. One Christian was suing another Christian in the Corinthian church. Can you imagine the impact this must have had on the church? Families were probably avoiding each other in the church. One would sit on one side of the sanctuary and the other on the other side. This one was probably trying to rally others to their side and that one was talking trash about the other person. How relationally shameful this must have been to the church body.

1 Corinthians 11   20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others.” The early church used to have a love feast (fellowship dinner) every week along with the Lord’s Supper. They used to have a “better room” known as the triclinium (lit. three couches), which was a formal dining room in Roman buildings. Some of the Christians would get there early to beat the rush and get the better seat in the dining room while the latecomers had to crowd into the Atrium. “…and one is hungry and another is drunk.” While people were in the Atrium waiting to get in, many of them were taking their time eating and drinking and actually getting drunk! 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. Paul was exposing their spiritually shameful behavior.

1 Corinthians 12   14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?…21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” Can you read between the lines and see their collectively shameful behavior?

Why did they behave this way? Paul clarifies “(love) does not behave rudely” with “does not seek its own.” This is word for word in the Greek. They were acting rudely because they were selfish and self-centered people. They only cared about their own concerns, pleasures, and gifts. They did not care about others.

What was the solution? Grow up. Remember, how God loves you. Remember, how important you are to him and remember how important others are to him.

I want us to see how Paul handled the issue of selfishness at the Lord’s Table. 1 Corinthians 11   23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

The point is – God loves us in laying down His life for us. Now we are to do the same for others. 1 Corinthians 11   33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment.

Next, listen to how Paul handles the situation of various gifts and ministries. 1 Corinthians 12   4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all…18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body…22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

This is not just in the context of the church but also our daily relationships.

Let me suggest a few statements that should become a part of our vocabulary if we want to be mature:

I need you.

What do you think?

Let’s work it out.

Together, we can make it.

I am thankful for you.

I’ll help you.

I won’t say it because it will not build him/her up.

I won’t do it because it will hurt him/her.

Are you saved? Are you mature? Are you loving?

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