Pious Thieves by Pastor Abidan Shah

PIOUS THIEVES  by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Pious Thieves

Introduction:  A $1 bill met a $20 bill. He hadn’t seen him in a while and he said – “Hey! Where have you been? Haven’t seen you in years.” The $20 replied – “I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. I’ve been to the casino, went on a cruise, went to a baseball game, to the mall for Christmas shopping, fancy restaurants, beach, mountains. I’ve been living the high life. How about you?” The $1 replied with a sigh, “Me? Same old stuff…church, church, church.” Today’s message in our series on Malachi is called “PIOUS THIEVES.” Hopefully, it’ll do more than figure out where the $20 bill has been hiding. It’s about the state of the heart.

Malachi 3    6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

Question: I know that some of you have already made your assumptions about this message – “Here we go…Pastor Shah is gonna hammer on money since the new building has to be paid for.” Not really. We grew the most through the worst financial crisis this nation has ever faced. I’m not a least bit worried about money. The message is not about what you give. The message is about what you believe God has done for you. What has God done for you? How much you have belongs to God? Are you saved? This message is for you not from you.

Context: As I mentioned last weekend, the Book of Malachi is written like a courtroom drama where the people of Israel were on trial and God was their judge, their prosecuting attorney, their witness, and their executioner. But don’t think that all this was only one-sided and negative because God was also their public defender who was trying to negotiate a plea bargain that would greatly benefit them. Listen again to verse 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change…” When God said “I am Yahweh,” he was reminding them of his covenant name. In other words, God was showing them the old contract papers to remind them that the agreement he had made with them had not changed. Which agreement? 6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” This is the 4th time God mentioned Jacob. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Abraham?” Because Abraham was also the father of the Ishmaelites. Why didn’t God say “O sons of Isaac?” Because Isaac was also the father of the Edomites. God was telling them that unlike the Ishmaelites and the Edomites who had perished or vanished, they were still alive because he had kept his covenant. Their entire existence was because of him.

Application: I mentioned to you a few minutes ago, the message is not about what you give but what you believe about God. The message is not about how much you give but how much you believe belongs to God? Do you believe that everything you are and everything you have is because of God? If you have reservations there, of course, you will have reservations about how much you give. It will be like tipping after a meal. Imagine if I were to tip Nicole after a meal!

Here comes the plea bargain. 7 “‘Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” In other words, admit that you messed up and come back. God is not finished with you. Repent. Refusal would be the unpardonable sin. This is the main message of all the prophets in the OT. Listen to their response – “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?” God answers –  8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Background: Many of us know that tithe means “ten percent.” The word tithe is an Old English word that means “tenth.” Where does it originally come from? From the Bible, from the Old Testament. Actually, there were 3 kinds of tithes:

  • First, the general tithe of the land. Leviticus 27:30 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.” Where do you give it? Numbers 18:21“Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.”
  • Second, the eating of a portion of the tithe at the sacred meal when the first/general tithe was given. Deuteronomy 14  22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, (Jerusalem) the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
  • Third, the tithe collected every three years for the poor. Deuteronomy 14 28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Why were the people keeping back their tithes and their offerings? Think about it. It was an agro-pastoral economy. Most people were poor farmers. This was not by choice but by necessity. They had just returned from exile, maybe a generation or two. We’re not even talking about drought, locust infestation, and neighbors who were angry that the original inhabitants were back. Life was very tough for them. Many were also shepherds. Again, not by choice. Then there were those working for the imperial bureaucracy (the Persian empire) who were doing very well. They were wealthy landowners. So also, the priests appeared to be doing well. The lending and borrowing system made life very difficult for the common person. Usury (lending money at excessively high interest rates) was also being practiced at the time. This was debt slavery. Fraud, bribery, and corruption were also prevalent. Bottom line: Most people felt entitled not to give.

Some people think that all that is in the OT Mosaic Law and we’re no longer under it. Who came first Abraham or Moses? Genesis 14   18 “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him (Abraham)…” And what did Abraham do? 20 “…And he gave him a tithe of all. Another question: Who came first Jacob or Moses? Genesis 28:20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” I believe that the idea of giving a tithe was only ratified in the Mosaic law but it was established since the beginning of time. Does the New Testament obligate us to tithe? Some people bring up Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law” and Galatians 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law…” Yes, we are no longer under the obligation of the traditions and rituals in the law but the principle of the law still stands. By the way, tithing is just the starting point. We are really under grace giving, which is much more. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

Question: Are you tithing? $20/month implies that you are making $200/month; $50/month implies that you are making $500/month; $100/month implies that you are making $1000/month.

Now listen to what God said: 9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.” 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; 12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts.

Personal Testimony: When I first came, I didn’t have anything but I remember my parents telling me to give and I did. God has done above and beyond for me. I don’t give because he gives back. I give because it’s all his.

Are you tithing? Are you grace giving? Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll start caring about this place. Whatever you buy stock in, you’ll care about. Start giving and you’ll see God open the windows of heaven for you. Start giving like you are supposed to and you’ll look forward to giving more. If you question my motives, give to another church!

For some reason God has decided to use money as the acid test of our faith. He’s asking us – “How much of what you have do you think belongs to you?” It’s really a matter of the heart.

Are you saved?

The Grave-Robber by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE GRAVE-ROBBER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Grave Robber

Introduction:  Graveyards are gloomy to say the least but some people have tried to lighten the mood by what they have written on their gravestone. Here are some of my favorites – “William H. Hahn: I told you I was sick”; “Robert Clay Allison: He never killed a man that did not need killing”; “Rest in Peace Cousin Heut: We all know you didn’t do it”; “Raised four beautiful daughters with only one bathroom and still there was love”; “Barbara Sue Manire (with a parking meter) – Our Mother…Her humor lives on”; Walter W. Stauffen: Uncle Walter loved to spend. He had no money in the end. But with many a whiskey and many a wife, he really did enjoy his life”; “Here lies Good Old Fred: A great big rock fell on his head.” I hope none of these were photoshopped. There is one gravestone that had to be carved twice. It was the gravestone of Lazarus. After 4 days in the grave, Jesus brought him back to life. He is the great GRAVE-ROBBER.

John 11   1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 

Question: Death is inevitable. Death is inescapable. Where will you go when you die? Jesus has not only brought us forgiveness of sin but he has also taken the sting out of death. Grave no longer has power over us. Have you received him as your Savior?

Context: The miracle we’re looking at today comes from the Gospel of John again. You know by now that John the apostle (writer of the fourth gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. Signs were more than just extraordinary events done by Jesus to help people in need. Signs also served to prove that Jesus was/is God. In this miracle, the word “sign” is used again. Listen to John 11:47 “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” In other words, the raising of Lazarus was more than just Jesus bringing a dead man to life. It was also a sign. What was the sign behind this miracle? The answer is found in John 11:43 “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’” The Greek words are “deuro exo,” where “deuro” is “come” and “exo” is “out.” Together, it is “Come Out!” Something else, when that word “deuro” is used with “exo,” you can actually translate the phrase as simply “Out!” Lazarus, even though he was dead, even though he was buried in the grave for 4 days, recognized the voice of Jesus, recognized the voice of his Savior and came out.

Let me illustrate: Imagine if were to stand in my driveway and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think Nicole or the kids would do? They would recognize my voice immediately and come running outside – “What’s wrong? What do you need?” How about if I were to stand outside your house and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What would you do? At first you may get startled but then you’ll recognize my voice – “That’s Abidan or Pastor Shah!” – and you’ll come outside and ask me, “Hey Pastor Shah! What’re you doing here? Is everything okay?” Now, what if I were to stand in someone’s driveway who doesn’t know me and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think they would do? Depends on who they are and where they live, they may start by dialing 911 and ask from behind the door, “Who’re you? What do you want?” or maybe even come out with a shotgun and tell me to get off the property. What is the difference between the first two and the last reactions? The first two recognized my voice and knew me but the last one didn’t.

To understand the sign behind this miracle, you have to back up to John 10 and get the context: John 10   2 “…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them….14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Then John tells us that they began to argue over whether he was crazy or had a demon. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” So, guess what they did. They tried to stone him again. Listen carefully to what Jesus said to them then – 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” In other words, if there’s a contradiction between my works and the Father’s (God’s), then don’t believe in me. But if my works lineup with the works of the Father (God), then believe the works and in turn believe that the Father is in me and I am in him.

What are the kind of works that the Father does? John 5:21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” John 6:39 “This 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.” Repeatedly, Jesus told them that raising the dead and giving them life was the work of the Father (God). Jesus was sent by his Father to carry on his work.

With that in mind, let’s return to the miracle of Lazarus.

  • Jesus heard about Lazarus’ sickness but delayed coming for two days. Why? He said in John 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Meaning: Lazarus was going to be an object lesson to prove that Jesus was/is the Son of God. 2 days turned into 4 days and Lazarus died. Meaning: This was not going to be an ordinary healing miracle. This was going to be the big one, just like magicians do their toughest trick in the end.
  • When Jesus got there, Martha had lost all hope but Jesus challenged her in John 11 25 “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She replied 27 “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She was a sheep who heard the voice of the shepherd.
  • Mary also doubted and said to Jesus in John 11 32 “…Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” The words are literally “he got angry in his spirit and stirred up in himself.” Why? Because here was a sheep who was not hearing his voice but acting like those outside the fold. Jesus was so upset that when he got to the tomb, he wept. Now some people think that he wept because he loved Lazarus or he was moved by the sorrow of the family members. The word for Jesus weeping is dakruo while the word for Mary and the Jewish people weeping is klaio. These were not tears of sorrow but of anger.
  • As he made his way to the tomb, they continued to doubt him and verse 38 says, “Jesus, again groaning in Himself…” Same word as verse 33. Why? Because he was surrounded by those who were deaf to him.
  • When Jesus commanded them to move the stone, Martha objected in 39 “…Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Now the sheep who was listening to his voice is not listening either. Listen to Jesus’ response: 40 “…Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 “…And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Then he cried with a loud voice and the irony of ironies, the living people couldn’t hear the voice of Jesus but the dead guy heard it and came back to life.

Let me draw some applications:

  • Power over life and death belongs to Jesus.
  • His sheep hear his voice and follow him.
  • If you are a sheep and you cannot hear his voice, doubt has come in your life.
  • God takes doubts very seriously.
  • Once you belong to him, he will never let you go.
  • If you’ve never heard his voice, you don’t belong to him.
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