Fulfilled: Location of Jesus’ Birth by Pastor Abidan Shah

FULFILLED: LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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Introduction: There are towns in our United States with some really funny names! For e.g. Accident, Maryland; Chicken, Alaska; Cut and Shoot, Texas; Embarrass, Minnesota; Experiment, Georgia; Frankenstein, Missouri; Imalone, Wisconsin; Nothing; Arizona; Pie Town, New Mexico; Santa Claus, Arizona; Tightwad, Missouri; Two Egg, Florida; Uncertain, Texas; and Why Not, North Carolina. I actually looked this one up. It’s in Randolph County, South of Asheboro, where the NC Zoo is located. Story goes that when the first settlers were trying to decide on the name, they kept debating “Why not this” and “why not that,” until one man who had enough of it suggested, “Why not name the town Why Not and let’s go home?” This actually pleased everyone! In this message, we will be looking at another small town which compared to Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and Babylon was nothing but it was the place God chose for the birth of his son. Because, God loves to work through insignificant people and insignificant places. This is our 4th and final message in our series “FULFILLED: THE LOCATION OF JESUS’ BIRTH.”

Matthew 2    1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Question: Do you ever feel insignificant? Do you ever feel unworthy? Do you ever feel that you are too little or unsuitable to be used by God? I have and I still do. Here’s the good news! God loves using the insignificant and the unworthy, the little and the unsuitable. Why? He specializes in using those through whom he can get the most glory. But, whether significant or not, you have to be saved? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read has so many things that we can focus on: the identity of the magi or the wise men (Who were these strange visitors from the East); the meaning of the star (Was it a comet? Was it a supernova?); the significance of the gifts (Gold, frankincense, and myrrh). For time’s sake, I would like to focus just on the significance of the little town of Bethlehem in Judea in the coming of Jesus. Listen again to Matthew 2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…” The reason Matthew specifies Bethlehem of Judea is because there was another Bethlehem in the North about 7 miles Northwest of Nazareth. For e.g. If I were to write something like “Wilbur Hardee, the founder of Hardees, was born in Greenville, North Carolina.” Why did I specify “North Carolina?” Because there’s a Greenville, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, California, and about 26 more in the United States! Why do I bring this up? When people claim that the Bible is just a fictitious book made up by the church to control the masses, they haven’t taken the time to carefully examine the historic details in it. Let me say it again: The Bible is unlike any book in the history of the world. It was written by men who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” You can trust it!

What happens next? Wise men (magi) from the East come to Jerusalem and their question is “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” That title “King of the Jews” is very important. It implies “Where is the descendant of King David?” The magi may not have understood what they said but the people of Jerusalem surely did. Listen to their reaction – 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’” It was no secret at the time of Jesus’ birth that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. In fact, listen to John 7   40 Therefore many from the crowd…said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” The reason they knew this is because 800 years earlier a prophet by the name of Micah had prophesied the location of the Messiah’s birth. Who was Micah? He was a younger contemporary of Isaiah the prophet who primarily preached to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Just like Isaiah he also warned the people of Judah that it was foolish for turning to the Assyrians for help because after they were done destroying Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, they would come for them in the South. Just as he had warned, it happened. The Assyrians destroyed the North and sent them into exile, never to return. Then they marched into the South. Listen to his words in Micah 3   9 Now hear this, You heads of the house of Jacob And rulers of the house of Israel, Who abhor justice and pervert all equity, 10 Who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity…12 Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.” Micah pronounces 3 sets of judgments against them but in the midst of declaring God’s wrath and discipline, he gives them some rays of hope. Listen to Micah 5    2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah (An ancient name for Bethlehem), Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” A better translation would be “whose origins are from of old.” In other words, although this ruler would be a descendant of King David, he will be unique in that he is eternal. He doesn’t have a descent. 3 Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel.” In the midst of sure judgment under the Assyrians, God promises his people that he will not abandon them. Just the way God promised, he miraculously saved his people from Sennacherib’s armies. Read 2 Kings 19 of how when the Assyrian army lay siege to Jerusalem that the angel of the Lord went through the Assyrian camp that night and killed 185,000 of them. God delivered.

Listen carefully: Even when we mess up, He is still merciful.

But that was just a down payment on a much bigger prophecy. One day the true deliverer would come to set his people free from the bondage of sin. He will actually come from the but from Bethlehem of Judea. Where were Joseph and Mary living when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit? In Nazareth of Galilee in the North. I preached on this couple of years ago. Until the 1800s, people denied that there was any such place called Nazareth in history but then through archaeology scholars found inscriptions about Nazareth. It was a tiny village of maybe 250-300 people who claimed to be descendants of King David. Some of them had priestly lineage. Where did they come up with the name “Nazareth?” It comes from the Hebrew word “Netzer” which means “a shoot.” It’s a reference to Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse…” These people were probably from Bethlehem, the city of David, in Galilee in the South. Why did they move to the North? Maybe because of employment. Maybe because of the Herodians who were crazy to say the least. They had moved up and began this settlement of Nazareth, trying to preserve themselves for the coming of the Son of David, the King of the Jews, the Messiah.

Now we have a problem. It’s time for the Messiah to be born but he’s in the wrong location! I can imagine Mary and Joseph wondering something is not right. We should be in Bethlehem if all that angel has said is true. I can also imagine Gabriel going to God and saying – “Everything is ready for God the Son to land but he’s in the wrong location! Would you like me to take a couple of angels with me and just airdrop them into Bethlehem? We could do it so fast that they won’t even know what happened. Or maybe a strong wind could just blow the city of Nazareth to Bethlehem.” God the Father says, “Nope. I already put my plan into motion about 50 years ago. There’s a megalomaniac who goes by the name of Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome. He thinks he is a god and the savior of the world. He is building up his empire, rebuilding the temples and the public buildings. He is really popular with the masses. But, he’s running out of money because of his 28 legions, each with 5000 soldiers. So, he’s about to do something that will transport Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Listen to Luke 2   1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David. Don’t you love the way God solves problems. Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” How frustrating and uncomfortable for Joseph and Mary but there was no better way.

Don’t forget: “Man’s interruption is God’s providence; human disruption is divine arrangement.” There’s no reason to be frustrated and bitter in the Christian life. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Application: Are you struggling with some situation or some decision someone has made? Have you been handed a bad deal? Do you feel insignificant? Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit. God is still in charge.

God is a God of Mercy. He’s always been merciful to his people. Mercy has a name. JESUS. Have you received him?

Love is Purifying by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS PURIFYING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love is purifyingIntroduction:  Sometime back I was watching a basketball game between two college rival teams. Please don’t ask me which one I was rooting for. I don’t want my tires slashed! Nonetheless, a player on the rival team travelled. He just lost his balance. What was amazing to me is that the home crowd cheered at the top of their lungs, including me. This is nothing new and I’m sure you’ve seen it before and probably cheered too. The player was embarrassed. He dropped his head and slumped back to his seat. But I thought about it. We weren’t cheering for our player who made a basket. We weren’t cheering for our team that made a good play. We were cheering for a player on the opposite team who made a mistake and cost his team possession of the ball. If you really think about it, we were actually happy over someone’s mistake and misfortune! Sadly, this happens not just in sports but also in real life. Today’s message will not only expose this ugly sinful side in all of us but also give us the solution so we can truly love others the way God loves us. The message is titled: LOVE IS PURIFYING.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian church was fraught with some of the worst kinds of sins. It was damaging the unity of the church. They couldn’t love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to confront them, to help them deal with those sins so they could love each other the way God loved them. By the way, when the Holy Spirit deals with us, he doesn’t leave any stone unturned. Now we come to another sin in this church – “rejoicing in iniquity.” We’ll try to understand that in a few moments but believe or not, it means feeling joy and cheering over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others.

Question: I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands this morning if you ever felt joy over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others. I’d hate to make a bunch of people lie at the same time in church. But would you agree that sin is deeper and uglier and more heinous than we pretend it is. The difference between the guy in prison and us is that he took the next step and by the grace of God we haven’t. Are you saved? Sometime people ask me – “What do I have to be saved from? Besides hell, the Devil, this life, yourself. This message will expose you to the “Resident Evil” inside you. It’ll show you why you need Christ to save you.

Let’s look at the words in Greek: “Love does not rejoice in iniquity.” First, the word for rejoice is “charei,” which carries the idea of being glad or taking pleasure in something. Second, “in iniquity” is the combination of the words “epi” = upon and “adikia” = wrongdoing, injury, injustice, or unrighteousness. Together they carry the idea of someone’s loss or wrong action. So Love does not rejoice in iniquity” means love does not get joy because of someone’s injury or wrong doing.

What in the world was happening in the Corinthian church? Keep in mind that the Corinthian culture was a very competitive, status-seeking culture in the ancient world. The American School of Classical Studies in Athens unearthed 1500 inscriptions from the Roman period (44BCE – 276CE) that brag on self. Scholars note that boasting about self was almost considered to be an art form. It was totally acceptable to not only brag about self but also secretly and sometimes even openly wish for the other person to fall and even cheered when they fell. In other words, it was normal for people in Corinth at the time to climb over each other in order to move up the social and financial ladder. Talk about Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest.” Unfortunately, this thinking and behavior had also infiltrated the church. Now the Corinthian Christians were not only boasting about self but they were also secretly and sometimes even openly wishing for the other person to fall and cheered when they fell.

Some of y’all are saying – “What kind of degenerate person would wish for someone to fall? What kind of evil hearted people would cheer when someone falls into sin or when something bad happens to someone?” Us kind of people. I can hear some of y’all saying, “Oh no! Not me! I always feel for people when something bad happens to them.” Some of y’all are saying, “When I heard what happened to them, I sent them a card…I even stopped by and told them ‘I was sad to hear what happened.’” Sure, we’re sad when bad things happen to our children or our best friend or someone we like or someone who is helpless or less fortunate but how about when something bad happens to those we don’t like very much or those we don’t care for much. I am referring to what goes through our minds when we hear that someone we envy just received bad news from the doctor. I am referring to what flashes in the secret chambers of our hearts when we hear that someone who seems to be ahead of us in life is going through a divorce or their son/daughter is making bad choices. I am referring to our first reaction when someone who always seems so strong and self-sufficient loses his job or has a wreck. I’m not suggesting that we call them and tell them how happy we are or throw a party in their dishonor. We are more cautious and polite and have more decency than that. I’m referring to the subtle feeling of satisfaction, amusement, and glee that comes over us and says, “Now I feel better. Now I’m one step ahead of them.” It’s the voice in our head that says, “I feel bad for em…but that’ll take em down a notch or two” or “Maybe that’ll teach em a lesson” or “We must be doing something right because we’re not going through what they are…thank God…” Germans call this thought and feeling “Schadenfreude,” which is the combination of two words – Schaden = damage and freude = joy. It means “the emotion of pleasure we feel in the misfortunes of others.” 99.9% of the time we will never share this with anyone, even people we trust but its there.

Question: No need to raise your hand but has this feeling ever come into your hearts? If you’re human, it has. The sooner you acknowledge it the better. If you pretend it’s not there, you will not be able to deal with it. If you don’t deal with it, you won’t be able to love others the way God loves you. It will corrupt the channel of love in your heart. Illustration: Imagine if you asked someone for a glass of water. They bring you clean water but the container is dirty. No matter how clean the water is, the dirty container will contaminate it. So also, it doesn’t matter how pure the love is in your heart but if your heart is dirty, it will contaminate your love. It will corrupt even the love you have for your loved ones. It will the Devil the foothold he wants in your life.

The place to begin is to recognize the source of this “Schadenfreude.” No one has to give you a lesson in it. It comes from the sin that resides deep within all of us. Keep in mind, this was not just some Corinthian problem. It is an age-old problem. In the oldest book in the Bible, the Book of Job, listen to what he says, Job 31  29 “If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, Or lifted myself up when evil found him 30 (Indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin By asking for a curse on his soul).” Job calls this a sin. Psalm 17:5 “…He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 24   17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; 18 Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him. God told his people in the Old Testament to refrain from rejoicing even over the downfall of their enemies.

Application: If we were truly honest, all of us have some repenting to do.

But Paul didn’t stop there. It’s not enough “not to feel happy at the misfortunes of others.” He went one step further to say – “Love rejoices in the truth.” First, the word for rejoices is “sugcharei,” which is more than just rejoicing. It is actually “joyfully celebrating” or “congratulating” or “applauding.” Truth is the word “aletheia” which is somewhat complicated. Truth here is not gospel truth. It’s not just the good things of life. Truth here is something objective. It doesn’t matter if it benefits me or hurts me. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the social ladder. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the financial ranking. Truth is truth.

Illustration: Sometime back someone invited me to go watch a basketball game. One of the players of the rival team made an amazing play and someone said – “It doesn’t matter which team you’re rooting for. That was a good play.” Meaning: Truth is truth. It doesn’t matter if that point goes against us or not. That player had just made an excellent play.

Love not only refuses to be happy at the misfortunes and mistakes of one’s enemies but it acknowledges and applauds the good it sees in the other person, without any regard to how it impacts self.

So how can you do this? First, you have to see how God loves you. If you want to know how God loves you, look to the cross.

I Corinthians 1   18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Why did Paul begin his letter to the Corinthians by focusing on the cross? Because he wanted them to know how contrary it was to their way of thinking. In the Corinthian culture, it was acceptable to climb on others, wish for their failures, and even rejoice in their misfortunes. To the contrary, Jesus gave his life on the cross for the very ones who were nailing him. He rejoiced in the truth that what he was doing would bring life to them. Instead of wishing for their failure, he prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When you receive Christ as your savior, not only are your sins forgiven but it also changes your definition of love. God the Holy Spirit purifies our misunderstanding of love.

How do you love others? Now with the help of the Holy Spirit you can actually love people through the cross. It’s not just Jesus on the cross but also you crucifying your sinfulness and selfishness and loving people with a purifying love.

Are you saved? Are you loving others with a purifying love

God’s Calling Card by Pastor Abidan Shah

GOD’S CALLING CARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

gods-calling-cardIntroduction: This is our third message in our Christmas series “BELIEVING IS SEEING.” When you believe in Jesus, He becomes real and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives. Today’s message is titled – “GOD’S CALLING CARD.”

John 1:10   He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Bridge: Many of you carry calling cards or business cards with you. They have your name, your contact information, and your capacity/stature on them. You give them out when you meet a potential client or someone you want to connect with in the future. What happens to those calling cards or business cards? It depends. If there’s a genuine connection or if they need a favor or if there’s a definite need, they keep your card. If not, they chunk it. God also has a calling card and it also has his name, his contact information, and his capacity/stature. He is constantly giving it out to every human being. Unfortunately, many people don’t see its significance and they chunk it.

Context: In this series we are examining what Jesus meant when He told His opponents “Moses wrote about Me.” The question is – how and where did Moses mention Jesus in the Old Testament? Last weekend we learned that where grace and truth come together, there Moses wrote about Jesus. What we’ll learn in this message is that when Jesus came into this world he gave his calling card with his name, position, and contact information. When you study that calling card carefully, it looks very much like the calling card Moses gave for God in the book of Exodus 33-34. The font is a little different. The information is in a different order. It has a few smudges on it because of time but it is identical!

Question: What have you done with God’s calling card? Let’s get more specific – what have you done with Jesus’ calling card? “Oh, I don’t remember getting it…” Every person in this world at some point has an encounter with God/Jesus and receives his calling card. Unfortunately, many never see any need for him in their lives and they chunk it. How about you? Someone might say, “I don’t even know what it looks like…” We will examine it today. But here’s the question – “When you find it, what will you do with it?” Are you willing to be saved?

Let’s look at what God/Jesus’ calling card looks like. We’ll begin with the calling card in the Gospel of John and then go back to the calling card Moses presented:

I. RECOGNIZE THE PATTERN OF THE CALLING CARD

Background: The pattern for God’s calling card is found in the Gospel of John chapter one. John introduces us to Jesus, not as the baby who was born in Bethlehem but as the Word who was in the beginning – 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then in verse 10 he gives us the initial reaction of the world to the coming of Jesus – “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” Meaning: Even though the world was a creation of Jesus, it failed to recognize its Creator. Verse 11 “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Meaning: This was not just some innocent failure to recognize but a deliberate act of rebellion and rejection.

Listen carefully – We don’t seek after God. God seeks after us. Even when we go seeking after God, it’s because He has first come to us and given us his calling card. What does it look like?

  1. The first thing on the calling card is the NAME of Jesus.

12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Have you ever seen a calling card without a name, just a phone number or an email? So also Jesus’ calling card had His name on it – “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel (God with us), Jesus (God Saves), Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, the Lamb of God, and the list goes on and on.

What’s next?

  1. The second thing on the calling card is the CONTACT INFORMATION of Jesus.

13 “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Have you ever seen a calling card with no contact info? So also Jesus’ calling card had his contact info. He “dwelt among us” means “He has set up a branch in your area, where you can easily reach Him.” Have you ever try to reach a business or a service only to find out that they don’t serve your region? Jesus is in your location. Anyone, anywhere, anytime can call on Him.

  1. The third thing on the calling card is the CAPACITY/STATURE of Jesus.

14 “…and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father…” Have you ever seen a calling card that only has a person’s name and contact information but nothing else about him or his services? Listen to what was on Jesus’ calling card – “we beheld His glory.” “Glory” implies that “He is powerful.” How powerful? the glory as of the only begotten of the Father…” As powerful as God the Father himself! He can do anything and everything. What does He offer? “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” We looked at those two last weekend.

Listen to what the sales rep John the Baptist had to say about him in verse 15 “…This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” Meaning: You don’t need me anymore. The boss is here. 18 “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Meaning: This is none other than the owner Himself!

Application: What have you done with the calling card of Jesus? Have you chunked it or have you called upon him? Do you realize how much you need his services in your life? Do you realize that you cannot circumvent him? He is the Boss, the Savior.

II. COMPARE THE ORIGINAL CALLING CARD

Background: Let me begin by giving you the context in which Moses handed God’s calling card to the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus. You remember the time when Moses was on top of Mount Sinai with God and the children of Israel had intimidated Aaron into making a golden calf for them. God was furious with them and wanted to destroy them but Moses interceded for them. Even though many died, God agreed to again lead his people. But Moses needed assurance from God that He would still lead them. Listen to Exodus 33 12 Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, “Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” What Moses is asking for is God’s calling card. He is asking for God’s assurance that He will not abandon His people when they sin against him again and make him mad. God promises him in 14 “…My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Now Moses makes an unusual request in verse 18 “…Please, show me Your glory.” God agrees but warns him that he cannot see his face and live.

Now comes the moment for God’s original calling card in Exodus 34. The order may be different but all the elements on the two cards are identical:

First thing on the original calling card is the CAPACITY/STATURE of God. Exodus 34:5 “Now the LORD descended in the cloud…” That is God’s glory. It is the visible presence of how powerful and capable He is. God had to veil His glory because no one, including Moses, could see it and live.

Second thing on the original calling card is the CONTACT INFORMATION of God. Exodus 34:5 “…and stood with him there…” Just like Jesus came and “dwelt among us,” so also God came down and stood with Moses. Meaning: God set up a meeting place with the people of Israel.

Third thing on the original calling is the NAME OF GOD. Exodus 34   5 “…and proclaimed the name of the LORD. Just the way those who heard the name of Jesus and believed in Him, so also Moses and the people of Israel heard the name of Jesus – 6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” What a long and powerful name! Again, did you notice how it is full of grace and truth?!!

The point is this – How do we know Moses wrote about Jesus? Look at the calling card Jesus gave and the calling card of God that Moses gave. They are identical! They guy in the mailroom cannot walk around with calling card of the president of the company. Even the vice-president cannot walk around with the calling card of the president of the company. Only the president of the company can. Everyone else is an imposter. You have to decide if Jesus was an imposter or is He who He said He is – God come to dwell among us in all His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Invitation: The calling card is in your hand. Are you going to make the call? Or will you reject him and chunk his card in the trashcan? Who is Jesus to you? If you’ve never asked Jesus to be your Savior, today is the day. Make the call. He is waiting to come to you. If you are saved, when was the last time you called on Him? The king of kings has given you his personal calling card. What is keeping you from calling on him

Looking for Grace and Truth by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOOKING FOR GRACE AND TRUTH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

looking-for-grace-and-truthIntroduction: This weekend I am preaching the second message in our Christmas series “Believing is Seeing.” It’s about believing in Jesus and once you do that, He comes alive and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives. Today’s message is titled – “LOOKING FOR GRACE AND TRUTH.”

John 1   14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Bridge: When we travel long distance, the kids love to play the “I Spy” game. I spy something blue or I spy something starting with the letter S. It’s amazing once someone declares what we should be looking for, how everyone starts seeing that object everywhere. In this series we are looking for Jesus in the writings of Moses.

Context: If you remember from last weekend’s message, Jesus told His opponents “Moses wrote about Me.” The question is – how and where did Moses mention Jesus? The clue is found in John 1:14 “…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And again in verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Every time Jesus before He was born is mentioned, grace and truth are mentioned. Here’s the point – If you want to find Jesus in the writings of Moses, you have to start looking at every place where “grace and truth” come together. In other words, you have to play the “I spy” game and start looking for grace and truth and you will see Jesus.

Question: Do you need grace and truth in your life? Grace is God’s compassion in your life. Truth is God’s unadulterated fact about you. You need both to make it in life. You can’t have one without the other. Which one do you need more right now? Grace or Truth. Are you saved? The truth is that you are a sinner condemned to die and grace is what’s going to save you.

In this message we will go all the way back to Genesis 3 where we find the first mention of grace and truth:

I. THE GRACE OF GOD IN CREATION

Genesis 1   26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Background: This was unilateral decision by God. The counsel was within the Godhead – Father, Son, and Spirit. God did not need to create us. He wanted to create us.

Psalm 8   1 “O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!…3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him…”

By the way, this is not just about Adam and Eve but about each of us – We are the creation of God’s grace.

And who created us? Jesus! Listen to these verses:

John 1   1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him…”

Colossians 1   16 “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

Ephesians 3   8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ…”

Hebrews 1   1 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…”

Application: How do you see yourself? How do you see your success? It is all by God’s grace.

II. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SUBTLETY OF SIN

Genesis 2   16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Background: Why did God give us restrictions? To show us our limitations; to remind us that we are not masters of our own destiny; to keep us responsible to the One who created us.

We don’t know how long their obedience lasted but one day they had a visit.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

At this point, the man should have stepped up and intervened but he didn’t. Instead, he allowed his wife to be deceived by this crafty being.

Genesis 3   4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Did you see how Satan twisted the words of God? He still does that.

Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

That is the truth about sin – it is appealing to the appetite, to the senses, and to our pride. Not much has changed. Listen to 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Application: Do you understand the truth about sin? Do you see how Jesus has laid out the standard of obedience for us? Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

III. THE GRACE OF GOD IN COMING FOR US

Genesis 3   8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

Background: If I were God, I would have sent my destroying angel to annihilate and obliterate the creation, especially Adam and Eve. Either start over or go back to how things were. God could see the future as He can see the future now. Why deal with these fallen human beings and what they will do for ages to come? Why give Satan any more opportunity to wreak havoc in the world? Instead, God came down. More specifically, Jesus came down. How do we know that? 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Isn’t that amazing that when man and woman fell into sin, it was Jesus who came down in grace?

Titus 2   11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Titus 3   4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

I can go on and on but the point is simple – The triune godhead reached down to us in grace through Jesus Christ.

Application: How do you see Christ? Can you see His grace towards us in not only creating us but also coming to us in grace when we sinned?

IV. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SERIOUSNESS OF SIN

Genesis 3   16   To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

Background: I don’t think I can add any more to the fact that God will not ignore sin or gloss over sin. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”

Application: Do you think the preaching against sin is harsh? If you read the Bible carefully, it’s not harsh enough! How do you see sin in your life? Do you understand how high is God’s standard of holiness?

V. THE GRACE OF GOD IN MAKING A WAY

Genesis 3   14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

Background: Think about who is saying these words? It is Jesus. Who is He saying these words about? Himself! He is prophesying His own death and the plan of redemption. That is grace, isn’t it? Romans 5   15 “…For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many…17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)…21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Invitation: Have you received the grace of God in Jesus? Have you first received the truth about sin? Both come from Jesus because He is grace and truth.

Choices that Lead to Happy Endings by Pastor Abidan Shah

CHOICES THAT LEAD TO HAPPY ENDINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

choicesthatleadtohappyendings

Introduction: This is the final message in our series through the Sermon on the Mount. Many of y’all have shared with me how much these messages have impacted your life! No wonder it’s called the greatest sermon ever preached!

Matthew 7   13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Bridge: I don’t know if you’ve ever done this but a few months back I stopped by a gas station for gas. I pulled in at the pump, went in, stood in line, paid for the gas, walked out, got in my truck, and left. As I am driving I kept feeling like something wasn’t right. Then, it hit me! I forgot to get gas. Immediately I turned around and pulled in at the same pump. Thank goodness no one had come in behind me or it would’ve been “Merry Christmas!” for that person. Folks, that’s exactly what happens when you come to church, hear the Word of God, understand the Word of God, but when it comes time to apply the Word of God, you get up, walk out, and go back to your life! Howard Hendricks used to say and I’ve heard Rick Warren say it too – “Observation and Interpretation without Application is Abortion!”

Context: In Matthew 5-7 Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever – the 8 Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek…), the Salt and Light passage (You are the Salt of the Earth, You are the Light of the World), the 6 Antithesis (You’ve heard it said…but I say to you…), the importance of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father in Heaven…), the importance of marriage, how to deal with anxiety and worry, and the danger of judging others. After preaching a master sermon, in these final 15 verses Jesus laid out the application. The people had a choice to make – Choose Jesus and His Words and have a happy ending in life or reject Him and be on the Road to Destruction.

Question: You’ve heard many sermons and will hear many more. What choice have you made? Have you chosen to follow Jesus and His Words or have you chosen to live your life your way? Are you a doer of the Word or are you only a hearer of the Word? Is there a change in your life? Are you saved? If not, what is keeping you from it?

In this message, we will see the 4 choices Jesus gave to the people, 4 choices that lead to happy endings. Let the Holy Spirit make you a doer of the Word:

I. TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED. 

13 “Enter by the narrow gate…”

Background: Typically, this passage is interpreted as an invitation to salvation – “Come through the narrow gate and get saved!” That may be implied but it’s not the main focus of this section. Jesus wanted His listeners to understand that the life He offered was amazing and wonderful but it wasn’t easy and cheap. To live this kind of life, they would have to choose to do things differently – “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Meaning: Don’t think for a moment that the standards are lower for this kind of life – “You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t murder’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t be angry’…“You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t commit adultery’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t even look at a woman with lust’…You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I say to you, ‘love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’” In other words, Jesus was no charlatan – “Sign on the dotted line and all your problems will be gone forever.”

Christian life is not a convenient life. The gate is narrow, the road is difficult, and not everyone you know will join you. Having said that, it is worth it – 14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Illustration: “I have decided to follow Jesus” from the Nagas who were headhunters. “Though none go with me, still I will follow” was a tough line for them.

Application: Are you looking for easy Christianity? Are you looking for everyone to understand before you follow? Are you willing to pay the price?

II. GUARD YOURSELF AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS. 

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing…”

Background: It seems odd that Jesus would bring up the subject of false prophets in His application. Why did He think that it was critical to warn his listeners against them? Jesus raised the bar of righteousness for His listeners. He raised the standard of holiness. He did not promise a cheap and easy life. But, He was not a legalist. There’s a world of difference. Legalists are people who come with man-made lists and impose personal morality and rules. Unlike Jesus who came to set people free, these false prophets would come to bind people and enslave them in rules and regulations. They would use guilt and shame to control the masses. Jesus called them the “ravenous wolves.”

Illustration: Many times people come with some rule and regulation and personal morality and standard and they try to convince me to implement that at Clearview. I listen and filter it through the mesh of grace and mercy.

Grape vines

Grape vines

Yes – My Jesus has a “rod and a staff” but they comfort me. Your rod and staff beat people over the head.

Thistles

Thistles

What did Jesus do? He switched the analogy and gave them the litmus test for such false prophets. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Meaning: Look at their lives. See if their teachings are working in their own lives. Jesus was not implying that you have to wait the whole season until harvest time to figure out what the fruit is. “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” If it’s got thorns, then it’s not a grape vine. If it has prickles and spikes, then it’s not a fig tree. 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Here’s the point: Is their message changing their own life first? They are the test, not you. If they are not walking towards Christ, then stop following them. If they are not obeying Christ, then stop following them. If you don’t see Christ in them, then stop following them.

Application: Whom are you following? Is it Jesus or is it someone or something else? Are you drawing closer to Christ or further away from Him?

III. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE TO OBEDIENCE. 

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Background: Can you imagine the reaction in the crowd when Jesus said those words? 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” There’s Brother “Amen” and there’s Sister “Hallelujah.” There’s Mr “Praise God” and there’s Mrs “Bless Jesus.” They’re sitting right up close to Jesus. Every time Jesus pauses for a breath, they are ready to chime in with a spiritual anecdote. They are always ready to quote some bible verse. Even though they are addressing Him with the double vocative “Lord, Lord,” which is the LXX reference for “Yahweh,” the name for God, they don’t really mean that. Jesus can see their hearts and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him. They’re saying all that not to please Him but to impress Him. Because, if they truly believed that He was God, they would obey the “will of His Father in Heaven.” Jesus calls them out because pretend spirituality cannot substitute obedience.

But, there’s something else that cannot substitute obedience – 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ There’s Brother “Gift of prophecy.” There’s Sister “I know everything about the end times.” There’s Mr “Bind Satan.” There’s Mrs “Seen miracles everyday.” They’re also in the crowd and they’re always telling the same worn out, clichéd stories. They even add the phrase “in Jesus name” to legitimize their accounts. Jesus can see their hearts as well and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him either. They’re saying all that not to praise Him but to prove themselves to Him. What’s His reply? 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Jesus calls them out as well because spiritual activities cannot substitute obedience.

Application: What are you substituting for obedience? Spiritual lingo, Spiritual knowledge, or Spiritual experiences. What will Jesus say to you on the Day of Judgment – “I never knew you,” “Depart from Me” or “Well done good and faithful servant”?

IV. TRIALS PROVE US NOT DESTROY US.

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Background: In conclusion, Jesus gives a parable of two men who built homes, one on the rock and the other on the sand. The Rock represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus and obey Him. The Sand represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus but disobey Him. Both of them face a hurricane with rains, floods, and heavy winds. Trials are not selective. They come to all of us, to the saved and the unsaved. But what is the result? The house built on the rock stood but the house built on the sand fell and “great was its fall.” What is the point? Following Jesus will not exempt you from trials in life but it will prove your faith in trials.

In other words, your choices will lead to happy endings.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you taking the road less travelled? Are you guarding yourself against false teachers? Are you obeying Christ and His Word? Do you doubt His care in your life? “Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to Trust and Obey.”

Anger Management Part Three

ANGER MANAGEMENT – 3 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

anger3Introduction: This morning we are in part three in our miniseries on Anger from the Sermon of the Mount.

Matthew 5 21“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Overall Background: 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Last weekend, we first tried to understand what is “anger with a cause.” It is anger when people harden their hearts, when leaders compromise the gospel, when people act like they know better than God, when we see the innocent being mistreated, and when Christians give a bad testimony. The point is – not all anger is bad. Remember – anger is a divine emotion (it comes from God) and it is a derived emotion (it comes out when God’s Holiness and Love come together). We need this kind of anger today – Anger With a Cause. By the way, it’s not mean or hateful or vindictive but it stands up for what is right, for the truth of God.

But, there is another kind of Anger, Anger Without A Cause, which is what this text is about. This kind of anger is not righteous, it is not godly, and it does not bring any good. In fact, it destroys, it is deadly, and it is demonic. No matter how much you justify or rationalize it, it is sinful and against God’s will. Jesus actually compares it to murder. Listen to verse 21“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause…” In essence, Jesus is saying – “Murder is bad but anger without a cause is worse!”

Question: Do you have this kind of anger? Should I ask – “Does your friend have this kind of anger?” How has it affected your spiritual life, family life, relationships, and work performance? How do you feel when the dust settles? Are you ready for a change? Are you saved?

Let’s look at anger “without a cause.” It comes out —

I. WHEN WE FEEL REJECTED

Genesis 4 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering,

Background: Cain and Abel were sons of Adam and Eve. Both of them had respectable occupations – Cain was a farmer and Abel was a Shepherd. When it came time for the offering, God accepted Abel’s offering over Cain’s. Why? Because the offering was supposed to be a blood sacrifice that would represent our forgiveness of sins and refer to the coming of the One who would die for our sins. Cain must have gotten tired of buying a lamb from his brother every time he had to offer a sacrifice and so he decided to make a change. Why can’t God accept my best? What’s wrong with fruits and vegetables? Several things wrong with that – one, the blood sacrifice represented life for life, my sins upon the Lamb; second, it gave a distorted image of God. God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth. He doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables.

Listen to verse 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. Cain must’ve felt rejected. God even tried to remind Cain – 6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” What was the result? Cain killed Abel.

Life is full of rejections – relationships, job opportunities, church responsibilities, and the list goes on. Rejection is painful. It makes us question our self-worth. It causes us to lose our self-confidence. It incites us to resent the one who is accepted or selected. How you deal with rejection is important? Review what happened, rectify what is missing, reach out to God, and renew your determination. What happens when you don’t deal properly with rejection? Resentment follows. Rebellion follows. Wrath follows.

Jesus gives us an excellent illustration on how to handle rejection. There’s an incident in the Gospels when Jesus went to a certain village of the Samaritans and they did not let him come into their village. Why? Because he was headed to Jerusalem. Samaritans and Jewish people didn’t get along. What is interesting is the response of two brothers, James and John, who were known as the Sons of Thunder. Meaning: they had a bad temper. Listen to their response in Luke 9:54 “And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?’” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

Application: What kind of spirit do you have? Have you been rejected? How are you handling it? Rejection left alone will lead to resentment, which will lead to rebellion, which will lead to wrath.

II. WHEN WE FEEL STRESSED OUT

We all know about the prophet Jonah – how God called him to go to Nineveh but he ran from God (we’ve been to this place) and how God sent a big storm. Jonah himself asked to be thrown overboard and a big fish swallowed him.

  • He was inside the fish for 3 days and 3 nights! How would your mental state be? I would say you’d be a little stressed!
  • But after that Jonah is vomited onto dry land. But God’s not through with Jonah – “It’s time to go to Nineveh.” So now he has to travel from the Mediterranean coast to Nineveh, which is a long way. That is stressful!
  • Finally, he is at the gates of Nineveh. Ninevites were not known for their hospitality! It usually didn’t make it on anybody’s bucket list to visit. These people were known for their highly advanced torture techniques. That’s stressful!
  • He enters into this exceedingly great city and has to walk through it – that is 3 days journey in length. That is stressful!
  • Keep in mind – this is not a leisurely walk through the historic district of Nineveh. He has to preach to them – “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” That is stressful!

What’s the result? The people repented, even their King, and God turn from his fierce anger and did not destroy Nineveh. What is Jonah’s response? Jonah 4 1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Why? Yes – he is prejudiced against the Ninevites but it’s more than that. Listen to God’s question for Jonah in Jonah 4:4 Then the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” He doesn’t even answer God but goes outside the city limits, makes himself a shelter, and sits down to see what will happen next.

God just told him what will happen but he doesn’t get it. So God created an object lesson for Jonah. God raised up land to grow up and provide shade for Jonah. This made Jonah very happy period but the next morning God prepared a worm and it went and destroyed the plant. By noon time, the sun beat down on his head and the hot east wind blew against him. Jonah almost fainted and once again he said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” Listen to God’s question again in Jonah 4:9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” Listen to God’s answer in Jonah 4:10   But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

Finally, Jonah had nothing to say. Why? He knew better.

When we are overly stressed out, we do things and say things that we would typically not do and say. When confronted with the truth, we know better.

Application: Are you stressed out? Are you getting enough sleep? When was the last time you took a break? In your spiritual life, are you resting in Christ? Are you praying daily?

III. WHEN WE FEEL EXPOSED 

We all know about Joseph and how his brothers had sold him into slavery. But God in His sovereign plan raised him to be second in command in Egypt. When there was a famine all over the world, his brothers came and stood in front of Joseph. They didn’t recognize him but he did. Finally, he revealed to them who he was. Listen to Genesis 45 3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. 4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. Joseph is so wise now. He knows that their immediate response would be sorry and anger. So he reminds them that God allowed this to happen for everyone’s good.

Truth can either set us free or make us angry. Unfortunately, many times people get angry and mad when they face the truth. Sometimes they are mad at the person telling them the truth, sometimes they are mad at someone else, and other times they are mad at themselves. None of these are the right kind of anger. They don’t help or heal. They only bring more pain. Sometimes some people even get angry with God.

Application: Are you angry with someone because they had exposed you to the truth about you? Are you angry with God? What are you going to do?

Here are some solutions:

  • Recognize that you are angry.
  • Pray for the one who rejected you.
  • Ask for God’s wisdom, healing, and forgiveness.
  • Humble yourself and look to Him every moment.

Are you saved?

Winning With God and Men

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

WINNING WITH GOD AND MEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

winningwithGodandmenThis morning I’m preaching a special message from Proverbs titled: WINNING WITH GOD AND MEN. We will actually read 4 verses from 4 different books of the Bible. Hopefully you can identify the common elements.

Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.

1 Samuel 2:26 And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men.”

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Acts 2 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Overall Background: All of us want to win. We especially want to see our children and grandchildren win. Won’t that be something if we could teach them how to win with both God and men (people)! Won’t that be something if both God and men looked at them with favor, with a smile of approval. Won’t that be something if both God and men took pride in them! Won’t it be awesome if they could win in this life and the one to come! Won’t that be something if they could have the blessings of God and men!

People have all kinds of false ideas on what it takes to win before God and men. Some people think it is education. That’s important but that’s not it. Some people think that it’s talent or hard work or some other quality. All those things are important but they do not ultimately help us to win with God and men – Sometimes they do just the opposite!

The answer to how we can win with God and men is given in plain sight in the Book of Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs was written by the wisest man who ever lived. Some people mistakenly think that Solomon wrote some of these proverbs and put the others together to teach us how to be wise like him. Not true. That may have been his second purpose but initially he wrote the first part of the book as series of letters (10 to be exact) to his son Rehoboam, teaching him how to live a successful life. In his 3rd letter, Solomon is trying to warn his son that the path to wisdom is not easy. There are several stumbling blocks on the way. Here he clarifies how he can win with God and men.

Application: All of us need to hear this message. As it stands our young people are losing terribly. I was doing a funeral in New Jersey yesterday and as I was getting ready to leave, I saw this young man (mid 30s) and the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart to talk to him and so I did. When I guided the discussion towards spiritual matters, all he could say is that he is not into the god thing. If there ends up being a reality, he may just call it God. How sad! That young man is losing with God and men. By the way, the principle is the same if we want our work and business to be successful and if we want our church to be successful.

3 things we will see in this message:

 I. TWO ESSENTIALS

Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.

Background: Mercy = “Hesed” and does not have a real equivalent in English. It could be translated “kindness” or “help to the needy.” The best you can describe it is that someone is in great need and they cannot get out with your help. You help the person not because you will get any kind of gain out of it but only out of your own heart.

Truth = “Emet” and again it is a tricky one to explain. It can refer to “faithfulness” or “being trustworthy” or “living by truth.” It’s a life lived by the truth or the Word of God – the Bible.

We can spend a long time looking at these individually but that won’t help us much. We need to understand what happens when they are brought together. Many times in the Old Testament they are brought together:

  • It’s an old time tested principle passed down from father to sons. Genesis 47:29 When the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt,
  • It describes the nature of God. When Moses saw God, this is what he said – Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,
  • After Rahab the Canaanite woman helped the 2 spies in Jericho, listen to what they said in Joshua 2:14 “…And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”
  • In 2 Samuel 2 we read that Saul and his 3 sons (Jonathan included) were killed by the Philistines on Mount Gilboa. Then they hung their bodies on the walls of Beth Shan. Some of the valiant men of Jabesh Gilead travelled all night and got their bodies and gave them a proper funeral. We went to this site in January. When David learned the good they had done he said 6 And now may the LORD show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing.
  • David used those two words several times to describe the ways of God – Psalm 25:10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
  • Again Psalm 61 6 You will prolong the king’s life, His years as many generations. 7 He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!
  • Again Psalm 86:15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
  • Now in Proverbs again – Proverbs 14:22 Do they not go astray who devise evil? But mercy and truth belong to those who devise good.
  • Again Proverbs 16:6 In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity;
  • Again in Proverbs 20:28 Mercy and truth preserve the king, And by lovingkindness he upholds his throne.
  • I can go on.

For some reason mercy and truth are mentioned side by side more times than we realize! What does Solomon say in Proverbs 3:3 onwards? “Bind them around your neck” = make them a necklace. “Write them on the tablet of your heart”= make it your identity. When God and people see you they should see these two qualities.

What is the result? 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Application: What kind of a reputation do you have? What are you teaching your children to be like? Are they full of mercy and truth?

II. TWO EXAMPLES

Twice in the Bible this is mentioned – one in the Old and one in the New.

In the Old Testament – 1 Samuel 2:26 And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men.”

Background: This was a rough time in the history of Israel. The priest Eli had turned a blind eye towards his sons Hophni and Phinehas who were stealing from the sacrifices and bullying the people and raping the women who were coming to the tabernacle of God. The enemies were getting stronger. There was no unity in the land. A woman named Hannah prayed for a child and promised to give him back to God. This was Samuel. He travelled the length and breadth of Israel uniting God’s people. He preached to them and admonished them. He helped lead the transition from the order of the judges to the order of the kings. He was the one who found King David. Samuel was full of mercy and truth. Remember, he had to deal with Saul!

We are living in tough times. God is looking for men and women and boys and girls who would be full of mercy and truth.

In the New Testament – Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Background: He challenged the Pharisees and the scribes of trying to act spiritual. Listen to Matthew 23 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments….14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. 15  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves…23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

I can give many examples where He demonstrated it perfectly but the best one where mercy and truth came together is in the Woman caught in adultery in John 7 and 8. He said to her in verse 11 “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

What the world needs desperately is not just Mercy or Truth but both.

Application: Are you a person who has both? Are you teaching your children to have both.

III. THEY ARE A GIFT TO BE RECEIVED

Galatians 5 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

As you surrender your life to the Holy Spirit, He conforms your life more and more to the person of Jesus Christ. That’s how your bear the fruit of the Spirit.

The similar phrase is heard again in the book of Acts. Acts 2 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

For e.g. When I think of someone who is selfish and untrustworthy, I think of Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He is heartless, cold, apathetic, and downright evil man.

Do you want your children to have favor with God and people? They need mercy and truth. In other words, they need kindness and faithfulness.

We want our children to be loved and appreciated by people. We like to hear that they are being admired and adored. Unfortunately, some of our ideas actually cause them to be resented. We think favor comes when they are best at everything or win a lot of trophies or be in every activity. Instead what they need are eyes, mouth, hands, feet, heart, and mind full of mercy and truth. The place to begin is by bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Do you know Jesus?

Can You Handle the Truth About Jesus?

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CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Can You Handle the Truth About JesusWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and today our message is titled, “CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS?” When Jesus began His ministry, the first place He went to was His hometown. After all, He knew the place, the people, and the culture. What better place to begin than with your own?

Luke 4 16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”…21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”…28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.

Overall Background: The passage we just read was very disturbing for me. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a sight where a mob of people has gone after one person. I have seen it many times and it is very ugly. I remember this one time I was coming home from a friend’s house and I saw this angry crowd of people. From what I could gather, they had caught a thief and they were letting him have it. Everyone who could was trying to slap, punch, or kick this guy. His clothes were torn and covered in dust. One of his eyes was swollen and his mouth was bleeding. I’m sure he was guilty but it was a horrible sight.

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Now imagine that person is Jesus. Listen again to verses 28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things…” It was fine that Jesus, the local boy had come home. They had heard that He was doing some wonderful things. He was at the synagogue on the Sabbath. They even let Him stand and read a passage from the Bible. All that was fine until Jesus claimed that He was the Messiah. At that point the whole mood changed. 28 (They) were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Why were they so angry? Because Jesus had disturbed their perception of Himself. They were all right with Jesus the local boy coming home but they could not accept Jesus the Son of God who had come to save them.

Application: Many of us are comfortable with our personal idea of Jesus. Jesus the little baby in the manger – I can deal with that. Jesus blessing the little children picture hanging on the wall of the Sunday School room – that’s alright. Jesus helping the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and preaching to the multitude – that’s alright too. But Jesus, God’s Son, who came to save you – a hell bound sinner, condemned to die – I don’t know about that. Jesus – once He is my Savior, I have to make Him my king and I have to obey His every Word – that’s taking it way too far! We’re no different than that mob in Nazareth that wanted to push Jesus off a cliff. We also try to kill the truth about Jesus when it doesn’t suit us, when it’s too costly, when we have to give up something.

The problem is – we want a Jesus we can manage, not a Jesus who manages us. As we walk through this message, ask yourself “Can you handle the truth about Jesus?” – Would you have pushed Jesus off the cliff? 5 reactions we will see in this passage:

 I. INDIFFERENCE

16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.

Background: According to Luke, the first place Jesus went to when He began His ministry was his own hometown. Now let me clarify something – If you read Matthew and Mark, they bring up this episode somewhat later – Matthew 13 and Mark 6. Scholars have argued over who is correct and who is not and sometimes those on the outside have used that against us – “Oh, your Bible has obvious mistakes.” As I mentioned to you last week, when you study the life of Jesus systematically, the hardest thing to keep straight is the chronology – calendar of His life – when did He start His ministry, what did He do first, how long was He there, where did He go next, and so on. It’s easy when you are looking at just one gospel but when you put all four (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) side by side it quickly becomes complicated. Keep in mind that Luke is like a newspaper editor. He puts the headline right on the front page. This does not mean that it was the first incident of the week but it’s the highlight or the main topic of what’s coming up.

I used to ask God – “Why didn’t you make things more plain in Your Word?” “Why did You allow these questionable, debatable, grey areas?” “Why not just give a calendar of Jesus’ life?” God showed me a verse in Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” Let me illustrate – think about our Easter Egg Hunt – Why don’t we just give the eggs with candy to the kids? Why do we parents and adults hide them? Because its fun to watch them look for them! So also God wants us to dig into His Word. It brings Him great joy to see His children search after and discover the truths in His Word. That’s called Bible Study. It is very unique! No other religion has it. You’ll never hear of a Quran Study or Gita Study or Lotus Sutra Study. They may have readings but nothing like our Bible studies.

Either way, it was somewhere in the early part of his ministry that Jesus decided to go to his own hometown of Nazareth. But did you notice – nothing is said about their reaction to His coming. They neither restrict Him from coming nor did they send out a welcome wagon. In other words, they didn’t care. That’s how many people are – they are indifferent to Jesus. It doesn’t really matter. Jesus is not the most pressing issue on their minds. They have career, relationships, sports, hobbies, and entertainment on their minds. They don’t lose any sleep over Jesus.

Application: May I ask you? Are you indifferent to Jesus? Is He a priority to you? Sadly, the more familiar you are to Him, the less you think of Him. People like that care a lot about church, denominations, and values, just not Jesus. Here’s a test – how much do you read His Word? How much do you talk to Him? How much do you obey His voice?

II. CURIOUSITY 

16 …And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day,

Ancient Village of Nazareth

Ancient Village of Nazareth (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his εἰωθὸς = habit. For us Christians – he went to church on Sunday. I often hear “you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” May I ask you – “If Jesus gathered regularly with God’s people, are you better than Him?” Just like baptism He laid out a pattern for us to follow.

Listen to what happens next“…and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

Those verses are from Isaiah 61 and 58. Isaiah 61 was the message of God’s deliverance to the exiles. They were about the year of Jubilee when debts were cancelled and slaves were set free. Isaiah 58 was God’s rebuke against those who were being cruel towards those in need. Again, in the year of Jubilee if people did not set the captives free, God would not accept their fast and sacrifices. Hint! Hint! The Messiah had come to set the cancel the debts, set the captives free, and where Israel failed, He would do right.

20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. They still did not run up and hug Him or worship Him. They were intrigued and fascinated by Him. They were just checking Him out.

Application: There are a lot of people out there who are just intrigued by Jesus. They are just curious about Him. Let me ask you a question: Are you just fascinated with Jesus? That’s wonderful but that still does not mean that He is your Savior?

III. CONDESCENSION 

21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.

Grotto of St. Joseph, Nazareth

Grotto of St. Joseph, Nazareth (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Now Jesus went a step further and claimed Isaiah 61 and 58 for Himself. This was the moment of truth. Their initial reaction was one of amazement but when those words sank in, they realized what He was really saying. They were the POOR, BROKENHEARTED, CAPTIVES, BLIND, and OPPRESSED in sin. Now listen to their response: “And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” There is a tone of derision and disdain in that statement. Isn’t He that illegitimate boy whom Joseph adopted? They were being condescending to Him. They were talking down to Him. They were insulting Him to His face. WOW!

When the Holy Spirit begins to convict our hearts, it can go one of two ways – either receive the words with humility or reject the words with some excuse.

Application: How do you receive the truth about Jesus? Are you humble? Are you willing? Are you arrogant? Are you looking for some excuse? Do you look down on the presenter? Does this church offend you? Does this pastor offend you?

IV. ANGER

Luke 4 23 He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ ” 24 Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.

Background: Seeing the hardness of their heart, Jesus lays out their future. It will only become worse. One day some of them will stand at the foot of the cross and mock Jesus.

Every time you reject the Holy Spirit, your heart is hardened and your destiny is sealed.

But Jesus goes on tells them something else25 But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Meaning: You look down on the Gentiles. Guess what – they will come to know the truth but you won’t. Show me a person who looks down on someone because of their skin color or background, it’s just an evidence of a deeper problem.

28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.

Application: How do you respond to the truth? Do you receive it with humility? Do you receive it with joy? What emotions rise up when you hear about Jesus?

V. REJECTION

30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

One of the saddest verses in the Bible.

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,

Hear my humble cry;

While on others Thou art calling,

Do not pass me by.

Refrain

Savior, Savior,

Hear my humble cry;

While on others Thou art calling,

Do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy

Find a sweet relief,

Kneeling there in deep contrition;

Help my unbelief.

Refrain

Trusting only in Thy merit,

Would I seek Thy face;

Heal my wounded, broken spirit,

Save me by Thy grace.

Refrain

Thou the Spring of all my comfort,

More than life to me,

Whom have I on earth beside Thee?

Whom in Heav’n but Thee?

 

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS

TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Two Gifts Worth Opening

 This morning in our series on the Life of Christ we come to John 1 for our message titled – “TWO GIFTS WORTH OPENING THIS CHRISTMAS.” All of us at some point have received a gift from a loved one that has been a let down and a disappointment. We were hoping for this but we got this.

John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Overall Background: In the passage we just read John tells us twice about two gifts that were given in Jesus. Listen again to verse 14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Now listen also to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Twice the two gifts that came in Jesus are mentioned – Grace and Truth.

But now here’s an important question: When John says in verse 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,” is he just talking about himself and the first disciples and the early church? Were the gifts of grace and truth just for those among whom He dwelt physically? Too bad for us who were not born in the first century. Wish you could’ve seen Jesus. You would’ve received grace and truth. The answer to that is earlier in verse 12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Meaning: In the context, the gifts are for everyone who has ever received Jesus as Savior and has become a child of God. If that wasn’t clear, John makes it clear in verse 16“of his fullness we have all received.” “All” even includes some who will receive Jesus this Sunday morning. Your gifts are waiting for you to open!

Application: Question to those who claim to be Christians – “Have you opened your gifts?” Of course, I’m not talking about what’s sitting under the tree. I’m talking about the gifts of grace and truth. “Are you helping others open their gifts?” Question to those who’ve never received Jesus – “Do you realize the wonderful gifts God has wrapped for you in Jesus?” My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will make these gifts so appealing that you will not wait even a single moment but tear into them!

Let’s open these gifts –

 1. PREPARATION FOR THE GIFTS

Listen to verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

What was the Law of Moses? The Law (nomoj) in this context refers to all the rules and regulations in the Pentateuch that God had given to his people Israel through Moses.

Why did God give the Law? Initially, he gave the law to temporarily protect his people from the Canaanites. In Genesis 15, it talks about the Moses by Gustave Dore“iniquity of the Amorites.” He gave His Law so that Israel would not become like its neighbors (Galatians 3:19). If you want to know what the Canaanites were like, just read the Old Testament law backwards. But there was another reason why God gave the law. It was to help them realize that they could never live up to God’s standards. The law was a measuring stick. The people were to stand against the measuring stick of the law and every time they did they realized they were still far from God’s standard of holiness. They needed help. The law was never the final destination. It was only a reminder of how sinful they really were and how much they needed a mediator. That’s why every law came with some sacrifice when broken. Some animal had to pay the price because the people couldn’t keep the law.

Paul says the same things but he takes it a step further – Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. Romans 7:8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. I Corinthians 15:56 “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” What is Paul saying in these verses? Not only is the law a temporary protector and a measuring stick but it’s also an instigator to sin.

For e.g. Put up a sign that says “Fresh Paint Do Not Touch.” What do people do?

For e.g. Imagine a glass filled with dirty water. If that water has been sitting still for some time, it appears clean until you stir it. Now what happens? It shows all the dirt.

Don’t misunderstand – Laws are good for society. They keep people in check. But they cannot change people.

In other words, the law was a good thing but also a house arrest, a nice prison. It was also a constant reminder of our inability to reach God. It was a Pot stirrer. In all, the law only brought a constant feeling of inadequacy, guilt, burden, and frustration.

What did the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees, do? They failed to understand the real intent of the law – temporary protection, measuring stick, and stirring of more sin. Instead, they pretended to keep the law with integrity. They compared their righteousness with each other and became self-righteous. They made many more laws of their own with plenty of exceptions and exclusions. This only brought hypocrisy.

Someone might say – okay, the Law for the Jewish people. How about the non-Jewish people? Even though we’re not Jewish, we have the law of our conscience. Romans 2:12 says, “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.” This has the same effect as a Law of Moses. It also brings condemnation, guilt, burden, frustration, and hypocrisy.

Application: Are you trusting in the Old Testament Law (10 Commandments) or in the law of your conscience or in the law of society to justify you before God? It will only result in guilt, burden, and frustration. It will never save you nor set you free.

2. PRESENTATION OF THE GIFTS 

17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Background: John shows a contrast between the giving of the law and the coming of Jesus Christ. Grace and Truth came with Jesus.

woman-caught-in-adulteryWhat is Grace? In Greek the word is carij. It is found 155 times in the New Testament of which hundred are in Paul’s writings, some in Peter’s writings, and just 30 in the Gospels, mostly in Luke’s writings but never in Matthew or Mark. In fact, grace in John is used only four times and just in these four verses. Why is grace not mentioned more than that? Listen carefully – the reason the idea of grace did not have to be mentioned is because Jesus is Grace. Listen to verse 14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” To see Jesus in his glory is to see Grace. We try to define grace with trite phrases like “unmerited favor” and “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” All those are fine but if you want to define grace, define Jesus. He was perfect and yet he received imperfect sinners. He was God’s Son and yet He became like us. He committed no sin and he laid down his life for our sins. That’s grace.

What is Truth? The word alhqeia for truth is used 100 times in the New Testament and, in contrast to grace, more than half of them are found in John’s writings. While Grace has to be lived out, truth has to be spoken. Jesus told the truth – about God, about sin, about righteousness, about the cross, about heaven and hell, and so on.

PhariseesHow did the Jewish people respond to Jesus being the truth? They accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath and other laws. He told them the truth about their hypocrisy in keeping the law. Listen to John 5 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” He told them the truth about the real condition of their hearts. Listen to John 8 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Then He declared without hesitation, qualifications, or apology in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Then they said – “Let’s kill Him.”

Application: Do you want to be set free? Come to Jesus. Only he has the grace to forgive you unconditionally and only he has to truth to set you free completely. Grace is not just an idea and truth is not just a fact. Grace and truth are one person and His name is Jesus.

3. POURING OVER OF THE GIFTS

So far we have seen that the law prepared us for the gifts of grace and truth and Jesus presented Himself as the gifts of grace and truth but that’s not the end. In fact, that’s just the beginning.

16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Background: I went to look up the meaning of that phrase “grace for grace” carin anti carin and this is what a key reference book said – “the precise sense of the phrase is uncertain.” I want to say, “Thanks a lot!” So what does it mean? Let’s look again to verse 14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. As the Son of God, Jesus is full of everything the father is. To receive of his fullness is to be connected to everything that God is.

Some of you are thinking – “Yep, that’s interesting. What does that have to do with me.” Don’t miss this. It has profound significance to our Christian life. Some people think that once you are saved by the grace and truth of Jesus that now you need to go back and keep the law, maybe not the Old Testament law but just have a list of rules as a Christian. What would Paul say to that? Galatians 2:21 “…if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” In fact, if you do that, it will actually produce the opposite effect! Listen to Galatians 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

What is the solution? Verse 16 “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” Here’s what it means – in Jesus Christ you have everything given to you. You have God Himself. Stay connected to Him. Keep looking to Him. Keep obeying Him. Keep trusting Him. And He will make Grace abound in your life. Grace upon grace for your daily Christian life. It’s not a list you need. It’s Jesus you need. And who helps you – the Holy Spirit.

Listen again to Paul in Romans 5:21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Meaning: Where sin once controlled us, now grace controls us.

Application: Are you ready to open your gifts this morning? Grace and Truth in Jesus

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL CHILD

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL CHILD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

RAISING JESUS (1)This is our last message in our miniseries RAISING JESUS. This morning we will look at the childhood years of Jesus in Luke 2 to answer “WHAT MAKES A SUCCESFUL CHILD.” All of us as parents want our children to be successful. Never met a parent thus far who said – “I want my child to grow up and be a total failure.”

Luke 2 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Overall Background: The passage we just read marks the end of the information regarding the childhood years of Jesus. Have you ever wondered why the Bible doesn’t tell us more? Why are there no accounts of his interaction with his siblings, with his neighbors, and with people in His town or synagogue? Some of the Apocryphal Gospels/Gnostic Gospels have tried to fill in the blanks between age 12 and age 30 but they’re nothing but foolish myths and legends. Why did God choose to keep silent about the growing up years of Jesus? This is my guess – typically, the Bible doesn’t talk much about the childhood years of any of its characters. Once in a while we hear of a boy Joseph who had a dream of his future or a girl Miriam who watched over her baby brother Moses or a boy David who killed Goliath but those are rare instances. Why not more? Because the childhood years are transitional and preparatory years. Like a fruit on a tree that is not ripe, children are not ripe until they reach adulthood. To focus on this period as the end in itself is to miss the fruit. These are still “work in progress” years and as such very critical. What you do now with them determines their course later.

Application: May I ask you – Are you taking seriously these years in your child’s life? Are you raising them to be successful? Are you raising them in the fear of God? As a church are we doing all we can to reach children? Are we leading them to know Jesus as their Savior? Do we know Jesus as our Savior?

This morning in verse 52 we will see two major things that make a successful child.

 I. A PATIENT PARENT

51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them,

Background: The temple incident in the previous verses was quite traumatic in the lives of Joseph and Mary. It was traumatic not just because Jesus was lost for three days but when they found Him, He was sitting in the midst of the leaders and discussing theology. When they confronted Him, He rebuked them saying – “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

What is a parent to do in a situation like that? Mary could have become overprotective and start hovering over Him. Instead, listen to what it says in verse 51, “but His mother kept all these things in her heart.” Meaning: Not only did she not go overboard with Him but neither did she try to label Him. She could have said about Jesus – “He is so absent-minded” or “He is such a daydreamer” or “He is just in His own world” or even “He is so selfish.” She didn’t jump to any conclusions. Mary’s strongest quality was that she pondered. She “kept all these things in her heart.”

There are powerful lessons here – sometimes parents and teachers make judgments regarding children that don’t need to be made – “He is a troublemaker” “She is going to cause a lot of grief.” Too early for that! You have no idea what that child may end up becoming. Sometimes parents and teachers tend to give up on children – “He won’t amount to much.” “She has no potential.”

Application: What are you thinking in your heart for your children? Do you have any hope for them? Do you have any vision for their lives? Do you pray for them?

Let me also add – Sometimes we’re too quick to label somebody else’s child. Sometimes we tend to think that our children are perfect. Here’s what I say – People are not telling you what your child is doing. Their child keeps getting caught but yours keeps slipping through. Their child will straighten out but yours will keep going down the wrong path.

For e.g. I remember to this day this man who got on to me at church. I was wrong but the way he did it was quite hateful. “You’re a pastor’s kid and that’s how you act?” At the time I didn’t even understand that concept. When I did, it bothered me, even to this day.

We know that Mary kept these things in her heart but how about other people? Do you think it’s possible that people talked about Jesus as a child? Matthew 18 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Almost want to say – “Whoa! Did someone touch a nerve?” You can almost hear Jesus’ anger coming through.

Application: Do you keep things in your heart for your children? Do you hope for the best for them and pray for them? Do you keep things in your heart for other children? Do you hope for the best for them and pray for them?

II. A MERCIFUL AND TRUTHFUL CHILD

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature,

Background: Now we know what it means to grow in wisdom. It comes from the “fear of the Lord.” Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Then the word stature h`likia in this context means maturity. And what else happened? Jesus increased “in favor with God and men.”

This is a very interesting phrase – “in favor with God and men.” What does that mean? To understand it, we have to turn to the Book of Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Background: In Proverbs Solomon wrote 10 letters to his son Rehoboam. What we just read comes from the 3rd letter. He is telling his son how to have favor with God and people.

By the way – isn’t that what you and I want for our children? We want heaven to bless them and earth to honor them. How much more balanced can you get? God looks at them with favor and people look at them with favor.

Solomon tells Rehoboam how to have this double favor:

Let not mercy and truth forsake you;” – mercy = kindness which is actually “help to the needy” and truth = faithfulness which is actually “being trustworthy.” These two qualities stand in stark contrast to the selfishness and unfaithfulness of the wicked sons and daughter.

For e.g. When I think of someone who is selfish and untrustworthy, I think of Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He is heartless, cold, apathetic, and downright evil man.

THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN BEING WISE AND BEING CUNNING

“Bind them around your neck” = make them a necklace. “Write them on the tablet of your heart”= make it your identity. When people see you they know who you are.

Application: What kind of a reputation do you have? Some people think that wisdom means being smart and cunning and cheating people of their last dollar. Far from that.

What is the result? 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Two other time we find this mentioned in the Bible: One is in the book of Samuel. The sons of Eli were stealing from the Lord and from the people. As the people were bringing their sacrifices to the temple, these men were taking advantage of their father’s position. Eli tried to get on to them in I Samuel 2:25 “If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.” In the very next verse it says 26 And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men. The boy Samuel later became an important prophet in Israel who helped unite the kingdom and institute the office of king. He also became the prophet who anointed David as king.

Do you want your children to have favor with God and people? They need mercy and truth. In other words, they need kindness and faithfulness.

The similar phrase is heard again in the book of Acts. Acts 2 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The secret of our church’s success is mercy and truth.

We want our children to be loved and appreciated by people. We like to hear that they are being admired and adored. Unfortunately, some of our ideas actually cause them to be resented. We think favor comes when they are best at everything or win a lot of trophies or be in every activity. Instead what they need are eyes, mouth, hands, feet, heart, and mind full of mercy and truth. The place to begin is by teaching to have mercy and truth.

How can we have mercy and truth? The place to begin is not by trying to be merciful and truthful. It will not last. Instead, receive Jesus as your Savior. It will bring His nature into your life. Now Jesus lives through you. Whatever He is, now you are. It is natural and lasting. At times you may slip but repent and return to your first love.

So the real question is do your children know Jesus as their Savior. That will bring mercy and truth in their lives and in turn bring favor with God and men. Another important question is do you know Jesus as your Savior. This will bring mercy and truth into your life.

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