Discipleship 2: Accountable by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – ACCOUNTABILITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Accountable

Introduction: About 9 years ago, Nicole and I decided to take our kids out west. Many of you know that I love the Old West. So, we drove all the way through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and came back through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and all those states. It was a fun trip except for one part. When we left Estes Park, Colorado, we had 2 choices: go the long way on the interstate to Utah or take the short way through the Rockies. Of course, I chose the short scenic route. Thirty minutes into the trip we realized that it was a big mistake. The scenery was gorgeous but the road was narrow without any guard rails and sheer drop on either side. I’d never been so nervous in my life. Thank God we made it safely.Here’s the point: Accountability is like guardrails on the road of discipleship. It is imperative for a disciple to have someone in life of the same gender who is trustworthy, mature, and godly, and willing to question your bad behaviors and encourage your good behaviors on a regular basis.

Mark 6:7“And He called the twelve toHimself,and began to send them out twobytwo, and gave them power over unclean spirits.”

Luke 10:1“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.

Question: Both with the 12 disciples and then with the 70 disciples, Jesus sent them out two by two. He paired them up, among other reasons, to hold each other accountable. If you are a disciple, who do you have in your life who holds you accountable? Who is willing to question your bad behavior and encourage your good behavior? No accountability = no guardrails down the steep mountain of life. It’s a matter of time. Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym – W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. Last weekend we looked at the first letter W = WITNESSES and today we will look at the second letter A = Accountability. 2 main things we need to understand about Accountability:

I. JESUS KNEW THE VALUE OF ACCOUNTABILITY.

Background:To start with, the 2 verses we just read: In Mark 6, Jesus sent out the 12 disciples with power over unclean spirits. That’s incredible power but it did not cancel out the need for accountability. He sent them two by two. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out the 70 disciples and they came back rejoicing that even the demons were subject to them in his name. That’s again incredible power but again it did not cancel out the need for accountability because again he sent them two by two. We also find 2 instances when Jesus sent his disciples to do some very important tasks. The first was to bring a donkey so he could ride into Jerusalem and fulfill a very important prophecy. Listen to Luke 19:29“And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, thatHe sent two of His disciples.” Couple of days later he wanted to eat a very important meal with his disciples before the cross. Listen to Luke 22    7Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.8And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”

There’s one more very important example of how Jesus valued accountability.When Matthew and Luke recorded the names of the disciples, they put them in the pairs with minor differences. Matthew 10   2Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the sonof Zebedee, and John his brother; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the sonof Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” By the way, later, the accountability group waschanged – Acts 1:13“And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; Jamesthe sonof Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judasthe sonof James.” More than likely, Jesus reassigned them.

By the way, the early church in the Book of Acts continued the same pattern of accountability established by Jesus. Acts 3:1“Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer…”and healed the man born lame.Acts 13:2As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” In Acts 15 there was a contention between Paul and Barnabas over taking John Mark with them because he had gone AWOL in the middle of ministry. Nonetheless, Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas. Later Paul took Timothy and Titus with him. Then there were other pairs like Silas and Timothy and Timothy and Erastus. Here’s the point: Accountability is not a 21stcentury concept. It was something that was valued greatly by Jesus and the early church. Bill Hull in his book The Disciple Making Pastor says this about accountability in making disciples – “To believe you can make disciples or develop true maturity in others without some form of accountability is like believing that you can raise children without discipline, run a company without rules, or lead an army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train.”

Question: If Jesus emphasized the value of accountability and the early church practiced it, why is that we are reluctant to practice accountability in our lives?

II. THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUE AND FALSE ACCOUNTABILITY.

There are reasons why Christians are reluctant to have accountability in their lives:

  1. False understanding of Accountability:
  2. Coming to church is not accountability. Coming to church is about fueling our faith. Accountability is about guarding our steps. Coming to church is about celebration as a family. Accountability is about reflection on our personal walk. Coming to church is about soul uplifting. Accountability is about soul searching. Also, Sunday School or Bible Study is not accountability either because they are not the place for hard questions, honest answers, and trusted confidentiality.
  3. Controlling others is not accountability. Invading privacy, legalistic rules, and manipulative tactics are not biblical accountability. True accountability doesn’t seek to keep people depended on you. True accountability is freeing and uplifting.
  4. Lack of understanding of the benefits of Accountability:

Sin came into the world when Adam failed to be the accountability partner to his wife. Satan isolated her and then overpowered her. For married people, your spouse should be the first ring of accountability and then someone of the same gender who is trustworthy, mature, and godly. Listen to what the wise King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4    9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic book Life Togethersaid, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.”

Don’t think of the benefits of accountability as only negative. Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”1 Thessalonians 5:11“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”

Application:Do you understand the benefits of biblical accountability? Let me ask it differently, “Are you struggling with some sin that you can’t seem to free yourself from?“Are you struggling to grow in your spiritual walk?”

What’s the next step?

  1. Accept the Importance of Biblical Accountability. Saddest thing for me as a pastor is to see is good men and women fall apart due to lack of accountability or false accountability. Do you have any guardrails in your life?

Note: Being someone’s guardrail will also keep your from going off the edge.

  1. Be willing to sacrifice. This may require getting up early and meeting with a couple of guys. This may require getting together with a couple of ladies at lunch. You don’t have to come to church for this. It can happen right where you are.
  2. Pray. Ask God to show you the right person/people to help you stay accountable.
  3. Be Patient.Robby Gallaty said, “Finding individuals whom we can trust is not an overnight process— it takestime to develop the kind of trust where deep secrets can be shared with confidence and confidentiality.”
  4. Become a Disciple. Unless you are saved, you do not have the most important accountability partner, the Holy Spirit. He confronts and comforts.

Discipleship 1: Witnesses by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP 1 – WITNESSES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship 1

Introduction:  If your family is like ours, after surfing the channels or Netflix for 30 minutes, we usually settle for some classic show. For me, it is the Andy Griffith show. One of my favorite episodes is the one where Opie starts talking about his new friend “Mr. McBeevee” who he describes as wearing a shining hat, walking about in the treetops, jingling as if he was wearing bells, and blowing smoke out of his ears. At first, Andy laughs it off to just a kid having an imaginary friend until Opie comes up with a quarter saying that Mr. McBeevee gave it to him. Now Andy gets concerned and tells Opie to tell the truth that Mr. McBeevee was just make believe. Opie refuses and asks Andy, “Don’t you believe me Pa? Don’t you Pa?” At first Andy is upset and disappointed but then his expression changes and he says, “I believe you.” Of course, Barney is upset at Andy for going along with Opie and he asks him, “Do you believe in Mr. McBeevee?” Andy responds, “No, but I believe in Opie.” Later on, it comes out that Mr. McBeevee was a telephone repair man, climbing up and down trees with a belt of equipment jingling as he walked. So also, Christians are people who have seen Christ through the eyes of faith. They are witnesses to Christ. They cannot help but talk about what they have seen. The world has trouble believing us but it’s only through our testimony that they can meet Christ. That’s our message today in our series on discipleship.

Acts 1    4And being assembled together withthem,He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,”He said,“you have heard from Me; 5for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Question:If you’re a disciple, you’re a witness to Christ. You should be able to describe 3 things – 1. What was life like before you met Christ. 2. What happened that changed your life, how Christ saved you. 3. What is your life like since Christ saved you? Can you describe these 3 things? Are you a witness to Christ? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

I. IT’S NOT A FORMULA BUT A TESTIMONY.

Context: Last weekend I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym – W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. In the next few weeks we will look at each of these attributes. Today we begin with WITNESSES. 4 things we need to understand about being a WITNESS:

Background: When Christians or church people hear the word “witness” or “witnessing,” they equate that with an evangelism program for sharing the gospel like CWT, EE, FAITH, Sharing Jesus Without Fear, Romans Road, NET, 4 Spiritual Laws. This was not the case with the first disciples. When Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8“…and you shall be witnesses to Me…” he meant witnesses as in “eye-witnesses.” Listen to what he said in Luke 24   46“…Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And you are witnessesof these things.” So, a witness was someone who had seen the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and had received the commission from Christ to preach repentance and remission (forgiveness or cancellation) of sins in his name to all nations. In fact, throughout the Book of Acts, the disciples are called witnesses:

  • Acts 2:32“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are allwitnesses.”
  • Acts 4:33“And with great power the apostles gavewitnessto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…”
  • Acts 5:32“And we are Hiswitnessesto these things, andsoalsoisthe Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
  • Acts 13:31“He (Jesus) was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are Hiswitnessesto the people.”
  • Acts 23:11But the following night the Lord stood by him (Paul) and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witnessat Rome.”

I can go on and on but the point is this – if we call ourselves disciples, we are witnesses like the first disciples of what Jesus has done for us. There is a difference – the disciples were EYE witnesses and we are FAITH witnesses

Application: What have you witnessed? How was life before Jesus? What has Jesus done for you? How is life since Jesus?

II. IT’S NOT A DESTINATION BUT A MINDSET. 

Background: When Christians or church people hear the word “witnessing,” they think “going door-to-door” or “leaving their home country and going far away to some foreign mission field. Going on missions to a foreign country is important but when Jesus said in Acts 1:8“…and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” he was not telling them to travel somewhere on a mission trip but to start living like people who had witnessed something extraordinary. He was telling them to live with a changed mindset starting right where they were.

Illustration: Joe Dittmar (spoke at Crime Stoppers and Chamber banquet) is a 9/11 survivor who was on the 105thfloor of the 2ndWorld Trade Tower. It is mind blowing to hear his account of how seemingly small decisions saved his life and how from a meeting of 54 insurance executives, he was one of only 7 who made it. Now, he lives every day in light of that day. It has changed his mindset about life, family, work, God, everything.

Application: How has the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus impacted your life? Has it changed your mindset? How do you see yourself in your workplaces, neighborhoods, family gatherings, ball fields, etc.? You are on mission right where you are.

III. IT’S NOT A SKILL BUT THE SPIRIT.

Background: When Christians or church folks hear the word “witness” or “witnessing,” they get terrified. I’ll be honest with you, it is pretty terrifying to me as well. The reason we have this fear is because we fail to take seriously what Jesus told his disciples and to all of us in verse 8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me…”Think about the word “power.” This is not some destructive power tearing down things and wreaking havoc. This is power that raised Jesus from the dead. This is power that brings wholeness and perfection. This is power that transforms hearts and changes lives. Let me give you 2 examples in Acts:

  • When Peter was asked in Acts 4 7“…By what power or by what name have you done this?’ 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…3000-5000 saved!
  • After Paul was stopped by Jesus from persecuting the church, he was blind and God sent Ananias to him. Listen to what he says to Paul in Acts 917“…Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” After Paul received sight, he was baptized, ate, spent time with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately starting preachingChrist in the synagogues.

You cannot be a witness to Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit. It’s not about skills, courage, personality. It’s about the power of the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Is there anything that would hinder the flow of the Holy Spirit in your life.

IV. IT’S NOT A GOAL BUT A SOUL.

Background:  When Christians or church folks hear the word “witnessing,” they think of it as some goal to be met. Listen carefully – People are not projects to be completed or boxes to be checked. They are precious souls to be won to Christ. We have to remind ourselves to genuinely love people. Pray for them. Take the time to get to know them. Talk less and listen more. Be ready with the words of a witness. Daily submit to the Holy Spirit. Pray for divine appointments. Make room for divine appointments. Robby Gallaty gives the following suggestions:

  • Lingering longer in the driveway before going into your home.
  • Hanging around a few minutes extra in the break room.
  • Inviting lost friends over to have dinner with you.
  • Serving in a local homeless shelter occasionally.
  • Leading after school tutoring at a school that needs help.
  • Investing time in community events.
  • Getting involved in prison ministry.
  • Letting your neighbor borrow something of yours.
  • Volunteering in your church nursery or to set up an event.
  • There are many other ways that you can genuinely connect with lost souls.

Invitation: Are you a true disciple? Are you a witness to Christ? Are you saved?

Discipleship: Introduction by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – INTRODUCTION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship 1

Introduction: How many of ya’ll remember playing “Simon Says”? “Simon Says, ‘Clap your hands.’” “Simon Says, ‘Hop on left leg.’” “Simon Says, ‘Waddle like a Penguin.’” You had to do everything that the leader told you to do. In the Christian life, Jesus is our leader. We are to do everything that he tells us to do. Unfortunately, when it comes to the commands of Jesus, Christians have a very different response. Jesus says, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” We respond with “I know that’s the Golden Rule.” Jesus says, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” We respond with “I heard a great message on that the other day.” Jesus says, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” We respond with “Oh, I memorized that back in Sunday School.” The goal of this series is to learn what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus and it’s much more than coming to church once a week and memorizing a few verses.

 

Matthew 28    18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, evento the end of the age.” Amen.

Question: A disciple by definition is a follower, a learner, and a doer of everything the master says and does. Are you truly following, learning, and doing what Jesus tells you to do? Before you can be a disciple, you have to receive him as your Savior. Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read is known as the Great Commission. If you grew up in church, you may have heard it before. The Great Commission is important for 3 reasons:First, they are the final words that Jesus spoke to his followers before he ascended to his Father. Final words are critical. Second, they are Jesus’ instructions for us until he comes again. It’s his list of to-dos for us. Third, they apply to all Christians at every place, in every time and situation. They are non-negotiable. They begin with a Claim and end with a Promise and in between the Claim and the Promise are the Instructions.

What is the Claim?18“…All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” This was not some random statement. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy made in Daniel 7   13“I was watching in the night visions,and behold, Onelike the Son of Man,Coming with the clouds of heaven!He came to the Ancient of Days (Here God the Father),and they brought Him near before Him.14Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.His dominionisan everlasting dominion,which shall not pass away,And His kingdomthe oneWhich shall not be destroyed.” Because Jesus rejected the offer of Satan and obeyed his Father even to the cross, he was given universal sovereignty. Paul says in Philippians 2    9“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.”

What is the Promise?lo (Old and Middle English shortened form of look), I am with you always, evento the end of the age.”It was the assurance that his spiritual presence would be with his disciples as they carried out his instructions.You need both the Claim and the Promise to give the Instructions. A Promise without a Claim is Powerless. It’s like if I were to walk up to you and demand the keys to your vehicle. “By what authority?” A Claim without a Promise is Intimidation. It’s like if I were to demand you to do something you didn’t want to do with no promise of help and support. Keep in mind that we already have the Holy Spirit.John 14   16“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Also, Acts 1:8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The Promise here is that, along with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be with us in his spiritual presence, guiding, guarding, and giving us what we need to keep his instructions.

What is the Instruction? 19“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” In that entire statement, there is only one main verb – Make Disciples. The rest may sound like verbs but they are participles. To start with, “Go” is not a verb. It is a participle. It assumes that you are already going, moving out. It may be across the street or across the seas. The other two participles are “baptizing” and “teaching.” They tell us the process of making disciples. This is where many Christians bring in their ideas and opinions rather than what Jesus told us and what the early church did for many centuries. I believe that we need to let the Word of God speak for itself and let the chips fall where they may. What some Christians have done is that they have turned baptism which was enrollment into graduation. They come with a personal list of what they feel is necessary to learn and understand before they will consider graduation/baptism. Here are 2 problems with that way of thinking – First, that’s not what the text is saying; second, you never graduate in the Christian life. I know what some people will say – “I don’t want the person to get the false impression that they are saved because they got baptized. Getting into the baptistry doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” That sounds like a great analogy but actually it’s mismatched. Here’s a better one – “You can self-educate yourself as much as you want but that’s not going to earn you a degree unless you enroll in a college.” That’s a much better analogy. Baptism is enrollment in God’s academy from which you will never graduate.

Question: Have you been baptized? What is holding you back?

Another Objection: I know people who got baptized but they only got wet. My answer – I know some of those too. 2 things here: First, they never truly understood the gospel. What is the gospel?“God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins according to Scripture. He died and rose again according to Scripture. When we believe in him, not only are our sins forgiven and God’s wrath lifted but we also have eternal life and become part of God’s family!” Second, the problem is not with baptism but with what comes after baptism.

This is the heart of our series – 20“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Unfortunately, most churches, including Clearview drop the ball here. We do a very poor job in teaching new believers how to follow Jesus and obey his words. Our kids and youth ministries are the strongest anywhere I know but our adult teaching ministry is not where it needs to be. That’s why many churches seem to have a revolving door where people leave just as fast as they enter. We have to find ways to keep people from slipping away. Some have called this closing the backdoor of the church.

How does it all work?We have come up with an acronym WATER. I guess to represent baptism as the starting point. W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING.My goal today was to cover the first one – WITNESSES – but as I began to prepare my sermon I realized that unless the foundation of the Great Commission is properly laid, this will not be effective. How does it really work? When we do ministry the way Jesus did ministry. How did he do ministry? He moved people through 3 concentric circles.To start with was the CROWD.This is the vast majority of people that were not necessarily following Jesus but he encountered them. They were outside the first circle. For us, they are people in our neighborhood, workplaces, grocery stores, restaurants who we come in contact with. Then comes the first circle – The CONGREGATION.These are the vast multitudes that followed him, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Matthew 15    30“Then greatmultitudescame to Him, having with themthelame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31So the multitudemarveled when they sawthemute speaking, themaimed made whole, thelame walking, andtheblind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.” Sunday morning is the Multitude, the Congregation, who hear the truth and walk away amazed. Then comes the second circle – The COMMUNITY. These are the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 here if you would like. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Matthew 13:36“Then Jesus sent the multitudeaway and went into the house. And His disciplescame to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” This is the weekly Sunday Sunday School and Wednesday Evening Bible Study. Finally comes the third circle – The CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. Mark 9:2 “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.” Mark 5:37“And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James.” Mark 14   33“And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, evento death. Stay here and watch.’” Some of ya’ll are thinking, “I cannot add one more thing to my schedule.” Here’s answer, “Circle is about getting into a smaller setting right where you are. It has set times after which it has to replicate. We’ll talk about that later.

The goal of discipleship is help people, once they have entered from the Crowd to the Congregation, move from the Congregation to Community to Circle. Where do you fall?

Are you truly a disciple of Jesus? Are you saved? Have you been baptized?

Drifting Allegiance by Pastor Abidan Shah

DRIFTING ALLEGIANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Drifting Allegiance

Introduction: What does it mean to drift? There are many meanings. If you’re a NASCAR fan, you know what drifting is. I can say, “Do you get my drift?” which means, “Do you understand what I am saying?” You can also drift off to sleep (as some of you will in a few minutes). There’s another kind of drifting which means “get off course or lose your way.” It happens often in the Christian life. We start out strong in the right way with all the right intentions but then we drift away for one reason or another. Today’s message titled “DRIFTING ALLEGIANCE” will help us get back on track and finish what God has begun in our lives. Here’s the message in a nutshell – “When we drift away, God doesn’t abandon us. Instead, he comes to us in grace and lovingly but firmly he steers us back.”

John 21   15So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, sonof Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, sonof Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, sonof Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

Question: Christ came to Peter because he had drifted away. Have you drifted away? Have you lost your zeal for the things of God? Have you lost your first love? Have you ever received God’s love in your heart. Are you saved?

Overall Background: The Gospel of John could have ended at chapter 20. Jesus had finished his earthly ministry. He had died on the cross. He had risen from the grave. He had revealed himself to his disciples. It was time for Jesus to ascend back to his Father and send the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to empower the disciples to share the gospel with the world. Everything that needed to be said had been said. Everything that needed to be done had been done. But, before he left, one more thing had to be done. In fact, it was one more person who had to be visited. Even though Jesus had already met him after the resurrection and proven himself to him, he knew that this person needed a one-on-one time with him. It was Simon Peter. Things were still not right with him ever since he had denied Jesus that night. You remember – he denied him 3 times and then the rooster crowed just the way Jesus had warned. Peter was still not over it. He was still plagued with guilt, shame, disappointment and self-condemnation. If you are drifting today, here are 5 things to help you return to God:

1. RESULT OF DRIFTING

John 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.”

Background:On the surface, nothing was wrong with that statement. People fish all the time and many times they return emptyhanded. But the next verse tells us that this was not an ordinary fishing trip – But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. You have to read between the lines.Jesus was not just “happened to be” hanging out by the shore. I believe that it was Jesus who made sure that every fish in the Sea of Tiberius was safe that night. The angels had to put on their snorkelers and fins and work extra hard that night! Jesus knew that Peter had lost his focus and he wanted him to remember what he had taught them back in John 15:5 “without Me you can do nothing.” You may still go about your daily activities but you are no longer empowered by God. No matter how much profit you make or achievements you have, you still feel empty.In fact, listen to verse Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.”

Application:Is that you today? You’ve lost your focus. You may still be doing things but you come up empty. Your heart remains empty. A drifting life is a fruitless life.

2. RESPONSE OF THE SAVIOR

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Background:You would expect Jesus to come with anger and disappointment. Instead He came with forgiveness and grace. He did not condemn them for going fishing but helped them find fish. That is the nature of God. Just when we think we don’t deserve grace, we receive grace; just when we think we have been discarded, He comes to restore us. Just when we think that He won’t help us. He does. Someone might say, “You don’t know how bad I have been.” Listen to Romans 8   33 “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It isGod who justifies. 34Who ishe who condemns? It isChrist who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Meaning:We not only have the Holy Spirit interceding for us but we also have Jesus praying for us. Jesus, who knows our every weakness, is the one who is interceding for us.

3. RESPONSE OF THE DRIFTER 

John 21:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put onhisouter garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. John has intentionally placed this information here for us. He wants us to learn from Peter’s example. It matters how we respond when the Savior calls us. It matters how we respond when the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts.

Application: How do you respond when God convicts your heart? Do you wait, deliberate, debate, procrastinate or do you immediately run towards him? Hosea 6:1“Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”

4.  RESTORATION BY THE SAVIOR

What happened when they all got to the land?They saw fire of coals and fish laid on it and bread. Jesus says to them “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”Jesus not only had the breakfast prepared for them but He even asked them to bring some of the fish they had just caught and included it. He indeed “works all things together for good to those who love God.” Altogether, they had 153 fish. There is a reason for this huge catch. It was a restoration of the call that Jesus had given to them when he first called them – “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19. Now began a heart to heart conversation between Jesus and Peter. Three times Jesus asked him if he loved him. Why? To convey to him that he had lost his first love. Also, each time Jesus told him to get back to the task that he had given him of taking care of the disciples. In other words, Jesus was telling Peter that he was not through with him.

Application:There are many people here this morning for whatever reason you feel God is through with you but He is not. He is calling you back to love and to the ministry. Have you lost your first love? Are you ready to get back to serving?

5. RELAPSE OF THE DRIFTER

In verse 18 Jesus tells Peter how he would be martyred for the gospel and reminded him to “Follow him.” But listen to Peter’s response– 20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”21Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, whataboutthis man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, whatis thatto you? You follow Me.” This is why Peter fell the first time. He wanted to make himself look better than others. He is still doing the same things! Old habits and sins do not die easily.

Personal Testimony: I thought for some time that I had disappointed God and that I was no longer worthy. Everything I attempted was fruitless until I met Nicole’s dad. Just a handshake showed me that he loved me. You may not see Jesus face-to-face but you can feel His love in the smiles and the handshakes in this place. That’s what Clearview is all about – “Making Christ Visible” – so that the saved will return to their love and ministry and the lost will be saved.

Have you drifted in your allegiance? Have you lost your first love? Are you doing things but coming up empty? Have you ever received His love?

Doubtful Faith by Pastor Abidan Shah

DOUBTFUL FAITH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

doubtful

Introduction: Have you ever heard the statement, “I have to see it to believe it.” Parents of teenagers – “He cleaned up his room! I have to see it to believe it.” Employees – “We’re getting a day off! I have to see it to believe it.” Church folks – “The pastor ended on time! I have to see it to believe.” It actually comes from the Bible where one of Jesus’ disciples was reluctant to believe that Jesus was alive. He said, “I have to see it to believe it.” There are a lot of people who live with that mantra. They consider themselves sophisticated, scientific, and rational. Today’s message titled “DOUBTFUL FAITH” will help us with this problem, even in the Christian life. Here’s the premise – “Faith is not the absence of doubts. Doubts, apprehensions, and skepticisms are normal and even good. Faith is overcoming doubts based on the evidence already received and moving forward knowing that more evidence will follow.”

John 20   26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.”

Question: Do you have trouble believing that someone who died 2000 years ago on a cross has the power to change your life today? Get ready! God is about to open your eyes to the truth. Christian – do you struggle with doubts? I do. Let the Holy Spirit through God’s Word teach you to walk by faith and not by sight.

Background: Listen again to verse 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.” That was not a complement but a reprimand. Why did Jesus reprimand Thomas? Because eight days earlier Thomas had a very different reaction when the disciples told him that Jesus had just visited them. 25“…he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Why would Thomas say something like that?

I. THE REALITY OF DOUBT

Let’s look at it from Thomas’ perspective– Three days prior on Friday Jesus was unjustly accused and brutally nailed to the cross. The disciples watched helplessly as their Master breathed his last breath in physical pain and emotional agony. All they could do was betray, deny, and desert him. Then he was taken down from the cross and placed into a tomb. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, put him in a new tomb that he probably had hewn for himself and Nicodemus, another rich man, brought 100 pounds of spices and wrapped Jesus’ body in it with linen strips. The spices were meant to control the odor and help the decomposition process. All this is to say that Jesus was really dead. It was really all over. He was a wonderful man who spoke wonderful words and did wonderful things but now he was a dead man lying in some grave in the Judean hillside. He was not coming back to life. Plus, three days had passed. If anything was going to happen, it would have happened by now.

Can you imagine the range of emotions that Thomas and the other disciples were feeling?Shock, Trauma, Sadness, Grief, Anger, Fear, Disappointment, Confusion, Questions, Blame (Self and Other), What ifs, Back to the old life, Looking for a new normal, etc. But just then, on the third day, reports start circulating that people had seen him – “He’s alive!”A group of women went by the grave this morning and saw him, Mary Magdalene even talked to him, Peter saw him, two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and Jesus walked with them and explained the scriptures to them. Then that same evening Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples who were hiding in a house in Jerusalem. He even showed them his nail pierced hands and his spear pierced side. Guess what Thomas! We’ve seen Jesus! His response – “I have to see it to believe it!” That was his natural reaction. That would be my reaction.

Listen carefully – Doubts are natural. They’re not sins. It’s our natural response to extraordinary events. Don’t be ashamed of them. I have doubts too. Os Guinness, famous author and Senior Fellow at the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, once said, “The shame is not that people have doubts but that they are ashamed of them.” Why do people have doubts?Many reasons – your personality (skeptical), your experiences (disappointments with God over pains, hurts, and unanswered prayers), exposed to other views (questions unanswered), afraid of commitment. If you struggle with doubts, don’t be ashamed. Seek out answers. Trust me when I say to both Christians and non-Christians – “There are answers to every doubt that you are facing.”

II. THE MERCY OF CHRIST

John 20    26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your handhere,and putitinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

This is such a comforting passage to me. Jesus did not abandon Thomas because he had doubts but he came and found him. Jesus was under no obligation to do that. This was only because of his mercy. He saw the spark of hope in Thomas’ heart and he was not going to let it extinguish. Matthew quotes Isaiah the prophet in 12:20“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” In other words, even though the hypocritical Pharisees were plotting against him, he was not going to quench out the hope of them being able to find life. If he would do that for those Pharisees, how much more towards us. The point is this – “If you are struggling with doubts, Christ will not abandon you. He will meet you where you are.” Just like a mother that picks up a child that falls while running away from her, so also Christ comes and picks us up.

 

III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF FAITH

Listen again to verse 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessedarethose who have not seen andyethave believed.” First, Jesus was talking about the generations who will come and not have the privilege of seeing Jesus physically walk on the earth, heal the sick, feed the hungry, preach the gospel, die on the cross, and raised from the grave. They will not have the privilege of being firsthand witnesses to Christ. They will have to take God’s Word for it, believe, and be saved. All of us fall in that category. Although that’s true, I believe that Jesus had something more in mind when he made that statement. He was talking specifically to Thomas. He was telling Thomas that he had lost out on the blessing of faith. There is a blessing that comes when you take God at his word and refuse to give in to doubts. There is a blessing that comes when you say, “I have enough proof to step out in faith. In time, God will give me more proof but I will not wait on more proof in order to step out in faith. Faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is affirming that if so far there is solid ground under my feet, God will keep the solid ground coming even if I can’t see it right now.”

Did Thomas have this solid ground to believe that Jesus rose from the grave without having seen him?John 14    1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it werenotso,I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.4And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”Thomas had every reason to believe without seeing.

Illustration: Unlike Charles Templeton, Billy Graham chose to believe God and his Word.

Invitation: You say I believe in this religion or that philosophy or nothing. Are you sure you’re standing on solid ground? Are you ready to take the step forward? What if there is bottomless pit waiting for you?Are you willing to place your doubts before the living God and take him at his word? This is to Christians as well as non-Christians. Just like a train moves forward and the light keeps shining, so alsoGod will guide you. Come to Christ and be saved. Pray like that father did whose son was tormented by an evil spirit. Jesus told him in Mark 9  23“If you can believe, all things arepossible to him who believes.” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Fearless Love by Pastor Abidan Shah

FEARLESS LOVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Fearless Love

Introduction:  How do little kids react when they see their parents? They come running when they see you. They jump into your arms and hug you. They’re not afraid to show you and the world that they love you. What happens when they get a little older. They may still be glad to see you but there’s no more running and jumping. Then they become teenagers. There’s definitely no more running and jumping. Sometimes they don’t even acknowledge you in public. They’re too cool for that. In this message we will see how the disciples of Jesus ran towards him when they found out that his body was missing. They were FEARLESS in their LOVE for him.

John 20   1 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

Question: Mary Magdalene ran. Peter ran. The other disciple ran. Just like little kids, they didn’t care what anyone thought of them. They ran because their loved one was missing. Would you have done that? Have you received his love in your life? Are you saved?

Context: John’s description of the resurrection is a little unique compared to Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s description. In fact, if you try to set the resurrection account of all 4 gospels side-by-side there seem to be several contradictions. They don’t always appear to synch very well. You can go home and try it out – how many women went to the grave, who were the women who went to the grave, what time did they go to the grave, how many angels were at the grave, were they inside the grave or outside the grave, were they standing or sitting, what exactly did they say to the women, where did Mary Magdalene see Jesus, what exactly did he say to her, and there’s more. Some people have taken these contradictions as proofs that the Bible has errors. Others have taken these contradictions and tried to fit them in a timeline to prove that the Bible has no errors. Although I believe that the Bible has no errors, I also believe that it is not helpful to force a timeline. The question we need to ask is “What is the purpose for which John recorded the resurrection?” John’s purpose in recording the resurrection was to put a literary spotlight on 3 individuals who followed Jesus and their reactions on resurrection morning. All of us who follow Jesus fall in one of these 3 reactions.

Spotlight #1 – Mary Magdalene: Popular culture has created an image of her that is nothing like how the Bible describes her. Both Mark and Luke tell us in their gospels that Jesus had cast out 7 demons from her. Growing up in India I have seen people who were demon possessed and it’s a very scary and a sad sight. If they are poor, they are left to wander the streets. They are treated like animals. People even throw rocks at them to keep them from coming into their neighborhood. They are abused by other people on the streets. Sometimes they are even abused for religious reasons. I personally believe that she came from a well-to-do situation because Luke tells us in 8:3 that she belonged to a group of women who followed behind Jesus and his disciples and “provided for Him from their substance.” Somehow, she got caught up in demonic activity. Maybe they had to lock her away. But, Jesus came and set her free. All she wanted to do now was follow Jesus. When he hung on the cross, listen to John 19:25 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” What happened after they put Jesus in the tomb? Matthew 27   60 “…he (Joseph of Arimathea) rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.” What if you were to tell her, “Mary, it’s over. Jesus was all wonderful but they killed him.” She would say, “I don’t care. I still love him. I know what he did for me. I’m not leaving.” She had an adoring love for Jesus. This may be hard for our culture to understand where everything is seen as creepy and lustful.

Now listen again to what happens on the day Jesus rose from the grave – 1 “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early while it was still dark.” How many of y’all would like to go to a graveyard early in the morning while it is still dark? Creepy. It’s not just Mary Magdalene but a few other women as well. But that’s not the only thing to be scared about. Just 2 days earlier, their Master had been false accused, brutally beaten, and unjustly crucified by the Romans. They had even put a guard outside the tomb. Matthew tells us that there was a great earthquake. But, none of this mattered to Mary Magdalene. Mark even tells us in his gospel 16:3 they (the women) said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” Meaning: They didn’t even try to consider who would roll away the stone. What happened when she and the other women saw the stone rolled away 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Do you have this kind of adoring love for Jesus that defies reason and logic?

Spotlight #2 – Peter: He doesn’t need much of an introduction. He’s always the first one to jump up and follow Jesus. He’s also the one who says things without thinking. In fact, leading up to the cross, he has made a lot of poor choices – He didn’t understand the purpose for the foot washing. He had chopped off the high priest’s servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also promised to lay down his life for Jesus but then just as Jesus forewarned, he denied him 3 times with cursing before the rooster crowed. It had gone from bad to worse for Peter. He was guilt ridden. But what happened when Mary Magdalene told him about Jesus? 3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.” What slowed Peter down? Maybe the guilt. Do you have this kind of love that runs but is slowed down by guilt and shame?

Spotlight #3 – Beloved Disciple: he is usually referred to as “the one whom Jesus loved.” He was the one leaning on Jesus at the Supper Table and who asked Jesus who would betray him. Jesus clearly explained but he didn’t get it. Then he was in the courtyard of the High Priest watching what was happening to their Master but he failed to do anything. Then he was at the cross with the Mother of Jesus when Jesus turned her over to him. You can only imagine how helpless he might have felt. He was helpless but when he heard the news, he ran too.  4 So they both ran together and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. What kept him from going in? Was it fear? Was it doubt? Do you have this kind of love that stops at critical moments?

Now the spotlight comes back around on each of them:

#1 Peter – 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

#2 Beloved Disciple – 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

#3 Mary Magdalene – 11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

Which one are you? Are you the love that runs in the face of reason and logic? Are you love that slows down by guilt and shame but goes all out? Are you love that stops at critical moments but is the first to believe? Each is fearless.

Do you love Jesus at all? Are you saved?

Training Part Two by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRAINING Part 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Training 2

Introduction:  I don’t usually use movie illustrations but just for today, can you identify which movie this line comes from – “No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” How about “Wax on, wax off.” It’s from the popular 80’s movie “Karate Kid.” I love that line because it truly explains why kids do what they do. You could say, “No such thing as a bad kid, only bad parents.” Last week we looked at Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” We focused on 4 things in that verse: Child, Way, Training, and Promise. In today’s message we will focus on the fifth element that we briefly touched on – the Trainer, the parent.

Psalm 50    16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you?”

Question:  You cannot hate God’s word and disobey it and tell your kids to love God’s Word and obey it in their lives. They will do what you do. Do you love and obey God’s word? Have you received the Word of God, Jesus, as your Savior? Are you saved?

Bridge: Last week I briefly touched on the character of the trainer. I even gave the example of King David and how he failed to be a good father. In today’s message, I want to step back and try to understand why and how David lost his way. This is important because a parent cannot train the child in the way if he/she has lost the way. To understand this, we have to turn to Psalm 50. You may not know this but scholars in recent years have come to realize that the Book of Psalms is not just a random collection of the songs of Israel. There is an order to them. If you want to know why David sinned and had to repent in Psalm 51, read Psalm 50. How do we know that? To start with, there are many similarities in words and concepts between Psalm 50 and 51. But, there’s something more. Psalm 50 begins with the title “A Psalm of Asaph.” Asaph was a worship leader appointed by King David and a wonderful composer. In fact, he composed Psalms 73-83. What’s really interesting is that Psalm 50 is not in that collection. It appears that someone took it and placed it before Psalm 51. I believe the Holy Spirit did that. Why is that? To give us an insight into why and how David lost his way. I don’t have time to go into the whole psalm. Asaph addressed 2 groups of people in this psalm. First, he addressed the righteous people and reminded them of God’s blessings and promises. Then, he addressed the righteous who had turned to wickedness and reminded them of God’s discipline if they didn’t repent. This is what happened to David.

Starting in verse 16 But to the wicked (righteous) God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? God is confronting those wicked righteous who declare his words and speak his truth but lately they have come to despise his word and disregard his truth. God is telling them that unless they have the right attitude towards his word, they have no right to declare his words. In other words, I lose the right to preach God’s word and demand obedience if I reject it in my life. David was the sweet psalmist of Israel who had an incredible love for God’s word. Listen to Psalm 19   7 “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. 13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Wow! For whatever reason, lately he hasn’t had the same love for God’s word. When we begin to lose our love for God’s word, it’s a sign that something is horribly wrong. By the way, this is how sin entered the world when Adam and Eve questioned God’s Word and disobeyed him. That old adage is still true – “This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.”

How does this apply to training our children? Imagine if I were to take my children to my favorite restaurant and tell them that it’s awesome and they need to try this dish or that but when the food came, I made the ugliest face and as I was walking out, I threatened them to eat it all! How do you think they’d respond? Confused, frustrated, and angry. There are people who want their children and grandchildren to go to church, Sunday School, Blaze, AWANA, children’s camp, youth retreats but they themselves could care less about God’s Word, preaching, Sunday School, Bible Study, and all of that. What do you think is going through their kids minds?

Let’s go back to Psalm 50. When you turn away from God’s Word, it opens the floodgate to sin. Listen to the list of sins that follow. By the way, they are a clear violation of the Ten Commandments, especially 7-10.

  1. Sin of Stealing – 18 “When you saw a thief, you consented with him…” Stealing is a violation of the 8th commandment in Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.” With no word in your life, you start “consenting,” the Hebrew word “ratsa” means be accepting, be pleased, get along very well with people who steal. Stealing doesn’t have to be pickpocketing or holding up a bank. You can steal money or time from your employer, employees, family, friends, and even God.
  2. Sin of Adultery – 18 “…and have been a partaker with adulterers.” This is a violation of the 7th and the 10th commandment in Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery” and Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” With no word in your life, you start “partaking,” the Hebrew word is “khalak,” which means “common ground.” Adultery never starts out with an outright affair. Many times, it starts out with being with people who condone and even justify adultery. They watch adulterous shows and read adulterous books and admire adulterous lives. All because the standard of God’s word is absent from your life.
  3. Sin of Slander – 19 “You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son.” This is a violation of the 9th commandment in Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” I think we can add to this the 6th commandment in Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.” The word for “slander is the Hebrew word “dopeh,” which means you sit there finding faults in everyone. Some people may not do any physically assassinations but they do plenty of character assassinations. They gossip against others. They spread rumors against others. They spew bitterness towards others. You cannot be saved and be forever bitter and unforgiving towards others.

What will God do about it? 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent…” Just because God does not immediately deal with your sin does not mean that he approves it. Silence is not approval. When we are silent, we are approving. When God is silent, he is extending mercy. But listen to what God concludes – 21 “…You thought that I was altogether like you…” This is the sin of misrepresenting God because it suits your purpose and your love for your pet sin. Think about it – Parents are like gods to children. When we start making God in our image, imagine the confusion that it causes for the children.

Application: Do you twist the Bible to justify your behavior, your sin? The worst thing you can do to any person is misrepresent him/her. Yet, people do that to God to justify their sinful action and lives. This is especially dangerous when it comes to our children.

What is the consequence? 21 “…But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.” If you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit will not let you off easily. He will convict you and expose to you the error of your ways. What if you still don’t change? 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:” Now it’s no longer private but public exposure. The old principle is true – “You uncover your sin and God will cover it. You cover your sin and God will uncover it.”

Here’s the solution – 23 “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” What will you do? True praise cannot come from a contaminated, sin-filled heart.

Invitation: What kind of a trainer are you? Do you love God’s Word? Do you obey God’s Word? Are you saved?

Training by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRAINING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Training

Introduction:  I appreciate our basketball coaches. It’s amusing to watch them, especially when the kids are not doing what they’re supposed to. A psychology professor asked his students, “What do you call someone who one-minute walks back and forth screaming at the top of his lungs, and the next sits in a chair crying uncontrollably?” Someone in the back answered, “A basketball coach.” So also, in life, there are many parents who walk back and forth on the sidelines screaming one minute, crying the next, and wondering why their children are doing what they’re doing in the game of life. Hopefully, today’s message titled “TRAINING” will help us. The basic premise of the message is this – “God has ordained parents to be the primary coaches in a child’s life. How you (parents) train your children is how they play the game of life.” Please don’t misunderstand – the goal of this message is not to cause you more pain if your children are not where they need to be. Instead, it’s to help you understand them and pray for them better. Also, I am not preaching as an expert but as a fellow coach in the game of child-rearing.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.”

Question: “You cannot show the way unless you know the way.” Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” The true way of life is Jesus. Do you know him?

Context: Before we dive into this message, there are 2 things I want to clarify:

  1. Some people think that proverbs are not promises. They’re just general observations, common sense tips, or practical suggestions for everyday life. I disagree. Solomon begins this book by pointing out in Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Then 13 more times throughout the book that phrase “fear of the Lord” is found. There are many proverbs in the world and some may even sound like the ones in the Bible but the reason those in the Bible are in the Bible is because God chose them as his Word. They are God’s truth that have stood the test of time. They are promises.
  2. Some people claim that the traditional understanding of Proverbs 22:6 is incorrect. In recent years, it has been claimed this proverb and it’s not about a child’s moral and spiritual upbringing. I have studied this proverb in Hebrew and in its context, it is exactly what it has always meant. Basically, there are 4 parts to this simple proverb:

1. Child – “Train up a child.” The Hebrew word is “nahar,” which can mean anywhere from an unborn child to a young man. However, in this context, the emphasis is on training early. Psychologists and educators are divided over the age at which a child’s behavior is set (4, 7, or 18 years). Children to me are like sweet gum trees. The longer you let them go, the more nuisance they cause. You can try to cut them down but not before you break a few blades and even chop off your own hands. The sooner you begin with your children, the better are your chances to train them in the right way.

2. The Way – “Train up a child in the way” Repeatedly, in Proverbs, Solomon talks about 2 ways – God’s Way and the Sinful Way. The first one comes from the Bible, and the second one comes from the world. The first one leads to blessings and the second one leads to destruction. Listen to these proverbs — 1:15 “My son, do not walk in the way with them (sinful men), Keep your foot from their path.” 3:31 “Do not envy the oppressor, And choose none of his ways.” 4:11 “I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths.” 10:29 “The way of the Lord is strength for the upright…” 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” 23:19 “Hear, my son, and be wise; and guide your heart in the way.” Parents – You have been ordained by God to lead your children in the right way, God’s way, the way of truth. Most parents misunderstand what this means. They look at a child’s life like a pie with each slice representing a key aspect of their lives – education, athletics, music, relationships, career, and faith. Unfortunately, in time, the other slices take over the faith slice. Here’s a better way – faith is the dough of the pie which then gets divided into the athletic slice, education slice, music slice, relationships slice, and career slice. The Way is not a balanced life with a dash of God. It is the heart, the center, from which everything flows out. It is a lifestyle. Your child is not a good student, a good athlete, a good musician, and, oh yes, a good Christian. Instead, your child is a Christian who is a good student, a good athlete, a good musician, etc. Training the child in the way is leading your child in lifestyle, a mindset, a worldview that is godly.

3. Training – The Hebrew word is “chanok,” which is a rare word found only 4 times in the Old Testament. It refers to the dedication of a building. Just like a house is dedicated to living, a temple is dedicated to worshipping, and an altar is dedicated to sacrificing, the child is also dedicated by the parents to walking in the right way. But unlike an inanimate building, the child grows and has a personality, feelings, will, desires, and temptations. That’s why a child has to be dedicated daily, which is another word for training. Deuteronomy 6 gives us a good model for how to do this dedication/training – 6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Here are some points:

  • Training is not a one-time event but a 24/7 job. Cannot train if you’re always gone.
  • Training is not accidental but intentional. Seek every opportunity, especially meals.
  • Training is not authoritarian but empathetic. Their world and struggles are tougher.
  • Training is not irrational but logical. Don’t say “Stop asking dumb questions.”
  • Training is not cherry picked but balanced. Not just the bad. Give Law and Grace.
  • Training is not harsh but firm. Age appropriate discipline. Spanking vs losing things.
  • Training is not disheartened but patient. Tell it, tell it again, and keep telling them.
  • Training is not just taught but caught. Not “do as I say, not as I do.” It’s not enough to drop your kids off at church. You have to go as well. You have to receive Christ as your Savior as well.

4. Promise – “and when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.” Now comes the tough question – “Why do children depart even when the parent has trained the child from the early age in the right Way?” There’s a lot of misunderstanding here. There are actually 2 kinds of departing:

Losing Their Way Rebelling Against Your Way
Behavior: Pushing the limits, Peer pressure, Experimenting, Lust, Secretive Behavior: Anger, Hate, Bitterness, Pain, Unforgiveness
Source: Lures of the World, Deceitfulness of Life, Wrong Crowd, Freedom Source: Hypocrisy, Legalism, Harshness in Parents, Church, and Religious Institutions
Attitude towards Parents, Church, & Authority: Shame, Conviction, Avoidance Attitude towards Parents, Church, & Authority: Disrespect, Belligerence, Anger
Example: Solomon – from David’s adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah murdered, death of a newborn. Became the wisest man, wrote Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes but had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He did not rebel but lost his way. Secret – David’s repentance in Psalm 51. Example: Absalom – 3rd son of David through Maacah (8 wives, adulterous), killed his brother Amnon who had raped his sister and David didn’t do anything, set himself as judge, David had to flee, mourned his death but never reconciled. No Psalm 51.
Return: They’ll be back! Hang on to the Promise. Return: Chance are low because of their impression of the Way.

Note: There is another group that I need to bring up. They are neither “Losing Their Way” nor are they “Rebelling Against Your Way.” They are just “Confused About Your New Way.” Where you were spiritually when you were raising them is not where you are spiritually today. You raised them with a dash of spirituality, a dose of Christianity. You took them to a church where faith was dead, lukewarm, ritualistic, and full of doublespeak. Now you are in a church where your faith is focused upon Christ, grounded in the Word, led by the Spirit, and full of spiritual fire. Your kids are wondering – “What happened to mom and dad? Did they join a cult!” What is needed is for them to catch up with Your New Way.

What do you do for these 3 groups?

  • “Losing Their Way” – Show Love and Forgiveness, Be Patient, and Pray that they will Return to Christ Soon
  • “Rebelling Against Your Way” – Ask God’s forgiveness, Ask Your Children’s Forgiveness, and Pray that they will Meet Christ
  • “Confused About Your New Way” – Invite them to get to know your New Way but be Patient with them, Pray that God will use your example to show them Christ.

Invitation: Do you know the Way? Again, in John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Here’s what happens when you receive Jesus as your Savior – I Corinthians 1:30 “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

Have you lost your way? Prodigal Son – “Give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” Journeyed to a far country, wasted everything, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you”, When he was still a great way off, his father was waiting!

Defining Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEFINING GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Defining Gospel

Introduction:  Let’s say if you came out of church today and went to your car and someone came to you, someone you’ve never seen, and said, “I’ve got some good news. Your windshield looks perfect now!” how would you respond? Confused, suspicious, and even upset. Now what if this same man were to say to you, “When I pulled into the church parking lot this morning, I saw that your windshield was shattered. While you were in church, a limb fell from the tree and destroyed it. I repair glass for a living and I happened to have all my tools with me and even the exact size of your windshield. I went ahead and fixed everything and there’s no charge.” How would you feel now? Grateful! What made the good news good? The bad news. Here’s the bad news – We were stuck in sin, waiting for the wrath of God to fall on us. Here’s the good news – God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins but he rose again. When we believe in him, not only are our sins forgiven but we also have eternal life! That is the basic Content of the gospel, the good news. Today we will go a step further and try to understand the Activity of the Gospel (how the Gospel moves) in our message through Philippians titled “DEFINING GOSPEL.”

Philippians 1    5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…7… inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel12…the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. 17…knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 4:15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel

Question:  What makes the good news good is the bad news. Once again, the bad news is that you are dead in trespasses and sins. The good news is that Jesus came to set you free. Have you received the good news, the gospel?

Background:  Last weekend we learned that the word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” or “good spell” which means “good news.” Today I want to introduce to you the Greek word behind the word gospel/good news. It’s “euangelion.” It is found a couple hundred times in the New Testament in various forms and 84 times just in Paul’s letters. It was a central concept in his theology. Sometimes he used it to refer to the Content of the good news and other times to describe the Activity of the good news. There is a difference between the two. Content is what the gospel means. Activity is how the gospel moves. If you want to see Paul’s description of the Content of the gospel, turn to 1 Corinthians 15    1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved…3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (Paul is not the manufacturer of the gospel) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (There’s the bad news) 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (There’s the good news) 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren…” (There’s the proof of the good news and it hasn’t changed!).

Illustration: Last week thousands came by the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and then the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC to pay their last respects to Billy Graham. I cannot help but think about how in 1938 when he was just 20 years old, his girlfriend at the time dumped him saying, “I just don’t see any real purpose in your life yet.” I think she was wrong! He definitely had a purpose and it was to preach the unchanging gospel. He once said, “The message I preach hasn’t changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn’t changed.

Now that’s the Content of the Gospel (in a nutshell). But, there’s also the Activity of the Gospel (how the gospel moves). We see this Activity in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Here Paul used that word “euangelion” 9 times. By the way, all of them are regarding the Activity of the Gospel. It’s as if the Philippians knew very well what Paul meant when he used the word “gospel.” He didn’t have to explain it to them. They were a gospel church.

Application: As a pastor, I hope we’re like the Philippians. We are not a contemporary church or traditional church, white church or black church, big church or small church. We are a gospel church. It is a central part of our theology and identity.

4 things we learn about the Activity of the Gospel in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

  1. The Gospel is a powerful, living force

Philippians 1    3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” The Gospel here is not something passive but active, something powerful on its own. Paul didn’t create it nor did he activate it. He was called to join in. The Philippians joined in as well. The message of good news has been powerfully moving since the beginning of time. We can be oblivious to it, go against it, or we can receive it and join in. I received a letter this week from Franklin Graham which I’m sure also came to tens of thousands of people. He said something very powerful in it – “Many have said that his (Billy Graham) death ends an era, but he would be the first to say that when God’s ambassadors die in Christ, the Lord raises up others, because the preaching of the Gospel will go forward until the end of the age.”

  1. The Gospel is not easily received

Philippians 1:7 “because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” Even though the gospel is a powerful living force, it is often misunderstood and corrupted. Paul had to defend and confirm the gospel throughout his ministry. He had to defend the gospel from the legalists and then confirm it through the apostles. Although it doesn’t say it in this passage, the reason is that Satan is always trying to pervert and corrupt it.

Application: The Gospel is in the Bible but it’s not the Bible. It’s not the 10 commandments or the Beatitudes or the Golden Rule. It’s not going to Church, getting baptized, and feeling sorry for all the bad you’ve ever done. It’s not trying to be a better person, better husband, better wife, better neighbor, better citizen, better worker, and giving your time/money to help others. It’s not trying to give all your problems to God and trusting Him and praying to Him to help you. It’s not believing in God, Angels, and Satan. The gospel is believing that Jesus, the Son of God, came as promised and died for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. As the pastor, it is my primary responsibility to defend and confirm this constantly.

  1. The Gospel steadily moves forward

Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” Rulers and religious authorities, governments and groups have all tried to stop the gospel and to shut it down. It has grown evermore and it will continue. What we may think is the end of the road will only turn out to be a bend in the road for the gospel. Case in point: Paul himself. When do you think he first heard the gospel? Not on the road to Damascus. I believe it was when he stood there guarding the clothes of those who were stoning Stephen. As Stephen lay dying, Paul began to come alive. Wow!

  1. The Gospel demands a certain lifestyle

Philippians 1    27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries.” I preached on this last week. The Gospel lifestyle is not for contentious and cowardly people. Those are the 2 no-nos’ when it comes to the gospel. The gospel requires partnership and fearlessness. There’s a higher focus.

Illustration: One of my friends posted this – “Late one rainy night, Christian author and youth worker Mike Yaconelli was driving through Nashville. He saw someone sitting on some steps with his head between his knees, and a coat pulled over his head to keep out the rain and wind. Thinking he was homeless, Mike said, “Hey, mister, you don’t have to sit here in the rain like this. We’ve got enough money to put you up in a hotel. Come on with us. We’ll provide what you need for a good night’s sleep.” The man looked up. It was Billy Graham. “It’s okay,” Graham said. “I just want to sit here for a while and pray for this city.” He had a crusade coming soon and wanted to prepare his heart.”

Invitation: The True Gospel has not changed in the past 2000 years. If you say—

  • I need to be a better person– wrong gospel
  • I need to turn everything overto God – wrong gospel
  • I need to read the Bible and prayevery day – wrong gospel
  • I need to give up all my bad habits– wrong gospel

The gospel is Jesus is God’s son who died for your sins as promised in the Bible. He was buried but rose again as promised. If you believe in him, you can have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

If you have received the Content of the gospel, it’s time to join the Activity of the gospel. It’s time to join the Powerful, Living Force of God that is steadily moving forward changing lives.

Steadfast by Pastor Abidan Shah

STEADFAST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Steadfast

Introduction:  A little boy was trying to sell his horse at the county fair. The horse was no good except for eating oats. An old farmer came by. He could tell the horse was no good and he teased the boy saying, “Son, can that horse run fast?” The boy replied, “No sir, but he can sure stand fast.” In the message today, we’re going to learn how to stand fast or be steadfast as a Christian. But, more specifically we’re going to learn how to be steadfast along with other Christians. There’s a difference.

Philippians 1   27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Question: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Before your conduct can be worthy of the gospel of Christ, you have to receive the gospel of Christ. The word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good and “spell” means story or news. What’s the good news? “You and I are stuck in sin with God’s judgment of ultimate death waiting for us. But God sent his Son to take our sins upon himself and die in our place. All you and I have to do is ask him to be our Savior. He not only forgives us our sins but just as he came alive, we are also made spiritually alive in him.” Have you received this gospel?

Context: The passage we just read begins with the word “only” – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel.” It has a tone of warning in it. Think of this warning as a caution not a threat. So far Paul had nothing but good to say about the Philippians:

  • 4 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” The Philippians were a faithful church.
  • 6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The Philippians were an inspiring church.
  • 7 “…you all are partakers with me of grace.” The Philippians were a gospel supporting church.
  • 9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…” The Philippians were a loving church.
  • 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ…” The Philippians were a worshipping church. I can go on.

But, here’s a caution – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Meaning: You have a lot of good but don’t neglect your conduct. To understand what Paul meant by conduct, we have to go the original Greek. He used a verb here that he did not use anywhere else in his letters. It is the verb “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Keep in mind that the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were still trying to live by their Roman standards. They would have understood very well what Paul was implying – “Just as you are Roman citizens living in Greece trying to maintain your Roman values, you are also Gospel citizens living in this world, don’t neglect to be a Gospelian.”

For e.g. When I became an American citizen, I had to take a test on American history. I read our foundational documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Those became the values by which I was going to live. So also, when you became a Christian, there are certain values that go with that citizenship.

What are those standards? 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ (live out your citizenship to the gospel), so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” Paul told them that he will check up on them, in person or through others, regarding their conduct. Then he lists 2 major ones, one positive and the other negative:

Positive – “that you stand fast…” We immediately think that this “standing fast” is my personal individual steadfastness. Not really. Here standing fast is “hoti stekete” which is a Roman military term that describes a unit forming a line together in the face of the enemy. “Come what may, stand fast. Don’t break rank.” “that you stand fast in one spirit…” People have debated if this is just the spirit of unity or is it the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is similar to what Paul said in I Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” and Ephesians 2:18 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” It’s the same Holy Spirit in me and you that creates a bond between us that is much greater than any superficial likes or dislikes. Few verses down in Philippians 2   1 Paul says, “Therefore if there is…any fellowship of the Spirit…2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” Paul continues in verse 27 “…that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” “Striving together” is literally “striving side by side.” It is an athletic term that implies being of one soul. Paul was telling the Philippians to be “souls together for the gospel.” A mark of a Gospelian is that we strive for unity in the Holy Spirit and seek to be of one mind. If I may add, being a Gospelian is not an individual sport but a team sport.

Application: Do you understand how critical unity in the Holy Spirit and being of one mind is to the church family? There are 3 natural born killers of this unity – Lostness, Isolationism, and Divisiveness. Titus 3   10 “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” Bottom line: If individually we are not right, it will affect our unity.

Negative – 28 “and not in any way terrified by your adversaries…” The word terrified here is the Greek word “pturomai,” which is again a verb that Paul does not use anywhere else. In Classical Greek it was used to describe a horse getting spooked in battle. It would get startled by loud noises or shrieks and it would bolt through the battlefield, stampeding anyone in his path. A mark of a Gospelian is not to spook or get spooked but stay calm and help each other stay calm and united in the Holy Spirit. Who are our adversaries who spook us? Anything or anyone who is opposed to the gospel. It may be people or policies. How should you respond other than stand fast? “which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” Remember that it proves that they are headed for destruction and you are saved by God.

Somethings more Paul said here – 29 “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Don’t misunderstand. This is not individual personal suffering. Although, that is also true. In this context, it is collective group suffering. Not only that but we are to look upon suffering just as we look upon salvation. It is a gracious gift of God. Ultimately, suffering, and, more specifically, collective suffering is proof that we belong to God. 30 “having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” Meaning: Even though we know this, it doesn’t make sense at times.

Be steadfast together in the Holy Spirit with one mind. Be steadfast together in the face of suffering, refusing to be intimidated. It is a mark of the greatest believers. Are you saved? Are you steadfast together?

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