Justified by Pastor Abidan Shah

JUSTIFIED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Ladies, how many of you have ever locked yourself out of your car? How many of you have ever kept it from your husband? My wife is one of the smartest people I know but she has done it a few times. I gave her a long lecture one time about how she should check for the keys before she shuts her car door. I told her to be like me. I told her at length how a simple action like that can keep her from messing up someone else’s day (primarily mine). Then one day, not very long ago, I was on the way to visit someone at the Duke Hospital in Durham. Everything was going great until I got out of my truck in the parking garage. You know exactly what happened. I was not as concerned about being stuck. I was more concerned about Nicole finding out. So, I called Rebecca to bring me the spare key and threatened to kick her out of the house if she told mom. Of course, she didn’t listen. But isn’t that typical of us? We compare ourselves to the weaknesses of others in order to make ourselves look better than we are. God does not borrow our scales to measure us. He has his own standard of measurement and he measures us individually. We’re back in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector titled JUSTIFIED.

Luke 18     9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justifiedrather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Question: As you remember, parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the self-righteous Pharisee or are you the repentant humble tax collector? Do you often say things like “You always…and I never…”? If you are quick to claim that you are the tax collector, do you give yourself a pass because of “what you’ve been through”? Are you saved? Pharisee or tax collector, both have to come to Christ.

Context: The parable we just read is set in the context of prayer in the temple. However, if we think that its only about how we pray, then we are greatly mistaken. It deals with issues much deeper with serious implications. So, let’s begin by asking the question: Why did Jesus give this parable? Luke actually tells us in verse 9 “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” Luke gives us 2 negative characteristics regarding the people Jesus was addressing through the parable: 1. They trusted in themselves; and 2. They despised others. Who are these people? Again, the parable gives us the clue in the next verse—10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” You’ve heard me talk plenty about the Pharisees in this series. The Pharisees were part of a lay movement during the time of Jesus that believed in living a life of holiness unto God. They believed that it’s not just the priests in the temple who should live by high standards but all Jewish people should do the same. Hence, they practiced what’s known as the “Table Fellowship.” They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. They even had what has become known as the “Oral Torah,” a body of traditional materials (paradosis) that was handed down by the fathers. It contained the interpretation of the Pentateuch Laws along with some additional materials. They also gained the reputation of finding loopholes in the law to help the common people live a guilt free life. Most people respected them and even liked them. But, based on this parable, many of them had a self-righteous condescending attitude towards others. Jesus picked up on this. After all, he was/is God and saw their hearts.

Application: Have you ever talked to someone who had self-righteous condescending attitude towards you? Do you have self-righteous condescending attitude towards others? How do people feel when you walk away from them?

The other character in the parable is a Tax collector. I’ve talked a little bit about them in the series already but here’s a little more. The Greek word for them is “telones.” From this we get our word “toll collector.” The Romans had 3 different kinds of taxes: land tax, personal tax, and the customs tax. People hated taxes but the last one they really hated. This was indirect taxation. It involved the collection of tolls and duties at ports and tax tables by the city gates. You could get charged 2-5% of your merchandise. The way the rulers handled this was by subcontracting it out to the highest bidder. They would pay a set amount in advance and then whatever extra they collected was theirs. This is where the “telonai” would come in. They worked for a chief telones (Zacchaeus) and that’s how Jesus found Matthew. Something else, Galilee was not directly under Roman prefects. So, the tax collectors were working for Herod’s family. But, Judea (where Jerusalem was) was directly under Roman prefects (Pontius Pilate) and they worked directly for the Romans. The rabbis referred to them as robbers. If they ever entered a house, that house was deemed unclean. They were frequently grouped with the sinners and the prostitutes. They were looked down upon for taking advantage of their own people, especially the poor and the widows.

What’s amazing is that Jesus did not avoid this group. Instead, he went after them with the good news of salvation! Many began to follow him. You’ve heard of 2: Zacchaeus and Matthew. To him, they were the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost Son. They did not hide their sin or pretended to be self-righteous. They admitted being wretched sinners who were unworthy of God’s mercy. The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus would associate with this bunch! After all, they break God’s commandments, they take advantage of the poor and the helpless, and they lead others astray.

Application: Do you know some tax collectors? 

Don’t misunderstand: Jesus did not gloss over their sin. Matthew 5:43   “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you….46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Jesus did not condone them nor condemn them. He converted them. Why? Because they came to him with no self-righteousness. They were totally helpless. To the contrary, the Pharisees came to him to judge him and find fault in him. They came full of their self-righteousness. They refused to be helpless. They remained condemned in their sins.

Something else—Jesus being God also knew what the Pharisees were doing was no different than the tax collectors. Listen to Matthew 23     4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders…6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces…14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers….16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it….25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”

Application: Husbands, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your wife of? Wives, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your husband of? Do you realize that you have same gunk in you that you are accusing someone else of?

What’s the result? 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Something else: Even when it comes to our mistakes and failures, we give ourselves a pass by listing reasons why we failed. God sees everything and he refuses to forgive us our sins.

Old Principle: If you cover your sins, God will uncover it and, if you uncover your sins, God will cover it.

Invitation: How do you see yourself? Are you saved?

Prodigal by Pastor Abidan Shah

PRODIGAL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discipleship 5: Reproducing by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – REPRODUCING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Reproducing

Introduction: As you know, the Andy Griffith Show is one of my favorite TV shows. In my opinion, the character who makes the show is Barney Fife, the self-assured expert on every subject, especially weapons. One of the funniest episodes is the one when Andy has to deputize Floyd the Barber and two other men. Of course, Barney takes over (“Andy, let me handle this.”) and starts giving them the speech on being an officer of the law, which is hilarious. Inevitably, he tells them “how to handle firearms,” even though they won’t be getting any, and goes to holster his gun and fires it, scaring everyone to death. Now if you’ve seen the show, you don’t have to worry about him firing again because Andy gives him only one bullet and it has to stay in his shirt pocket. The point is – As lovable as Barney is, you cannot trust his advice. In the same way, there are many wonderful lovable people in church but when it comes to discipleship, they cannot help you. To make disciples, you have to be a disciple. And, if you are a disciple, you will reproduce disciples. I would add, reproducing disciples is the ultimate test of your discipleship.

Luke 6    39And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”

Question: Are you a disciple of Jesus? Are you saved? Are you reproducing more disciples? Are you helping others become disciples of Jesus?

Context: Today we come to the final letter Rin our acronym WATER. As you know, we’ve been unpacking W A T E R, the goal of discipleship, which stands for – WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. As important as the first four are, the last one is the most important. As I just said, it is the ultimate test of discipleship because it is the very heart of the Great Commission. Listen again to Matthew 28   16Then the eleven discipleswent away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them…18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciplesof all the nations…” Listen carefully: The Great Commission is Jesus’ command to his disciples to go and make more disciples, to go and reproduce. It was not just for the first 11, it’s for all disciples through the ages. The passage we just read from Luke 6 gives us 3 guidelines for reproducing disciples:

1. Spiritual blindness will keep you from reproducing.

Luke 6:39And He (Jesus)spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?”

Background: Who was Jesus talking about here?He was talking about the Pharisees and the scribes who were constantly following him, not to learn from him but to catch him or his disciples breaking the Old Testament Law. In Luke 6 the disciples were walking through a grain field on the Sabbath and they plucked some heads of grain to eat. The Pharisees saw them. I guess they must’ve been hiding in the field. Instead of offering food to the hungry disciples, they confronted them –“Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” Again, on another Sabbath day, Jesus went into the synagogue and there was a man there whose right hand had withered. The Pharisees and the scribes watched Jesus closely to see what he would do. When Jesus healed the man, instead of being happy for the poor man, Luke 6:11says,“they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” Here’s the point: These religious leaders kept missing what Christ was doing on account of their spiritual blindness. This is why Jesus said, “Can the blind lead the blind?”He often referred to these religious leaders as blind leaders and blind guides. There are several examples inMatthew 23. Here are a couple –24Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!I can picture the disciples and the multitudes getting a good laugh out of it! Again, 25“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.”

Listen carefully:There is a reason why many people in churches are incapable of making disciples. They are blind to the things of God. They are more concerned about the traditions of men than about the truth of God. They are more concerned about their personal comfort than about the condition of the lost. No wonder they cannot train others to be disciples. Unless your eyes have been open to the things of God, you cannot show it to others. No wonder many are lying in the ditch. To reproduce disciples without first receiving spiritual sight will only reproduce blind disciples.

Question:  Are you spiritually blind as well? Would Jesus have included you in this religious crowd? Can you see what God is doing? If not, get saved today.

2. Select your teacher wisely.

40“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”

Background: Jesus used this principle repeatedly in his preaching and teaching. In this context, he was definitely making a reference to the religious leaders. In fact, he was talking to the disciples of the Pharisees. He was saying to them – “You will never rise above your teachers. Look at them. Is that what you want to be like when you’re done?”

Illustration:When I was in college, a mature professor gave me a very valuable advice – “When you go to grad school, don’t take classes. Take professors.” I know that he’s not the only one who has ever said that but that really helped me. I purposely chose professors who had some quality I really admired and wanted to have in my life.

The Pharisees were teachers of the law but their lives were full of hypocrisy. Listen to what Jesus said about them in Matthew 23    1Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, thatobserve and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laythemon men’s shoulders; but they themselveswill not move them with one of their fingers. 5But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’…15“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Listen carefully: You want to grow as a disciple of Jesus, be careful who you pick to be your teacher. This goes for men and women. If their lessons do not match their lifestyles, abandon them and ask God to bring the right godly men or women into your life who will say as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1“Imitate me, just as I alsoimitateChrist.” I’m not saying that they have to be perfect. If that was the requirement, none of us could be disciple makers. I’m saying that they have to be Christlike.

Application:Whom are you following? Who is helping you become a disciple of Jesus? If you are a disciple maker, are you Christlike?

3. Self examine before you cross examine. 

41And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me remove the speck that isin your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that isin your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Background: Once again, I can hear the disciples and the multitudes snickering at this point. I don’t need to say a whole lot on this one. You get the point. As someone said, “We judge ourselves by our motives and others by their deeds.”

Robby Gallaty lists 4 qualities that are the goal of reproducing:

  1. Believers who are under the rule of Christ.
  2. Believers who repeat the Word of God.
  3. Believers who reflect the image of Christ.
  4. Believers who replicate the process of Christ.

Question: If reproducing is the ultimate test of discipleship, how well are you doing? Are you a disciple of Christ?

In the beginning, after God made Adam and Eve in his image, he blessed them and said to them in Genesis 1:28“…Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth…” Multiply = Reproduce

Jesus became our New Adam and he told us in Matthew 28:19Go therefore and make disciplesof all the nations…” Make disciples = Reproduce

Paul told Timothy, his son in the faith in 2 Timothy 2:2“the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”Commit these to faithful men = Reproduce

Our mission at Clearview is to lead all people into a life-changing ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Ever Growing = Reproduce

Hoi Polloi Episode 8 – History of Biblical Interpretation 1

In this episode of Hoi Polloi, Pastor Shah tackles the history of biblical interpretation. In this first part, he focuses on early Jewish interpretation and how it was influenced by various traditions and schools of thought.

For more information on Digging Deep, Clearview Church’s summer Bible study, check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/ClearviewDiggingDeep. You can also find the notes from each week on Pastor Shah’s blog.

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