Bondservant by Pastor Abidan Shah

BONDSERVANT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: March Madness is on. Each year the best basketball teams across the nation come together in an elimination-style bracket and play all the way to the Final Four and then the National Championship. There is a winner and a loser. There is also the Cinderella Team.What is a Cinderella in March Madness?A team that is not well-known but comes in and really shocks everyone. Last year it was UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), a number 16 seed that defeated number one Virginia Cavaliers. Also, Loyola University Chicago that went to the Final Four. As of now, this year it is UC Irvine and Murray State, Kentucky. Why Cinderella?According to the fairy tale, her step mother forced her into servitude and her step sisters belittled her but, in the end, she ended up marrying the prince. In today’s message we’re going to learn how Jesus choseto become a bondservant (he wasn’t forced into it) so that we could become prince and princesses in the family of God. He sacrificed so that we could be saved.Our message is titled BONDSERVANT.

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

Question: Do you understand what Jesus has done for you? He became a slave so that we could become sons and daughters of God. Do you know him? Are you saved?

Context: As you know, we’re in our series called MIND (RE)SET from Philippians 2. We are learning what it means to have the mind of Christ. In today’s message we’re going to focus on what it means to be a “bondservant.” Listen again to verse 7“but (Christ) made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men.” The word for “bondservant” is “doulos” in Greek. It means slave.Why did Paul say that Jesus came as a slave? To answer that question, we need to answer 2 other questions first:

Question 1. How was slavery back then?

  • Slavery was a normal part of every culture and society. Unfortunately, it was even among the main characters of the OT. Sarah gave her female slave Hagar to Abraham so she could have a child for him. So also, Rachel and Leah gave their female slaves to Jacob. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery. Slavery was a part of the culture in which they lived.Ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) from where Abraham came had slavery. Ancient Egypt had slavery. Later, the people of Israel were enslaved. Even Ancient Greece with their high ideals of democracy and freedom had slavery.
  • Ancient Rome was even worse. According to certain estimates, 80-90% of the inhabitants of Rome were slaves or of slave origin. By the way, slaves were not necessarily from Africa. They could be from Europe or Asia or neighboring kingdoms that had been conquered. Spartacus the slave who led the “Third Slave Rebellion” was of Germanic origin. After Rome crushed that rebellion, 6000 slaves were crucified. The conditions of the slaves depended on what they did. If they worked in the mines, it was horrible. If they worked in the homes, things were not as bad. Either way, at the end of the day, a slave was just a human property. Many endured beatings. Many could not participate in education. Even marriage was regulated by the owner. Children were born slaves. In the Western world, the slave trade of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is a very sad and shameful reality. The purchasing of West African people as chattel is indefensible. It’s when Christians with a conscience and courage spoke up that the slave trade was finally outlawed – first in England in 1807 but in continued till 1833. Men like William Wilberforce, William Pitt, John Newton, and George Whitfield. Even the writings of ex-slaves like Equiano and Cugoano finally began to be heard. In our own country, slavery continued until 1863 until the Emancipation Proclamation and then a bloody civil war. By the way, slavery still goes on to this day. Twenty-eight to thirty million are trapped in slavery – sex trafficking to forced labor, even in our own country. We have an episode coming on our radio show Carpe Manana this week.

Question 2. What did God say about slavery?

  • God did not endorse slavery but gave laws in the Old Testament books of ExodusLeviticus, and Deuteronomyon how slaves were to be treated.He even promised a day in the future when there will be no slavery.Joel 2     28“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. 29And also on Mymenservants and on Mymaidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
  • In the time of Jesus, slavery was still practiced and slaves were still just the bottom rung of society. Why didn’t Jesus speak out against slavery? Keep in mind that Jesus did not come to lead a rebellion. He came to save us by giving his life on the cross for our sins. But, he talked about it in his messages. He used it in his parables (Matthew 18:23-35; 21:33-41; 25:14-30). Why? Because there were probably slaves among the listeners. If he had led a rebellion, he would have gotten them killed or made their masters stop them from coming to him.

Question 3. Why did Paul say that Jesus came as slave?

  • Because Jesus truly came as a slave to his Father. He gave up his throne in glory. He gave up his rights and privileges. He emptied his godhead into his humanity. He always obeyed his Father. John 6    38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
  • Because Jesus truly came to serve and not to be served. Think about what slaves did and what Jesus did:
A Slave was responsible to cook Jesus fed the 5000 and the 4000
A Slave came when he was calledJesus was constantly going and helping people – Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus, 
A Slave was responsible to teach the children in the familyJesus preached and taught the multitudes
A Slave did the menial laborJesus washed the feet of his disciples
A Slave would have to go fight in battle for the ownerJesus died on the cross for our sins

Matthew 11    28 Come to Me, allyouwho labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yokeiseasy and My burden is light.”

In fact, think about the categories of our salvation – redemption, justification, and reconciliation. They are all connected to slavery.

  • Redemption – setting the slave free
  • Justification – complete freedom slave received
  • Reconciliation – a slave becoming an equal member of a free society

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

You can come to him – Because everyone knows who a slave was.Every society and culture had them.Because you could get no lower than a slave. No one can say that they couldn’t come to Jesus. 

True Esteem (Part Two) by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRUE ESTEEM (2) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you knew someone and they turned out to be a whole lot more? It’s happened to me many times but last year it happened when Nicole and I would go to this store where when we first started going there, two guys would wait on us. One was a very outgoing salesman and the other was kind of soft-spoken guy who hung around. Then there was a third guy there who was typically behind the counter with another salesman. We thought that the obviously the one behind the counter with the other salesman was the owner, the outgoing guy was the main salesman, and the quiet guy was just a trainee. One day the “trainee” wasn’t there and so we asked if he had quit. They said, “Oh no, he is the owner’s son!” Who we thought was the least important person there turned out to be the most important person!It changed the way we interacted with him the next time! So also, many people have a very limited and even misguided view of Jesus. But, when we truly see him for who he is, it changes the way we think about him, worship him, and obey him. This is the second part of our message titled “TRUE ESTEEM” in our series on Philippians 2:5-11.

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

Question: How do you see Jesus? If you and I are to have the mind of Christ, do you know what the mind of Christ is like? If you truly see him for who he is, it would change the way you think about him, worship him, and obey him. Do you know him?

Context: As you know, we are in our series called “MIND (RE)SET” where we are learning how to have the mind of Christ. The last message in this series was called “TRUE ESTEEM.” In this message we began to learn what the mind of Christ was all about. Listen again to Paul in verse 6“who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” Meaning:Even though Jesus had the same form as his Father (spirit, eternal, and glorious), he did not consider “equality with God something to grasp after.” In other words, Father, Son, and Spirit are coequal in essence but different in roles. The Father is in authority and initiated creation and redemption but it’s the Son who actively created and came to redeem with his life and the Holy Spirit encompasses everything and gives life and power to the creation and to every believer. The Son never tried to usurp, subvert, or sabotage the position of the Father. By the way, this was not just in the past. This is how it will be in eternity. 

Quick Application:This is also the pattern for us in our relationships at church, family, and marriage. We can have unity and harmony only if we understand that we can be equal in essence but have different roles and functions. (1 Corinthians 15:28)

Now let’s go a step further, a step deeper– “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men.” That verse has caused more controversies, schisms, and heresies than any other verse I know. What does that mean that Jesus came in the “likeness of men”? Some people believe that when Jesus was on earth that temporarily he stopped being God. They claim that as God he was an all-powerful spirit being but as man he became a weak and finite human being. But, that’s not what was said about him in Matthew1:23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His nameImmanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” Later Paul said in Colossians 2:9“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

So, what happened 2000 years ago? First, let me tell you what it does NOT mean:

1. It does not mean that God the Son came and took on a human body but kept a divine mind.That’s a heresy called Apollinarianism that the church condemned at the Council of Alexandria in AD 362 and Constantinople in AD 381. Hebrews 2:17“Therefore, in all thingsHe had to be made likeHisbrethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertainingto God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

2. It does not mean that there were 2 persons inside Christ, a human and a divine. That’s also a heresy called Nestorianism that the church also condemned. Jesus never gave any indication that he had a split personality. John 10:10 Ihave come that they may have life, and that they may haveitmore abundantly.”

3. It does not mean that Jesus was a combination of a human and divine nature into a new third kind of nature. This was also condemned by the church as a heresy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681. He had to be truly both at all times so he could represent us as man and earn our salvation as God.

So, what does it mean that Jesus became man? Listen again to verse “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, andcoming in the likeness of men.” What I am about to go over is the traditional, historical, and biblical position held by the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches on the nature of Christ. We may disagree over other stuff like Baptism, Lord’s Supper, the role of Mary but not this. This is coming out of a Church Council that was held at Chalcedon from October 8 to November 1, AD 451. It also caused a schism between the churches in the east and the west.

1. Jesus is truly human in body and soul just like he was/is truly God in form (essence, nature, and substance).

For example: Driving a very expensive car down a muddy country road. Also, a king becoming a beggar. (From Bruce Ware, The Man Christ Jesus)

2. Jesus is two natures, one divine and the other human, and they are distinct with distinct wills.

On the one hand,Matthew 4    1“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.”On the other hand, Matthew 8    26But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

On the one hand, John 16:28“I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” On the other hand, Matthew 18:20“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

On the one hand, Luke 23:46And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ”Having said this, He breathed His last. On the other hand, John 10     17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

3. Jesus is one person not two. John 17:11“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You…”

4. The human nature was without sin. He became completely like us but he did not share our sinful nature. He was dying but not for his own sins. He was dying for our sins. In a sense, he was just like Adam. He was human without a human father. Where Adam failed when he was tempted, Jesus did not. The conditions of the fallen world are there but He stayed pure all the way to the cross.

Final question: Did God change? Was God more after the Incarnation? Revelation 13:8“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The Incarnation of Jesus is a Paradox, a Miracle that is greater than the Creation of the World and the Resurrection of Jesus!

2 Corinthians 8:9“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Invitation: Take time to think about what God has done for you! How amazing and awesome he is! How compassionate and gracious he is! Humble yourself before him. Be saved if you’re not.

Mindset: Part 2 by Pastor Abidan Shah

MINDSET (2) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:“Master mind,” “A load off my mind,” “Bear it in mind,” “blow your mind,” “Call to mind,” “Change your mind,” “Keep in mind,” “State of Mind,” “In the back of my mind,” “all in your mind,” “peace of mind,” “piece of my mind,” “Open minded,” “closed minded.” I can keep going. All those phrases have the word “mind” in them. We “mindlessly” use the word “mind” but we never “set our minds” to understand its true meaning. In this second message in our series “MINDSET,” we will go one step further in understanding what the Bible has to say about the mind. What is the goal of all this? So that we can “Let this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus.”

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

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

Context: Last weekend in our first message titled “MINDSET” we learned how Paul saw the mind-body connection.4 things to be exact:

  1. Mind (immaterial) and Body (material) are 2 distinct parts of every human being.
  2. Mind is not superior to the Body and the Body is not just a shell to house the Mind. Every human being is a Mind/Body unit. Both are critical and make us who we are.
  3. Both Mind and Body are in bondage to sin.
  4. Both Mind and Body need redemption through Christ. The redemption of the Mind begins at salvation and will be completed in the end. We will see that a little later but the redemption of the Body also begins at salvation and will be completed in the end. How do we know that it has begun?1 Corinthians 6:19“Or do you not know that your body (soma) is the temple of the Holy Spiritwho isin you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”How do we know it will be completed?Philippians 3    20“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body (soma) that it may be conformed to His glorious body (soma)…”

If I may add one more – How you treat your Mind affects your Body and how you treat your Body affects your Mind. Romans 12   1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies(soma)a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which isyour reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (mind)…” I gave the illustration of staying up late and watching junk and eating junk and being tired, cranky, foul mouthed, depressed, and negative. Then you allow someone to bend your ears and pour in gossip or you watch a video that peddles the world’s philosophy of life which further corrupts your mind and your further mistreat your body. This is a downward spiral to a life that does not please God, does not magnify Christ, is not controlled by the Holy Spirit, and does not live by the Word but makes you and everyone else around you miserable.

In this second part of the message MINDSET, I want to focus on the Mind: What it’s not; What it is; and what it’s made of. (I’m going to primarily focus on Paul’s writings but also try to bring in other scriptures.)

1. What the mind is not:

  • The Bible uses the word Heart (kardia) to designate the mind but it is not referring to the physical Heart, that muscle in your chest that is pumping your blood.
  • The Bible uses the word “Splanchna” (which refers to vital organs like the heart, liver, and lungs) to refer to our deepest emotions but the splanchna is not our mind.
  • The Bible does not talk about the Brain because science had not developed at the time the different parts of the Bible were written but the Brain is not even the Mind. The Brain is the center of the nervous system made up of gray matter, neurons, and axons. It controls our memory, our speech, and our bodily functions. It does have an impact on our Mind but it’s not everything.Somethings to keep in mind: You need your Mind to help you grow as a believer. The Mind depends on your brain to understand and process the information. Unfortunately, more brain power does not guarantee spiritual enlightenment. If it did, then all the smart people in the world would be saved. Many geniuses are saved but there are also people with a low IQ who love the Lord and walk in his way.

2. What the Mind is:

  • Made by God to Connect with him – Romans 1    18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shownitto them.”
  • Disconnected from God because of Sin – Romans 8:7“Because the carnal mind(Phronema)isenmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”
  • Landing Point of our Salvation – 2 Corinthians 4:6“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our heartsto givethe light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”But if affects the whole of us.
  • Invisible Part of us that Connects with Others – 1 Corinthians 5:3“For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit…” Here the implication is that we can be with someone without physically being with them. 1Thessalonians 2:17“But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.”
  • Source of our Motivation – Romans 1:9“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spiritin the gospel of His Son.”
  • Seat of Our Emotions – 2 Corinthians 6    11“O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. 12You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your ownaffections.”(The Heart organ is not the Mind but when there is fear, joy, and anger, the heart starts beating rapidly. Somehow there is a connection between the Mind and the organ in our chest called the Heart.)
  • Seat of our Will and Understanding – Colossians 3:2“Set your mindon things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3     9“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10and have put on the newmanwho is renewed in knowledgeaccording to the image of Himwho created him.” By the way, don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that only the mind is made in the image of God and not the body. Unlike God, who is total Spirit, we need an instrument to express our fellowship and worship of God and love and care for others.

3. What the Mind is made up of: 7 ingredients in my opinion

  • Created by Godto respond to him but damaged by sin until salvation.
  • Uniquely designed by the combination of our genetic ancestors, good and bad.
  • Softened towards God or hardened against him by our upbringing.
  • Redeemed by our acceptance of Christor condemned by our rejection of him.
  • Renewed by our growthin Christ, his Word and Spirit, and godly fellowship.
  • Tarnished or transformed by how we handle the circumstances of life.
  • All the above under the grace and providence of Godwith the freedom to reject or obey him.

Romans 10    9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Have you believed? Have you confessed?

Like-Minded by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

LIKE-MINDED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Few years ago, we were at a family camp in Bryson City and one of the outdoor activities was canoeing. Nicole and I got into this two-person canoe. She had plenty of experience from her days as a camp counsellor in Texas. I had very little experience and I kept paddling in the wrong direction, which made us go in circles. I had to learn to “paddle in the same direction” and then we were all over the lake having a great time. So also, in life, we have to learn to “paddle in the same direction.” We say things like – get on the same page, sing from the same song sheet, be on the same wave-length, march to the same beat, get in synch, get in step with, see eye-to-eye, fall in, click. The Bible calls it being “like-minded.” It’s a big secret to success in the Christian life. Unfortunately, a lack of like-mindedness is the reason why many people are going in circles, especially churches. Today’s message will teach us how to be LIKE-MINDED.

Philippians 2     1Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, beingof one accord, of one mind. 3Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Question: Husbands, are you paddling in the same directions as your wives? Families, are you singing from the same song sheet? Church, are we in synch? In a few moments we will be taking part of the Communion. Are we in communion? Are you saved? Until you get saved, you will operate from a different mind than the mind of Christ? 

Context: Many of you who have been at Clearview for some time know that I typically preach through books of the Bible. Over a year ago, we began a series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and we completed the first chapter but then we took a rather extended break and focused heavily on discipleship and other series. Now, once again, we are back in our series through Philippians and I am truly looking forward to it. 

To give a quick background for the benefit of those who weren’t here last year and even for those who were here but may have forgotten– Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell in Rome. How do we know that? Philippians 1:7“…both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” Again, verse 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” Don’t misunderstand: Paul is not in some dungeon. More than likely, he is in a house arrest situation since he is able to send letters and receive friends. Nonetheless, this is every bit as serious. Listen to Philippians 1:20“…as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” What Paul is saying here is that there is a strong possibility that he may not make it out of this prison alive but no matter what happens, he wants Christ to be magnified.

Question: How do you see the good times and bad times in your life? Are you always seeking to magnify Christ? If it’s a gain, Christ is the source of my blessing!  If it’s a loss, Christ is the source of my strength! On the one hand, we can say, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” On the other hand, we can say, “for when I am weak, then I am strong. His grace is sufficient for me.”

The Philippians were Paul’s pride and joy. If you remember, Paul had come to Philippi in response to the Macedonian Call. Acts 16 tells us of 3 transformations through the gospel – first, a business woman named Lydia by the Zygaktis or Krenides River; second, a slave girl who was demon possessed by the spirit of Python; and third was the Philippian jailer and his whole family. Unlike the Galatians who had turned their backs on Paul or the Corinthians who had bad mouthed him, the Philippians had brought great joy to Paul. Listen to Philippians 1:3“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…”

Question: How do people remember us? Do we bring tears to their eyes or do we bring smiles to their faces? That’s convicting, isn’t it?

What was Paul’s main purpose in writing this letter? When we read it carefully, we find some hints between the lines. The Philippians may have been going through some divisions within the body.That’s why he says the passage we just read. Listen again to Philippians 2:2“fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” Sometimes the stress and struggles of life can draw us closer to one another but sometimes they can tear us apart. The pressure that the Philippians were going through was tearing them apart. In fact, later on Paul identifies by name two women in the church who were not getting along. Philippians 4:2“I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”By the way, they were not just any ordinary women.3“And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel.” They were Paul’s co-laborers on the mission field.It could be that their disagreements were tearing the whole church apart.

How does Paul appeal to them to get along?

1. He appeals to their spiritual life.

1Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,

Here’s a translation: If your experiences in Christ appeal to you, if love tugs on your heart, if the connection you have with each other in the Holy Spirit leads you, if you truly have love and mercy, then work on getting along. 

2. He appeals to their love for him.

2“fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, beingof one accord, of one mind.”

Even though Paul prays for them with joy, lately there has been sorrow in his heart because of the contention among them. 

3. He appeals to their new nature.

3“Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

The key here is the word for humility which literally reads “humble-mindedness.”Meaning:It is much more than pretend niceness or temporary kindness. You have to actually take the time to reconfigure your mind as to what you think about others. Self-centeredness is the poison to unity.

Where did Paul get this idea? From Jesus.

John 13     3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipethemwith the towel with which He was girded. We know how Peter tried to oppose this but Jesus explained to him the importance. 12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?13You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, forsoI am. 14If I then, yourLord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.16Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Invitation:That’s the spirit we need in our homes, marriages, communities, and churches. Are we saved? Are we being like-minded?

Discipleship: Intercession by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – INTERCESSION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Intercession

Introduction: Have you ever had to get someone to intercede for you? That word “intercede” is a Latin word that’s a combination of “inter” = “between” and “cede” = “go.” Intercede means “to go between for someone.” I had to get someone to intercede for me back in 1994. I was a junior in college down in Georgia working security. It was the start of the new semester and the guy working with me came back from making his rounds and said, “Man, there’s a new girl on campus and she’s real pretty! I’m going to marry her.” Later I went for my rounds and saw this new girl and I could see why he wanted to marry her. She was pretty. She was walking down the steps from the gym. I remember that like yesterday. That girl doesn’t remember that. Few months later we met and we talked here and there. I wanted to ask her out but I didn’t know how to go about doing that. So, I asked my friend Dan to help me out. He could have said no or asked her out himself but he didn’t. He interceded for me. Long story short, we were married a year later. What does this have to do with discipleship? We can pray to God anytime for our needs and desires. But God also loves to hear from our friends as to what we need and desire. That’s intercession. In fact, intercession is a very vital part of discipleship. That’s our message today.

Philippians 1    9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,11being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Question:What do all those passages have in common? They are passages on Intercessory Prayers, where we pray not for ourselves but for others. Who intercedes on your behalf? Who are you interceding on behalf of? Do you understand the importance of Intercessory Prayers? Are you saved?

Pray: Holy Spirit – Teach us to pray. Teach us to pray for others. Help those who have never prayed the sinner’s prayer to call on the name of Jesus and be saved today.

Context:For a long time, I had been praying that God would show me how to lead the people at Clearview to become more than just hearers of the Word and to become grounded in the truth, grow spiritually in Christ, walk with integrity in public and private life, and become fruitful in winning others to Christ. The answer came through years of studying the Bible, talking to experts in the field, observing what successful churches were doing, and a lot of trial and error. This series on discipleship has been that answer and it’s been exciting to see how well it’s been going. In this final message in this series, I want us to look at a very important ingredient of discipleship – Intercessory Prayer, praying for the needs and desires of others.

If there is one person in the New Testament who took discipleship seriously, it was Paul. He prayed for those he partnered with in the gospel. I want us to look at his prayer for the Philippians in Philippians 1starting in verse9.Before we do that, let me ask you – How is your prayer life? Do you pray daily? Before we can intercede for others, we need to “cede” our own selves to God. The word “Cede” also means “to yield” or “formally surrender” ourselves. Prayer is the act of yielding and surrendering ourselves before God.It is humbling ourselves before God and acknowledging that we need him every day and without him we’re nothing. It is telling God that only he can give us what we need and then thanking him for what he has done for us. Do you pray daily? persistently? Do you pray believingly?

7 things to keep in mind when interceding for others:

9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…”

  1. Love– What is very interesting here is that there is no object given for the love. Paul does not say “your love for God may abound” or “your love for each other may abound.” He is talking about comprehensive love in every area of life. He is praying that their whole life would be marked by love – for God, for Jesus, for each other, for the truth, for those in the ministry, and for those who are lost. But, Paul has much more than a hint of love in mind here. He wants them to be overflowing with love.

What we understand from this is that love is not some human effort. It is something that God has to pour supernaturally into our hearts.He has to make it abound and overflow. Love is the mark of a disciple. Listen to what Jesus said in John 13    34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Paul declares in1 Corinthians 13:13“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of theseislove.”

Would you agree that what you and I need more than anything in this world is love?I Peter 4:8“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for“love will cover a multitude of sins.” That’s why we need to pray that each of us will overflow with love. Like a torrential rainfall washing away all the leaves, pine straw, and dirt from the pavement into the drain. More love, More coverage of sins.

But this is not some sentimental emotional high – 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge. . .”

  1. Knowledge –The Greek word is not “gnosis” but “epignosis.” When the word is used with “epi,” the idea is one of knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the Spirit, and knowledge of being conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, this knowledge is not information but conformation to the likeness of Christ. It is understanding the work of God in our lives.

Would you agree that what you and I need is this understanding of how God is working in our lives? Without this understanding it is so easy to get discouraged and start doubting.

 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment…”

  1. Discernment –This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations. Yes, we are to love and be aware of who we are in Christ but there’s no “sloppy agape” here. Again, there is no clear object here so it can refer to both doctrinal discernment and daily discernment. Recognize that someone is not teaching the truth and recognize that someone is about to pull wool over your eyes. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Being a Christian means being gracious and forgiving but not gullible and foolish.More than anything, it is recognizing when someone is pulling away from God.

9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent…”

  1. Choose what matters – The Greek word “dokimazein” is used in other contexts for the testing of the quality of precious metals or money. It means choosing the best. Romans 12:2“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove whatisthat good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Daily we need to pray that our kids will not settle for the good enough or the mediocre things of life but the better and the best that God has for them.

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

  1. Pure and Blameless– Life is full of snares and temptations. Stay away from sin and finish well is the prayer. So sad to see people mess up in the final minutes of the game of life. They get comfortable and arrogant and that’s when they get struck down. Luke 2231“And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may siftyouas wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail. . .” But the word for “offense” is not restricted to personal failing but it also implies the failing of others. Here’s the question: “Is what I’m doing going to make someone else stumble?”

11“being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ…”

  1. Fruit of Righteousness– Paul is not talking about self-effort here. He is talking about the promise that Jesus made to his disciples in John 15:5“I am the vine, youarethe branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”When we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit produces the righteous conduct in us that no amount of self-effort can ever produce. Paul gives us the list of them in Galatians 5 22“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control.”

“…to the glory and praise of God.”

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

These are the 7 elements of intercessory prayers. This is how you pray for others. This is how you pray in the Inner Circles. Warren Wiersbe said, “Perhaps the deepest Christian fellowship and joy we can experience in this life is at the Throne of Grace, praying with and for one another.”

Are you willing to be an Intercessor for others? James 5:16“Confessyourtrespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Are you praying? Have you prayed the sinner’s prayer? Are you saved?

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?

%d bloggers like this: