Press On by Dr. Abidan Shah

Press On

PRESS ON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: As many of you may know, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo had to be postponed to next year because of the COVID-19 crisis. One of my favorite events is the 100-meters dash, where you see the fastest man or woman on earth. My favorite athlete in that event is Jesse Owens. He represented the United States at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, where he was not just competing against other athletes but against Hitler’s Nazi ideology. What many people don’t realize is that he grew up in a devout Christian home. When he was five years of age, he had a fibrous tumor on his chest. Since his parents were just poor sharecroppers, they could not afford any medical care. So, his mother, Emma, took a sharp kitchen knife, sterilized it, and removed a golf ball size tumor from his chest. You can only imagine the pain he must have felt. The bleeding continued for days and little Jesse Owens remembers his dad, Henry, praying for him, “Oh, Lord Jesus, ‘Please, please, hear me. I know you hear everything, but this saving means everything. She’ll die if he dies — and if she dies, Lord, we’ll all die — all of us.’” Within minutes the bleeding stopped. God answered his prayers. But, listen to Jesse Owens philosophy on running. He was told to run as if the track were on fire. He said, “I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up.” I cannot think of a better philosophy for living the Christian life – “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”That’s the title of our message today – PRESS ON – in our series on Paul’s letters to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     12 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Question: How are you running the Christian race? Will you win the gold medal? We are not competing against each other but against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Who is winning? You cannot be in the race unless you are saved. Are you saved?

Context: Athletics or competitive sports were a big part of Greco-Roman life. Altogether there were 4 Panhellenic games: Olympic (Olympia), Isthmian (Corinth), Pythian (Delphi), and Nemean (Peloponnesian region). There were also some lesser games. More than likely, Paul went to the Isthmian games because he was in Corinth planting the church the years those games were held there in AD 49 and 51. That’s why he was in tent-making because spectators came from everywhere and needed some shelter during the games. What a perfect opportunity for Paul to share the gospel!

How did the people see these games? We have historical evidence that the Greeks, Romans, Jewish people, and many other ethnic groups came to these events. Although most of the games were for males and attended only by males, there were other games for females as well. These events were not just athletic events, they were also religious events where there were sacrifices to certain deities on the opening and closing days. The athletes even believed that the gods themselves helped them to win. The games were a display of excellence (“arete”), both external (beauty) and internal (goodness). These two aspects are what made someone a good citizen. They thought that an athlete was made into the ideal citizen in the gym through education and practice. Then, the citizens came together in the “agon” or gathering to observe these ideals. The idea was “if a person looked good, then he was a good person.” What about injuries? A mangled ear, broken nose, scars, and intense exhaustion was a sign of endurance through difficulties that led to a superior character.

What would the athletes get for winning the competition? They would get the “stephanos” or foliage crown (wreaths made out of olive, wild celery, or pine), but there were also cash rewards. Depending on how great their achievements, there would also be statues, monuments, and inscriptions. What if you were to lose? In many cases, this was a disgrace. One Stoic philosopher wrote, “In the Olympic Games you cannot just be beaten and depart, but first of all, you will be disgraced not only before the people of Athens or Sparta or Nikopolis but before the whole world. In the second place, if you withdraw without sufficient reason you will be whipped. And this whipping comes after your training which involves thirst and broiling heat and swallowing handfuls of sand.”

Did Paul take interest in those games? We don’t know for sure but he used a lot of athletic imagery in his letters. More than any other sport, he made mention of the “foot race” or “trecho,” from which we get our English word “trek.” These races took place inside a 600 feet enclosure known as the “stadios,” from which we get our English word “stadium.” Nicole and I have been on the race track in Olympia. It was unreal to stand there knowing that athletes had ran there for thousands of years! There were 3 kinds of foot races: first, the “stadion,” which was a dash from the starting line “balbis” to the “terma” (finish line), about 200 meters long; second, the “diaulos,” which was a dash from one side to the other and back, about 400 meters long; and the “dolichos,” which was 24 lengths of the stadium, about 5 miles long. He mentions this race about 3-4 times in his letter to the Philippians. Nicole and I have been to Philippi, Greece. Although, there was no stadium there, there is evidence that people had interest in athletics in Philippi. By the second century AD, a “palaestra” was built there next to the agora. Participating in the games and attending them were probably seen as a mark of preserving their Hellenic/Greek identity.

With all this in mind, let’s walk quickly through Philippians 3:12 onwards:

If you remember from last weekend, Paul counted all his achievements (5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless) as loss (zemeia), actually unspeakable filth (skubalon) compared to gaining Christ. Now, through Christ, he has justification, sanctification, and glorification.

Now, Paul turns to the athletic imagery of a runner.

Philippians 3     12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, (dioko = move rapidly and decisively towards an objective) that I may lay hold of (katalambano = grasp) that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind (past achievements and crowns) and reaching forward (epekteinomai = stretching forward) to those things which are ahead,

14 I press (dioko) toward the goal (skopos) for the prize (brabeion) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

17 Brethren, join in following my example (symmimetai, from which we get mimic but this is in a group context), and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 whose end (telos) is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

20 For our citizenship (politeuma = citizenship) is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” The church is the “agon” in which the “arete” is achieved.

21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown (stephanos), so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

I said in the opening: “Christian life is a race. If we’re going to win the gold medal, Christ, we have no time to fuss with each other or to look back. Instead, we are to help each other press on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us.”

Invitation:

  • How are you running the race?
  • Are you too busy fussing about useless things?
  • Are you distracted from the race?
  • Are you following the wrong athletes?
  • Are you reaching forward to the crown?
  • Are you helping others reach forward to the crown?
  • Are you in the race? Are you saved?

True Gains by Dr. Abidan Shah

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TRUE GAINS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Before the COVID-19 shutdown, our Clearview staff would meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at our local Y to workout. One of our codewords was “It’s time for some gains.” By that we meant, “It’s time for us to gain some muscles.” Some days, it was tough to get up early on a cold morning and drive to the gym. It was such a good feeling to sleep in, but, compared to the good feeling of working out, it was loss. By the way, one of us did a lot of looking in the mirror and admiring his gains but we’re not going to talk about that! So also, in the Christian life, we have to decide what really matters. What are the true gains in the Christian life? True Gains for a believer are knowing Christ and being found in him. Unfortunately, we substitute these gains for things that only lead to self-righteous pride and disunity. Our message today is titled “TRUE GAINS” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 3     7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

Question: What things do you consider as gains in your life? What would you be willing to give up in order to gain Christ? Before you can gain Christ, you have to find Christ. Have you found Christ? Are you saved?

Context: So far, in this series on Philippians, we have learned that the Christians in Philippi were struggling with both internal and external problems. Internally, they were struggling with disunity in the body. Externally, they were facing persecution from their neighbors. This was very detrimental to their existence. Paul wrote this letter both to settle their disputes and to strengthen them. His answer to their situation was “have the mind of Christ.” Philippians 2:5, “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” In other words, if they were going to get along and survive the persecution, they needed a mind-renewal to match the mind of Christ. Developing a mind like the mind of Christ was another way of saying, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13). So, how should they behave if they’ve had this mind transformation, this working out of salvation? Here’s a checklist in Philippians 2    14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, (Do you do all things without complaining and disputing?) 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, (Have you become blameless and harmless?) children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Are you a child of God without fault, shining as lights in the world?) 16 holding fast the word of life, (Are you holding fast the word of life?) so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Are you giving others opportunity to rejoice in the day of Christ?)

But, Paul didn’t stop here. He went on to address the source of their conflicts. If there is a crack in the wall, we can keep patching it or we can find the problem and do some real fixing so the crack doesn’t come back. Paul wants to fix the problem under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not just for the Philippians but for all of us. Let’s look at how he does that, one verse at a time:

3     1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. It seems that Paul is about to end his letter, but wait! 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Between verses 1 and 2, there is a radical shift in tone. Scholars have debated this section to no end. Some have even said that there must be some other letter by Paul that got inserted here. I believe that this is one and the same letter. You have to read it in its rhetorical context. Remember, Paul was trained by the best of both Jewish and Greek worlds. What is the purpose for the shift in tone? Paul wants to deal with root problem of disunity among the Philippian Christians—Pride through self-righteousness. Paul doesn’t just come out and accuse them of pride and arrogance. That would be too much in your face or misjudging the wrong person, which we often do.

Instead, Paul lays out the example of those who demonstrate pride through self-righteousness: the Judaizers. These were people who were claiming to be Christians but still wanted to practice the Old Testament practices like circumcision. They contradicted and opposed Paul’s ministry, and they must have infiltrated the Philippian Church. Listen again to how he describes them in verse 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” The Greek word for dog “kuon” is the word from which we get our word “canine.” In Latin, it would be “Cave Canem” = “Beware/Watch for Dog.” Was Paul being hateful?Here Paul is using the word that was reserved for the Gentiles. Also, mutilation is the word “katatome.” Here again the word was used to describe those Gentiles who tried to practice circumcision (peritome) but they were only mutilating themselves. There was no covenant with God in their ritual. Unfortunately, the Judaizers had the same attitude even in the church towards those who were not circumcised. They would act uppity with them, as if they were privileged. What a sad thing to do? It could very well be that some of the people in the Philippian church had some Jewish background or they may have picked up some of these bad behaviors.

Principle: All pride is bad but spiritual pride is the most destructive. It is nauseating to the lost world; it demoralizes younger believers; and it angers God.

Listen to Paul’s response: 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

Application: Are you worshipping God in the Spirit? Are you rejoicing in Christ Jesus? Do you have confidence in the flesh? Is it about how long you’ve been in church? Is it about your spiritual pedigree? Is it about your Bible knowledge?

Paul now gives his own example: 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Instead of taking pride in any of this—7 But what things were gain (“kerdos”) to me, these I have counted loss (“zemia”) for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” The word for “rubbish” is “skubalon,” which refers to “unspeakable filth” or “dung.” Keep in mind: Paul did not say that these things are rubbish. But, compared to gaining Christ, they are rubbish.

What did Paul consider as his gains now? 3 things:

  1. His Justification (that event by which we are set or declared to be in right relation with God): 9 “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
  2. His Sanctification (that event that God is daily working in our lives to make us more like him): 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Grammatically, to know Christ is to experience the power of his resurrection and to join him in his sufferings.
  3. His Glorification (that event that God will one day welcome us into what he has prepared for us): 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Here are the true gains? Justification – saved from the penalty of sin; Sanctification – saved from the power of sin; and Glorification – saved from the presence of sin.

Invitation: How are your gains? What do you think of your justification, sanctification, and glorification? Are you saved?

 

 

Gospel-Centric by Dr. Abidan Shah

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GOSPEL-CENTRIC by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Do you know someone who is really into something like a hobby, sport, or some cause? They talk about it all the time. They want you to get excited about it just as much as they are. I knew someone like that when we lived back in Georgia about 25 years ago. Nicole and I were friends with this couple from her dad’s church. The man was an A-grade mechanic and was also big into Nascar. He would talk to me about it all the time about the size of the engines, the pistons, the tire pressure, and on and on. Even though I didn’t know a thing about Nascar, before long I was talking about Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Ernie Irwin, and Dale Earnhardt (No. 3). I was coming home after church and actually watching the races! Once we moved, I sort of stayed into it and then I lost interest. So also, with the gospel, there are people who are so consumed with the gospel that they can’t help but talk about it all the time. They love sharing the gospel. They are gospel-centric. When you are around such people, you become just like them. You also become gospel-centric. That’s the title of our message today in our new series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians titled “COMMUNITY.”

Philippians 1     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…7 “… both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace…12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

Question: Paul’s ministry was gospel-centric. He wanted the Philippians to make their church gospel-centric as well. How much is your life gospel-centric? Do you think our church is gospel-centric enough? Do you know the gospel? Are you saved?

Context: If you grew up in church, you probably heard the word “gospel” at some point. How important is this word “gospel”? You may have heard it before or maybe from me that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell,” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good, of course, but “spell” means story or news. So, Gospel = Good News. But, in today’s message, we are going deeper and looking at the Greek word behind gospel—“euangelion.” It is found several hundred times in various forms in the New Testament, about 84 times in Paul’s letters, and about 9 times in his letter to the Philippians. For starters, it was not invented by Paul or by the other New Testament writers. Neither was it borrowed from the Greco-Roman world, even though it was used to refer to good news like the birth of the emperor and special decrees by him, and sacrifices were offered to the gods when the “euangelion” of victory came to them. This helps our understanding of the word but the New Testament writers had a different source for “euangelion.” It was the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 40-66, where it talks about the coming of the Messiah. Listen to Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings (Here, the Greek word for “good tidings” in the LXX is “euangelizo” from “euangelion”) to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” The gospel was rooted in the Scriptures as the promise of the coming Messiah. The world was in bad news but good news was in its way!

When Jesus came, he saw his ministry as a fulfillment of this prophecy. At the start of his ministry, he went into the synagogue and read Isaiah 61, and declared “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 6:21). Then, he went everywhere preaching the gospel of the kingdom and doing the things listed in Isaiah 61. When John the Baptizer doubted Jesus’ ministry, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 in Matthew 11     5 “The blind see and thelame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” When the gospel writers wrote about the ministry of Jesus, they also used the same word “euangelion” to refer to his coming— Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This continued in the early church where the book of Acts repeatedly used the word “euangelion” to refer to the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection. Both Peter and Paul referred to themselves as preachers/ministers of the gospel: Acts 15:7 “…And…Peter…said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe”; Acts 20:24 “…nor do I (Paul) count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

The point I am making here is that the Old Testament writers, Jesus, gospel writers, the early church, and the pillars of the church (Peter and Paul) were all gospel-centric. Their main focus was bringing the good news to the world that was under bad news.

Question: Are you gospel-centric? Is our church gospel-centric?

Let’s get back to Philippians: In what ways was Paul gospel-centric to the Philippians? He uses the word “euangelion” 9 times in this letter. Let’s quickly look at them:

Philippians 1    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.”

  1. The gospel binds us in fellowship.

Philippians 1:7 “just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.”

  1. The gospel opens opportunities for God’s grace.

Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

  1. The gospel takes precedence over trials.

Philippians 1     15 “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

  1. The gospel neutralizes bitter envy.

Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

  1. The gospel demands a certain conduct.

Philippians 2    21 “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.”

  1. The gospel proves selflessness.

Philippians 4     2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

  1. The gospel increases our value.

Phil. 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

  1. The gospel offers opportunities to partner.

Question: Is the gospel the glue that holds our fellowship together? Does the gospel take precedence over our personal trials? Are you living up to the conduct worthy of the gospel? Are you partnering with others in sharing the gospel?

Here’s the final question: What is the content of the gospel? Paul actually gives us the content of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15    1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved…3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (Meaning: Paul is not the manufacturer of the gospel) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (There’s the bad news) 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (There’s the good news) 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren…” (There’s the proof of the good news)

Question: Do you understand this gospel? Do you believe this gospel? Are you on the gospel of train? Or, have you lost your train of thought and are stranded with some poor substitutes?

Community by Dr. Abidan Shah

Community

COMMUNITY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: The history of our world is littered with countless obsoletes. Think about the technological obsoletes of the past few decades—phone booths, calling cards, pagers, palm pilots, floppy disks, Kodak films, calculator watches, Sony Walkman, etc. Many of the things we use today will probably become obsolete by tomorrow. Lately, in light of the current crisis, some people are claiming that even how we interact with each other (shaking hands, gathering in crowds) is going to become obsolete and they are applying this even to the church. They are claiming that we won’t necessarily come together physically. Instead, we may do all this over technology with small groups of people gathering here and there. Please listen carefully: No matter what will become obsolete in this world with regards to technology and cultural habits, the church of Jesus Christ will never become obsolete. God has said in his word that his church will remain no matter what and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Throughout the history of Christianity, peoples and governments have prognosticated the death of the gathered church. They died but the church still gathers and lives on. Today’s message is heavy on my heart. We’re going back to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We’ve studied portions of this letter before but now we’re starting a new series titled COMMUNITY.

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, 4always 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.”

Question: What do you believe about the gathered church? Do you belong to the church of God? Are you saved?

Background: Those of you who’ve been at Clearview for some time may remember that, in 2018, we went through the first chapter of Philippians, and then, last year (2019), we covered the second chapter. That series was called “MIND (RE)SET.” For the benefit of those who weren’t here last year or the year before, I want to quickly mention 2 things as background information:

First, the Philippians were Paul’s pride and joy. He had founded the church in Philippi. If you remember, Paul had come to Philippi in response to the Macedonian Call. Acts 16 tells us of 3 dramatic conversions: first, a business woman named Lydia by the Zygaktis or Krenides River (I’ve been there); second, a slave girl who was demon possessed; and third was the Philippian jailer and his whole family. If you want to know how Paul felt about the Philippian church, listen again to Philippians 1:3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…”

Question: Do you thank God every time you think about the church? Do you miss the time we had together? Do people say that about you?

Second, this was not just an ordinary letter. Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell in Rome. How do we know that? Philippians 1:7 “…both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel…” Again, verse 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” More than likely, Paul was in a house arrest situation since he was able to send letters and receive friends. Nonetheless, this was a serious situation. Listen to Philippians 1:20 “…Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Meaning: There was a strong possibility that Paul will not make it alive out of this prison. In the midst of such grave uncertainty, Paul took the time to write to the Philippian church. Why? When we read the letter carefully, we find 2 hints that help us understand the purpose for the letter:

  1. Paul mentions the word “chara” joy about 5 times in various forms:
  • Philippians 1:4 “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.”
  • Philippians 1:25 “…I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.”
  • Philippians 2:2 “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded”
  • In Philippians 2:29 Paul wants them to receive Epaphroditus, one of his companions in ministry, with joy.
  • Philippians 4:1 Paul calls them, “…my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown…”

Paul also uses the related word “chairo” meaning rejoice about 7 times in various forms. The most famous one being Philippians 4:4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Because of this some people have assumed that Philippians is Paul’s letter to teach us the importance of Joy in the midst of trials. This could’ve been true if it wasn’t for the second hint.

  1. Paul repeatedly talks about division among the Philippians.
  • Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
  • Philippians 2:2 “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded
  • Philippians 2 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
  • Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without complaining and disputing.”
  • Philippians 3:16 “…let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.”
  • Philippians 4:2 “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”

What exactly was happening in the Philippian church? There were divisions in the body and because of that joy was leaking out. Please listen very carefully: Nothing will deplete joy in the Christian life faster than division in your life, your marriage, your family, and your church. All it takes is for one divisive person to start something and before you know it, the whole body is infected with a spirit of division.

The current crisis has scattered the church. That doesn’t have to be bad if we try to use it as a limited time opportunity to spread the gospel of God in creative ways. Then, it’s time to come back together as a church. Technology can never be a substitute to the actual gathering of the people of God in a physical location. Pockets of people meeting online or in someone’s home is not church. How about Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them”? Have you read the context? Let me read to you Matthew 18:17 “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” That passage about 2 or 3 is given in the context of church discipline! Don’t get me wrong. We want small groups, Sunday School groups, and inner circles, but they are not to become a substitute for church.

Let me go back to where we began: No matter what will become obsolete in this world with regards to technology and cultural habits, the church of Jesus Christ will never become obsolete. God has said in his word that his church will remain no matter what and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

  • Jesus is the founder of the church. Anything he has founded cannot be destroyed. In fact, the church is referred to as the “bride of Christ” (Revelation 19 and 21).
  • The church is not just a group hanging out here and there. It refers to the assembly in Jerusalem, Antioch, Derbe, Lystra, Ephesus, Philippi, etc. 1 Corinthians 10:17 “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”
  • When Paul talks about the church, he is referring to the “concrete assembly of those who have been baptized at a specific place.” (J. Roloff) The model were the early synagogues of the Jewish people. Yes, the church are the people primarily but the places they met is also the church. It was a visible representation of their presence in a city or town. That’s why I like the steeple.
  • Listen to the imagery of the church in Ephesians 2 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The famous theologian John Stott said, “The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history.”

Throughout the history of Christianity, peoples and governments have prognosticated the death of the gathered church. They died but the church still gathers and lives on.

Hebrews 10    24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhortingone another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Conclusion: What do you believe about the church, the physical gathering of the body of believers in a physical location? Do you think God has stepped away from the church, saying, “this Covid-19 really got me; y’all going to have to figure this one out”? If you care about the Lord, then you will care about his bride, the church. Are you allowing someone to create division in the body? Are you a member of the body of Christ? Are you saved?

Upbringing by Pastor Abidan Shah

UPBRINGING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Yesterday, Ryan and Elizabeth had a mini-golf tournament at Adventure Island for all the students and their dads. We had a great time. I couldn’t help noticing how much kids took after their dads – active dads, active kids; quiet dads, quiet kids; competitive dads, competitive kids – not sure if the kids or the dads would admit to that. One thing was for sure, kids need their fathers.Our culture thinks that fathers are just an accessory (cell phone case, fancy purse, or limited-edition hat) but God has appointed fathers to be the primary influence in every child’s life. Today’s message titled “UBBRINGING” will help us see that.

1 Corinthians 4      15“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yetyou donothavemany fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.”

Question: Fathers, you are to be the Instructors, Models, and Protectors to your children. Have you lived up to and are you living up to the calling God gave you as a dad? Children, of all ages, have you been grateful for what your fathers have done for you? For some, this may be a tough message.Either you were not the father you were supposed to be or you broke your father’s heart. Ask God to forgive you and give you his grace. Are you saved? John 1:12“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Context: In light of Father’s Day, today’s message is a little different than how I typically preach.I want to dwell on the father-son relationship between Paul and Timothy.In I Corinthians 4:17, Paul refers to Timothy as “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord.” If you’ve studied the Bible, you know that Timothy was not Paul’s biological son. In Acts 16Luke gives us some background on who Timothy was. Listen to verse “Then he (Paul)came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, theson of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his fatherwasGreek.” Apparently, Timothy was the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek man. The way Luke phrases that statement, Timothy’s father never converted to Judaism. Intermarriage between Jewish people and Gentiles was not as problematic to the Rabbis as long as the Gentile person converted to Judaism. The requirements for conversion were still quite high. But, if there was no conversion, it was strictly prohibited. According to the Book of Jubilees (a Jewish writing from that period), “And if there is a man in Israel who wishes to give his daughter or his sister to any man who is from the seed of gentiles, let him surely die … because he has caused shame in Israel.”(Jub 30:7) You can imagine what kind of a life Timothy must have had. Probably, his mother’s side of people did not accept him because his father was Greek and his father’s side of people did not accept him because his mother was Jewish. Then, it was probably on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14)that Timothy’s grandmother and mother got saved, and even Timothy. Paul mentions them in 2 Timothy 1:5“when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” Paul doesn’t say a word about Timothy’s father which means he never got saved and maybe even cut off all relations with Timothy and his mother.

The gospel can be very costly. Accepting Jesus as our Savior and King may lead to a loss of relationship with family. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 10     37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.38And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

Illustration: My own father lost his family when he became a Christian. Its mind blowing!

Let’s return to Acts 16      2“He (Timothy)was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he tookhimand circumcised him…” Scholars have long debated this action by Paul. He had fought hard against circumcision as a requirement for the Gentiles. He even refused to let Titus, who was also Greek, from having to be circumcised. He says it clearly in Galatians 5     2“Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing….6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” In fact, Paul was on a mission to take the news of the Jerusalem Council’s decision to the churches that circumcision was not necessary in order to be saved. Why then did he get Timothy circumcised? Listen to the rest of Acts 16:3 “And he tookhimand circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.” This was not about circumcision but about sonship. In a symbolic way, Paul was claiming Timothy as his son. Other than Luke, Paul had Timothy as his closest companion in ministry. Except for his letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus, he mentions Timothy in all his letters. 

Illustration: Going back to my own dad, he was symbolically adopted by a missionary scholar by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander. He was a Hebrew and Greek scholar who translated the Bible into Marathi. 

Application: Did God bring some godly men into your life? Are you such a father figure to someone who didn’t have one? Nicole’s dad was such a father figure in my life.

Paul filled this role of a father in Timothy’s life. We see this clearly in the 2 letters he wrote to him. 1 and 2 Timothy are referred to as the Pastoral letters. I like to call them the Parental letters. Let’s look at just a few of his statements to Timothy in his 2 letters to him. This should teach us how we need to fulfill our calling as a father or a father figure to the children God has biologically or spiritually given to us.

1. Confidence – 1 Timothy 1:18“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.”

2. Church – 1 Timothy 3:15“…I writeso that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

3. Self-respect – 1 Timothy 4     12“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

4. Communication – 1 Timothy 5      1“Do not rebuke an older man, but exhorthimas a father, younger men as brothers, 2older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.”

5. Flee Sin and Chase Righteousness – 1 Timothy 6     11“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…”

6. Relationship with Christ – 2 Timothy 2:1“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

7. Endurance – 2 Timothy 2      3“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of thislife, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.”

8. Focused – 2 Timothy 2     23But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25in humility correcting those who are in opposition…”

9. Avoid bad company – 2 Timothy 3     1“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”

10. Example – 2 Timothy 3     10“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out ofthemall the Lord delivered me. 12Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

Here’s one more that tells us how protective Paul was over Timothy.

11. Protector –1 Corinthians 16:10“And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I alsodo. 11Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren.”

Invitation:Have you been the father you were called to be? Are you being the father God has called you to be? Have you been grateful to the father (biological or spiritual) that God placed in your life? Is God your Heavenly Father? Its only through Christ that he can be.

Mindset by Pastor Abidan Shah

MINDSET by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: I love reset buttons. Computers are wonderful until they get a virus or a wrong update. A reset/restore button puts it back. Video games are fun until you start losing. A reset starts it all over again. Phones are so valuable until they start acting up. A factory reset gets it going again. Lot of household items have a reset button – Modem, Garbage disposal, furnace, some vacuums, washer and dryer. What if your mind had a reset button? It gets jumbled the moment it comes into this world. Then, circumstances, bad decisions, and wrong people tend to jumble it some more. What follows are more bad decisions, confusion, frustration, limited output, and even shutdown. What if you could hit a button and reset it to its factory setting? Start all over and make better decisions and be successful. In this series called MIND RESET we will learn how to do that. It is based on Philippians 2:5-11. Before we can try to reset our minds, we need to understand how our mind is set. That’s the title of our first message today – MINDSET.

Philippians 2     5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient tothe point ofdeath, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11andthatevery tongue should confess that Jesus ChristisLord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question: What is your mindset. Is it set towards the things of God or is it set towards sin? Has there been a mind change in you? Are you saved?

Context: In this first message in our series, I want us to try to understand what the mind is. It’s hard to fix something or change something when you don’t know what it is or how it works.Listen again to Philippians 2:5“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” What is the mind? Keep in mind that I am bringing this to a simple level.

1. Typically, some people have claimed that a human being is 2 parts – Mind and Body.One part is immaterial and the other material. There are many Christians who have thought that way through history. They get it from verses like Matthew 26  40Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeediswilling, but the fleshisweak.” Then Paul’s statement in Romans 7:18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…” James 2:26“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” 

There are many people who are not Christians who have also held to a similar view, except they believe that there is no such distinction as immaterial and material. What we think is the mind is nothing more than the outworking of the brain. You have thoughts because your brain is working. Your mind told you to do something because there was some stimulus that made you think that and then your brain told your body to do it and you did it. By the way, such people also claim that there is no such thing as a spirit being. There is no God. Life is just all material. It’s a series of actions and reactions. Nothing is really right or wrong, freedom, responsibility. You can imagine how dangerous such a view can be. Here, the abortion issue also comes in. 

2. There are other people, mostly Christians, who believe that a human being is 3 parts:mind, body, and spirit or soul, body, and spirit. According to them, the place where God works is the spirit. The Holy Spirit changes our spirit and then in turn it changes our mind and our body. They quote passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:23“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” or Hebrews 4:12“For the word of Godisliving and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…” That’s actually rhetorical. What do you with what Jesus said in Luke 10:27“You shall love the LORDyour God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”That passage was not meant to tell us how to understand the human body but simply an expression that says, “love God with your whole being.”

3. Then there are people, non-Christians and Christians, who claim that a human being is just 1 part.Non-Christians will say that there is nothing special about us that lives on when we die. We die and it’s over. Again, here is where the abortion issue comes in. But, some Christians will tell you that the Old Testament does not see people as body and spirit or body, soul, and spirit. It was all one whole. This is actually true. But, then the question arises, “What happens when a person dies?” Are they just asleep, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe? But Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

If you really think about it, we have a very poor understanding of what the mind is. Does this matter? Yes, if Philippians 2:5says “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”and you don’t know what the mind is, then you can’t apply that verse. I am still learning on this subject. The jury is still out but for the next few moments I want to show you from the Word of God what the mind really means. I believe in what’s known as functional holism and holistic dualism. Let’s just focus on what Paul wrote:

1. Paul makes a distinction between mind and body. In 2 Corinthians 12:7he says, And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the fleshwas given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me…” InI Corinthians 4:11 he says,“For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” But then in 1 Corinthians 2:11“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the manwhich is in him?” Romans 6:17But God be thanked thatthoughyou were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heartthat form of doctrine to which you were delivered. We are more than just animals. We are more than just or neurophysiological or physiochemical beings. Also, we are more than just spirit beings trapped in this horrible shell.

2. Paul emphasizes the unity of the person. Romans 12    1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodiesa living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which isyour reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” 

3. Paul sees the whole person in bondage to sin. Colossians 1:21 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mindby wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.”Galatians 5    19Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,21envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told youin time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

4. Paul sees the whole person in need of redemption, immediate and ultimate.

Mind – Romans 12:2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,that you may prove whatisthat good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 

Mind –2 Corinthians 10:5casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivityto the obedience of Christ,

Body – 1 Corinthians 9:27But I discipline my bodyand bring itinto subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Body – I Corinthians 15:22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

2 Corinthians 7:1Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Froneo – Philippians 2:5“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” Better Translation:“Let yourself so think among you.”

Who controls your mind? Who controls your actions? 

Are you in the Word? Are you walking in the Spirit? Are you filled with Christ?

Are you saved?

Discipleship: Restoration by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – RESTORATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Restoration

Introduction: Have you ever observed how ants help other ants? Once a worker ant finds food, it makes its way back home leaving behind a pheromone trail (chemical scent) that helps the other ants find their way to the food. In some varieties of ants, if a warrior ant gets injured in battle against an enemy, like the termites, the other ants will carry him back home. Now compare this with crabs. Throw a bunch of crabs in a bucket and you don’t need a lid to keep them in. If one tries to climb out, the others will pull him back in. Ants pull each other up. Crabs pull each other down. What does this have to do with our series on discipleship? In the Christian life, we don’t need people who will pull us down. We need people who will pull us up. We need others to encourage, guide, and pray for us when we lose our way. It’s called accountability. Unfortunately, most Christians act more like crabs than ants. Today’s sermon titled “Restoration” is going to help us understand true accountability.

Galatians 6    1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you whoarespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For each one shall bear his own load.”

Question: Who is holding you accountable? Who do you have in your life who is spiritually mature enough to restore you in a spirit of gentleness? Are you pulling others up or down? Have you ever asked Christ to pull you out of sin? Are you saved?

Context:  As I’ve said before, it’s been awesome for me to see the response to this series on discipleship. Some have already started their Inner Circles and some are getting ready to start. Typically, most people have no problem with most of what I have been explaining.

  • for Witness – yes, it’s important to have a testimony and share your faith.
  • for Togetherness – yes, it’s important to go to church and hear the Word and join in Sunday School and small groups.
  • for Established in the Word – yes, it’s important to get in the Bible.
  • for Reproducing Disciples – yes, it’s important to “Go and make disciples.”

The one that people struggle with is A for Accountability – no, I don’t want to share my business with anyone. Most are okay with coming to church and being part of the congregation. Some are even okay with going to Sunday School and Small Groups (Circles at Clearview) and getting into community. But, Inner Circles tend to intimidate some people. Actually, I’m surprised how well the concept of inner circles has been received by most people. But, if you are one of those who are intimidated by that concept, I’m going to try to clear up some misunderstandings about it in this message. Having said that, please don’t talk down about it. Pray for those who want to do it. What may look to you like an ugly, uncomfortable vest may be a lifejacket for someone else. You may not be drowning but they are. Please don’t talk them out of putting on the life-preserver.

I’ve already preached a message on how Jesus valued accountability, how he sent them out in pairs (two by two) and how the early church followed the same pattern. In the brief time we have today, I don’t want to convince you again of the importance of accountability. I simply want to clear up some misunderstandings by explaining how accountability works in the Inner Circle. Basically three:

1. Don’t confuse Sunday School and Small Groups with Inner Circles. They’re wonderful and very essential for developing T for Togetherness. You get to know each other, share in each other’s joys and sorrows, and learn the Bible. But, the real test is “are they making disciples?” The answers is “No.” Disciples who make disciples is the goal.

2. Don’t confuse One-on-one mentoring with Inner Circles. Jesus met with people one on one. He met with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman by themselves. He even had a deep conversation with Peter after he rose from the grave. These were times of great spiritual benefit to these individuals. Some like the Samaritan woman even got saved through it and maybe Nicodemus too. I’ve met many times with people one on one and it’s great. But, there are some limitations to one on one meetings. In other words, there are some important benefits to meeting in a group. Listen again to Ecclesiastes 4 9Twoarebetter than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. . . 12Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” In other words, if two is good, three is even better.” Why is an Inner Circle better?  8 Reasons (I’m getting these from Robby Gallaty):

i. Avoid the ping pong match. How are you? Good. Did you have a good week? Yep. .

ii. One on one is difficult to reproduce. The mentee never feels equal to the mentor.

iii. A group of two tends to become a counselling session. Instead of a time of spiritual growth, it becomes a problem solving, therapy session.

iv. A group of three to five has built-in accountability. If one fails to do the assignment, the others are good motivators to challenge and encourage.

v. A multiplication strategy is exponentially faster than an addition strategy. Keith Philipps in his 1981 book “The Making of a Disciple” presented a chart comparing discipleship with evangelism. If one person were to reach one person every day for the next 16 years (he actually calculated for 32 years), that would be 5,840 people. Now if a person would disciple one person a year for the next 16 years, that would be 65,536 people. Then, Greg Ogden in his 2016 book “Transforming Discipleship” expounded it even further. If we went by the Inner Circle Model, in 16 years, that would be 43,046,721 people. I know that all these figures are ideal world assumptions. But, unless we go this way, there’s no way that we will win our community and our world for Christ.

vi. A one-on-one group can be intimidating. It is very hard for people to talk about their personal lives and struggle one on one, especially men.

vii. You grow as a group. Christian life is not an individual sport. It is a team sport. The boys and I have been watching the World Cup Soccer tournament. It’s amazing to see the reaction when a player makes a goal. The whole team comes running and jumps on him! So also, in discipleship, we grow as a team.

viii. Jesus discipled in groups. I’ve repeated this time and time again with how Jesus worked with the disciples and the Inner Circle with Peter, James, and John.

3. Don’t confuse biblical correction with control and condemnation. A major reason that many people are reluctant to join an accountability group or the Inner Circle is because they think that now they have to give an account of everything they do to someone. They assume that they are inadvertently turning over their freedom to someone else. This is just not true. Here’s a great illustration:Most of us have a lead foot. We like to drive a little above the speed limit. What happens when you see a police, sheriff, or state trooper car? We slow down and check our speedometer. Why do we do that? Is it because we don’t want to cause a wreck or break the law. I doubt it. We don’t want to get stopped, get a ticket, have to go to court, and have our insurance go up. The police car forces us to stay within the law. What if we didn’t have any police cars. Would we still do what is right? Maybe some of us but most won’t. Accountability is like that police car. It forces us to stay away from sin. Galatians 6 1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The goal is not control or condemnation but biblical correction or restoration.It is not pushing your personal convictions on others. Robby Gallaty said – “Accountability must be couched in grace. Avoid narcissistic, self-improvement regimens that turn grace into law.” Listen to verse2“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”

Illustration: John Bradford was a pastor, a reformer, and later became a martyr. Tradition has it that when he would see convicts being taken to be executed that he would say under his breath “there but for the grace of God go I.” In other words, “the only difference between that convict and myself is the grace of God.” If all of us can believe that we are only 1 or 2 steps away from that man or that woman behind bars, what a difference it would make in how we treat people. Paul said in I Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am. . .”

Invitation: Do you pull people up or down? Have you been pulled up by the grace of God in Jesus Christ?

Discipleship: Rooted by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – ROOTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship RootedIntroduction: Last weekend, several of the guys in our church came out to help me with our yard. A major reason for that is that in the past two years we had 4 white pines to fall in our yard. The first one fell parallel to the house during a thunderstorm. The second one fell on top of the house during a snow storm. Thank God there was no damage. There were two still standing on the south side of the house and since I’m no arborist or tree expert, I decided to call one from the State to help me figure out what was going on. He came, looked at the trees, and told me that the white pines do not grow very well in our soil here. Although they do have a tap root system, the lateral root development is far more extensive, which means more roots grow horizontally close to the surface than into the ground. He told me that it was a matter of time before the two standing would fall as well. So, I paid a guy to take them down before they could do any serious damage. What does this have to with our message on discipleship? Just like those white pines, many Christians never develop a deep tap root system in their lives. They have more of a lateral close to the surface root system. It looks impressive but it’s useless when the storms of life begin to come. Unless they are rooted and built up in Christ and his Word, it’s a matter of time before they will fall. If I may add, they do a lot of damage when they fall. True disciples are rooted in the Word of God.

Colossians 2    4“Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.5For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see yourgoodorder and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.6As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,7rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught…”

Question: Paul was concerned about the Colossians because they were being deceived by persuasive words. He reminded them to stay rooted, built up, and established “as you have been taught.” What have you been taught? Solid biblical teaching is a must for every disciple of Jesus Christ. Without it, you will fall when the storms of life come. Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Context:To quickly summarize – the goal of discipleship is WATER = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING DISCIPLES. To achieve these things, we need certain disciplines – Evangelism, Confession, Weekly Church Attendance, Daily Bible Intake, and Discipling. They’re not the end but simply a means to the end. People ask “What’s the next step?” Last weekend, in a message titled “Pathways,” I explained that true discipleship cannot happen in isolation. You need others to become a disciple. Preaching is vital to your growth but it’s not enough. Sunday School or Small Groups like Clearview Circles are also important but they’re enough. These settings are too large and too diverse. True discipleship happens when you are in the Inner Circle. Jesus modelled this by moving people from the Crowd to the Congregation to the Community to the Inner Circle. An Inner Circle is a 3-5-member gender specific, closed group that exists by invitation only to believers and meets on a weekly basis for a determined period of time. This is where individuals study the Word, memorize the Word, hold each other accountable, pray for each, and, in the process, they learn to be conformed to the image of Christ. When the determined time period is over, they replicate, as God leads. By the way, here’s some exciting news – Last week, many of you informed me that you have begun inviting people to join you in an Inner Circle! That’s awesome!If you’re still wondering how the Inner Circle works, go back and listen to the last message where I explained “How to start an Inner Circle?” and “What do you do when you meet as the Inner Circle?”

In today’s message, I want to focus on Getting Rooted in the Word.Listen again to Colossians 2    6“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,7rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught…”Both individually and in your Inner Circle, you have to become rooted in the Word, the Bible, in order to be true disciples. This requires 3 things: 1. Read the Word. 2. Understand the Word. 3. Apply the Word.

  1. READ THE WORD – Here people ask me “what’s the best Bible version?” Most Bible translations coming out of trusted mainline Christian publishing houses are good. There have been a couple in the past two decades that have some translational biases towards gender inclusive language that you need to be careful about. If you have any concerns, please check with me. I’ll be more than glad to guide you. The main point is “start reading the Bible systematically every day.”
  2. UNDERSTAND THE WORD – Here people say things like “the Bible is hard to understand” or “you gotta have a theological education to understand the Bible.” Yes, there are many portions in the Bible that are hard to understand. I’ve been studying the Bible academically since 1995, that’s 23 years, and I still don’t understand some portions of the Bible. Having said that, most of the Bible is not beyond comprehension. Yes, you do need pastors and teachers to help you study the Bible but you can still study much of it by yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit. Listen to I Corinthians 2:12“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”

How does this work?Couple of years ago I did a series on how to study the Bible. It was intense. In fact, there’s a whole field of study known as “hermeneutics,” which deals with the proper study and interpretation of the Bible. People spend their whole lifetime working in this field and there are thousands of books on the subject. But, there are certain basic principles that can help an average person study the Bible and understand most of what it is saying. I have condensed them in 4 words which if you can remember each time you study the Bible, they will help you tremendously:

  1. Exegesis – think about the word “exit.” It means “coming out.” Exegesis means “to lead out.” It means that when we study the Bible, we are to lead the meaning out of the text rather than “eisegete,” which is bringing my personal meaning and superimposing it on the text.
  2. Context –have you ever said something that was taken out of context? It feels very frustrating. The Bible gets taken out of context a lot. It is critical that we read the verses before and after the verse or passage we are studying and get the whole context. The more you read, the better chance you have of interpreting correctly.

Let me give you 2 examples of exegesis and context:

Old Testament –2 Chronicles 27    1“Jothamwas twenty-five years old when he became king…2And he didwhat wasright in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done (although he did not enter the temple of the LORD)…” If I were preaching a message on the importance of having our kids come to church, that would be a perfect passage. Here’s the problem – That’s not what the writer meant! If you read the previous chapter, Uzziah had actually messed up by entering the temple in his pride and offering incense on the altar, which only a priest could do, and he was struck with leprosy by God! Jotham actually had godly fear and didn’t do that!

New Testament – Philippians 4:13“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”I’ve seen people make this their life verse and athletes tattoo this on their arms. What Paul really meant is very different – 12 “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Paul is really talking about contentment!

  1. Harmony –The Bible does not contradict itself. If you come up with an interpretation that totally contradicts what most of the Bible is saying, then think through your interpretation again.2 Timothy 2:15“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
  2. Goal– The Goal of the Bible is the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.

This brings us to the third thing in being rooted in the Bible –

  1. APPLY THE WORD – James 122“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;24for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continuesin it,and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Are you rooted in the Word? Are you a disciple?

Discipleship: Pathways by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – PATHWAYS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Pathways

Introduction:  Every summer I speak at a camp in Bryson City, near Cherokee, to the western part of our state. Our kids have been going to this camp for about 16 years and many of our church kids now go every year. It’s a beautiful place in the Smoky Mountains! While there, the kids get to choose an outing like horseback riding, gem mining, tubing, hiking, etc. Several years ago, I decided to join the kids and go hiking up Alarka Falls. It’s a gorgeous 200 ft tall water fall that cascades down the mountain. The hike is up the side of the falls. If you’re a hiker, it’s moderately difficult. It’s not bad but they didn’t tell me that it would get steep towards the top. I was in the back of the group and we were getting closer to the top. I stopped to get some pictures and then when I got back on the climb, everybody was gone. I could hear them but I could not see them. Then it happened – I got stuck. My feet starting slipping on loose rocks and I had to dig my fingers into the dirt to hang on. All I could think of was Cliff Hanger with Sylvester Stallone but it was nothing like that. Finally, one of the counsellors realized that I was missing and she came back to check on me – “Do you need any help Mr. Shah?” My answer – “Oh no, I’m just resting. But, just in case, how did you get up there?” She told me to put my foot here and pull here and so on. I said – “I guess that’s one way to get up there.” Long story short – I made it and it was well worth it! Here’s the point – “I needed someone to show me the pathway on how to climb to the top.” So also, when it comes to discipleship, it’s not enough to know the goal and importance of discipleship. We also need to know the pathways on how to get there.That’s the message today.

2 Timothy 2    1“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Question: Paul told Timothy to show others the pathways of how to walk with God. Who do you have in your life who has or is showing you the pathways of how to walk with God? Do you know the pathways of discipleship? Who are you helping on the pathways of discipleship? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Context:As you know, Jesus commanded us in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” We created the acronym WATERto represent what a disciple looks like – WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. When all 5 of these work in tandem, we are the disciples Jesus called us to be. Unfortunately, there are obstacles. We need certain disciplines to overcome these obstacles. Last weekend, we looked at 5 such disciplines: Discipline of Evangelism, Discipline of Confession, Discipline of Church Attendance, Discipline of Daily Bible Intake, and Discipline of Discipling.“Without Disciplines, there is no Discipleship.”

The next question is – what are the pathways we need to take in order to become disciples? Let’s go back to the acronym WATER. No pathways needed for W (Once you can articulate your testimony, it’s simply looking for opportunities to share your faith. Neither for T (Once you realize the importance of moving from the crowd to the congregation – church – and from the congregation to the community – Sunday School or Bible Study – it’s not that complicated). But A – Accountability, E – Established in the Word, and R – Reproducing Disciples require some pathways, some help in taking the next steps. I’ve been sharing some of these things throughout the series but now I want to deal with them in depth.

Let’s start with the Pathways for Accountability: Once again, think back to those concentric circles – Crowd, Congregation, Community, and Inner Circle. Robby Gallaty (I’ve learned a lot through him) calls the last one D – groups. Preaching helps but it cannot do it all because it’s only a one-way communication. Sunday School and Bible study help but they cannot do it all because they are more evangelistic or too study oriented and too many to hold accountable. An Inner Circle is a 3-5 member gender specific, closed group that exists by invitation only to believers and meets on a weekly basis for a determined period. The ultimate goal is for each person to become conformed to the image of Christ by growing in the Word and then replicate the process. It requires confidentiality, confrontation, and confession. You have to be careful here. Robby Gallaty says – “A quick word of caution: you must wisely discern to whom you will make yourself accountable, carefully guarding whom you allow to speak into your life. Never seek spiritual guidance from unspiritual people.”

A good verse to help us here is Galatians 6   1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you whoarespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For each one shall bear his own load.”Meaning: We are to help one another but ultimately, we are responsible for our actions.

How do you start?

  • Pray (Just like Jesus before he picked his disciples)
  • Decide (Believers who have a desire, are determined, and have a demeanor to learn)
  • Ask (Not “I want to disciple you,” but “would you like to join for Bible Study, Scripture Memory, and Prayer on a weekly basis for a few months.)
  • Prioritize (You have to take it seriously)
  • Replicate (Don’t get stuck but remind the group members to start thinking about who they would like to include in their group)

What happens when each accountability group or Inner Circle meets? (Taken from Robby Gallaty, Growing Up: How to be a Disciple who makes Disciples)

  1. Study the Word together.
  2. Hold each person accountable for Scripture memory by reciting the previous week’s passage before the group.
  3. Ask accountability questions of each other. Hold each person accountable for achieving their goals. For example, “How is your relationship with Linda? You mentioned last week that you were working on the way you spoke to your wife.”
  4. Pray together before departing.

In the next couple of messages, I will deal with how to study the Word and how to pray.

I know that some have already made up their minds that they will not do this. Others may start but not stick with it. Keep in mind that this is biblical2 Timothy 2    1“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Are you a disciple? The Communion is for those who are saved –Luke 22    19And He took bread, gave thanks and brokeit,and gaveitto them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20Likewise He alsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cupisthe new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

Are you ready to take the pathway of discipleship? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Episode 18: The Authorship of Hebrews (ft. Dr David Alan Black)

Episode 18: The Authorship of Hebrews (ft. Dr David Alan Black)

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In this episode, Abidan Paul Shah will be talking with Dr. David Alan Black about his book on the Authorship of Hebrews. This is a subject that has divided scholars for many years.

If you have any questions or topics you would like to be discussed, please tweet them to @hoipolloiradio.

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