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?

Hoi Polloi 18 on Authorship of Hebrews – Dr. David Alan Black

Hoi Polloi 18 on Authorship of Hebrews – Dr. David Alan Black

Hoi Polloi Logo

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.

Defining Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEFINING GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Defining Gospel

Introduction:  Let’s say if you came out of church today and went to your car and someone came to you, someone you’ve never seen, and said, “I’ve got some good news. Your windshield looks perfect now!” how would you respond? Confused, suspicious, and even upset. Now what if this same man were to say to you, “When I pulled into the church parking lot this morning, I saw that your windshield was shattered. While you were in church, a limb fell from the tree and destroyed it. I repair glass for a living and I happened to have all my tools with me and even the exact size of your windshield. I went ahead and fixed everything and there’s no charge.” How would you feel now? Grateful! What made the good news good? The bad news. Here’s the bad news – We were stuck in sin, waiting for the wrath of God to fall on us. Here’s the good news – God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins but he rose again. When we believe in him, not only are our sins forgiven but we also have eternal life! That is the basic Content of the gospel, the good news. Today we will go a step further and try to understand the Activity of the Gospel (how the Gospel moves) in our message through Philippians titled “DEFINING GOSPEL.”

Philippians 1    5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…7… inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel12…the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. 17…knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel

Question:  What makes the good news good is the bad news. Once again, the bad news is that you are dead in trespasses and sins. The good news is that Jesus came to set you free. Have you received the good news, the gospel?

Background:  Last weekend we learned that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” or “good spell” which means “good news.” Today I want to introduce to you the Greek word behind the word gospel/good news. It’s “euangelion.” It is found a couple hundred times in the New Testament in various forms and 84 times just in Paul’s letters. It was a central concept in his theology. Sometimes he used it to refer to the Content of the good news and other times to describe the Activity of the good news. There is a difference between the two. Content is what the gospel means. Activity is how the gospel moves. If you want to see Paul’s description of the Content of the gospel, turn to 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: (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 and it hasn’t changed!).

Illustration: Last week thousands came by the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and then the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC to pay their last respects to Billy Graham. I cannot help but think about how in 1938 when he was just 20 years old, his girlfriend at the time dumped him saying, “I just don’t see any real purpose in your life yet.” I think she was wrong! He definitely had a purpose and it was to preach the unchanging gospel. He once said, “The message I preach hasn’t changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn’t changed.

Now that’s the Content of the Gospel (in a nutshell). But, there’s also the Activity of the Gospel (how the gospel moves). We see this Activity in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Here Paul used that word “euangelion” 9 times. By the way, all of them are regarding the Activity of the Gospel. It’s as if the Philippians knew very well what Paul meant when he used the word “gospel.” He didn’t have to explain it to them. They were a gospel church.

Application: As a pastor, I hope we’re like the Philippians. We are not a contemporary church or traditional church, white church or black church, big church or small church. We are a gospel church. It is a central part of our theology and identity.

4 things we learn about the Activity of the Gospel in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

  1. The Gospel is a powerful, living force

Philippians 1    3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” The Gospel here is not something passive but active, something powerful on its own. Paul didn’t create it nor did he activate it. He was called to join in. The Philippians joined in as well. The message of good news has been powerfully moving since the beginning of time. We can be oblivious to it, go against it, or we can receive it and join in. I received a letter this week from Franklin Graham which I’m sure also came to tens of thousands of people. He said something very powerful in it – “Many have said that his (Billy Graham) death ends an era, but he would be the first to say that when God’s ambassadors die in Christ, the Lord raises up others, because the preaching of the Gospel will go forward until the end of the age.”

  1. The Gospel is not easily received

Philippians 1:7 “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.” Even though the gospel is a powerful living force, it is often misunderstood and corrupted. Paul had to defend and confirm the gospel throughout his ministry. He had to defend the gospel from the legalists and then confirm it through the apostles. Although it doesn’t say it in this passage, the reason is that Satan is always trying to pervert and corrupt it.

Application: The Gospel is in the Bible but it’s not the Bible. It’s not the 10 commandments or the Beatitudes or the Golden Rule. It’s not going to Church, getting baptized, and feeling sorry for all the bad you’ve ever done. It’s not trying to be a better person, better husband, better wife, better neighbor, better citizen, better worker, and giving your time/money to help others. It’s not trying to give all your problems to God and trusting Him and praying to Him to help you. It’s not believing in God, Angels, and Satan. The gospel is believing that Jesus, the Son of God, came as promised and died for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. As the pastor, it is my primary responsibility to defend and confirm this constantly.

  1. The Gospel steadily moves forward

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.” Rulers and religious authorities, governments and groups have all tried to stop the gospel and to shut it down. It has grown evermore and it will continue. What we may think is the end of the road will only turn out to be a bend in the road for the gospel. Case in point: Paul himself. When do you think he first heard the gospel? Not on the road to Damascus. I believe it was when he stood there guarding the clothes of those who were stoning Stephen. As Stephen lay dying, Paul began to come alive. Wow!

  1. The Gospel demands a certain lifestyle

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, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries.” I preached on this last week. The Gospel lifestyle is not for contentious and cowardly people. Those are the 2 no-nos’ when it comes to the gospel. The gospel requires partnership and fearlessness. There’s a higher focus.

Illustration: One of my friends posted this – “Late one rainy night, Christian author and youth worker Mike Yaconelli was driving through Nashville. He saw someone sitting on some steps with his head between his knees, and a coat pulled over his head to keep out the rain and wind. Thinking he was homeless, Mike said, “Hey, mister, you don’t have to sit here in the rain like this. We’ve got enough money to put you up in a hotel. Come on with us. We’ll provide what you need for a good night’s sleep.” The man looked up. It was Billy Graham. “It’s okay,” Graham said. “I just want to sit here for a while and pray for this city.” He had a crusade coming soon and wanted to prepare his heart.”

Invitation: The True Gospel has not changed in the past 2000 years. If you say—

  • I need to be a better person– wrong gospel
  • I need to turn everything overto God – wrong gospel
  • I need to read the Bible and prayevery day – wrong gospel
  • I need to give up all my bad habits– wrong gospel

The gospel is Jesus is God’s son who died for your sins as promised in the Bible. He was buried but rose again as promised. If you believe in him, you can have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

If you have received the Content of the gospel, it’s time to join the Activity of the gospel. It’s time to join the Powerful, Living Force of God that is steadily moving forward changing lives.

Steadfast by Pastor Abidan Shah

STEADFAST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Steadfast

Introduction:  A little boy was trying to sell his horse at the county fair. The horse was no good except for eating oats. An old farmer came by. He could tell the horse was no good and he teased the boy saying, “Son, can that horse run fast?” The boy replied, “No sir, but he can sure stand fast.” In the message today, we’re going to learn how to stand fast or be steadfast as a Christian. But, more specifically we’re going to learn how to be steadfast along with other Christians. There’s a difference.

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.”

Question: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Before your conduct can be worthy of the gospel of Christ, you have to receive the gospel of Christ. The word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good and “spell” means story or news. What’s the good news? “You and I are stuck in sin with God’s judgment of ultimate death waiting for us. But God sent his Son to take our sins upon himself and die in our place. All you and I have to do is ask him to be our Savior. He not only forgives us our sins but just as he came alive, we are also made spiritually alive in him.” Have you received this gospel?

Context: The passage we just read begins with the word “only” – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel.” It has a tone of warning in it. Think of this warning as a caution not a threat. So far Paul had nothing but good to say about the Philippians:

  • 4 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” The Philippians were a faithful church.
  • 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.” The Philippians were an inspiring church.
  • 7 “…you all are partakers with me of grace.” The Philippians were a gospel supporting church.
  • 9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…” The Philippians were a loving church.
  • 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ…” The Philippians were a worshipping church. I can go on.

But, here’s a caution – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Meaning: You have a lot of good but don’t neglect your conduct. To understand what Paul meant by conduct, we have to go the original Greek. He used a verb here that he did not use anywhere else in his letters. It is the verb “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Keep in mind that the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were still trying to live by their Roman standards. They would have understood very well what Paul was implying – “Just as you are Roman citizens living in Greece trying to maintain your Roman values, you are also Gospel citizens living in this world, don’t neglect to be a Gospelian.”

For e.g. When I became an American citizen, I had to take a test on American history. I read our foundational documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Those became the values by which I was going to live. So also, when you became a Christian, there are certain values that go with that citizenship.

What are those standards? 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ (live out your citizenship to the gospel), so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” Paul told them that he will check up on them, in person or through others, regarding their conduct. Then he lists 2 major ones, one positive and the other negative:

Positive – “that you stand fast…” We immediately think that this “standing fast” is my personal individual steadfastness. Not really. Here standing fast is “hoti stekete” which is a Roman military term that describes a unit forming a line together in the face of the enemy. “Come what may, stand fast. Don’t break rank.” “that you stand fast in one spirit…” People have debated if this is just the spirit of unity or is it the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is similar to what Paul said in I Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” and Ephesians 2:18 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” It’s the same Holy Spirit in me and you that creates a bond between us that is much greater than any superficial likes or dislikes. Few verses down in Philippians 2   1 Paul says, “Therefore if there is…any fellowship of the Spirit…2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” Paul continues in verse 27 “…that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” “Striving together” is literally “striving side by side.” It is an athletic term that implies being of one soul. Paul was telling the Philippians to be “souls together for the gospel.” A mark of a Gospelian is that we strive for unity in the Holy Spirit and seek to be of one mind. If I may add, being a Gospelian is not an individual sport but a team sport.

Application: Do you understand how critical unity in the Holy Spirit and being of one mind is to the church family? There are 3 natural born killers of this unity – Lostness, Isolationism, and Divisiveness. Titus 3   10 “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” Bottom line: If individually we are not right, it will affect our unity.

Negative – 28 “and not in any way terrified by your adversaries…” The word terrified here is the Greek word “pturomai,” which is again a verb that Paul does not use anywhere else. In Classical Greek it was used to describe a horse getting spooked in battle. It would get startled by loud noises or shrieks and it would bolt through the battlefield, stampeding anyone in his path. A mark of a Gospelian is not to spook or get spooked but stay calm and help each other stay calm and united in the Holy Spirit. Who are our adversaries who spook us? Anything or anyone who is opposed to the gospel. It may be people or policies. How should you respond other than stand fast? “which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” Remember that it proves that they are headed for destruction and you are saved by God.

Somethings more Paul said here – 29 “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Don’t misunderstand. This is not individual personal suffering. Although, that is also true. In this context, it is collective group suffering. Not only that but we are to look upon suffering just as we look upon salvation. It is a gracious gift of God. Ultimately, suffering, and, more specifically, collective suffering is proof that we belong to God. 30 “having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” Meaning: Even though we know this, it doesn’t make sense at times.

Be steadfast together in the Holy Spirit with one mind. Be steadfast together in the face of suffering, refusing to be intimidated. It is a mark of the greatest believers. Are you saved? Are you steadfast together?

Immortal by Pastor Abidan Shah

IMMORTAL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Immortal

Introduction:  What do these expressions mean? Assume room temperature, go belly up, bite the dust, bite the big one, cash in one’s chips, become food for worms. They’re all referring to death. Here are some more – go to the happy hunting ground, kick the bucket, push up daisies, take a dirt nap, take the last train to glory, croak, buy a pine condo, go into the fertilizer business, be stiff as a board, kick the Oxygen habit. Even we Christians have our own idioms for death – to be with the Lord, crossing the Jordan, going to a better place. These are all verbal tranquilizers meant to soften the reality of death because no one wants to deal with that subject. The believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel. Question: Before we read this passage, question – Are you afraid to die? Are you afraid to live? As a believer, what are you living for? Are you saved? Our message is titled IMMORTAL in our series through Philippians.

Philippians 1   21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

Context:  21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two…” Why was Paul so conflicted between living and dying? Listen carefully – Paul was not as conflicted as it may appear. It was really the Philippians who were conflicted. If you remember from last week, I briefly explained that much of what Paul wrote was not for Paul but for the Philippians. Let me explain a little more on that: You may not be aware of this but scholars have identified 2 ways of interpreting Paul’s letters: Epistolary Analysis and Rhetorical Analysis. Epistolary Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters like a typical letter from ancient times with an opening, a middle, and a conclusion. In fact, it’s not much different than letters today, except that through the Holy Spirit, Paul’s letters became the Word of God. Rhetorical Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters more like a speech, an oratory, or, what we would call, a sermon. We know that Paul was a brilliant man, well trained in Hebrew scriptures but what many don’t realize is that he was also well educated in Greek-Roman rhetoric and he used rhetorical techniques in his writings which again through the Holy Spirit became the Word of God. The full impact of Paul’s letters is truly felt when you actually hear them, not just read them. Some people take this too far but, in moderation, this understanding is very helpful in studying Paul’s letters. One such technique that Paul often used was imitation. Instead of telling the listeners what and how to change, the speaker would tell his listeners how he struggled with the same situation and changed and the listeners would get the point. Seneca (Roman Philosopher, Rhetor, and Statesman) said “The way is long if one follows precepts, but short and helpful if one follows patterns.” Philippians 3:17 “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Word to the wise, especially parents – “If you want someone to change, stop telling them what’s right and what’s wrong and start telling them how you struggled between right and wrong and chose what’s right. That will make a far greater impact.”

With this knowledge in mind, let’s re-read these verses21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If you read this verse without thinking, you will misunderstand what Paul really meant. You may think that Paul is just struggling between living and dying. You may even walk away thinking – “A Christian cannot lose in life or death. In this life, we have Jesus and when we die, it just gets better!” Sometimes people even quote 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Although, there is truth in the fact that a Christian cannot lose in life or death, that is not the real point of either Philippians 1:21 or 2 Corinthians 5:8. In reality, Paul was using a rhetorical technique to help the Philippians. Apparently, they were facing some difficult challenges, maybe persecution, maybe financial problems, maybe relationship struggles, or maybe health issues. They were saying things like – “I’m ready to go. I’m tired of this old world. I’m ready to walk the streets of gold. I know we have Jesus here but it will be so much better on the other side!” Does that sound familiar? You might be surprised to know that, as a pastor, I have encountered more people who are just waiting to die than those who are sacred to die. You might say, “That’s not true! No one wants to die.” Don’t misunderstand – “No one wants to suffer before they die but dying is not a problem for many people. Living is.” They are not as good looking as they used to be, strong as they used to be, too many health problems, too many children problems, too many bills, too many bad decisions they’re reaping, just too many problems. When I first came to this church, I went visiting the people on the roll with one of our deacons. We came to this one house and this elderly lady came to the door. The deacon introduced me to her. Her response – “Oh Good. Now we got somebody to bury us!” I believe that this was the same problem with the Philippians – “Living with Jesus is great but dying is better!” Paul is saying to them – “Yeah, I’ve struggled with that too but let me tell you how I handled it.”

22 “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor…” What fruit was Paul talking about? He used the same word in Romans 1:13 “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you…that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.” The fruit that Paul was talking about is the fruit of the gospel. He wants to see souls saved. Listen carefully: When you die, the possibility of fruits end. You cannot evangelize in heaven. Neither can you evangelize in hell. Basically, for the same reasons. Neither place has unbelievers. Except that, in hell the hearts are still wicked. 22 “…yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” Remember Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in verse 10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent…” It meant “learning to choose between the good, the better, and the best.” It is “far better” to depart and be with Christ but “best” is to stay here and help you.

Application: How do you see others in this life? Do you care about those around you? You say, “I care but I’m ready to go.” Can I ask you, “Are you really eager to see Jesus or are you just trying to run away from your problems? God has a sense of humor and he will leave you here till you’re 150! It’s best to remain and help others.

25 “And being confident of this…” Paul has used that word “confidence” twice already: 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.” 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” He will use that word again several times. That word can mean “trust” but also “conviction.” What is Paul’s conviction? 25 “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith…” It’s Paul’s conviction to stay and help the Philippians continue in their growth and joy of the Christian life.

Application: We all have doctrinal convictions about the Bible, Trinity, Salvation, Person of Christ, Holy Spirit, etc. We may also have moral convictions about marriage, unborns, sexuality, drinking, etc. That’s all wonderful but it’s time we also have some relational convictions where I am responsible for your spiritual growth and joy in the Christian life and you are for mine. When you’re not here, I care. When I’m not here, you care. Sadly, most of us have the same response that Cain did when God asked him – “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Finally – 26 “that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.” The word “rejoicing” is “kaukhemai” which means “boast. Paul is not saying “You will boast of me even more when I come.” He is saying, “You will boast in Jesus even more when you see me come to you.” In other words, “Your worship will become even more powerful because you see God setting me free and sending me to you.” Some of us have a very poor worship experience because we only focus on doctrinal precepts (God is great, Jesus is wonderful, Salvation is awesome). When we change it to “God is great because of how he has worked in Pastor Shah’s life,” “Jesus is wonderful because of what he is doing at Clearview,” and “Salvation is awesome, look at that young man who just gave his life to Christ.” Now worship takes on new meaning and enthusiasm! 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.” Again, you see the priority of the gospel.

Illustration: I used to work in an automotive plant back in Georgia. Sometimes people would quit work an hour before they were supposed to quit. Then the supervisor made it a point to come by about 15 minutes before quitting time. It wasn’t good.

As I said in the beginning, “the believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel.” We are immortal in Christ. Let’s live like it! Are you saved?

Perspective by Pastor Abidan Shah

PERSPECTIVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

PerspectiveIntroduction:  Growing up our kids loved watching Disney’s “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” There are 2 characters in that story who are polar opposites: Eeyore the donkey and Tigger the tiger. Eeyore is always pessimistic, gloomy, and glass half-empty kind of character and Tigger is always optimistic, bouncy, and glass half-full kind of character. When you meet Eeyore, he says things like “If it is a good morning, which I doubt” or “Thanks for noticing me.” But, when you meet Tigger, he says things like “Hello! I’m Tigger!” or “Tiggers never get lost!” They have two very different perspectives on the problems in life. I’m sure there are some Eeyores and Tiggers in this room or at least we know some! When we as Christians talk about perspective in the Christian life, we’re talking about something much more than being a spiritual Tigger. That’s our message today titled PERSPECTIVE in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

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, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Question: Paul refers to being in chains. He is using that word as a figure of speech known as synecdoche which implies that he was in prison. Why was Paul in prison? For preaching the gospel. How did he deal with that? Instead of seeing it as a setback, an obstacle, or as abandonment by God, He saw it as an opportunity to further share the gospel. It’s his perspective on life, problems, and God’s sovereign will that helped him to do that. We all have certain chains in life. How do you see your chains in life? Do you see them as setbacks, obstacles, abandonment by God, or as opportunities to keep sharing the gospel? What is your perspective? Are you saved?

Context:  Listen once again to verse 12. Paul says “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me…” Which things was Paul referring to? As I just mentioned to you, Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians. Now, don’t immediately assume that he was in some dark dungeonous prison with rats, filth, and feet in stocks. The fact that he was able to write this letter tells us that more than likely he was in a house arrest type situation awaiting trial. When Paul talked about “the things which happened” to him, I believe that, he had more than just his house arrest in mind. In Romans 15 Paul had shared with the Roman church his ultimate plans with the gospel 28 “Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.” Paul had great plans towards the end of his life to take the gospel further out west into Europe. He had big hopes to take the gospel to the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. When Paul was put under house arrest, his great plans had sort of failed. If you read Acts 25, it appears that now he was at the mercy of a corrupt court system. No doubt, he must have been disappointed, discouraged, and even disillusioned.

Application: In life, we have many plans, some very good, noble, and even godly plans, but they don’t always work out. “Things happen.” What is comforting to me is that even someone like Paul who walked very close to God had “things happen to him.” Here’s my encouragement: Don’t interpret your failed plans as some hidden sin or as an abandonment by God. Trust him and his sovereign plan even more.

Listen to how Paul handled his failed plans? 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…’’ In other words, what Paul thought was the end of the road had actually turned out to be just a bend in the road for the gospel. How is that? 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” In order to truly appreciate this, you need to have some basic understanding of the Roman army. The Romans developed the most effective army ever known in history. At the bottom level was the contubernium, a unit of 8 men. Ten contubernia made one century, that’s 80 men. Six centuries made one cohort, that’s 480 men. Ten cohorts made one legion, that’s 4800. Later in the first century, the first cohort got expanded to twelve centuries, that’s 960 men, making a legion about 5,280 fighting men. Keep in mind that there would be 120 horsemen in a legion and slaves for transportation, doing menial labor, and guarding the camp. I don’t want to get into all those details but you can imagine how vast this enterprise was. Altogether, Emperor Augustus had about 25 legions. The commander of the legion was a senator in his 20s or 30s who was previously a magistrate and had to be appointed by the Emperor.

Where do the palace guards fit in? They were the “praetorian,” the emperor’s personal troops and bodyguards. They were the best of the best. They had to be from Italy. They had significantly higher status than the normal legionaries and had much higher pay and got a lot of special bonuses. They were the ones who made and unmade Emperors. Augustus had 3 cohorts of 480 each around him, that’s about 1500 of the most elite fighting men, and about 6 more cohorts in nearby towns. Out of these elites, there was a higher elite group known as the speculatores Augusti who were on horseback, clearing the way before the emperor when he went through the streets. According to some sources, there was a camp at the northeastern edge of Rome with as many as 9000 praetorians. By the way, they only served for 16 years. What then? They took on high level positions in the legions. Listen again to verse 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” Paul is now witnessing to the top brass in the Roman army who have the ability and power to influence so many thousands more! Wow! God works in mysterious ways!

Application: If a believer looks at life only from an earthly, selfish, and fleshy perspective, he or she will get depressed. But, if you look at the things that have happened to you or happening to you from a heavenly, selfless, and spiritual perspective, you will realize that the Holy Spirit has set you up perfectly to further the gospel! The Gospel is the true perspective changer for the believer. This does not mean that you need to just settle for whatever people hand to you. Work to improve your situation but don’t lose sight of why God has allowed you to get to where you are at the moment.

Now that’s just from inside the prison. How about on the outside? 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” What’s going on now? Word is getting out of how God is using Paul to share the gospel with the elite troops and bodyguards of the Emperor. So, now other believers feeling emboldened by Paul’s position, start sharing the gospel with courage. Billy Graham once said “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”

For e.g. Nicole and I just watched the movie “Darkest Hour.” Typically, I don’t use movies as sermon illustrations but this one was different. It’s about Winston Churchill and the Nazi invasion of Western Europe. In the face of fear, doubt, skepticism by even his own party, Churchill boldly said, “We shall never surrender!” Thank goodness he did! If not, the world map would be a very different today.

Just when you think that Paul is a glass half-full kind of guy, listen to verse 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. What’s going on? In an agonistic culture where people used every opportunity to self-promote and advance their position in society, some were using Paul’s imprisonment as an opportunity to further their position in church and society! How crazy! Guess what? It happens even today as people compete in ministry. What’s Paul’s response? 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.” You have to be close to Jesus to be able to do that!

Now Paul lists 2 things that he needs in a time like this – 19 “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.Also, the deliverance is not just about coming out of prison, as Paul says in verse 20 “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” What an awesome perspective!

Why did Paul say all this to the Philippians? Was it just to reassure them that he was okay? Was it just a cathartic experience, trying to let it all out? Paul was encouraging the Philippians to imitate him as they faced similar trials. He was reminding them to change their perspective regarding their circumstances. He was teaching them how to see life through the gospel lens.

Invitation: How do you see your job loss, your health problem, your relationship struggle, your financial difficulty? Can you see it through the gospel lens? It is not about glass half-empty vs glass half full. It is about taking the gospel and offering it to some dying thirsting sinner in your path. Are you saved?

Partners by Pastor Abidan Shah

PARTNERS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Partners

Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay, did a Twitter survey couple of years ago on “Silly Things Church Members Fight Over.” Here are just a couple – “Arguments over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard,” “Church dispute over whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women’s restroom,” A fight over which picture of Jesus to put in the foyer,” “A disagreement over using the term ‘potluck’ instead of ‘potblessing.’” Today we will learn from the Apostle Paul how to be partners not fighters in the ministry, more specifically how to pray for those who partner with you in sharing the gospel with the world. That’s the title of our message today, PARTNERS, in our series called GRATEFUL on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

 

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. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.

Question: The Philippians were partakers with Paul of grace. It means they were partners with him in sharing the gospel. Are you partnering with others in sharing the gospel? Are you joining hands with this church to win the lost world? Before you can be a participant, you have to be a recipient. Have you ever received the gospel? Are you saved?

Context: Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was one of trust, joy, and hope. Last weekend we learned that Paul had the hope, the solid confidence, that what God had begun on the first day in the lives of the Philippians, he would complete it on the day of the Jesus Christ. How could Paul be so sure of this? In our last message titled “GUARANTEED,” we examined verse 6 and Paul’s other letters and we learned that this is a very important biblical doctrine that Paul explains and defends repeatedly. Salvation from start to finish is God’s responsibility and he always finishes what he starts. He never leaves a job half done. Yes, we may stumble and yes, we can fail but our salvation is God’s good work of grace in our lives. We can trust him that he will see us to the finish line. This is not a license to sin but an exhortation to walk in the spirit, to grow in grace, to serve in freedom, to be less judgmental of self and others, to walk blameless, and to be more grateful to God for what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do in us.

But there’s another reason why Paul was so sure of this. He tells us in verse 7 “just as it is right for me to think this of you all…” In other words, Paul is saying, “Don’t think that I am just giving you some cold lifeless doctrine. Don’t think that this is just some superficial cordial remarks. Don’t think that this is just some cheap pep talk. What I’m telling you is the honest truth.” How do we know that Paul? 7 “…because I have you in my heart…” When you read Paul’s letters, it is very important that you also read the emotional undertones and overtones. The reason is so intent and fixated on convincing the Philippians that God will finish what he has started in their lives he loves them deeply and cares for them. In other words, because he loved them from his heart, he was reminding them of God’s best for them from his heart. It’s like a loving parent telling their child in the face of a difficult challenge: “You got this. Don’t worry. I believe in you.”

Listen carefully: When you truly love somebody, it reflects in the way you speak to them. When you truly care for someone and want the best for them, you don’t just talk from your head. You also talk from your heart. With everybody else, you may only talk with your head. But with those who are really close to your heart, your heart reaches up and joins your head. In turn, your speech, tone, demeanor, and countenance become much more real, sincere, and heartfelt. You truly want them to understand God’s best for them. This is the ideal towards which every church family should strive. This is my desire and vision as the pastor for Clearview Church. Because we love each other from the heart, we care for each other and what we say and how we say comes not just from the head but also from the heart. You can tell when someone genuinely cares for you and when someone is just talking. You can tell when someone truly loves you and wants the best for you and when someone just tolerates you and could care less. How do you relate with each other in this church? Do you really care for each other? Can they tell?

There is a reason why the Philippians were in Paul’s heart so much. 7 “…inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” The reason Paul and the Philippians could have this connection is because they were partakers of grace, they were partners in the gospel. Remember, grace is a synonym for the gospel. This partnership was not some superficial, on paper relationship. They were battle buddies with him. In the army, they have battle buddies. They’ve learned that it reduces suicide and sexual assaults. It raises morale, decreases stress, improves safety, and promotes cooperation and communication. In the same way, the Philippians were battle buddies with Paul when he was in prison and they were with him when he had to defend the gospel, not just against those on the outside but also sometimes those in the inside.

Listen carefully: When a church’s bond is based on skin tone or standard of living or family origins, it will be superficial and unstable. But base it on the gospel, it takes on an eternal bond. Our motto at Clearview is “Making Christ Visible” and our goal is “to lead all people into a life-changing, ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Paul’s love for the Philippians continues to overflow – 8 “For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.” I don’t have time to dwell on this long. The word for “affection” is “splanchna,” which mean the organs like heart, liver, and longs. If you notice carefully, these are not Paul’s organs but Christ’s. Someone once said, “It is not Paul who lives in Paul, but Jesus Christ, which is why Paul is not moved by the organs of Paul but by the organs of Christ.” (Johann Albrecht Bengel)

Listen to verse 9 “And this I pray…” Earlier in verse 4 Paul had said, “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.” Paul picks up that thought and tells the Philippians – “Let me tell you why it is a joy to pray for you.” Listen carefully to his prayer. By the way, there is a pattern to Paul’s prayer for his partners in the gospel. When you compare the prayer for the Philippians with that in Colossians, they are point by point similar. This should become our prayer for each other at Clearview and for those who are partners with us in the gospel and for those close to our hearts (husbands, wives, children, friends, family, etc.) 9 “And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more…”

  1. Love – For God, for each other, for those in the ministry, for those who are lost.

“…in knowledge.”

  1. Knowledge – Knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the spirit, and the list is endless. “Knowledge is the way of love.” – Moises Silva

“…and all discernment…”

  1. Discernment – No “sloppy agape” (as someone once said) here. This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations.

10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent…”

  1. Choose what matters – Understand how to go from good to better to best.

“…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”

  1. Pure and Blameless – Stay away from sin and temptation. The higher the level, the higher the devil.

11 “being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ…”

  1. Fruit of Righteousness – Righteous conduct, fruit of the spirit

“…to the glory and praise of God.”

  1. Glory and Praise of God – Ultimately, God should get the glory and praise.

Listen carefully: When you truly understand the detail and depth of Paul’s prayer, the more you will understand how much Paul was a man of prayer and how much his life and ministry depended and moved under the power of prayer. Prayer is not just ritual, some perfunctory gesture, and some cliché. It is our rudder in life. It is our wind. It is water beneath the ship. It is our journey. It is our destination. It’s not enough to say “I’m praying for you.” It’s not enough to be praying for someone. If you truly believe in the power of prayer, you also need to learn “how to pray,” especially for those who are partners with you in the gospel.”

Are you a partner in the gospel? Are you praying as you should for your partners? Are you saved?

Guaranteed by Pastor Abidan Shah

GUARANTEED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

GuaranteedIntroduction:  Have you ever had to follow up on a guarantee only to find out that the Guarantor was no longer in business? This happened to me recently. On our date days, I usually end up at bookstores. Somehow my truck usually finds one! We went by a used bookstore where I had a discount card that also gave me points each time I used it. We pulled into the parking lot and there were no cars. The sign wasn’t lit up either. I knew something wasn’t right. So, I walked up to the door and there was a handwritten sign that said – “Thank you for your business. We’re out of business.” I almost cried! The discount card with the free points was now useless. Thank goodness that it was just a few free points towards some used books. But, imagine, if it was something much more important. Unlike that bookstore, God never goes out of business. He always stands behind his guarantees, especially when it comes to his work in our lives. That’s the title of our message, GUARANTEED, in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

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, 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: Has God begun a good work in you? In other words, are you saved? Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? If you have, can you see his work daily in your lives? Some believers may have more work in their lives than others. No work, no salvation.

Context: Last weekend we learned that Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was based upon Trust, Joy, and Hope. In today’s message, I want to focus on the last point of “Hope” a little bit. Paul had the hope, the solid assurance, based on his positive relationship with the Philippians, that God was working in their lives and that he would finish the work that he had started. Listen again to verse 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.” What is the good work that Paul is talking about? How does it apply in our lives today? The message is deep but those are the 2 main points:

I. WHAT IS THE GOOD WORK THAT PAUL IS TALKING ABOUT?

6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work…”

Background: The “good work” that Paul is referring to in this verse is God’s work of salvation, more specifically, God’s work of grace in the life of a believer. Paul tell us this in 1 Corinthians 1:4 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” Don’t forget – Salvation is God’s good work of grace in the life of a person. It is God who initiates this work and it’s always by his grace and it’s always good. Some people think that if I get saved, it’ll be bad. I’ll lose friends, fun, and freedom. It’s just the opposite. You gain so much more.

Application: Has God’s good work of grace happened in your life? Have you experienced what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”? Have you received God’s gift of salvation?

Something else here – Paul refers to 2 days when it comes to someone’s salvation: The First Day and the Day of Jesus Christ. Listen again to verse 5 “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day…” What is this “first day?” It’s the day that you and I get saved.

Application: You need this first day. What if you can’t remember? Are you not saved then? No. Just pick today as the day.

The second day is the Day of Jesus Christ. Listen again to verse 6 “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. This second day was very important to Paul. He mentions it again in Philippians 1:10 “…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” Philippians 2:16 “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ…” This second day is the day when Christ will return for us. For a Christian, those are the only 2 days that truly matter. We think that it’s our birthday and our death day but not so for a believer. Here’s the point that Paul is making – Between the First Day (Born Again Day) and the Day of Jesus Christ (Jesus Returning for us Day), God will complete what he has begun in our life. In other words, our salvation is ultimately God’s responsibility. The Guarantor of my salvation is not me. The Guarantor of your salvation is not you. The Guarantor of our salvations is God himself. Salvation from start to finish is God’s work and he never leaves a job half-done. He will finish what he has started.

Some people object to this. Some will say – Yes, God is responsible for your salvation but you are responsible too. They will quote passages like Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” When people bring up that verse, I remind them to keep reading – 13 “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” In other words, working out your salvation is understanding what God is doing in your life which should lead you to fear, which is humility, and trembling, which is obedience. Let me give you couple of more references to help you understand how God is working in you “both to will and to do for his good pleasure” – Romans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” 2 Thessalonians 2    13 “…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

There are some other objections as well. What if the Enemy tries to steal you away? 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” What if the temptation is too much? I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Romans 8    37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What about passages like I Corinthians 8:11 and Romans 14:15 which talks about a weak brother perishing or being destroyed. The context here implies “self-condemnation,” “defilement,” and “wounding of the conscience” not hell or loss of salvation. How about in Galatians? Galatians 5   2 “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing…4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Paul is frustrated with the Galatians because they were going back to the law, to circumcision. He’s telling them that if they do that, it’s a waste. He does say something very harsh and it’s exactly as it sounds. He tells them that if they go back to the law (self-effort), they’ll be lost. What do we do with this? Again, you have to look at the context. Go to Galatians 5:10 “I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind…” Paul is giving them an “impossible possibility.” Like a parent telling a child – “If you do that, you are no child of mine.” Let’s say the child does that anyways. Does that mean that he is no longer a child? Even if the parent disowns, it is not possible. By DNA, it cannot be done. What about 1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” This is about the end of times. I Timothy 2:12 “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him”? This is again a warning about the end of times. Overall, the abandonment will be by those who never heard the true gospel.

II. HOW DOES IT APPLY TO US TODAY?
  • Grow in the Spirit – Think about the Galatians. Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
  • Free to Serve – No need for unnecessary sorrow or self-condemnation. (Imagine if you had to fight for a nation while trying to prove your citizenship. How tiresome!)
  • Hope for self and others. Less judgmental on self and others.
  • More Grateful to God

Are you safe? Are you secure?


 

%d bloggers like this: