Perspective by Pastor Abidan Shah

PERSPECTIVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

PerspectiveIntroduction:  Growing up our kids loved watching Disney’s “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” There are 2 characters in that story who are polar opposites: Eeyore the donkey and Tigger the tiger. Eeyore is always pessimistic, gloomy, and glass half-empty kind of character and Tigger is always optimistic, bouncy, and glass half-full kind of character. When you meet Eeyore, he says things like “If it is a good morning, which I doubt” or “Thanks for noticing me.” But, when you meet Tigger, he says things like “Hello! I’m Tigger!” or “Tiggers never get lost!” They have two very different perspectives on the problems in life. I’m sure there are some Eeyores and Tiggers in this room or at least we know some! When we as Christians talk about perspective in the Christian life, we’re talking about something much more than being a spiritual Tigger. That’s our message today titled PERSPECTIVE in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

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, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Question: Paul refers to being in chains. He is using that word as a figure of speech known as synecdoche which implies that he was in prison. Why was Paul in prison? For preaching the gospel. How did he deal with that? Instead of seeing it as a setback, an obstacle, or as abandonment by God, He saw it as an opportunity to further share the gospel. It’s his perspective on life, problems, and God’s sovereign will that helped him to do that. We all have certain chains in life. How do you see your chains in life? Do you see them as setbacks, obstacles, abandonment by God, or as opportunities to keep sharing the gospel? What is your perspective? Are you saved?

Context:  Listen once again to verse 12. Paul says “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me…” Which things was Paul referring to? As I just mentioned to you, Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians. Now, don’t immediately assume that he was in some dark dungeonous prison with rats, filth, and feet in stocks. The fact that he was able to write this letter tells us that more than likely he was in a house arrest type situation awaiting trial. When Paul talked about “the things which happened” to him, I believe that, he had more than just his house arrest in mind. In Romans 15 Paul had shared with the Roman church his ultimate plans with the gospel 28 “Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.” Paul had great plans towards the end of his life to take the gospel further out west into Europe. He had big hopes to take the gospel to the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. When Paul was put under house arrest, his great plans had sort of failed. If you read Acts 25, it appears that now he was at the mercy of a corrupt court system. No doubt, he must have been disappointed, discouraged, and even disillusioned.

Application: In life, we have many plans, some very good, noble, and even godly plans, but they don’t always work out. “Things happen.” What is comforting to me is that even someone like Paul who walked very close to God had “things happen to him.” Here’s my encouragement: Don’t interpret your failed plans as some hidden sin or as an abandonment by God. Trust him and his sovereign plan even more.

Listen to how Paul handled his failed plans? 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…’’ In other words, what Paul thought was the end of the road had actually turned out to be just a bend in the road for the gospel. How is that? 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” In order to truly appreciate this, you need to have some basic understanding of the Roman army. The Romans developed the most effective army ever known in history. At the bottom level was the contubernium, a unit of 8 men. Ten contubernia made one century, that’s 80 men. Six centuries made one cohort, that’s 480 men. Ten cohorts made one legion, that’s 4800. Later in the first century, the first cohort got expanded to twelve centuries, that’s 960 men, making a legion about 5,280 fighting men. Keep in mind that there would be 120 horsemen in a legion and slaves for transportation, doing menial labor, and guarding the camp. I don’t want to get into all those details but you can imagine how vast this enterprise was. Altogether, Emperor Augustus had about 25 legions. The commander of the legion was a senator in his 20s or 30s who was previously a magistrate and had to be appointed by the Emperor.

Where do the palace guards fit in? They were the “praetorian,” the emperor’s personal troops and bodyguards. They were the best of the best. They had to be from Italy. They had significantly higher status than the normal legionaries and had much higher pay and got a lot of special bonuses. They were the ones who made and unmade Emperors. Augustus had 3 cohorts of 480 each around him, that’s about 1500 of the most elite fighting men, and about 6 more cohorts in nearby towns. Out of these elites, there was a higher elite group known as the speculatores Augusti who were on horseback, clearing the way before the emperor when he went through the streets. According to some sources, there was a camp at the northeastern edge of Rome with as many as 9000 praetorians. By the way, they only served for 16 years. What then? They took on high level positions in the legions. Listen again to verse 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…” Paul is now witnessing to the top brass in the Roman army who have the ability and power to influence so many thousands more! Wow! God works in mysterious ways!

Application: If a believer looks at life only from an earthly, selfish, and fleshy perspective, he or she will get depressed. But, if you look at the things that have happened to you or happening to you from a heavenly, selfless, and spiritual perspective, you will realize that the Holy Spirit has set you up perfectly to further the gospel! The Gospel is the true perspective changer for the believer. This does not mean that you need to just settle for whatever people hand to you. Work to improve your situation but don’t lose sight of why God has allowed you to get to where you are at the moment.

Now that’s just from inside the prison. How about on the outside? 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” What’s going on now? Word is getting out of how God is using Paul to share the gospel with the elite troops and bodyguards of the Emperor. So, now other believers feeling emboldened by Paul’s position, start sharing the gospel with courage. Billy Graham once said “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”

For e.g. Nicole and I just watched the movie “Darkest Hour.” Typically, I don’t use movies as sermon illustrations but this one was different. It’s about Winston Churchill and the Nazi invasion of Western Europe. In the face of fear, doubt, skepticism by even his own party, Churchill boldly said, “We shall never surrender!” Thank goodness he did! If not, the world map would be a very different today.

Just when you think that Paul is a glass half-full kind of guy, listen to verse 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What’s going on? In an agonistic culture where people used every opportunity to self-promote and advance their position in society, some were using Paul’s imprisonment as an opportunity to further their position in church and society! How crazy! Guess what? It happens even today as people compete in ministry. What’s Paul’s response? 18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” You have to be close to Jesus to be able to do that!

Now Paul lists 2 things that he needs in a time like this – 19 “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.Also, the deliverance is not just about coming out of prison, as Paul says in verse 20 “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” What an awesome perspective!

Why did Paul say all this to the Philippians? Was it just to reassure them that he was okay? Was it just a cathartic experience, trying to let it all out? Paul was encouraging the Philippians to imitate him as they faced similar trials. He was reminding them to change their perspective regarding their circumstances. He was teaching them how to see life through the gospel lens.

Invitation: How do you see your job loss, your health problem, your relationship struggle, your financial difficulty? Can you see it through the gospel lens? It is not about glass half-empty vs glass half full. It is about taking the gospel and offering it to some dying thirsting sinner in your path. Are you saved?

Dark Day by Pastor Abidan Shah

DARK DAY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Dark Day

Introduction:  On August 21, 2017, people who lived in that 70-mile-wide ribbon all the way from Oregon to South Carolina experienced what is known as the total solar eclipse. It was the first time in almost 38 years that this natural phenomenon was going to pass through the United States. From our church, we had two van loads of people who travelled down to my old college in Georgia to see this incredible celestial event. We found us a nice shady spot from which we could glance at the sun wearing those eclipse glasses. We had looked up the time when it would be total solar eclipse and it was going to be at 2:37pm and last no more than 1 min 59 secs. As the appointed time began to draw near, everything turned eerie – the leaves did not look as green, the stream flowing by did not look as clear, the sky took on this dark and dreary color, and everyone felt as if the end of the world had come. the moon lined up directly in front of the sun, leaving a bright ring in the sky, and everything went dark. Even the birds stopped singing and the crickets began chirping. When it happened, involuntarily we all began to shout and cheer! I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. As incredible as that was, there’s coming a day much much scarier than anything we can ever imagine. That’s the title of our final message in our series through Malachi – “DARK DAY.”

Malachi 4    1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the Lord of hosts.

Question: Some people think that this world is just floating as some abandoned ship in the middle of the ocean. Not true. God set this ship to sail when he created this world and he is guiding it to its appointed destination. Make no mistake that it will reach its destination on the day that he has decreed. Are you prepared for that day? Are you prepared to face your maker? Are you living each day as if this could be the day? Are you telling others about Christ? Are you saved?

Context: In this final chapter of the Book of Malachi, God gave the people of Israel a glimpse of the future. Listen again to Malachi 4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.” God was telling his people, the people of Israel, that there was a day coming when he will execute his judgment on those who they were saying were the “proud but blessed” and the “wicked but successful” and it will destroy them. This was the same day that God mentioned 2 verses earlier in Malachi 3:16-17 where he listened and heard those who feared him and desired to please him speaking to each other about him. He says, “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels…” In other words, on the very day that God will proudly display those people of Israel who love him and desire to please him, he will crush those wicked who appear to be blessed in this life and seem to get away with wickedness.

 The OT is filled with many references about this “day.” Sometimes it’s called the “Day of the Lord,” sometimes the “Day of Tribulation,” other times the “Day of Judgment,” “Day of Wrath,” “Day of Jacob’s Trouble,” or even the “Day of Vengeance of the Lord.” Obadiah, Joel, Zephaniah, Isaiah, Ezekiel – they all talk about this day. It is spoken as “one day” but if you study it carefully, it represents the idea of God’s many judgments upon the wicked throughout history, culminating in a final ultimate judgment, the Day with a capital D. If you’ve studied biblical prophecy, we call it the “Great Tribulation.”

Let me pause here: I’ve spent a lot of time studying prophecy and eschatology (the study of the end times) and this is what I’ve found – Some people become obsessed with prophecy and others become adamant and argumentative over some view in prophecy. They begin to suffer from what’s known as the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” Abigail sent me a quote from them yesterday. By the way, David Dunning and Justin Kruger are social psychologists and professors who published a very interesting study in 1999. In a nutshell, the study proved this – “The less people know, the more they think they know.” Have you ever heard the statement – “Little knowledge is dangerous.” When it comes to prophecy, I have found a lot of dangerous people. They read a book or two and listen to some series from some favorite preacher and they become experts on the end times! I’ve preached many sermons on prophecy and this is what I’ve found – “The more I read and study prophecy, the more complex it becomes!” So, should we not study it? Of course not. We should study and teach prophecy but do it with humility and the right focus. Revelation 19:10 “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

What can we make of this prophecy? First, it is given to the people of Israel. Malachi was written to those Jewish people who were back in the land after their exile. It was written to confront their sins and to commend those who were pleasing God and speaking to one another about him. This prophecy will be fulfilled for the people of Israel in the end of times. In other words, God still has a purpose for ethnic Israel. Sometimes people have a problem with that. They think that the church has replaced Israel. They quote passages like Romans 9   6 “…For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham…” That’s a big misinterpretation of that passage in its context. Read the verses prior starting in Romans 9   2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. Paul is saying that he is so burdened for his people, the people of Israel, that if he could, he would go to hell so they could get saved. Later he says in Romans 10   1 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not…2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” Why is he saying all this? The Jewish people had rejected Jesus their Messiah so the question was “Is God through with them?” Listen to Romans 11   11 “…Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” Then he gives a powerful imagery of Israel being the olive tree and the Gentiles being the wild olive tree. Paul says in verse 17 “if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them…” 18 do not boast against the branches…remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” What does all this mean? God is not finished with the people of Israel. There’s coming a day when he will once again exalt his people and work through them. The reminder to us is to never turn our backs on the Jewish people.

Let’s return to Malachi – 2 “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…” The question that is often asked at this point is “where will the church be at this point?” Will we be there to see the Sun of Righteousness? I believe the imagery for the church is not the “Sun of Righteousness” but what Revelation 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” Does that mean that we will be raptured? Also keep in mind Revelation 2   26 “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations…28 and I will give him the morning star.” It could be that we may be gone before the day dawns or we may have to overcome and Jesus will guide us as the morning star.

“…And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.” But at the outset 144,000 Jewish people will be saved and they will go out as missionaries. All of them like the apostle Paul or the prophet Jonah or the apostle Peter. They will be filled with the Holy Spirit, not having to learn any language and they will go to the uttermost parts of the earth. There will be persecution. Israel will be attacked but God will save them. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the Lord of hosts. Today many countries are trying to destroy the Jewish people. Make no mistake, they will ultimately win. God will be faithful to the covenant he made to his friend Abraham.

4 “Remember the Law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Meaning: One major sign of the fulfillment of God’s timing is when there is no generational gap. Also remember, the plan of salvation has always been the same – Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Dr. Vance Havner said, “You can give a Bible and a candle to a child of God then put him in a dungeon. Even there, he will know more about what is going on in this world than all of Congress and the Pentagon put together.”

When will all this be? 1Thessalonians 5   1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

Be ready now. Get saved. Tell others. Live pleasing to God.

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