Thankful for Salvation by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR SALVATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Thankful for Salvation

Introduction: How many of ya’ll love dad jokes? Here are some Thanksgiving dad jokes:

  • “What is a turkey’s favorite dessert? Peach gobbler!”
  • “What did the turkey say to the computer? Google, google, google.”
  • “Why did the cranberries turn red? Because they saw the turkey dressing!”
  • “What do you call a turkey on the day after Thanksgiving? Lucky.”
  • “What music did the Pilgrims listen to at the first Thanksgiving? Plymouth Rock!”
  • “Why can’t you take a turkey to church? Because they use fowl language.”

We’re in our series called “Thankful,” to prepare us for the Holiday Season, and this is the final message titled “Thankful for Salvation.” What I have discovered is that the more we grow in the Christian life, the more grateful we become for our salvation. In other words, the longer we are Christians, the more we’re amazed at why God would save someone like us. Today we’ll meet someone who towards the end of his life, in spite of his circumstances, was truly amazed and grateful for being saved.

1 Timothy 1     12“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting meinto the ministry, 13although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I diditignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15This isa faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

Question: How thankful are you for your salvation? How do you see yourself in comparison to others? Are you saved?

Context: If there’s one word that is constantly found in Paul’s letters, it’s the word “charis.” Many of you may have heard it before. It is translated “grace.” Paul constantly used it in his letters, especially in his opening and closing: Opening – Graceto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”; Closing – “The graceof our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”That word was much more than just a polite greeting. For Paul, that word was a reference to the saving act of God in Christ Jesus.But, that word “charis” in certain forms also had the meaning of “thankfulness.”Paul used it often to express thankfulness to God for his salvation.In this message we are going to learn from Paul how to be thankful for our salvation:

I. ACKNOWLEDGE OUR WEAKNESS.

12“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting meinto the ministry.”

Background:That word “enabled” means “to be strengthened.” Paul was thanking God for giving him the strengthen but also continually strengthening him. Now, there is a mistranslation here. It should not be “because” but “that.” Here’s a better translation: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled/strengthened me, that He counted me faithful/trustworthy, putting meinto the ministry.” What he is saying is that in his own self he could not have served God. He is giving God all the credit.

Illustration:Parents have to help a toddler walk. Then they try to pull away.

Application:Do you understand how weak you are? Do you see how much you need Christ to enable you? Do you give him thanks?

II. REMEMBER YOUR FALLENNESS.

13“although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy…”

Few weeks ago, I preached a sermon titled “The Witness Stand” in which we looked at Paul’s conversion and transformation from a Spectator to an Accomplice, from an Accomplice to a Criminal, from a Criminal to a Master Mind, and, finally, from a Master Mind to the Most Wanted. What do you do when you have a Most Wanted on the loose? You have to bring in the big guns. Jesus himself had to come and capture Paul. He made a raid on him on the road to Damascus, tackled him to the ground, blinded him, and took him into custody. What was the result? The Chief Suspect became a Chief Witness to the gospel. I don’t want to repeat that sermon.

“…but I obtained mercy because I diditignorantly in unbelief.” Mercy came to Paul but he could have resisted it. There are 2 kinds of unbeliefs:Ignorant Unbelief and Deliberate Unbelief. Jesus encountered a lot of deliberate unbelief. John 8    22So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” 23And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I amHe,you will die in your sins.” 25Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” Paul asked the same question. And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. 26I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” 27They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.”

Illustration: There’s a man who is constantly rejecting the gospel when I have witnessed to him.

14“And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”

God had to show me graceand give me faithand even reach out to me in loveto save me. Paul uses the Greek word “huperpleonazo.” Huper is the word that gives us “hyper.” The cross is hypergrace, faith, and love.

Application:Do you remember where God found you? Are you still lost? Is it ignorant unbelief or is it deliberate? Listen again to Jesus in John 9    39And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” 40Thensomeof the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.”

III. WORSHIP WITH GRATEFULNESS.

15This isa faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Background:Paul is so overwhelmed by what he is sharing with Timothy that he launches into praise God for his salvation.

16However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

Application:Do you see your life and circumstances as a tool to bring others to Christ?

 17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, behonor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Background:Most scholars believe that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy in the last 2-3 years of his life before he was martyred. The point is that what we read earlier is not from Paul who just got saved but from Paul who had been saved for a while. We also should become more and more grateful for our salvation as we grow in our Christian life.

Do you express your gratefulness to God for your salvation? Are you saved?

So, what is the gospel?

  1. Declaration:
  • Jesus brought God’s kingdom into the world.
  • He is Christ, God’s Anointed King.
  • He died on the cross for our sins, according to Scriptures.
  • He was buried but rose again on the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by many.
  1. Decision:
  • Repent – change of thinking about sin, self, and Savior.
  • Believe – trust that Jesus is God’s Son who has paid the penalty of our sins and he can remove the guilt of sin and give eternal life.
  • Follow – as our King, we are to obey and follow him no matter the cost. Without this element, the gospel is not the true gospel. First, the decision and then, one day, the test.

Invitation: Are you ready to follow Jesus your King?

Thankful for His Plan by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR HIS PLAN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

His PlanIntroduction: How many of you think that you come from a dysfunctional family? Raise your hand. Keep raising them and look around at all the people who are lying! All of us come from a dysfunctional family. Some of us cover it up better than others. If you think your family tree is lush, green, and fruitful, just remember that all our roots are shallow and infested with worms. Don’t forget that we all come from a crooked landscaper and an ambitious diva, Adam and Eve. In this message we’re going to meet a person who grew up in a really dysfunctional family but he overcame that and thrived. The secret was his deep faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Instead of becoming bitter and vengeful, he was thankful to God for his plan. You can be bitter or you can be thankful. It all depends on your view of God’s sovereignty and goodness.

Genesis 50    15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” 16So they sentmessengersto Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17“Thus you shall say to Joseph: ‘I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” ’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him…19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for amI in the place of God? 20But as for you, you meant evil against me; butGod meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it isthis day, to save many people alive.

Question: How do you see your life? Are you bitter or are you thankful? Are you a victim or a victor? Are you saved? Without Christ, you will live to avenge or prove yourself?

Context: For the next 4 weeks, we’ll be in a series called THANKFUL that will not only prepare us for the Thanksgiving Season but also give us a biblical perspective on life and problems. In today’s message, we will look at the life of Joseph, how he grew up in a dysfunctional family but God had a divine plan and instead of being bitter and vengeful, Joseph demonstrated a deep faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Let’s begin:

I. A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY 

Joseph came from a dysfunctional family no doubt but how dysfunctional?

  • Even before we begin with Joseph’s immediate family, there were some skeletons in the family closet in previous generations. Remember, great grandfather Abraham had a child through his wife Sarah’s maid servant, her lady-in-waiting, Hagar! Should have waited on God. Also, don’t forget that his dad Jacob had tricked his brother Esau and later his father Isaac and stolen the blessing from his brother Esau, which was rightfully his. But, when Esau found out, he was angry and vowed to kill his brother Jacob once their daddy died. This is a messed-up family.
  • How about Joseph’s immediate family? His father Jacob had to run for his life from Esau and go to Uncle Laban’s house who had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel and asked for her hand in marriage. After making him work for 7 years, Laban gave him Leah on the wedding night! What a horrible shock! After 7 more years he got Rachel. Now Jacob had two sister wives who were actually sisters and they hated each other. To make matters worse, the wives also offered him their own ladies in waiting to get more kids from him! I don’t have time to go through the details. Altogether Jacob had 12 sons but he favored his “choice” wife’s firstborn, Joseph and gave him a special coat. By the way, it was not a “coat of many colors.” In Hebrew it is a “coat that extended to the palms and the feet.” It was a ceremonial coat that implied authority and power. Jacob may have sensed that God had great things in store for Joseph. Maybe he was thinking that the promise may come through Joseph. How did brothers take this? 10 of them hate him. Listen to Genesis 37:4“But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.” Then Joseph made matters worse by sharing with them his dreams. Now they hated him even more.
  • You know the rest of what happened. Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers as they were moving the herd and when the brothers saw him coming, they decided to kill him. One of the brothers counselled them instead to thrown him in a pit. When he was gone, another brother, Judah, suggested selling him to a caravan of Midianite traders, who in turn sold him into slavery in Egypt and went home and lied to their father. What a mess!

Application:Are their skeletons in your family closet? Do you think that you are the only one who grew up in a dysfunctional family? Think again.

II. THE DIVINE PLAN 

Now Joseph is a slave in Egypt but pay attention to God’s divine plan in his life:

  • Genesis 39:1 “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there.” Think about it, he could’ve been sold into cheap labor to build one of the pyramids in the Valley of the Kings or work on one of the farms in the Nile Delta Valley. Instead, he is working for Pharaoh’s chief officer.
  • How is work going?Listen toGenesis 39 2“The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3And his master saw that the LORDwaswith him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand.”Meaning:Even though bad things have happened to Joseph, God has worked them together for good.
  • Life is never that simple.Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph but he rejects her advances which makes her mad and she has him thrown into prison. But, guess what kind of a prison? Genesis 39:20“Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisonerswere” Potiphar could’ve had Joseph’s head but he knew that he was innocent and that God was with him. So, he put him in a Federal Prison where he met high profile people and learned Egyptian politics. Genesis 39:21“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Every step of the way God was with Joseph and blessed him.
  • I don’t have time to go into all the details but through a turn of events, Joseph ended up interpreting Pharaoh’s dream that none of his magicians and wise men could interpret. Pharaoh was so impressed that he not only made him in charge of the famine problem but he also made him ruler over his house and his people. Not only that but he also gave Joseph his signet ring, clothed him in fine garments, put a gold chain around him and paraded him in his chariot crying before him – “Bow the knee.”Oh yes, he also gave him the daughter of priest of On as his wife.

Personal Story:The year was 1993 when I was waiting by the Pennsylvania turnpike at 2am waiting for a ride. It was cold and I was standing inside a telephone booth to stay warm. I had lost everything. I don’t have time to go into all the details. I remember praying and telling God that without him I was done. Look where God has brought me.

Application:Can you see God’s divine plan in your life? Can you see only the bad or can you see the divine hand of God guiding you?

III. A DEEP FAITH

Let’s fast forward 27 years. Joseph saved Egypt and the world through the horrible famine. His brothers came looking for food and eventually realized that Joseph is the second in command in Egypt. They repented and reconciled and brought their father Jacob to Egypt. They were a family again for the next 16 years and then Jacob died. The brothers became concerned that Joseph would take revenge for what they had done to him 39 years ago. They probably made up the story about their father saying on his deathbed “Please forgive your brothers for what they did to you.”

Human nature is tit for tat. It is bitter and vengeful. But what was Joseph’s response? Genesis 50    19 “…Do not be afraid, for amI in the place of God? 20But as for you, you meant evil against me; butGod meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it isthis day, to save many people alive.” Joseph saw what his brothers did to him from the lens of God’s sovereignty and goodness and he showed grace and mercy. He was actually thankful for what he went through.

Application:How do you see your past? Are you bitter and vengeful? Can you see God’s sovereignty and goodness in working “all things together for good,”as Paul says in Romans 8:28? Are you thankful? Are you saved?

The Witness Stand by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE WITNESS STAND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Witness Stand

Introduction: How many of you remember watching legal shows on TV? Let’s say that you were falsely accused of murder but everything pointed in your direction, which TV attorney would you like to fight for you in court? How many of you would hire Perry Mason? How about Ben Matlock? Mason was a prosecuting attorney and Matlock a defense attorney. I remember how Matlock would cross-examine a phony witness and before long he/she would blurt out “Ok, fine, I didn’t see it!” The Bible repeatedly uses the language of the courtroom, especially in the New Testament. Every believer is a witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The first disciples were eye-witnesses. We are faith witnesses and we have an obligation to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. That’s the message today called “The Witness Stand.”

Acts 26     12“While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It ishard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.

Question:If Matlock were examining you today on the witness stand, would you turn out to be a true witness or a phony witness? Are you truly saved? Are you sharing your witness? Are you telling people what Christ has done in your life?

Context:This is our final message on the foundational beliefs of Clearview Church. A major foundation of our church is that all of us are called to be witnesses. We are called to tell the world what we have seen and heard about Jesus. Our motto is “Making Christ Visible.” In fact, the mission of our church is “to lead all people into a life changing, ever growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” This is based on Jesus’ final words to his disciples in Acts 1:8is “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This command was not just for the first eye-witnesses but also for all faith witnesses who would come later. The passage we just read is about the conversion of Paul and the call that he received from Christ himself. Listen again –16But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witnessboth of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.” The key word for us is the word “witness.” What does it mean?

Witness – That word comes from the Greek word “marturia” or “martureo,” which is found in various forms around 200 times in the New Testament. It has a legal meaning. It refers to someone who can certify facts, especially in a court of law. Of course, Greek writers like Homer, Pindar, and Plato used it in this legal way, the legal idea behind that word depends heavily on its use in the Greek Old Testament. It is used when God is called as a witness in his covenant with Israel or when Israel is called to be a witness to the nations for God. The witness is not just a reporter of what they have seen or heard but they are also responsible to bring the other person around to the truth. In other words, a witness is more than just a reporter of facts in a court, they also have to be convincing. In the New Testament, that word is used again and again to verify and authenticate the person and work of Jesus. I don’t have the time to look at all the references, but here are just a few:

  • John 1 6There was a man sent from God, whose namewas 7This man came for a witness, to bear witnessof the Light, that all through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, butwas sentto bear witnessof that Light.
  • Luke 24 46Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And you are witnessesof these things.”
  • Acts 4:33And with great power the apostles gave witnessto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
  • 1 Peter 5:1“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witnessof the sufferings of Christ…”
  • Revelation 20:4“Then I sawthe souls of those who had been beheaded for theirwitnessto Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image…”

As witnesses we are called to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. Are you?

Before Paul became a witness, he had been several other things:

  1. Spectator – Acts 7 57Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58and they casthimout of the city and stonedhim.And the witnesseslaid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen as he was calling onGodand saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
  2. Accomplice –Acts 8:1“Now Saul was consenting to his death…”
  3. Criminal –Acts 8  1“…At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2And devout men carried Stephento his burial,and made great lamentation over him. 3As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committingthemto prison.
  4. Mastermind – Acts 9 1Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
  5. Most Wanted – Acts 9 3As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.4Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It ishard for you to kick against the goads.”

Jesus took him from the Most Wanted Criminal to becoming a Chief Witness to the gospel. Has he done that in your life?

Some people are occupying other spots in the courtroom:

  1. Judge – Questioning other people’s motives and casting judgment.
  2. Prosecutor –Always attacking and condemning people.
  3. Defense Attorney – Always defending people instead of witnessing to them.
  4. Spectator –doing nothing, just enjoying the show.

Are you a witness? Are you saved?

The Exalted Word by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE EXALTED WORD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonThe Exalted Word

Introduction:Kids come with a degree in psychology. They know the difference between our nature and our instructions. Nature is who we are. Instructions is what we tell them to do. One of our kids understood that difference more than the others. She loved to explore and check things out. We would tell her not to touch the electrical socket but she would look at us as she stretched her little finger towards it. We gave her some books of her own but she loved to get into my books. Of course, we would pop her hand but it did not stop her. Somehow, she knew that we weren’t going to sell her to some Midianite traders. So she trusted our nature but disobeyed our instructions. So also, in the Christian life, there is God’s nature and there is God’s instructions. They are both very important. In fact, they are inextricably linked. His instructions proceed from his nature. Having said that, one is exalted over the other. His Instructions, his Truth, his Word. He does want us to trust him but he really wants us to obey him.

Psalm 138    A Psalmof David. 1I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You. 2I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.

Question: God’s name is his nature. It is who he is. God’s word is what he expects us to do. Trust God’s nature, but obey his Word. Do you obey God’s word, the truth? Have you received the Truth of God? Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Background:When we began planning for the first few weekends in this new sanctuary, we prayerfully decided that one of the messages should be about the importance of the Word of God at Clearview. Our desire is to build this ministry on this book. The psalm we just read tells us that God has magnified his Word above his name.That’s an odd statement. Scholars have long disagreed over its meaning. Some have suggested that there must be some grammatical mistake in it. Others have proposed some alterations to make it sound better. The more I have studied it, the more I have concluded that there is nothing wrong in it. The problem is in our failure to grasp the true value and seriousness of God’s Word.

Context: To start with, this is a psalm of David, i.e. composed by David. Besides being the shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath and later became the great King of Israel, Davd was also a great song writer. In fact, as many as 76 out of the 150 psalms in the book of Psalms were written by David. That’s half of all the psalms! But he was more than just a song writer. In fact, listen to how the Word of God records David’s last words in 2 Samuel 23:1“Now thesearethe last words of David.Thussays David the son of Jesse;Thussays the man raised up on high,The anointed of the God of Jacob,and the sweet psalmist of Israel.” Now listen to the first line of the final words of David –2“The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His wordwason my tongue.” Meaning: David was the human instrument of God’s truth. In I Samuel 13:14, God reciprocated by calling him a “man after his own heart.” In other words, his words should not be taken lightly. They are God’s inspired, infallible, and inerrant words to us.

Before we begin in verse 1, let’s first go to verse 3 to get the context:“In the day when I cried out, You answered me,andmade me boldwithstrength in my soul.” Meaning: The context of this song is a time of trouble in David’s life. We don’t know for sure what that trouble was. Maybe Saul was chasing him through the Wilderness of Ziph. Maybe the Amalekites had taken their women and children as captives. Maybe Absalom had just declared his revolt against his father David. Nonetheless, this was a tough time.

Application:Tough times come but be careful about creating doctrine based on what you are facing. Don’t let your experiences decide your beliefs.

Now let’s look carefully at what David wrote in Psalm 138:1“I will praise You with my whole heart.” Meaning: David declares his desire to give thanks and praise to God from the bottom of his heart for all he has done for him. A good way to bounce out of discouragement and defeat is to praise God with all your heart for what he has already done for you.

Application:Do you ever thank God and praise him for all he has done for you? Do you do it with your whole heart?

Then David says,“Before the gods I will sing praises to You.”Don’t misunderstand this. David is not saying that there are other gods in this world. He is just boldly declaring before the watching world and the pagan nations that there is no other god before the Living and True God of Israel.True boldness is not telling God what to do but telling the world that you are not ashamed to declare the praises of God and share his gospel.Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:2“we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.”

Application: Do you shy away from declaring the name of God in public? Are you bold regarding your faith?

David continues2“I will worship toward Your holy temple…” Keep in mind that the temple has not yet been built but David has solid confidence that one day it will be. “and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness…” Don’t miss this. When the psalm writers and even David mention the name of God, they are not talking about a title of God. They are referring to the nature of God. They are declaring that his name reflects his lovingkindness. By the way, the word “lovingkindness” in Hebrew is “chesed” which does not have one single English word that adequately translates it. It can be “goodness,” “kindness,” “mercy,” “love,” “steadfast love,” “unfailing love,” and “lovingkindness.” In fact, everyone of God’s names reflects his lovingkindness towards us.

Application: Do you ever give God thanks and praise for his name, for his lovingkindness towards you? Do you ever thank God for being the faithful and loving God?

But David adds something more to God’s “lovingkindness.” 2“I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth.” Meaning: Inherent in God’s name and nature is not only his kindness towards us but also his truthfulness for us. The Hebrew word for truth is “ameth.” David is teaching us something here. He wants us to see God more than just a loving God. He wants us to see him as a truthful God.

Now he says – “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” The word for “word” means God’s commands and his promises. Because God is also a truthful God, he will not just sit back and love you and do the best he can to help you, he also wants to speak to you. He has something for you to do and to obey. For you to be able to get the seriousness of his commands and his promises, he has magnified them even above his name, his character. No matter the circumstances, always let the Word of God win.

Application: Don’t compromise your morals and don’t justify your experiences.

Was this a problem for David? Of course not. 3“In the day when I cried out, You answered me,andmade me boldwithstrength in my soul.” Don’t think of God’s Word as a burden. Instead, it brings boldness in our soul. When you obey God and do things his way, you are able to stand against whatever comes your way.

Listen to what follows – 4“All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD,when they hear the words of Your mouth.” Once again David extolls the Word of God. 5Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,For greatisthe glory of the LORD.6Though the LORDison high,Yet He regards the lowly;But the proud He knows from afar.7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;You will stretch out Your handagainst the wrath of my enemies,And Your right hand will save me.8The LORD will perfectthat whichconcerns me;Your mercy, O LORD, enduresforever;Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Listen carefully: God’s name is his character. His character is one of lovingkindness towards us. He will take care of us. But, his character is also one of truthfulness. Because of his truthfulness, he will always give us the right instructions. The Bible is God’s instruction for us. He expects us to obey him. Obedience to his word is now the standard for the proper understanding of his character.

Luke 6    46“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? 47Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”

Question:

  • How important is this book for you?
  • Is it the final authority on all your understanding about God?
  • Do you use the Word to justify your morals and your experiences?
  • Do you obey his Word no matter the cost?
  • Do you know the Word of God, Jesus?

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

DIGGING DEEP 9 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 9 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

The Bible was not written in a vacuum. It was in the context of paganism, idolatry, and demonic worship that the truth of God’s Word came to humanity.

What is religion? “Human organizations primarily engaged in providing general compensators based on supernatural assumptions.” – Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge

They gave 5 dimensions of religiousness: belief, practice, experience, knowledge, and consequences.

Religion can come in many forms – animism (animals, plants, and inanimate objects have spiritual essence), henotheism (worshipping one but acknowledging others), polytheism (many gods), and monotheism (one god).

  1. Mesopotamia
  • Began as early as the third millennium
  • All the divine families were under Enlil
  • They had as many as 3000 names, many repeats.
  • Some of the gods included – Anu-An (Father of the gods who was described as a bull); Enlil (son of An and the most prominent; lord of the air and ruler over the earth; In “Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld,” when heaven and earth were separated, An chose the heavens and Enlil chose the earth; he created the humans; he also decreed the flood because humans disturbed his sleep); Nanna-Sin (first born of Enlil; moon god; god of Ur and Haran); Marduk (Son of Enki-Ea; god of thunderstorm and Babylon; known as Bel); Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14), etc.
  • Images were made out of wood and plated with gold. They also had precious stones and jewels for eyes, which were lit up in nighttime rituals to depict “opening of the eyes.”
  1. Egypt
  • As many as 40 gods and goddesses known, many repeats
  • Several religious centers in Ancient Egypt – Thebes, Hermopolis, Heliopolis, Abydos, and Memphis
  • The gods’ depictions were in the form that would express their special characteristics.
  • They were considered to be responsible for the forces in nature – Ra (sun god); Hathor (heaven); Ma’at and Seth (balance and order vs chaos and death).
  • Afterlife was a key component. It was often depicted by the Ankh.
  • The symbol of continuity and order was the Pharaoh. The king was the official priest.
  1. Canaan
  • Sometimes known as the Amorites and was the most immediate context for the people of Israel.
  • 2 divine pairs: El and Athirat (sovereign king and queen over the world) and Baal and Anat (brother and sister in a state of turmoil and change, struggling for survival and dominance).
  • El was the chief god known as the begetter of the other gods and creator of the world.
  • Baal was the most popular god among the Canaanites. He was a fertility god who provided rains and rode on the clouds. (Psalm 68:4)
  • There were also many minor gods like Dagon (Judges 16:23)
  • The god of the Moabites was Chemosh and the god of the Ammonites was Molech. (Judges 11:24 and 2 Kings 3:26-27)
  1. Greco-Roman
  • Very diverse forms of paganism – Pisidian Antioch (Men – the moon and fertility god); Syrian Antioch (Zeus, Astarte, Tyche, etc); Athens (Athena, Dionysius); Corinth (Aphrodite – goddess of love, Apollo, Asclepius, Demeter, etc); Ephesus (Artemis – her temple was 5 times larger than Athens’ Parthenon, 1000 female servants, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World – Acts 19); etc.
  • There was also much unity.
  • They considered monotheists to be not much better than atheists.

 

Test Passages:

  1. Joshua 24:1-3, 14-15 

 

  1. Psalm 19

 

  1. Jeremiah 50:1-2

 

  1. Acts 17

Secret Religion – Fasting

SECRET RELIGION – FASTING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

secretreligion_fastingIntroduction: This morning we are in part 3 of the series – SECRET RELIGION – and our focus is on fasting. Again, God wants us to fast, not for self-praise but to seek His face.

Matthew 6   16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Overall Background: In the past 2 messages Jesus exposed the giving hypocrites and the praying hypocrites. Giving hypocrites – those who give charity but only for public praise. Praying hypocrites – those who pray but only to look spiritual and jab their enemies. Neither of them gets anything from God. Now He turns His attention towards the fasting hypocrites. Listen to what He says – “For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.” Meaning: The fasting hypocrites are not really fasting. They only appear to be fasting. I guess they have a Snickers bar hidden in their robe somewhere and now and then they take a bite when no one’s looking. But when someone comes along, they act all famished – “I’m suffering for Jesus.” Jesus says of them what He said about the other two – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Meaning: God knows their hypocrisy and their fasting remains fruitless (no pun intended).

Here’s the gist of this message – Fasting is simply God’s people setting aside food, entertainment, and any distraction to get serious with Him. God wants us to fast. It brings tremendous results, especially when we are facing painful and impossible situations. But fasting with the wrong motives may impress some but not God.

Question: Do you fast? Are you facing a hopeless situation? A difficult marriage, a wayward child or grandchild, finances or employment, a frustrating habit, something in your past, a dream that’s too big and too risky. Are you concerned about our church, community, or nation? Then it’s time to fast and pray. Are you saved? No amount of fasting can help you. You’re just dieting all the way to Hell!

2 questions we will ask about Secret Religion and Fasting:

I. WHY FASTING IS VITAL? 

16 “Moreover, when you fast…

Background: Just like regarding prayer, Jesus does not say “if” you fast but “when” you fast. Meaning: Fasting, like prayer, was expected for God’s people. It may surprise some of you that fasting is all over the Bible. Let me give you some examples:

  1. Fasting when in the presence of God – Moses fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, without bread and without water, before he received the 10 Commandments. Let me make it clear: the reason he was able to do this is because of the presence of God.
  2. Fasting when humbling oneself before God – On the Day of Atonement God commanded in Leviticus 16 29 “…you shall afflict your souls, (humble yourself) and do no work at all…30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.” Although the word “fasting” is not mentioned, Jewish people fasted on this day to humble themselves before God.
  3. Fasting when mourning before God – Job fasted after the tragedy hit his home, as he says in Job 3:24 “For my sighing comes before I eat…” The people of Israel fasted all day before the Lord because of the civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel. Hannah fasted before the Lord because she could not have any children. It says in 1 Samuel 1:7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she (sister wife) provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. When David and his men heard that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle, they fasted until evening. By the way, mourning was the main reason for fasting.
  4. Fasting when repenting over sins before God – Joshua fasted all day after the defeat of Israel at Ai. Under Samuel, the people of Israel fasted all day in repentance for their sins. The prophet Joel called for a fast because of the plague of locusts and the famine in the land. When Jonah pronounced God’s judgment against Nineveh, the entire city fasted; even the king and God turned away His wrath. Daniel fasted before the great vision in Daniel 9 and he begins his prayer with – 4“O Lord, great and awesome God…5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled…”
  5. Fasting when facing a major challenge – Esther fasted for 3 days along with her maids and all the Jewish people in Shushan before she went before the king to intercede for her people. When Nehemiah heard about the plight of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, he was so burdened that he wept and mourned for many days but he didn’t stop there. Listen to Nehemiah 1:4. He says, “I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

———–For time’s sake, let’s jump over to the New Testament————

  1. Fasting when beginning a new ministry – Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights before He started His ministry. The early church fasted and prayed before they sent Barnabas and Paul on the mission journey.
  2. Fasting when doing ministry – Paul mentions fasting as a sign of being God’s servant. In 2 Corinthians 6 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings…” Ministry has problems and will always have problems. Before you complain and criticize have you considered cutting back from food? When I come across people like this, I’m thinking – “has this person enough spiritual maturity to put down that hamburger or that fried chicken and actually pray?!!”

Application: Are you facing a difficult time, a tough challenge? Are you willing to set aside the plate of food and humble yourself before God? Andrew Murray (Dutch Reformed South African pastor and writer) said, “Fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.”

II. HOW FASTING GOT DISTORTED? 

16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.

Shofar

Shofar (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Just like everything else, we human beings know how to distort everything good that comes from God. God condemned all such fasting. Listen to Isaiah 58   1 “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; (the word is actually shofar, which means a horn from a ram or an antelope). They would blow the shofar to announce the fast and there was a whole system and rituals of how to do this. What God is saying here is – “Put down your shofar and your rituals and speak like a shofar to my people.” What should Isaiah say – “Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness…They take delight in approaching God. Then they complain – 3 “Why have we fasted…and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ God says, “Let me explain to you why.” 3 “…in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. 4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness…5 Is it a fast that I have chosen…6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am.’…11 The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In…14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth…The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

So also Zechariah the prophet – Zechariah 7   4 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 5 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me?…7 Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets…9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’

Let’s return back to what Jesus said – 16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. After the Babylonian exile the Jewish people were very strict about their fasts but by the time of Jesus, they began to fast for the wrong reasons. Since humbling was described as “afflicting oneself,” they would not shave or wash their clothes or take a bath. As bad as that sounds, this was how they communicated to others that they were more spiritual. Sometimes it got really extreme – One rabbi (Eleazer ben Azariah) from the time of Jesus fasted until his teeth turned black. Why? Atoning for the sin of opposing a majority view! Rabbi Joshua made a derogatory remark against the school of Shammai and went on a fast until his teeth also turned black. Rabbi Simeon insulted Rabbi Aqiba and fasted until his teeth turned black. In a sense, this was probably what was happening during the time of Jesus. They were taking pride in their penitence.

Application: People are no different today – How many times I have heard people judge someone walking in with a beautiful dress or makeup or nice suit and judge them on that. This is reverse prejudice!

What did Jesus say – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” People may be impressed but God is not. Instead, 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Meaning: Don’t let your spirituality distract people from the Savior.

Fasting is no fun. I fast every week. I tell you this not to brag but to urge you to do the same. I am not a very good faster. On days I fast, everything looks like food to me. The pen looks like a French fry and the paperweight looks like a sandwich! Just put a little ketchup on it! But the benefits are unbelievable. God has answered repeatedly in response to my prayer and fasting.

Remember—Stress can either drive you to indulge or it can drive you to get serious with God. Fasting is simply God’s people setting aside food, entertainment, and any distraction to get serious with Him. You may say – “I don’t know how to fast.” We’re not talking about 40 days and 40 nights. Can we not set aside a day to fast unto God? There are several great resources out there on fasting.

(To preview or purchase these resources, click on the images.)

Ronnie Floyd - "The Power of Prayer and Fasting"

Ronnie Floyd, The Power of Prayer and Fasting: God’s Gateway to Spiritual Breakthroughs.

Elmer Town - "Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough"

Elmer Towns, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough: A Guide to Nine Biblical Fasts.

 

Do you know Christ as your Savior? Do you need to fast?

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