The Soul-Winner’s Prize by Abidan Paul Shah

THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul-Winner's PrizeIntroduction: Imagine if sports had no goals and no finish lines. Imagine a basketball game without any baskets. You just dribble and pass the ball around but there’s no hoop and no scoreboard. Imagine a soccer game without any goals. You just do all kinds of tricks with the ball and run around on the field but there’s no goal and no scoreboard. Imagine a 100 meters dash without a finish line. You just run at any speed, anywhere, for any length of time but there’s no end. How many of you would love to play basketball or soccer or run? It would be meaningless. Now let’s go a step further. Let’s say you did have goals and finish lines but there were no medals, trophies, and rewards. It was totally unprofitable. How motivated would you be to practice and train for the game? Even if you did play for the love of the game, you’ll give your time and energy to those things that actually bring you some benefit. Today’s message will help us understand the goal and the prize of every Christian. It is titled, “THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE.” This is the third message in our series “Alive: What Jesus’ Resurrection Means For Us.” As we go further it’ll become clear how the Soul-Winner’s Prize is connected to the Resurrection.

Daniel 12   1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Context: If you ask people “What is the goal of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To get to know God, to study the Bible more, to pray more…” If you ask people “What is the prize of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To be more like Jesus, to be a better person, to use my spiritual gifts…” In today’s message we will learn that the goal for every Christian is to be a soul-winner and our prize is the glory waiting for us at the resurrection.

Question: What do you think is the goal and the prize of every Christian? What are you aiming for? What are you running towards? What are you looking forward on the other side? If you’re not saved, you’re not even in the game. To get in the game, you have to receive Christ as your Savior.

First, the goal and then the prize of every Christian:

I. THE GOAL OF EVERY CHRISTIAN 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: In this passage God is giving a prophecy and a promise to those who are wise and to those who turn many to righteousness. In fact, the Hebrew construction there really means that the wise and those who turn many to righteousness are one and the same. Listen carefully – In God’s judgment, wisdom is turning people to righteousness. In other words, a truly wise person is a soul winner. Now we do know that Daniel was a wise person. If you remember, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken in exile young men from Judah who were without blemish, good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.” Daniel was one of those wise young men.

But did you know that Daniel was also a soul winner? To me, in some ways, what Paul is to the New Testament, Daniel is to the Old Testament. I’m talking with regards to soul-winning. If you remember, in the New Testament, Paul was the ultimate soul-winner. He first went to his own people, the Jewish people, but when they rejected him, he didn’t get discouraged but moved on to the Gentiles. He went on three missionary journeys and planted several churches. He suffered terrible persecution because of his passion to take the gospel even to those who would harm him. He became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. So also Daniel, maybe not quite to the same extent and same manner as Paul, was also a soul-winner. He was away from his people in a foreign land. He tried to live a life that was pure and holy in a culture that wasn’t. God gave him the insight to interpret dreams and visions and when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, Daniel interpreted it for him. As a result, this pagan king confessed the Living God as the true god. Daniel prayed in the midst of persecution and was thrown in the lions’ den. God protected him and the next day the Mede King Darius was so moved by Daniel’s faith that he also confessed the Living God and sent a decree to the whole empire that Daniel’s God is the true god. Both under the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians, Daniel was a soul winner.

Here’s a principle: “Wise people are soul winners. Wise people make it their goal to save souls.”

Think again about the Apostle Paul for a moment – he was one of the smartest men who ever lived. What was the goal of his life? To win souls. Listen to what he said in several passages in the Bible: I Corinthians 9:22 “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Romans 10:1 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” 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.”

Don’t misunderstand: You don’t need a high IQ in order to be a soul winner.

Application: Are you a wise person? Are you a soul winner? What is the goal of your life?

II. THE PRIZE OF EVERY SOUL-WINNER 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: Before we look at what the “brightness of the firmament” and “shining like the stars” means,” let’s see when this will happen. To understand this, we have to back up to the previous verses. 1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people…” Which time are we referring to? We are referring to the end of time. Now I don’t want to get into a big discussion over the timetable of the end-times but this will be sometime after the Great Tribulation. “And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.” Here we are referring to the Book of the Life. Revelation 20 12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. …15 “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Paul talks about this Book of Life in Philippians 4:3. The point is this – To get the benefit coming to soul winners, your soul has to be won first. You cannot save souls if your soul is lost!

Now verse 2 “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Now comes the Resurrection of the Dead. Again, this is not a time to create a timeline of how things will turn out. This is simply a reminder that every human being will be resurrected one day but not everyone will have the same resurrection. Now there’s a special prize for those who win souls – 3 “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.” This does not mean that we will become stars in the sky like some myths and superstitions talk about. Daniel 8:10 gives us a clue – “And it (little horn) grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.” The hosts of heaven are the angels and they are sometimes referred to as stars. What Daniel is saying here is “Those who are soul winners will at the Resurrection shine with the same glory like the angels.”

Many times I’ve heard people say – “We need to win souls because that’s what Jesus has commanded us to do.” That is true but there’s a reason people are not motivated is because they are not looking forward to anything coming up in their future. What motivated Paul? Philippians 3:14 “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Let’s look at the whole context for a moment. Philippians 3   8 “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead…” Then in verse 17 he contrasts his ministry of soul winning with those who are in for an earthly benefit and then listen to verse 20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

Don’t think that this means that Billy Graham will be as bright as an exploding star and all of us will be like a tiny candle.

For e.g. The poor street preacher who baptized my dad. My dad was far more educated than him but this ignorant man was wiser. With every soul I win, he has a part!

Application: Are you looking forward to the prize coming on the other side to soul-winners?

Invitation: Are you saved? What is your goal? Is it soul-winning? Are you looking to the prize of a glorified body like Christ one day

Secret Religion – Charity

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

secretreligion_charityIntroduction: This morning we begin a 3-part series through the Sermon on the Mount called “SECRET RELIGION.” Jesus calls us to be the Salt and the Light in this world but He wants us to do good secretly, covertly, privately, off the record.

Matthew 6   1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

Overall Background: The passage we just read marks a shift in Jesus’ focus in the Sermon on the Mount. In this new section Jesus turns His attention towards hypocrites and their hypocrisy. In fact, 3 times He uses the term “hypocrites” to describe people who do the right thing but for the wrong reasons. They give charity, they pray, and they fast but they do it for show. Jesus warns His listeners that although they need to do those things, they better do them with the right motives. What happens to people who serve God for popularity? 3 times we hear the phrase – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” In other words, God will reward people for their good deeds but not if they’ve already earned their rewards through self-adulation or public praise. If you go around patting your back or looking for praise, you have your reward. God has nothing for you.

Here’s the point – Jesus not only came to raise the bar of righteousness but He also came to raise the standard of evaluation. Meaning: it’s not just “what more you do for God?” but also “why do you do what more you do for God?” Listen carefully – Christian life is more than a bigger checklist. It’s also a deeper heart check.

Question: Why do you serve God? Why do you want to help people? What is your motive? If you’re motives are to impress others, you are cutting into your own reward. There’s no eternal glory for you. Are you saved? If not, there are no rewards for you.

2 things we will learn about Secret Religion and Charity:

I. GOD COMMANDS US TO SHOW CHARITY.

2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed,

Background: The first thing to remember is that Jesus said “when” and not “if.” It means Jesus assumed that His listeners would practice charity. Charity/helping the poor was a very important part of Jewish social life. Listen to the following passages from the Old Testament. They are long but worth hearing, especially in our generation:

Deuteronomy 15   7 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you. 10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, (Meaning: it’s not just the content but also the intent.) because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’

If that wasn’t enough, listen to Deuteronomy 24 19 “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (That’s what Boaz did for Ruth.) 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing. Charity is not optional. It is mandatory.

Here’s more: Jesus did not lower this standard. In fact, He raised it. If you remember when the rich young ruler came to Him asking how to attain eternal life. First, Jesus questioned if he had kept all the commandments. When he replied yes, listen to what Jesus said to him in Matthew 19:21 “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But the young man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.

Unfortunately, in our country, the church forgot charity and the government had to take it up. Now, people complain when they see someone with EBT cards and food stamps. We fuss when we see people waiting for the check. This wouldn’t have been a problem if that church had studied her Bible and put it to practice!

Application: What do you think about charity? How do you respond when you see those who are less fortunate? Sure – you have to be careful but how do you respond when there’s a legitimate need? Are you generous or are you stingy? Do you walk around with a tunnel vision, only caring for you and yours or do you care for others?

II. PRIDE CAUSES US TO LOSE OUR REWARDS. 

2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.

Background: Just when we think Jesus would give us some tips on how to recognize who really needs help and how to give selectively or how God promises to bless us when we give generously, He lays down a condition – “do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.” Meaning: Don’t advertise your charity for complements. God wants to acknowledge our giving. He wants to record it. He wants to reward us for being generous. But, when people say – “Yes – I want God’s blessing but I also want people’s praise.” That’s when God says – “I’m out.”

C.S. Lewis - Mere ChristianityWhy do people do that? It’s more than just a desire to be acknowledged. It is PRIDE. This week I was reading through C.S. Lewis’s classic work “Mere Christianity.” Amazingly, as I was prepping for this message, I happened to be reading his chapter titled, “The Great Sin” on Pride. I want to read a few quotes from this book. He begins with this remark – “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.” Then Lewis goes to the root of pride – “Pride is essentially competitive…Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. (Lewis explains that other sins like anger, unforgiveness, adultery, stealing are nothing like pride.) Then he says – “It is a terrible thing that the worst of all vices can smuggle itself into the very center of our religious life…The other, and less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But this (pride) does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes directly from Hell.” (By the way, it’s pride that got the Devil kicked out.)

How does all this connect with this message on “Secret Religion?” Why do people blow the trumpet when they give? Because they are announcing that they are so much more generous and benevolent and charitable than the other person. Check out how much I am giving more than the last guy. Now, I know someone is bound to say – “Yeah…I know so and so rich person gives so much. It’s all pride. They just want to prove that they are so much better and wealthier than the rest of us.” Here’s what I have found, in my experience – Usually, it’s not the rich who announce how much they are giving but the “not so rich.” It’s usually those who don’t have much who constantly make it a point to talk about how unselfish they were when they saw that man on the street and they bought him a meal or that homeless woman going through the trash dump and they gave her a hug and took her to the shelter. What these people are really saying is – “I am so much better than the rich man who drove by and didn’t give anything.” Guess what – you just got bit by the Pride bug! Because you don’t know if the rich man just gave away his millions to build that homeless shelter! Pride is not based on the content of our wallets. It’s based on the condition of our hearts.

Before you run out saying – “That’s right. I don’t care about anyone’s opinion. I am not doing it for them. I don’t need their praise.” Listen to what C.S. Lewis says – “The real…diabolical Pride comes when you look down on others so much that you do not care what they think of you…the Proud man…says ‘Why should I care for the applause of the rabble as if their opinion were worth anything?…All I have done has been to satisfy my own ideals…the traditions of my family…because I’m That Kind of Chap (Guy)…the devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one. We must never try to be vain, but we must never call in our Pride to cure our vanity…” WOW! Isn’t Pride deceptive?

But listen – 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; Don’t misunderstand this analogy. It does not mean that this humble charitable person is flippant and careless, just dropping money everywhere. There’s something very deep in the analogy. Once again, back to C.S. Lewis – “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort…who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap (guy) who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility; he will not be thinking about himself at all.” In other words, they are the type of person whose – “left hand does not know what their right hand is doing.”

What’s the result? 4 “…and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

There’s only one person who lived this perfectly, 100% – Jesus Christ. Listen to John 5   41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”

Secret Religion is when you neither look for nor look down on the approval of others but you constantly look to God. Your desire is to do all things to please God.

What will happen in this world if we begin to give charity and do it for the right reasons? What will happen if we stop looking for or looking down on the approval of others but only look for the approval of God? What will happen if we start practicing “Secret Religion?” Only the Holy Spirit can create this spirit in us. Are you saved?

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