Prayer: Doctrine by Dr. Abidan Shah

Prayer Doctrine.jpg

PRAYER – DOCTRINE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Kids have some very interesting prayers! I found a few online:

  • Dear God, If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set. Raphael
  • Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. Larry
  • Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy. Joyce
  • Dear God, Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. Peter
  • God, I would like to live 900 years like the guy in the Bible. Love, Chris.
  • Dear God, I want to be just like my Daddy when I get big but not with so much hair all over. Sam

Unlike kids, who pray with a childlike faith and innocence, adults have a complex and sometimes even an unbelieving attitude towards prayer. Today we begin a 2-part series on prayer: first, we will focus on doctrine, and then, on practice. Here’s the main point of the first message on the doctrine of prayer: Our prayers reflect our understanding of God’s providence. In other words, our understanding of how much God is in control and how much free will we have will directly impact how and how much we pray.

1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Background: The Greek word for confidence is “parresia,” which can be translated as openness, confidence, boldness, and frankness. This is the kind of spirit we should have when we come to God in prayer.

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home with a pastor for my dad. We were not a perfect family, but we were a praying family. From an early age, I remember watching my mom, my dad, and my grandma pray. In church, I remember listening to adults pray, just like we do here. We even had home prayer meetings twice a week. We had 2 different language services (still do) and we would meet at different people’s homes each week to pray; Wednesday evening was people of the Hindi language service and Thursday would be of the English language service. As a little boy, I remember praying all the time—for a baby sister, for a new bike, for new shoes, for good grades in school, for being able to win a race with the other boys. I believed in prayer. But then, it happened. When, I can’t pinpoint the time, but I began to become more “realistic” and “grownup” about what I asked in my prayers. I began to lose the childlike faith and innocence in my prayers. I still prayed, but it wasn’t the same. I believe I have just described the prayer life of most of you here.

Why do we experience such a shift in our prayer life? Short answer: We grow up and face real life. We go through suffering and loss. Our hopes get dashed. Our prayers remain unanswered. We even come face-to-face with evil. Now, there is a change in our view of God and our prayers. It’s like the child who has a toy doctor kit and one day he gets a little cut. Instead of using the instruments (thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure kit) in the box, mom and dad take him/her to a real doctor or nurse who have real instruments. That’s when the child realizes that the instruments are simply toys. They are just pretend. Now, the child does play with the kit but it’s only pretend.

Long answer: Real life jars our view of God’s providence, and, with that, our prayers change as well. Let’s begin with defining the word “Providence.” For starters, that word is not found in the Bible but the concept is everywhere. Basically, it is the answer to how much is God in control of the world he has created and how much can we influence him. When we begin to seriously deal with the matter of God’s providence, a lot of complex and deep questions rise up. I don’t have time to deal with all of them here. There are some wonderful books out there like “Providence and Prayer” by Terrance Tiessen. Here, I just want to bring out a few of the major ones (they are interconnected): Is God timeless or is he bound by time just as we are? Because if he is in the same boat as we are, then, how can he really be prepared for what is coming around the corner? Does God know the future? How much does he know? If he does know the future, why doesn’t he do something about bad things? Does God allow evil to exist? Is he helpless to combat evil? Is he allowing evil to bring about something good? How about when it brings a lot of pain? Do I have any free will? Can people interfere with the plan of God? Does God change his mind? Bottom line: Does prayer change things?

If such questions about God’s providence are not answered, our prayer life will suffer.

Here’s how the proper view of the providence of God can help our prayer life:

  1. God’s providential control is comprehensive, detailed, capable, loving, and best.

There is much about the providence of God in creation in the Book of Psalms and Job. But, here is a classic passage from Matthew 6     26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 10     29 “…And not one of them (sparrows) falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Miracles are also part of his equation, but they are rare.When they don’t happen, we have to trust his perfect plan.

  1. People act freely within God’s overall will.

The best way to understand that is to imagine a road trip growing up. Mom and dad will get to the destination but it’s up to us as to how we will enjoy the trip. When it comes to humans, his sovereign will is always done, even if his moral will may be rejected. God’s purpose was to bring the people into the Promised Land. This was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah one day. Nonetheless, they all had a choice in how they would live in the land.Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Even evil has been allowed to exist temporarily but the boundary is set, as in Job. In his divine wisdom and care, he allows it. Through his foreknowledge, God already knows what we or evil will do, but everything is always within his reach and control. Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

  1. God works in us to bring us in partnership with his will and he uses prayers as a major means.

This happens through scripture, prayer, (personal and corporate) and fellowship with other believers. 1 John 5     14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Moses prayed for God’s people and miracles happened. The early church prayed and circumstances changed. Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Jesus wanted his disciples to participate in prayer. John 16      23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This applies to our personal lives as well because we are connected to his comprehensive plan. James 4:2 “…Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” Can we change the mind of God? In his perfect wisdom and plan, he has even allowed for that. His overall plan is always intact, but it does impact the immediate plan of God.

  1. Providence, Prayer, and everything else are ultimately connected to our salvation through Jesus Christ.

In every petition, we should ask – “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ fit in?” Don’t ask for a Ferrari to get to church on time! Romans 8     26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Invitation: What do you believe about prayer? Does God answer? Can he answer? Have you prayed to invite Jesus into your life to be your Savior and King?

Adopted Father by Dr. Abidan Shah

Adopted Father

ADOPTED FATHER by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  When Nicole and I first met, she told me that if we were going to keep dating that I had to meet her father. A few weeks after, she informed me that her dad was coming to college to have lunch with her and that she really wanted me to meet him. Well, I did go by the cafeteria and peeked through the window and saw this rather big and tall man sitting next to Nicole. I chickened out. Later that day, she asked me why I hadn’t shown up. I gave some lame excuse. Then, with a far more serious tone she told me that if we were going to go further that I had to meet her father. Long story short, I met him, and with just one handshake, I knew that this man loved me even though he had never met me. I had a wonderful father growing up and still do, but without the influence of Jerry Shedd, I wouldn’t be here today. He became my adopted father. He demonstrated what God does in our lives when we get saved—he adopts us into his family through Jesus Christ. Main point: Adoption is that process where after God declares us righteous through Jesus Christ that he welcomes us into his family as his sons and daughters. He lays down his gavel as our judge and comes around to embrace us as our adopted father. Now, he wants us to go out and do the same to those who need an adopted father. That’s the title of our message on this Father’s Day Weekend.

1 Corinthians 4     14 “I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do nothave many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

A major benefit of our salvation through Jesus Christ is the gift of adoption into God’s family. If there’s one writer in the Bible who understood the importance of the doctrine of adoption (huiothesia), it was the apostle Paul. 3 things he brings out about it:

  1. Adoption was no afterthought doctrine. Listen to Ephesians 1  4 “just as He (God) chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” In other words, before God made the heavens and the earth, he chose to adopt us as sons and daughters. He was not satisfied in just making us pardoned sinners or reconciled friends; he wanted us to be family.
  2. Adoption was not free. It cost God something. Galatians 4 4 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (and daughters).” For Peter and John, adoption came through rebirth (being born again); but, for Paul, it came through a change in status, our justification after being redeemed from under the law.
  3. Adoption brought tremendous benefits. Galatians 4 6 “And because you are sons (and daughters), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
  4. Adoption has the promise of more benefits to come. Romans 8:23 “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

Adoption brings great assurance to us as believers that we are not just pardoned sinners or reconciled friends; we are family, and nothing and no one can separate us.

Question:  How do you see yourself in your relationship with God? Is he your judge, your boss, or is he your father?

One more thing: Adoption also brings a new sense of responsibility towards others. Listen again to Paul’s words in I Corinthians 4     15 “…for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.”

Background:  Acts 16:1 tells us that Timothy was “the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.” The way Luke phrases that statement, Timothy’s father never converted to Judaism. Intermarriage between Jewish people and Gentiles was not as problematic as long as the Gentile person converted to Judaism. The requirements for conversion were quite high. If there was no conversion, it was strictly prohibited. You can imagine what Timothy must have endured. Probably, his mother’s people did not accept him because his father was Greek and his father’s side did not accept him because his mother was Jewish. Keep in mind that Timothy did have a father but society and circumstances must have made that role very difficult. Then, it was probably on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) that Timothy’s grandmother, mother, and Timothy himself got saved—2 Timothy 1:5 “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” Paul doesn’t mention Timothy’s father which may suggest that he never got saved and maybe even cut off all relations with Timothy and his mother. Paul must have felt compassion towards Timothy and decided to take on the role of an adopted father in his life. Repeatedly, Paul referred to Timothy as his son—1 Timothy 1:18 “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy”; 2 Timothy 2:1 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul was protective over him, telling him in 1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” He encouraged him in 1 Timothy 6:12 to “Fight the good fight of faith…” He even warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:2-5 to avoid those who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal…” Paul’s understanding of the doctrine of adoption motivated him to adopt Timothy as his beloved and faithful son in the Lord.

By the way, the position of adopted father is nothing new. Repeatedly, we find that relationship in the Bible, even if the title is not used:

  1. Abraham adopted Lot after his father Haran died and took him along to the Promised Land. This cost him dearly because he had to rescue him and then had to give into Lot’s demand for the more fertile plain of Jordan. Ultimately, he even bargained with God for Lot and his family when God came down to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
  2. Jethro adopted Moses when he fled from Pharaoh and came to Midian. Exodus 2 21 Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. Later, he even helped Moses divide up the work of judging the people of Israel.
  3. Moses adopted Joshua and groomed him to be the next leader of God’s people.
  4. Eli adopted Samuel and taught him how to discern the voice of God. He knew that the sun was setting on his ministry and his own sons were unworthy of the task. Instead of being jealous, he groomed Samuel in his task.
  5. Samuel adopted Saul to groom him to be the next king of Israel. Unfortunately, he was too mule headed to get it.
  6. Samuel adopted David and he did everything that Saul failed to do.
  7. Elijah adopted Elisha. Elisha expressly refers to Elijah as “father” in 2 Kings 2 9“…Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” 10 So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” 11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more…13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him…”
  8. Joseph adopted Jesus after the angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. He was willing to sacrifice his reputation and comforts in order to adopt Jesus as his son.

If only more men and women will see younger men and women as sons and daughters in the faith! Once we understand the doctrine of adoption in our lives, we have a responsibility to see others who are younger in the faith as God sees us. You don’t have to become overbearing, but you can come alongside respectfully, wisely, and lovingly guide a younger person or a younger believer in their faith journey. Unfortunately, I have heard many times when an older person discouraged a younger person.

Personal Example: When my own father became a Christian, his biological father disowned him and God sent an American missionary by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander to be his adopted father. He was instrumental in sending him to seminary and became a mentor to him in life and ministry. My father was so impacted by Dr. Schelander that he named his firstborn after him. Dr. Schelander even touched my life as he was the only grandfather I ever knew.

Although, I am focusing only adopted fathers, women have also played the role of adopted mothers (Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses, Naomi adopted Ruth).

Invitation: Have you been the father you were called to be? Have you been grateful to the father (biological or adopted) that God has placed in your life? Is God calling you to be an adopted father to someone who doesn’t have one? Is God your Heavenly Father? Through Christ you can become a child of God.

John 1     12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Produce by Pastor Abidan Shah

Produce

PRODUCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  As many of you know, this was a very busy week for me. I had to give the oral defense for my PhD dissertation. It’s an exam that you have to take before you can officially get your doctorate. I had passed my dissertation already but I was very nervous about this exam because it determines whether or not you really know your stuff and deserve the title of “doctor.” I was so nervous that I asked David to drive me to Wake Forest. By the way, that morning, the entire staff and their families showed up at the house to pray with me. It really meant a lot to me! After 2 hours of sitting in the hot seat answering questions, I was told that I had passed the exam. Needless to say, I was very happy and relieved. Listen carefully:Christian life doesn’t end at “I’m saved and when I die, I’m going to heaven.” If you’re saved, you’re facing an exam where God the examiner is coming around to see whether or not you are producing fruits worthy of repentance. Fruit bearing is the natural outflow of salvation. By the way, these fruits are not what you might think. They are acts of mercy. And, one more thing, your clock is ticking. Are you producing fruits worthy of repentance? That’s the title of our message today—PRODUCE—in our series on the parables of Jesus.

Luke 13      6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are. Are you a fig tree that is bearing fruit or one that is barren? Do you know that your clock is ticking? You may have 3 years left or you may have 3 hours left. Are you saved? Are you bearing fruit?

Background: Compared to the parables of the Wheat and the Tares, the Prodigal Son, or the Good Samaritan, today’s parable of the barren fig tree is not as popular. But, it is a very important parable. It is a continuation of last week’s message on the parable of the Good Samaritan. In fact, this parable was given on the same journey that Jesus embarked on in Luke 9:51. If you remember last weekend’s message, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to be ascended and he started making his way towards Jerusalem. As he is making this one-way trip, he sends his disciples out into the fields that are white unto harvest and they return with joy saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (Luke 10:17) In other words, lives are being transformed and demonic strongholds are being broken. Jesus praises God and blesses his disciples because they are participating in building God’s kingdom and they are seeing and hearing the things of eternal life. Then, a certain lawyer wanting to get in on the action tests him saying, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him what is in the law. He replies, “Love God and Love Neighbor.” Jesus tells him to go do that. Then seeking to justify himself, he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. The message of the parable is “Don’t ask ‘who is my neighbor?’ but instead ask, ‘who needs a neighbor?’” If you remember from last week—“A True Neighbor is someone who shows Mercy. Mercy is the distinguishing mark of those who have Eternal Life. If you want to know whether or not you have Eternal Life, ask yourself ‘Are you a Good Neighbor?’” Don’t just have pity, put some money behind it.

Application: By the way, I am so encouraged to see and hear the testimonies from so many of you of how you have used your $100 cross! Wow! Many of you are still praying for God to send the right person in your path who needs your gift. That’s wonderful. I am glad to hear that you are getting it! It’s not enough just to have pity. You have to put some money behind it. Unfortunately, not everyone will get it.

Not everyone got it when Jesus told the people to show mercy and put some money behind it. Luke 11    53 “And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, 54 lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.” In other words, they missed his message of mercy completely! Instead, they were trying to cross-examine him! Listen to Jesus’ warning to them— Luke 12    40 “…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect… 42 “…Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to givethem their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45 But if that servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 “…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required…56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” In other words, Jesus was saying “I’m teaching you the importance of Mercy and you are trying to cross-examine me? What you don’t realize is that I’m the Examiner and your exam has begun!”

Human beings are masters of deflection. We call that “changing the subject.” Listen toLuke 13     1 “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” We don’t have any historical record outside of the Bible regarding this incident but this is very much like Pilate. He was a very cruel man. In fact, once he was even ordered back to Rome to stand trial for a similar act that he did against the Samaritans. What was the reason for this discussion? Who knows! We love discussing current affairs. We love making small talk. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all otherGalileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Jesus gave them another useless small talk to bring them back to his main point.

Application: Do you like to deflect what the Holy Spirit is telling you? Do you like to make small talk? Do you like to joke about the message or discuss something useless to ease the pressure of conviction? God knows your heart.

At this point, Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree. Listen again, Luke 13    6 “…A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. By the way, the fig tree was a symbol for Israel but it still applies to all of us. 7Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ Here’s where people make a big mistake—they think that fruits worthy of repentance are stop sinning, start going to church, don’t do drugs, don’t cheat, don’t lie, etc. Like the adage – “I don’t drink. I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls who do.” That may be true but this is not what’s implied here. To find its true meaning, we have to back up to Luke 3where John the Baptist used the same imagery—7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Now listen very carefully—10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” Fruits worthy of repentance are acts of mercy!

Application: Are you a merciful person?

Let’s go back to the parable one more time—7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Invitation: You are living on borrowed time. Will you show mercy and put money behind it? Mercy is not the requirement for salvation. It is the verification of salvation. Have you received God’s Mercy through the death of Jesus on the cross? Are you saved?

The Plan by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE PLAN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Game Plan.Meal Plan. Health Plan. Floor Plan. Master Plan. What’s the plan? Man with a plan. Let’s go to plan B. There is no plan B. We need to plan ahead. It’s amazing how much we use that word “plan” in our daily lives. But, there is a plan that far exceeds any plan we may have and that is “The Gospel Plan” or “The Plan of Salvation.” Our plans may fail. Our plans may get disrupted. Our plans may have to be revised. But, God’s Gospel Plan does not fail, will not get disrupted, and it’s not open to revision. The Plan of Salvation is the only hope for every man, woman, boy, or girl. Today it can happen for you and change your life forever. (Circle 3 key words in our passage below.) 

Mark 1     14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent,and believein the gospel.”16And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17Then Jesus said to them, “FollowMe, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18They immediately left their nets and followed Him. 19When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the sonof Zebedee, and John his brother, who alsowerein the boat mending their nets. 20And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

Question:Which plan are you trusting in for your salvation? Your Plan? The Church Plan? The Denomination Plan? The wrong plan of salvation will cost you your soul. Are you truly saved? Repent, Believe, and Follow Jesus Christ.

Context: As many of you know, we’re about to start a new series on the parables of Jesus. Today’s message is to lay the foundation for those messages coming up. But, before we start looking at the Gospel Plan or the Plan of Salvation, let me clarify an important point: As we examine the passage we just read, it’ll become evident to you how some people have the wrong plan of salvation. They have the wrong elements or they are missing some elements. This should not to make us feel superior to them but it should motivate us to reach out to them in love and humility. But, let me clarify something – don’t think that everyone has the wrong plan of salvation if they don’t use the exact words and phrases like we do or understand every detail as we do. Let me give you an example:Imagine if you announced to your family that you are all going to Disney World. Dad, what’s going through your mind? Do I have enough vacation? If driving, do I need to get the oil changed? If flying, what flights are available? Mom, what’s on your mind? I need to get some clothes for the kids. Are we going to hop parks? How much food should I pack? If working, who can I get to cover my shift? What is little Johnny thinking? I’m definitely taking Buzz Lightyear with me. What is little Susie thinking? I’m wearing my Princess Jasmine T-shirt. Dad and Mom, are you going to expect Johnny and Susie to understand how your vacation days work and how many frequent flyer miles you can use before you can take them to Disney World? Of course not. So also, when it comes to salvation, people may not use the same words or understand on the same level as you but the main elements are there. But, let me take that illustration a little further. What if on the day you’re about to leave, little Johnny gets in his little ride on truck and says “I’m going to Disney World!” What do you do? “That’s great buddy but you have to get in my truck.” What if he says, “No, I’m going in my truck!” Now you have a problem. So also, the main elements of the Gospel Plan are non-negotiable, doesn’t matter who you are and how sincere you are.

The Gospel Plan or the Plan of Salvation has 2 parts:

1. DECLARATION:

Mark 1     14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee…”

Before we can gaze at Jesus, we have to take a quick glance at John the Baptist.He symbolized the fulfillmentof the prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus. Listen carefully: The Gospel Plan did not drop out of the sky 2000 years ago. It was repeatedly promised throughout the Old Testament. Something else: John the Baptist is described as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The wilderness represented hope and new beginnings. Just like God met Israel in the wilderness and made them his people, God was about to make a new people through his Son, Jesus.

14 “…Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 

Many times, we ignore the kingdom aspectin the gospel. The gospels record over 100 times where Jesus talked about the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven.” What is this kingdom?It was not some earthly political kingdom or some imaginary fairy kingdom. This was an internal spiritual kingdom. Luke 17    20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” It is visible only to the those who have a spiritual birth. John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Back to Mark 1:15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”

What time is being fulfilled? The time for Jesus Christ, the Messiah, God’s Anointed Kingto take his rightful throne.His kingdom will not be inaugurated through some royal decree or some earthly battle or takeover. His coronation will come by way of the cross. As prophesied in the Scriptures, Jesus died on the crossfor the sins of the whole world. He was buriedbut roseagainon the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by manyListen to Paul’s definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15     1Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once…” And on and on.

Application:Do you understand the declaration of the gospel? Do you believe that God’s spiritual kingdom has come? Do you believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise? Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son, the Anointed King, who died for your sins, was buried but rose again, and was seen by many?

2. DECISION:

15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent,and believein the gospel.”

  • REPENT– The Greek word is “metanoia,” which has the core idea of a “change of mind” or a “change of thinking.” There are 2 common errors here:Some think that it means sorrow or regret. This may have come in through the Roman Catholic translation of “penance” and “penitence” but it’s incorrect. There may be some tears involved in repentance but crying, feeling sorry, or feeling ashamed do not guarantee salvation. Neither does it mean to “turn and return.” People turn, return, and turn back all the time. The key here is that there’s a change of mind and thinking regarding Sin, Self, and Savior. Prior to repentance, sin was okay but now you hate sin. Prior to repentance, you were at the center of your life but now God is at the center. Prior to repentance, you didn’t think you needed a Savior but now you want a Savior who can save you. Have you truly repented?
  • BELIEVE– The Greek word is the verb “pisteuein” or the noun “pistis,” which is much more than just our common belief or believe like “I believe it’s going to rain today.” It has the idea of “trust” like trusting in a life jacket or a safety harness. It is total confidence that Jesus can remove the guilt of sin and give you eternal life.Listen to John 1:12“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believein His name.” John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believesin Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”John 3:36“He who believesin the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believethe Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 8:24“if you do not believethat I amHe,you will die in your sins.” Are you truly trusting in Jesus?
  • FOLLOW– This is the major missing ingredient in today’s gospel presentations. Back to Mark 1    16And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. (This is not the first time that Jesus encountered them. John the Baptist had already introduced them to Jesus. Also, in Luke 5, Jesus did the miracle of many fishes for Peter and he proclaimed, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” The point is that they did believe in Jesus but they were not completely following him.)17Then Jesus said to them, “FollowMe, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Same thing happened with James and John. Here’s the point: The call to follow is included in the gospel. If you claim that Jesus is yourKing, you have to follow him, no matter the cost. You may struggle at times but if the desire to follow is not there, there is no true salvation. Matthew 10:38“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”“Followship does not determine salvation but true salvation will initiate followship.”

Application:Do you understand the decision of the gospel? Has there been a change of mind? Are you fully trusting in Christ for your sins? Are you willing to follow him no matter the cost? Come today. The Holy Spirit is here to help you.

Sustenance by Pastor Abidan Shah

SUSTENANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: One of my favorite commercials on TV is the Snickers ad. They show people acting like celebrities when they are hungry and the tagline is “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” That’s so true. We feel sluggish and cranky, anxious and nauseous, when we’re hungry. So also, you’re not you when you are spirituallyhungry. Just as we need physical food to give us physical sustenance, we also need spiritual food to give us spiritual sustenance. Spiritual food is feeding upon Christ and it is not optional but essential for the Christian life.We will be taking part in the Lord’s Table today and this message is to remind us of the importance of daily feeding on Christ.

John 6     53Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

Question: How is your spiritual nutrition coming? Are you daily feeding upon Christ and his word? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Is he your king?

Context: Typically, when we observe the Lord’s Supper or the Communion (in some traditions known as the Eucharist or the Holy Sacrament or even the Mass), we turn to either the end of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:26-28Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:19-20) where the last hours of Jesus with his disciples are narrated or to I Corinthians 11:23-25 where Paul gives instructions on how to observe the Lord’s Table. In these passages we encounter Jesus having his final meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. During this meal, Jesus gave a very familiar tradition, the Passover Meal, a whole new meaning. Sometime back I preached a message on this subject from I Corinthians 11 in which I explained how the bread was the unleavened Passover Bread that Jesus relabeled as his own body that would be broken for them. Then, there were 4 cups at the Passover Meal and Jesus rebaled the third cup, the Cup of Blessing, as the Cup of the New Covenant in his blood. I’m not sure how much the disciples understood what Jesus meant at the time but they obediently ate the bread and drank from the cup that he passed to them. You can only imagine how difficult this must have been for the disciples! Imagine if I were to show up at your Thanksgiving Meal and pick up a turkey leg and say, “this is me!” Their old customs and biblical traditions were radically altered by their Master but by faith they obeyed him and received it. Only later on, they understood the true meaning of what Jesus meant.

Why did Jesus do this replacement of the Unleavened Bread with his body and the Cup of the Blessing with his blood at the Last Supper? Jesus was telling his disciples that by eating the bread and drinking the cup they were going to share with him in his substitutionary existence. In other words, they were now going to be connected with him in his suffering and death. This does not mean that they were physically going to suffer, bleed, and die along with him. They were going to be spiritually connected with him as he would suffer, bleed, and die for them. You may think – “Man, this spiritual connection stuff must have been too deep for them!” Not really. This was not a problem for the Jewish people. This is how they saw the Passover Meal through the ages. When a Jewish person participated in the Passover Meal, he/she had to view himself/herself as if he/she was personally leaving Egypt on the night when the final plague was struck. They had to visualize themselves as if they were there on that night, even if that was a hundred, thousand, or several thousand years later. They had to sense the fear and by faith receive the Meal. The difficult part was that Jesus told them that he was the bread and he was the Passover Lamb. He wanted the disciples to understand their spiritual connection with him as he suffered, bled, died, and was buried. This is the heart of the Christian life.Listen to what Paul says in Colossians 3:3“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

By the way, this spiritual connection was not just meant for the first disciples but for all disciples through the ages, including you and me.Listen to what Paul told the members of the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11     23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same mannerHealsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drinkit,in remembrance of Me.” By the way, this is also true about baptism. While Communion is our corporate connection with Jesus, baptism is our individual connection with Jesus. Listen to Romans 6      3Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Listen carefully: There is no other religion like Christianity where the founder is connected beyond time to every person who has received him and every person who has received him is connected to each other. This changes the way I treat saved and lost people. With both, I have to remember that Christ is in me.

I know some of ya’ll are thinking – “I don’t know about all this connection stuff.” Let’s go back to the passage we read at the opening of this message. John 6:53Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Why did Jesus say that?Back up to verse 52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”If that wasn’t clear enough, he said it again in verses54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last dayJesus will not leave any part of him behind. We’re not God and will never be but we are part of the family of God.55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” We’re connected! 57As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. What’s their reaction to all this?60Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Whatthen if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, andtheyare life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.Judas may not have been the only one. 66From thattimemany of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

WOW! Which group do you belong to? Are you feeding daily on Jesus and his words? Are you saved? Are you connected with him and others who are in Christ? Are you seeking to bring others to be connected with Christ?

Counting the Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COUNTING THE COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

COUNTING THE COSTIntroduction: Have you ever heard the expression “counting the cost?” It means to evaluate whether or not something is worth doing. Last Monday I had to “count the cost” when we went with our Converge College and Career Group to a water park. They have this ride there called the “Daredevil Drop.” It’s a 76-foot foot tall water slide. I saw it as Nicole and I were going down the “Lazy River.” Something inside me said, “Won’t that be cool if you could do that and let Nicole video it! Imagine how much fun that would be! Imagine how many likes you could get on Facebook and Instagram! Imagine how many more people would come to Clearview just to see the Daredevil preacher!” So, we went and stood at the base and I watched people slide down, even kids. I counted the cost and it wasn’t worth it! I chickened out. I couldn’t give up my fear. So also, when it comes to our salvation, we have to count the cost. We have to ask ourselves, “What all am I willing to give up in order to be saved?” Please don’t misunderstand. Giving up doesn’t save us. Salvation from start to finish is the work of God. It’s only by grace through faith in the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb that we are saved. But, being willing to give up everything reveals whether or not we understand the gospel. It demonstrates how sincere and how committed we are to follow Christ our king.

 Mark 10   17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” . . . 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” . . . 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

Question: Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Are you willing to give up all in order to follow Christ? What is keeping you from following Christ? Are you saved?

Context: This series on the gospel has been impactful on so many levels. It has opened our eyes to the true meaning of the gospel. It has confronted our complacency and tolerance for sin in our lives. It has challenged us to live out the faith that we claim to have. And, more than anything, it has demanded from us unconditional allegiance to our Savior and King Jesus. In this message, we’re going to meet a young man who came to Jesus with all the right intentions but he walked away from eternal life because he was unwilling to give up everything he had. 3 things that we will learn from this passage:

I. JESUS DID NOT IMMEDIATELY LEAD HIM IN THE SINNER’S PRAYER.

Mark 10    17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”18So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No oneisgood but One, that is,God.”

Did you notice that Jesus did not immediately lead him in the Sinner’s Prayer? He was not ready for it. He was under conviction but he was not ready to make a commitment to Christ. For starters, he had a wrong understanding of Jesus. Jesus was much more than just a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh, the Promised One, who had come to give his life for our sins. There are people who have prayed a prayer but never got saved because they didn’t know who they were praying to or what they were praying for.

By the way, the problem is not with the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Some people don’t like that term. I had a person say to me, “There is no Sinner’s Prayer in the Bible.” I asked him if he knew that the word “Trinity” is never found in the Bible and Jesus never used the word “grace” in the gospels. The real issue is what are we saying in the Sinner’s Prayer and do we mean it.If someone thinks that just repeating a prayer is going to save them, then they are greatly mistaken. But, if someone truly repents and acknowledges that Christ is the only way to salvation, then the next step is to pray to God. What does it say in Romans 10  9“that 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.” Who do you confess to? Ultimately, to God. So, you have to talk to God and tell him that you believe. What is talking to God? Prayer. What happens when you truly pray and confess? Romans 10:13For“whoever calls on the name of the LORDshall be saved.”

Bottom Line: Jesus did not immediately lead the young man in some rote prayer. He challenged his understanding of the gospel. He challenged his understanding of himself. Jesus was much more than a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh.

Application:How were you saved? Was it just a rote mechanical prayer or did you truly understand the gospel that Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again to save us from our sins? Have you ever prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King?

II. JESUS CLEARLY LAID OUT THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP.  

 19You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,’ “Do not murder,’ “Do not steal,’ “Do not bear false witness,’ “Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”20And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

At first glance, it seems that Jesus was telling this young man that by keeping the Ten Commandments, he could have eternal life! Was Jesus calling him to works salvation? Absolutely not. Paul declares very clearly in Galatians 2:21“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousnesscomesthrough the law, then Christ died in vain.”So, why did Jesus say this? Some have argued that Jesus was trying to get the young man to see the hopelessness and emptiness of keeping the Law. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the context that tells us that Jesus or the young man acknowledged that. Others have argued that Jesus was trying to get him to reject his works righteousness first. Unfortunately, Jesus did just the opposite. 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” That’s not taking away “works righteousness,” that’s adding more “works righteousness!”

Why did Jesus bring up the 10 commandments and then tell him to sell everything and take up his cross and follow him? This young man knew that eternal life was not in keeping the Law but he was looking for an eternal life that was cheap and easy. He wanted to have the stamp of salvation and still carry on his old lifestyle. He wanted to get his certificate of the kingdom and still not obey the king. Jesus knew his heart and what he was saying to him was that “Yes, I will pay for your salvation. It’s free to you but following me will never be cheap and easy. There will be a cost to discipleship.”

Listen carefully:It cost Jesus his life to buy your pardon. If you follow him, it may cost you your life as well.” Don’t misunderstand: You don’t have to go sell everything and give to the poor before you can be saved but you be better be if your king tells you too.

Application:Have you counted the cost of discipleship? What are you willing to give up for your Savior and your King?

III. JESUS REVEALED THE SECRET TO FOLLOWING HIM. 

Mark 10   22But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

By the way, have you noticed that 3 different expressions were used for salvation?

  • The young man asked,“what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
  • Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
  • The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?

This means that the account was not just for the rich young ruler but all of us.

Now, what was Jesus’ response to his disciples?  27“. . . With menit isimpossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”If only that young man had done what Peter did when Jesus found him, this account would have a different ending. Remember, Peter had not caught anything all night and Jesus told him to launch out into the deep and drop their nets. He obeyed and there were so many fish that the net was breaking. Then it says in Luke 5:8When Simon Peter sawit,he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”Then Jesus said to Peter, 10“. . . Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” It was the Holy Spirit who enabled Peter and the rest (Andrew, James, and John) to forsake all and follow Christ.

Invitation: The question is not “Are you ableto follow Christ but are you willingto follow Christ?” If you are willing, he will do the rest. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you willing?

Kingdom Here by Pastor Abidan Shah

KINGDOM HERE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonKingdom Here

Introduction:Since I’m preaching on the kingdom of God, I went looking for some king jokes and this is what I found. Caution: They’re really bad – When is a stick like a King? When it’s a ruler; What’s the diagnosis when a King has back problems? An aKING back; Why did the King put a bank machine in his castle? So, he could make Knightly deposits; Why did the King go to the dentist? To get his teeth crowned; What does the King do after he burps? He issues a royal pardon. Those are really bad! This morning we will see how the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus and that is not a laughing matter. In fact, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. It’s a false gospel. We’re in our new series on the true gospel and what it means. As we read our scripture today, pay careful attention to a certain phrase that’s being repeated.

Matthew 4:23“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 9:35“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 24:14“And thisgospel of the kingdomwill be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Mark 1   14“…Jesus came to Galilee, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, andthe kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Question: Did you catch the common phrase? “Gospel of the Kingdom.” For some reason we have dropped “of the kingdom” and retained only the “gospel.” As I mentioned earlier, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. Jesus is not just your Savior, he should also be your king. Is he your king? Does he call the shots in your life? Are you saved?

Context: A few weeks back, when we were in our series on discipleship, I preached a message on the importance of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus. I shared with you that more than a hundred times he mentioned it during his ministry. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king.Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. Unless we get this “kingdom” idea back into the gospel, discipleship will never happen. It will always be optional to obey God and follow him. So, 3 things that we need to understand about this kingdom gospel:

I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A SPIRITUAL AND INTERNAL CHANGE.

Background:  As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish people were very familiar with the concept of the kingdom of God/heaven. It was God’s sovereign rule over the whole world. They saw it as indirect and limited at the present time but they believed that one day in the future it would be direct and eternal. It will put an end to all wickedness and bring glory, justice, and righteousness to his people Israel. But, when Jesus began his ministry, he preached – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) This was very confusing and frustrating for them because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting and there was no physical evidence of the rule of God. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when this kingdom would come, he replied in Luke 17    20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have it as “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, it’s aready here. What did he mean by that? Several things:  One, he was referring to himself. The kingdom is where the king is and he the king is here. Second, he was telling them that this kingdom is not external but internal. They couldn’t see it but it was here. To explain this, Jesus often used parables – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13). His purpose in using parables was to conceal the meaning from those who opposed him and to reveal the meaning to those who believed in him. Bottom Line: The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It is not external and visible but internal and invisible which then manifests in the external and visible. Has there been an internal and invisible change in your life that now manifests itself in the external and visible?

II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS SUBMISSION TO KING JESUS.

Background:Unlike our gospels today, Jesus’s gospel demanded submission to him and his words as the requirement to enter into his kingdom:

  • Matthew 21:31“Assuredly, I say to you (chief priests and elders) that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Trusting in self-righteousness will not work.
  • Mark 9:47“if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Reluctance to let go of sin will not work.
  • Mark 10:25“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Trusting in earthly treasures will not work.
  • Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Giving lip service will not work.
  • Luke 9:62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hesitation to follow Jesus the King will not work.
  • Luke 18:17“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Stubbornness to obey Jesus the King will not work.
  • John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unwillingness to let God remake us will not work.

Don’t misunderstand:This does not mean that you have to be spotless before you can come to Jesus. If that were possible, you wouldn’t have to come to Jesus. What it does mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the king demands of you when you come to him. It may take years for you to be free from certain sins and struggles but the willingness is there from day one. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who helps you to become willing.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It demands total and complete surrender. Have you done that? You might say – “that’s so hard!” Here’s a question: “Are you willing to be made willing to surrender?”

III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF RESTORATION.

Background:Sometimes Christians find it confusing that Jesus talked so much about the kingdom in the gospels but the apostles writing the rest of the New Testament do not talk about the kingdom. Actually, they did but they used other terms and language.

Romans 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyoneisin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Galatians 6:15“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”

2 Peter 3:13“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a newearthin which righteousness dwells.”

Revelation 21    1“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Here’s the point: The Kingdom Gospel is a life-long journey of being set free from the bondage and damage of sin and restored to the glorious and gracious rule of God. The more you and I understand that, the more we submit to him, the more we become disciples, not less.

Are you willing to surrender to King Jesus? Are you willing to re-surrender to King Jesus?

First, Believe: Introduction by Pastor Abidan Shah

FIRST, BELIEVE (INTRODUCTION) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

First Believe IntroductionIntroduction: As you know, there is a big craze going on over comic book superheroes. Every year a new movie is coming out. We went to see one last week. What’s interesting is that many of them are prequels. A sequel is a movie that continues the main story. A prequel is a movie that goes back before the main story. That’s why kids say, “You’ve got to watch this movie first and then you’ll understand this movie.” This morning we’re starting a new series called “First, Believe.” It is a prequel to our series on discipleship. Here’s the theme of this series:  Before you can be a disciple, you have to get saved. You cannot be a disciple without getting saved. Getting saved begins your walk of discipleship. You cannot be saved if you don’t want to be a disciple. Discipleship doesn’t save you. It’s simply the evidence that you are truly saved. True gospel will initiate discipleship. The burden of proof is more on the church than on the individual.

Galatians 1    6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

Question: “True Gospel will initiate discipleship.” Is their discipleship in your life? What gospel have you believed? Do you know the true gospel? Are you saved? If “the burden of proof is more on the church than the individual,” how is the church doing?

Context:  I’ve mentioned this many time before but this is my twentieth year as pastor. I’ve also mentioned this many time before but this is my first and only church. The negative is that you are stuck with me and I’m stuck with you! The positive is that it has allowed me to get a panoramic view of the life of many Christians, their beginning, their middle, and, in some cases, their end. It has allowed me to do a lot of reflection on why some people grow as disciples and some don’t. It has taken years of study, prayer, and tears to come to the series that we’re starting today. I’ve already given you the theme of the series in the introduction but here’s the theme of today’s message: “FALSE GOSPEL WILL ONLY PRODUCE FALSE DISCIPLES WITH DIRE CONSEQUENCES.”We began by reading Paul’s opening remarks to the Galatians. It’s obvious that he is upset with them:

  • He begins by reprimanding them for forsaking the true gospel.6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”
  • He acknowledges the hand of the false teachers.7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
  • He pronounces a curse on the infiltrators.8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
  • He identifies Jesus Christ as the source of the true gospel. 10For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taughtit,butit camethrough the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

What’s the point of all this?  Very early on in the life of the church, people were becoming confused about the meaning of the gospel. To add to that, there were people going around corrupting the meaning of the gospel. This is a serious offense because the gospel saves us. False gospel is false assurance that we are saved.

Question: Can you define the gospel? This is very critical, even more so than having the right key to the safe. Eternity is too long to be wrong.

Before I tell you the true gospel, let me list for you 5 gospels that have been floating around for a long time with dire consequences (I am getting my information from Bill Hull who has written prodigiously on the subject of discipleship):

  1. The Forgiveness Only Gospel – It is the most popular gospel. It simply tells you how to get your sins forgiven and get your ticket into heaven. It is partly true and partly false. It is true because it includes the affirmation of certain critical facts about God, Jesus, Sin, Forgiveness, and Eternal Life. It is false because it fails to include certain critical facts about repentance, invitation to follow Jesus, and obedience to his word. It is easy to identify the “Forgiveness Only Gospel” people. Their Christian life revolves around sin management. I like to call them the “Carwash Christians.” Monday through Saturday, do whatever you want to but then Sunday you come and get washed up.
  2. The Liberal Left Gospel – The old left gospel of the early twentieth century tried to make Christianity relevant to the scientific age. It focused on dismissing the Genesis account of creation, rejecting the miracles in the Bible, and redefining the necessity and meaning of the atonement of Christ. Instead, it focused attention on transforming society through social justice. That’s why the leaders of such gospel churches would always show up in their long robes and their tippets and their cinctures anywhere they could make a statement about injustice. I wish more people who actually believed the gospel would have done this as well. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before these liberal left gospel churches had nothing but empty pews. These churches are still around. They come up with clever interpretations of the Bible that have nothing to do with the gospel. They love to hide in nice liturgical churches where the leaders don’t believe anything but they let the people do the rituals to soothe their souls.
  3. The Prosperity Gospel – Unfortunately, this is the fastest growing false gospel. It promises health and wealth to any who had the faith to believe. They teach that the miracles that happened in the Bible are still available today if you only had the faith. This is very misleading because I believe that God still heals in answer to prayers and that if we do things God’s way that there are blessings that follow. But, this gospel tends to manipulate God and what he has said in his word. Some of the leaders of this movement are usually looking to buy another plane while many of their listeners in third world country are still living in slums. They do a lot of damage to many of us who are trying to preach the truth.
  4. The Consumer Gospel – This gospel is quite popular in evangelical churches. It is focused on meeting your needs in fast and efficient and professional ways. I’m all for that but without the gospel, it’s no different than paying extra and flying first class instead of economy. Messages are designed to meet your immediate needs (nothing wrong with that) but not too much emphasis on sins and repentance. It’s a guilt free gospel that is designed to help you have a great day. People who have been to such churches have high expectations. They may believe the right overall doctrines but don’t try them too much. If their needs are not met, they will leave.
  5. The Religious Right Gospel – This is the opposite of the liberal left gospel. It has right beliefs. It stands on the right side of moral issues. It separates itself from the sinful corrupt world. Personally, I would agree with all of their convictions. Having said that, they are just as mean and hypocritical as the world they are in opposition to. What makes it worse is that they know enough Bible to justify their sinful behaviors. They are the “do as I say but not as I do” Christians.If I may add, such churches are full of legalism. As Bill Hull says, “there are a lot of dead people at the First Church of the Right because grace there is scarce, and life comes from grace.”

Question:  Which gospel do you belong to? The Forgiveness Only Gospel, The Liberal Left Gospel, The Prosperity Gospel, The Consumer Gospel, or The Religious Right Gospel.

What is the true gospel? I will unpack this in the weeks ahead:

First the Revelation – 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,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”

One response here – Repentance for our sins.

Now the Response – Romans 10    9“that 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.”

Two responses here – Believe in Him and Follow our Master.

Altogether, 3 responses – Repent, Believe, and Follow. The Holy Spirit helps you with all three of them. Have you done this? Are you doing this?

 

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? -2

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

whose in your family treeThis morning I’m preaching the second message in our miniseries titled “WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE?” This is still part of our ongoing series on the life of Christ from all four gospels. In this subseries we are looking at the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the first chapter of Matthew. Having a genealogy was not uncommon when it came to the biography of a famous person but what is odd are the names of 4 women of questionable character.

Matthew 1:1-6 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: 2   Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.

Overall Background: Matthew being a tax collector knew how to keep records. He was used to writing names of people and families. It was not an accident that he wrote four names of women in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Not illustrious women like Sarah, Rebecca, or Rachel but Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba – women who had an embarrassing past. Why did he do that? If you were here last week, you may remember that he had that because he wanted his readers to know that God did not choose just the best of the best to bring His Son into this world but also the undesirables. He wanted his readers to know that Jesus was the Savior of the decent people as well as the outcast. He wanted his readers to know the grace of God even in lineage of Jesus.

Application: This morning, how do you see yourself? Do you think that God is only seeking the brightest and the best or does He also work with those who are weak and prone to failures? Do you think that God plays favorites or do you believe that He loves everyone? Do you think that Jesus died only for the good boys and girls or do you know that if you were the only one in the world, He would have still given His life for you?

This morning we will see through the life of Rahab that God doesn’t play favorites but He does show His favor on those who are willing to humble themselves before Him.

I. RAHAB THE PROSTITUTE

The first time we meet Rahab is in Joshua 2:1 Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.

Background: Rahab was a citizen of Jericho. Before we try to understand Rahab, we need to understand Jericho a little bit. It was a prominent city for several reasons:

  • First, it was a border city on the west side of the Jordan River. The people of Israel led by Joshua had made it to the east side of the Jordan River. It was situated between east and west and north and south. If you win here, the word would travel to the east and the west and north and south that you are going to win.

Jericho

Jericho1

Jericho2

Jericho Tower

  • Second, it was an oasis – not because of the Jordan River but because of a perennial spring that was there for thousands of years. All to the east was an arid desert but Jericho was the picture of lush fertile vegetation. It was known as “the city of palm trees.” It was also symbolic of the transition of God’s people from being desert wanderers to being inhabitants in a land flowing with milk and honey.
  • Third, it was a well-guarded city. Archaeologists have debated over Jericho for a long time but one thing that is clear is that it had Gene Fackler - Jericho wallsmassive defenses. All around the city was a mud embankment. This was stabilized by a 15 feet high stone wall. On top of that was a mud brick wall about 6 feet thick and about 18 feet high. Then, a second wall further in on the top of the embankment. It had double protection. Later on in chapter 6 we read how God commanded Joshua that the only way to bring down the wall was for them to march around the city with the ark of the covenant for 6 days and on the 7th day they had to march around it 7 times. Only then will the walls come down. By the way, Rahab lived on the wall of this city. Joshua 2:15 says, “Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall.”

Not only was Rahab a citizen of such a prominent city but she was also a prominent woman. When the word got out that some foreigners had come to Rahab’s brothel, the king could have just ransacked her house but he didn’t. Instead, Joshua 2:3 So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.” She’s more like Madam Rahab than some no name prostitute from the street corner.

Why did I go into all this? Rahab – a citizen of a prominent city, a prominent woman, someone whom even the king feared – must have been quite a woman. I can picture her as someone who was proud, brash, and arrogant. She had made it through the school of hard knocks. Her favorite line was probably – “You don’t know what I’ve been through.” She didn’t owe anybody anything. She had the dirty little secret on every prominent man in the city.

There are 2 kinds of people when it comes to sin – those who are ashamed of it and those who are proud of it.

Application: Has your past brought pride in your life? Sometimes when people mess up, they become proud of their messes. “I do that. So what?” “Are you better than me?” “Nobody was there to help me and ain’t nobody gonna teach me how I can or can’t live my life.” James 4:6 “…God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” You cannot receive God’s grace until you humble yourself.

II. RAHAB THE PROSELYTE

The soldiers came looking for the two spies but Rahab had hidden them on the rooftop under stalks of flax. But listen to what happens after the soldiers left – 8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof,

Now listen very carefully – what we are about to read is the Old Testament sinner’s prayer.

9 and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.

Rahab from The Bible Series#1. She admits that that her gods and the gods of her people cannot give her courage against the God of Israel. In other words, she admits that she is a sinner.

10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.

#2. She acknowledges that there’s only one true God and He is the God of the people of Israel. In other words, she admits that salvation is of the Jews.

11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

#3. She confesses her faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, she asks the God of Israel to be her Savior.

Again, this is the Old Testament sinner’s prayer.

Application: Have you ever prayed to be saved? Romans 10:9-10 9 that 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. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Maybe someone here truly believes that they are saved. Do you know when you got saved? If not, choose today as your day.

III. RAHAB THE PEACE MAKER

Rahab could have said – “Good now that we’ve got that settled! Can I just come with you guys? Or, just remember me when you come against our city. I’ll shore appreciate it!”

But listen to her – 12 Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, 13 and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”

I’m just using a little bit of sanctified imagination – more than likely her father, mother, brothers, and sisters did not care much for her. After all, she was a prostitute. She was an embarrassment. She probably was not welcome to family reunions and birthdays and any celebrations. She was an outcast. As far as her family was concerned, she was as good as dead. But, that didn’t matter now. She was saved. She was a different person. Something happens when people truly get saved. They want to tell others about Jesus, starting with friends and family. By the way, that’s not very easy because they know all your faults and weaknesses. 2 Corinthians 5:18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

So the men tell her “Alright, only if you don’t tell anyone.” Then verse 18 unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home.

Just like the night of the Passover in Exodus 12:7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.

Application: You can imagine someone saying, “That is superstitious. I’m not doing that.” Another saying, “I don’t want to mess up the door. Let’s tie some beautiful words or some gold or some jewels or even a spotless lamb to the door. How about we put the blood on the inside and not on the outside? The Blood had to be on the outside.

So also the scarlet cord had to hung on the window for all to see.

You cannot be saved by your reputation, your good deeds, and your courage. Its only by the blood of Jesus Christ.

What did she do? 21 Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.

Application: Who do you know right now who is lost? Have you talked to them about Jesus?

IV. RAHAB THE PRINCESS

As I was wrapping up this sermon I kept feeling that something was missing. So I looked up the names in the genealogy again. 4 …Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Where have I heard the name Nashon? Numbers 2:3 On the east side, toward the rising of the sun, those of the standard of the forces with Judah shall camp according to their armies; and Nahshon the son of Amminadab shall be the leader of the children of Judah.” 4 And his army was numbered at seventy-four thousand six hundred.

Nashon was the father of Salmon who married Rahab. Salmon was a prince. Hence Rahab was a princess.

Application: Do you know that through Jesus Christ you and I are sons and daughters of the King of Kings?

Do you need God’s grace in your life? Humble yourself before Him today. Receive Jesus as your Savior. Trust Him with your life. He has great things in store for you.

WE STAND BY GOD’S GRACE

WE STAND BY GOD’S GRACE – by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

We Stand By God's GraceLast Friday people all over America celebrated the 4th of July – our Independence Day. Many of us had delicious food with family and friends. Some of you spent time on the Lake or at the Beach. Others went to the parade or went shopping. Then in the evening we enjoyed the fireworks. All that is wonderful and we should continue to do that. At the same time, 4th of July comes each year to remind us that we as a nation stand only by God’s Grace. That’s why our national motto is “In God We Trust.” By the way, that should be our personal motto as well.

1 Chronicles 21:1   1 Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and to the leaders of the people, “Go, number Israel from Beersheba to Dan, and bring the number of them to me that I may know it.” 3 And Joab answered, “May the LORD make His people a hundred times more than they are. But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why then does my lord require this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt in Israel?” 4 Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came to Jerusalem…7  And God was displeased with this thing; therefore He struck Israel.

Overall Background: The incident we just read comes from the final years of King David’s life. As you may know, David was the second King of Israel. Compared to King Saul before him and his son Solomon after him, only David served God faithfully. The Bible refers to him as “a man after God’s own heart.” Nonetheless, the Bible never covers the sins of its heroes. As Alan Redpath said – “The Bible never flatters its heroes.” Twice in his life David did something that displeased God. One which most of us are familiar with is when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered and the second is this one. If you go by the consequences, this one was worst. In the incident with Bathsheba 4 of David’s sons died – the baby, Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah. But in this situation, 70,000 people died! For some reason, this sin was more heinous in the sight of God. It was the sin of pride.

Application: This morning, God is speaking to all of us. First, to our nation – Are we giving God the glory that He deserves or have we become prideful? Second – Are we giving God the glory in our own life or have we become prideful? Let me add something to this – the worst kind of pride is when a person refuses to receive the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross for his/her sins. Do you think you can stand on the Judgment Day without God’s Grace?

3 important lessons from this incident that remind us that we stand only by God’s grace:

I. THE DANGER IN SUCCESS

1 Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.

What in the world is going on here? This was a glorious period in the life of Israel. We all know how it began when David killed the Philistine giant named Goliath. All he used was a slingshot and a stone. It was clearly a testimony to the grace of God. Now it has been 55 years since that incident – David has been the king of Israel for sometime. He is much older and Israel has won victory over the enemies. Others have killed – not just one but many – giants. David even composes a beautiful psalm in II Samuel 22-232 “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; 3 The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence. 4 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.

On the surface it appeared that all was well. But that was just a façade. They were no longer relying upon the grace of God. They were trusting in their own strength and wisdom and God knew that. In the parallel account in 2 Samuel 24:1 it says, “Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’” God knew that they were giving Him lip service but their hearts were far from Him. Hence, He allowed Satan to take advantage of the situation and tempt David to do what was already in his heart – Number Israel. In His pride – David wanted to see how far he had come.

National census was not wrong – God had laid out some rules for it in Exodus 30. It was done to bring in annual money into the temple. David’s reason for the census was to see how big his army was. Let me also clarify – it wasn’t wrong to measure the strength of the army because in Numbers 1 and 26, they had done that too but David’s motive for the census was ultimately pride. Listen to verse 2 So David said to Joab and to the leaders of the people, “Go, number Israel from Beersheba to Dan, and bring the number of them to me that I may know it.” 3 And Joab (not a godly man) answered, “May the LORD make His people a hundred times more than they are. But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why then does my lord require this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt in Israel?”

Here’s a statement worth remembering – “We’re most vulnerable when we are on the mountaintop.” Success is not the problem but how we handle success. I’m not telling you to live in panic mode or wait for the other shoe to drop. What I am telling you is to never get so comfortable that you feel you don’t need God.

Application: Saved – When was the last time you sincerely gave God glory for how much He has blessed you? It’s not by my strength, personality, or family tree. It’s only by God’s grace. Lost – Do you think you don’t need the grace of God. You keep rejecting the grace of God. As a nation, we have been blessed and sadly we have forgotten God.

II. THE COST OF PRIDE

For the next 9 months and 20 days, Joab and his captains went the length and breadth of Israel, numbering the men of Israel who were twenty years of age and older – fit for military service. How did God see all this? 1 Chronicles 21:7“And God was displeased with this thing…” How about David? 2 Samuel 24:10  “And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. The Hebrew word is nakah = attacked or assaulted.

Application: There are 3 groups of people when it comes to sin: first, those who feel the conviction of sin and return; second, those who feel the conviction of sin and run; and third, those who feel no conviction of sin.

What did David do? 8 So David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing; but now, I pray, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” What was God’s response? 9Then the LORD spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10“Go and tell David, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘I offer you three things; Meaning: Not so easily David. This think you have done is wrong and I will deal with it.

Here are some questions: If God is all gracious, why did He have to bring this judgment? Didn’t the man say that he was sorry? God is loving and He is gracious but He’s also holy. This means he takes every sin very seriously. God allowed the judgment to come over David to show us how seriously He takes sin. Just like Ananias and Sapphira died when they lied to the Holy Spirit but people lie to the Holy Spirit today but they don’t die. Why? They died as an example to tell us that God takes sin very seriously. Sin has to be purged. It has to be punished. Either sin will be punished in you or it will be punished in your substitute. If you know Jesus as your Savior, He is your substitute. He has paid the price for all your sins. If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, you will die in your sins.

What is God’s answer to David’s sin?10“…Thus says the LORD: ‘I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.…12 either three years of famine, or three months to be defeated by your foes with the sword of your enemies overtaking you, or else for three days the sword of the LORD—the plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’

Why so tough on this sin compared to the sin with Bathsheba? Sin of adultery was a sin of the flesh – just a moment of lust. It was wrong. But sin of taking the census was a sin of the spirit – it was full of pride and God hates pride. Pride is the ultimate sin. It brought the downfall of Lucifer. It is the breeding ground of every sin there is.

Listen to David’s response 13 And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. The Hebrew word is tsarar = all tied up or cramped. In other words, “I’m all tied up in knots.” “…Please let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are very great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

Application: Saved – Is Pride your sin? Are you willing to fall into His hand this morning and cling to His grace or would you rather justify your sin? Lost – Is Pride keeping you from being saved? Are you willing to fall into the nail pierced hands of Jesus Christ? As a nation are we willing to fall into the hand of God?

III. THE GRACE OF GOD

14 So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell. 15 And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was destroying, the LORD looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who was destroying, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Isn’t it amazing that even in God’s Judgment there is mercy?!!

Application: Let’s not forget saved or lost we stand only by the grace of God. Let’s not forget that as a nation we stand only by the grace of God.

16 Then David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. So David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces.

People ask me “Is God through with America?” Not if the people and their leaders are willing to fall on their face before God and repent. There’s still hope for our nation. God is doing a new thing in our nation. He is raising up a new generation that will bypass our generation. Where we failed, they will be successful. Where we lost the fight, they will win the battle.

But something else happens here18 Therefore, the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. If you read it, it will tell you that Ornan tried to give it to David but David wouldn’t take it for free. Listen to what he says in verse 24  “…No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.”

Why did David insist on paying six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place? This was Mount Moriah – the very spot where Abraham had put his son Isaac on the altar. This was the place of sacrifice. David was going to pay for it because it would become the site for the future temple of Israel where thousands upon thousands of lambs will be sacrificed, all pointing to the Lamb of God who would pay the price for us.

26 And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the LORD; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering. 27 So the LORD commanded the angel, and he returned his sword to its sheath.

Application: Saved – Is there sin in your life? Today if you repent and obey, God is willing to empower you with His holy fire from heaven. He is not only willing to forgive but also work all things together for your good. Lost – Are you willing to receive Jesus as your Savior? He is willing to forgive all your sins and give you a new beginning. As a nation – God wants to send His holy fire upon us, not to consume but to bless.

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