The Exalted Word by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE EXALTED WORD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonThe Exalted Word

Introduction:Kids come with a degree in psychology. They know the difference between our nature and our instructions. Nature is who we are. Instructions is what we tell them to do. One of our kids understood that difference more than the others. She loved to explore and check things out. We would tell her not to touch the electrical socket but she would look at us as she stretched her little finger towards it. We gave her some books of her own but she loved to get into my books. Of course, we would pop her hand but it did not stop her. Somehow, she knew that we weren’t going to sell her to some Midianite traders. So she trusted our nature but disobeyed our instructions. So also, in the Christian life, there is God’s nature and there is God’s instructions. They are both very important. In fact, they are inextricably linked. His instructions proceed from his nature. Having said that, one is exalted over the other. His Instructions, his Truth, his Word. He does want us to trust him but he really wants us to obey him.

Psalm 138    A Psalmof David. 1I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You. 2I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.

Question: God’s name is his nature. It is who he is. God’s word is what he expects us to do. Trust God’s nature, but obey his Word. Do you obey God’s word, the truth? Have you received the Truth of God? Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Background:When we began planning for the first few weekends in this new sanctuary, we prayerfully decided that one of the messages should be about the importance of the Word of God at Clearview. Our desire is to build this ministry on this book. The psalm we just read tells us that God has magnified his Word above his name.That’s an odd statement. Scholars have long disagreed over its meaning. Some have suggested that there must be some grammatical mistake in it. Others have proposed some alterations to make it sound better. The more I have studied it, the more I have concluded that there is nothing wrong in it. The problem is in our failure to grasp the true value and seriousness of God’s Word.

Context: To start with, this is a psalm of David, i.e. composed by David. Besides being the shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath and later became the great King of Israel, Davd was also a great song writer. In fact, as many as 76 out of the 150 psalms in the book of Psalms were written by David. That’s half of all the psalms! But he was more than just a song writer. In fact, listen to how the Word of God records David’s last words in 2 Samuel 23:1“Now thesearethe last words of David.Thussays David the son of Jesse;Thussays the man raised up on high,The anointed of the God of Jacob,and the sweet psalmist of Israel.” Now listen to the first line of the final words of David –2“The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His wordwason my tongue.” Meaning: David was the human instrument of God’s truth. In I Samuel 13:14, God reciprocated by calling him a “man after his own heart.” In other words, his words should not be taken lightly. They are God’s inspired, infallible, and inerrant words to us.

Before we begin in verse 1, let’s first go to verse 3 to get the context:“In the day when I cried out, You answered me,andmade me boldwithstrength in my soul.” Meaning: The context of this song is a time of trouble in David’s life. We don’t know for sure what that trouble was. Maybe Saul was chasing him through the Wilderness of Ziph. Maybe the Amalekites had taken their women and children as captives. Maybe Absalom had just declared his revolt against his father David. Nonetheless, this was a tough time.

Application:Tough times come but be careful about creating doctrine based on what you are facing. Don’t let your experiences decide your beliefs.

Now let’s look carefully at what David wrote in Psalm 138:1“I will praise You with my whole heart.” Meaning: David declares his desire to give thanks and praise to God from the bottom of his heart for all he has done for him. A good way to bounce out of discouragement and defeat is to praise God with all your heart for what he has already done for you.

Application:Do you ever thank God and praise him for all he has done for you? Do you do it with your whole heart?

Then David says,“Before the gods I will sing praises to You.”Don’t misunderstand this. David is not saying that there are other gods in this world. He is just boldly declaring before the watching world and the pagan nations that there is no other god before the Living and True God of Israel.True boldness is not telling God what to do but telling the world that you are not ashamed to declare the praises of God and share his gospel.Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:2“we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.”

Application: Do you shy away from declaring the name of God in public? Are you bold regarding your faith?

David continues2“I will worship toward Your holy temple…” Keep in mind that the temple has not yet been built but David has solid confidence that one day it will be. “and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness…” Don’t miss this. When the psalm writers and even David mention the name of God, they are not talking about a title of God. They are referring to the nature of God. They are declaring that his name reflects his lovingkindness. By the way, the word “lovingkindness” in Hebrew is “chesed” which does not have one single English word that adequately translates it. It can be “goodness,” “kindness,” “mercy,” “love,” “steadfast love,” “unfailing love,” and “lovingkindness.” In fact, everyone of God’s names reflects his lovingkindness towards us.

Application: Do you ever give God thanks and praise for his name, for his lovingkindness towards you? Do you ever thank God for being the faithful and loving God?

But David adds something more to God’s “lovingkindness.” 2“I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth.” Meaning: Inherent in God’s name and nature is not only his kindness towards us but also his truthfulness for us. The Hebrew word for truth is “ameth.” David is teaching us something here. He wants us to see God more than just a loving God. He wants us to see him as a truthful God.

Now he says – “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” The word for “word” means God’s commands and his promises. Because God is also a truthful God, he will not just sit back and love you and do the best he can to help you, he also wants to speak to you. He has something for you to do and to obey. For you to be able to get the seriousness of his commands and his promises, he has magnified them even above his name, his character. No matter the circumstances, always let the Word of God win.

Application: Don’t compromise your morals and don’t justify your experiences.

Was this a problem for David? Of course not. 3“In the day when I cried out, You answered me,andmade me boldwithstrength in my soul.” Don’t think of God’s Word as a burden. Instead, it brings boldness in our soul. When you obey God and do things his way, you are able to stand against whatever comes your way.

Listen to what follows – 4“All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD,when they hear the words of Your mouth.” Once again David extolls the Word of God. 5Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,For greatisthe glory of the LORD.6Though the LORDison high,Yet He regards the lowly;But the proud He knows from afar.7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;You will stretch out Your handagainst the wrath of my enemies,And Your right hand will save me.8The LORD will perfectthat whichconcerns me;Your mercy, O LORD, enduresforever;Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Listen carefully: God’s name is his character. His character is one of lovingkindness towards us. He will take care of us. But, his character is also one of truthfulness. Because of his truthfulness, he will always give us the right instructions. The Bible is God’s instruction for us. He expects us to obey him. Obedience to his word is now the standard for the proper understanding of his character.

Luke 6    46“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? 47Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”

Question:

  • How important is this book for you?
  • Is it the final authority on all your understanding about God?
  • Do you use the Word to justify your morals and your experiences?
  • Do you obey his Word no matter the cost?
  • Do you know the Word of God, Jesus?

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.”

Help! I’m Losing My Faith in the Bible.

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HELP! I’M LOSING MY FAITH IN THE BIBLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

bible-with-question-mark copy You should know by now that we are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning I’m preaching a message titled “HELP! I’M LOSING MY FAITH IN THE BIBLE.” Instead of just one passage, we will be reading two passages – one from John 2 and the other from Matthew 21; one from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the other towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. When we read them, you will notice that they are both describing how Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem from the money changers and their animals.

John 2 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. 12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days. 13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.

Matt. 21 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” 12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

Overall Background: Lately I’ve heard (more times than I would like to count) about another young man or woman who has given up on Christianity and turned to atheism or agnosticism. Let me give you a recent example – In January 2015 an article made news. It was written by someone named George Perdikis who called himself the cofounder of the Christian group Newsboys. In this article he wrote about how he had become an atheist.

Listen to his words: “I left the band in 1990 and went back to Adelaide. There, I got married, taught guitar, played pubs and clubs, built homes, and had two beautiful daughters. As I carved out a life for myself away from the church, I began my own voyage of inquiry into what I believed. My perceptions started to transform when I became interested in cosmology in 1992. I soon found myself fascinated by the works of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Cox, and Richard Dawkins. I learned so much and was blown away by all the amazing scientific discoveries and facts. When my marriage dissolved in 2003, I turned my attention to human psychology. By 2007, I renounced Christianity once and for all and declared myself an atheist.”

Sad, isn’t it? But what I found sadder were some of the comments that followed:

“As a long-time Christian, I did take a long, hard look at Christ and his teachings, and became a convinced atheist.”

“I spent the better part of my life being a Christian. I sought desperately for evidence that would demonstrate that Christianity was true, and the thousands of other religions that mankind has invented over the centuries are false. In the end, though, I found absolutely nothing to distinguish Christianity from the rest of the pack, and found no real evidence to support the truth claims of any them.”

“Sorry, but there really is no evidence that anything in the Bible is other than story…There are literally hundreds of contradictions in the Bible.”

Just last week I heard that one of my good friends who inspired me to do a PhD died. He was one of the smartest men I knew and very knowledgeable about the Bible, history, and philosophy. I have books in my library on apologetics that he helped write. But that’s not the sad part because he is with Jesus right now. The sad part is that two of his oldest children have nothing to do with God and one of them is an atheist. I wasn’t able to sleep that night, not because my friend had died, but because of where his kids are today.

My heart breaks every time I hear such reports. To me, nothing is more painful than knowing that our children are no longer walking in the truth. The question is WHY? Why would someone who claims to have grown up in church, went to Sunday School, VBS, and Youth group give it all up? Why would someone turn their backs on the faith of their parents and grandparents? Why would someone discount that moment when they prayed to receive Christ as Savior? The reasons are many:

  • Maybe they were never truly saved.
  • Maybe they were holding onto rules and regulations rather than faith in Jesus.
  • Maybe they were never truly grounded in God’s Word. They are like the ones who received the seed that fell on stony places – heard the word and immediately received it with joy but since there was no root, they only endured for a while. For when tribulation or persecution came because of the word, they immediately stumbled.

Meaning: We did a poor job in grounding our young people in the word of God.

I often ask God what is my task as the pastor. Is it just to get up and give a three-point sermon on how to do better at something? Is it just to help people understand and apply the Bible? Is it just to lead us as a church to win the lost and grow? Or, is it more? The Holy Spirit pointed me to Titus 1:9 where Paul is giving the requirements of a pastor –holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. Meaning: I need to hold fast to the faithful word the Bible and exhort others to do the same and convict those who contradict it.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we need to spend our whole time defending the Bible. As Charles Spurgeon said to the meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1875 – “Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself.” No, we don’t need to spend our whole time defending the authority of the Bible but we do have a mandate to teach our children to hold fast to the faithful word. If we don’t, our young people will very well succumb to the idle talkers and deceivers.

This morning I only want to focus on the claim that “I cannot be a Christian anymore because there are contradictions in the Bible.” We don’t have time to look at every alleged contradiction in the Bible but we’ll look at one.

We read two passages this morning, one from John 2 and the other from Matthew 21. Some people consider them to be aHenry Ian Cusick Visual Bible - The Gospel of John contradiction. Both passages describe the event when Jesus came to the Temple, was appalled by the desecration of the moneychangers and their animals, and he made a whip of cords and drove them out. The problem comes in because Matthew 21 and also Mark 11 and Luke 19 mention the incident in the last week of Jesus’ ministry. In fact, after He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (which we call Palm Sunday) that he went into the temple and began to clean it. On the other hand, John 2 mentions the incident at the beginning of his ministry, right after the wedding in Cana of Galilee, which was the beginning of signs. How could that be?

  • Some people have taken this example to claim that the Bible has errors. If that’s the case then it’s no longer the Word of God. If it’s no longer the Word of God, then it’s no longer binding on our lives. If it’s no longer binding on our lives, then it’s no different than other “holy books” of other religions. In other words, Christianity is one among many ways to God.
  • Some Christians have tried to defend the Bible by claiming that Jesus actually cleansed the Temple two times – one in the beginning of his ministry and again towards the end of his ministry. The problem with this view is that there are too many similarities between the two incidents to be anything but the same incident. Also, if there were two different incidents, John could have mentioned it again in chapter 12 when he talks about Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding on the donkey but he doesn’t.

So what’s the answer? These are one and the same incidents. John has put an incident from the end of Jesus’ ministry at the beginning of his gospel. 3 things we need to understand:

  1. Positive not negative – Some people claim that the church has manipulated and corrupted the Bible. If I we’re trying to make the Bible look like God’s Word, this is one passage that I would definitely fix. This proves that people did not try to mend the Bible as is often claimed. It also proves that if people did not try to mend it then it must not have been a problem. We might have a problem with it but the early readers did not.
  2. Style of John – John repeatedly says “the next day” in John 1:29, 35 or “the following day” in John 1:43. But in John 2:1 he says “On the third day.” Is it the day earlier or is it three more days later? Actually, John is not trying to count the days. Instead, that’s just his style. It’s another way of saying “another day” or “the other day.” For e.g. Like people saying “the other day I was talking to my doctor or my mechanic.” You mean yesterday or day before. “Oh, actually a year or two ago.”
  3. Purpose of John – Towards the end of his gospel, John gives us the reason why he wrote this gospel. First, in John 19:35 “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” Second, in John 20 30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke who were laying out Jesus’ entire biography, John’s purpose from the beginning is to get you to the Passion Week. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus’ trial begins in the last week. In John, the entire gospel is Jesus’ trial before the Jewish religious leaders. Right from the start in John’s gospel, Jesus begins talking about His hour. If you remember in the first part of John 2 at the wedding in Cana when Jesus’ mother says to Him, “They have no wine,” Jesus responds by saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

Did you notice the word “signs?” Signs are more than just miracles. They are pointers towards the most critical week – the Passion Week.

In a sense, John is writing his biography of Jesus but he has a greater concern. It is to get to the Passion Week so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

INVITATION:

  • Are you saved? I think we made our case that the Bible doesn’t contradict. But please don’t misunderstand, this doesn’t mean that we need to answer every contradiction before you can become a Christian. If that’s the case, then you’ll never give your heart to Jesus.
  • Do you know that the Bible is unlike any book in the world?
  • Are you reading the Bible?
  • Are you allowing the Bible to be translated into your life?
  • Are you passing along the Bible to your children and grandchildren?

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT

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HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUITOnce again, it’s good to be back home. Nicole and I had an amazing time in Israel! We were concerned, as many of you were also, about our safety. After we checked in the hotel in Tel Aviv, we decided to walk down to the ancient site of Joppa on the seashore, which was just 10 minutes from the hotel and it was only 8 o’clock in the evening. Since Joppa was not on our itinerary, we figured if we quickly walk there we could say we’ve been to the place where Jonah boarded the ship to go to Tarshish instead of Nineveh and where Peter had the vision of the unclean animals to teach him that the Gentiles were also welcome into the kingdom of God. So we crossed the street and got on the boardwalk that led to the site. It was well lit for couple of hundred yards and there were people there so we felt safe. Five minutes into the walk we realized that the streetlights didn’t go all the way to the site. In fact we had to walk through this dark road for a couple of miles. We said to each other let’s go a little bit further and if it gets worse we will turn right back and there’s the hotel. Just then I heard someone running behind me. I’m thinking all the worst. I turned to look and it was a girl jogging with her dog. Next thing – I see somebody else jogging from the direction we were going and it was a woman. As we kept walking, we saw men and women walking together leisurely and children playing around. It was more than safe. What was amazing was that it was about 10 o’clock when we headed back from Joppa and guess what – more people were just coming to the boardwalk to jog and exercise. We saw women by themselves and families and couples. The next day I asked the guide about it and he said – “The media paints a very negative picture of Israel. What you saw is normal. What you didn’t see was that there were plain-clothes policeman everywhere. Because we have to deal with terrorism so much, the result is that we’re probably the safest country on earth and our people know it.”

We saw a lot of sites and took as many as 5000 pictures and videos and plan on passing it along to you but we also had loads of fun!

This morning we’re back in our series on the Life of Christ and I’m preaching a message from Matthew 4 on the temptation of Jesus titled – HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT. I’m going to read this passage right from the wilderness of Judea where Jesus was tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Judean Wilderness

Judaea Wilderness (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: The wilderness of Judea extends from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. It is 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. It is an area of yellow sand and crumbling limestone. Even to this day there’s nothing out there but wild animals. As we drove through it, I tried to imagine what it was like for Jesus to be out there, isolated and hungry, tormented by the devil himself. He didn’t have to go through that but He did. Why? He did it to teach us how to overcome temptation in our own lives.

This morning we will learn 4 things from the life of Jesus on how to deal with temptation or the forbidden fruit:

I. TIMING: USUALLY FOLLOWING THE MOUNTAINTOPS. 

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Background: To understand the seriousness of this passage, you actually have to read it in its context. In the verses directly preceding this passage, we read about John’s baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. By the way, we’re skipping over this message that I preached right by the banks of the Jordan River. You’ll get to watch it in a few Sundays. But this baptism was a very important event in the life of Jesus. As Matthew tells us that when He came up out of the water – 16 “behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Wow! Jesus was fully God but also remember that He was fully man. This was a mountaintop moment in His life. Gone were the days of just being a carpenter’s son in Nazareth; gone were the days of saying “My time has not yet come.” Gone were the days of waiting patiently. Luke tells us in Luke 3:23 that Jesus was thirty years of age at this time. His Heavenly Father had acknowledged him. You would think that the next thing would be for Him to find a pulpit and preach a thundering message or put up a sign up sheet of who wants to be my disciple or march into the temple in Jerusalem and declare that He was the Son of God here to save the world.

Instead, the very next verse says – 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. I actually love Mark’s rendition in Mark 1:12 “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”

King David's Tomb

King David’s Tomb (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

There’s a powerful principle here that you cannot afford to miss – “Be careful about the mountaintops in the Christian life. It’s right after a great message, a great service, a spiritual victory, and some positive experience in our lives that we face some of the worst and the lowest moments of our lives.” In fact, we are the most vulnerable right after we have seen God’s glory. We had the opportunity to see the tomb of David. I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 23 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Now the very next verse – 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Application: Are you dealing with the wilderness of temptation? Do you feel that the enemy is after you? Are you on the mountaintop?

II. BAIT: NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED 

Background: The tactics of the Enemy haven’t changed much since the Garden of Eden. We’re going to follow the chronology of the temptations as given by Luke in his gospel. Matthew was not concerned about the order, which is fine.

First Bait – Luke 4:3   And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” He appealed to His appetite. Remember – he did the same to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” People will do almost anything just satisfy their taste buds and belly.

Second Bait – Luke 4:5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” He appealed to His eyes/pleasure. Once again remember he did the same to Eve. Genesis 3:6 “…that it was pleasant to the eyes…” The eyes are the windows to the soul.

Third Bait – Luke 4:9   Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ 11 and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” He appealed to His pride. Once again remember Eve. Genesis 3:6 “…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.”

The baits haven’t changed – Appetite, Pleasure, and Pride. 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.”

Does this mean we cannot enjoy good food, pleasure, and have ambitions? Of course not. The question is – “Is God the center and focus of your life?” 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Application: Are you letting food, pleasure, and pride rule your life? Are you aware of the enemy’s bait in your life?

III. DEFENSE: GOD’S WORD. 

Each times the devil tempted Jesus He replied with Scripture. He used the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)

#1 Food – Luke 4:4 Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

#2 Pleasure – 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:13.

#3 Pride – 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.

Most people (and I’m not exempting Christians from this category) tend to live by their emotions, intuitions, or experiences. As a pastor I do a lot of marital and premarital counseling. I explain to the couples that your emotions can be very misleading. You hear things like – “I felt I had to do that.” “I just had this feeling.” “You know when you get that feeling.” Men – You’re married but what if you were to come across this woman and immediately you feel a connection with her. It’s amazing! She’s the one! You can feel it deep within! I made a huge mistake and married the wrong person and I need to get with this one. You might wanna try Tums! And the same goes with you ladies.

One of my favorite quotes by J. Sidlow Baxter is “Your emotions are the shallowest part of your nature. God doesn’t do His deepest work in the shallowest part.”

So what is the surest way of handling temptations? It is the truth of the Word of God. Listen to Psalm 119:11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” That’s why at Clearview we focus so much on the Bible with adults and youth and children (Awana). By the way, you better know your Bible because sometimes the enemy may even use the Bible against you. Jerome the church father who translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate (we stood in the place where he worked and later his grave was) said, “Therefore if anyone is not feeding on the Word of God, that person is not living.”

Application: What is the place of God’s Word in your life? Are you feeding upon it? Are you reading it? Are you hearing it preached? Are your children coming to Sunday School, youth, Awana, etc?

IV. KEY: JESUS WAS MORE THAN OUR EXAMPLE.

It is very easy to misunderstand this message. “Jesus has given us an example on how to deal with temptation. All you have to do with temptation is know the timing, recognize the baits, and use the Bible.” Not true.

Israel wandering in the Wilderness

Israel wandering in the Wilderness (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Have you noticed that every time Jesus responded to the devil He quoted from Deuteronomy? These words were actually given to the people of Israel when they left Egypt and were headed to the Promised Land. God had told them to trust Him, look to Him, wait upon Him, and they will be all right. As you know, the people blew the test. They didn’t trust God, didn’t look to Him, and didn’t wait upon Him. They griped, complained, worshipped the golden calf, and disobeyed Moses. What was the result? They all had to die in the wilderness.

Jesus in those 40 went through what the people of Israel went through in 40 years and He showed how it is more than possible to walk with God in faith and obedience. But there’s more – He did it to become our provision as we walk through the same trials and temptations. Listen to Hebrews 2:18 “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Meaning: My job and your job in dealing with trials and temptations is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

In Matthew 14:22 we read how the disciples were in the middle of the Sea, tossed by the waves. We were on the Sea of Galilee and its quite frightening how it can go from being perfectly calm to a storm. As you know Jesus walked to them and they were afraid thinking it was a ghost. But Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous… Meaning: He took his eyes off Jesus. Immediately he began to sink. They key is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Invitation: Do you have your eyes on Jesus? Are you saved?

REMOVING OBSTACLES TO GETTING SAVED

REMOVING OBSTACLES TO GETTING SAVED by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Removing Obstacles to Getting SavedLast Sunday I preached on removing excuses to getting saved. This morning I’m preaching on “REMOVING OBSTACLES TO GETTING SAVED” from Acts 24. There is a big difference between excuses and obstacles. Excuses are fake and God hates them. Obstacles are genuine questions about the gospel and the Holy Spirit wants to help us with them.

Acts 24:24-27   24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” 26 Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him. 27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.

Overall Background: In Acts 23 Paul had been accused of causing trouble in Jerusalem and profaning the temple. To make matters worse, word was out that 40 Jewish men had taken a vow not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. Because Paul was a Roman citizen, he was brought to Caesarea to be tried before Felix the Governor. Paul was a man who believed that every situation was an opportunity to present the gospel. Instead of getting scared or becoming frustrated, he began to witness to Felix and, initially, it moved Felix. In fact, Felix even brought his wife Drusilla, a Jewish woman, to hear Paul.

Listen to verse 25 “Now as he (Paul) reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come…” Paul reasoned. Meaning: the faith we have is a reasonable faith. It’s not just an emotional faith, where people are swept away by their feelings. It’s not just a fashionable faith, where people jump on the latest trend and fad. It’s not even a spiritual faith, where people believe something that cannot be explained. Christianity is a reasonable faith. The gospel has logical, compelling, convincing, cogent reasons behind it. I Peter 3:15says, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”

Sadly, many Christians are not prepared to give reasons for the gospel. Tragically, many people are lost because someone failed to remove the obstacles for them to be saved.

Application: This morning, if you are lost, the Holy Spirit wants to remove some obstacles so you can be saved. Listen to His voice with an open heart and an open mind. If you are saved, let this be a learning opportunity for you. Learn to give reasons for the hope that is in you.

This morning we will look at 3 obstacles to getting saved:

OBSTACLE #1 – WHY SHOULD I TRUST THE BIBLE IF THE BIBLE HAS MISTAKES?

One time I was witnessing to a young man and I said – “The Bible tells us in John 3:16…” He interrupted me and said – “Why should I believe the Bible? Doesn’t the Bible have a lot of errors?”

Here’s the Answer – There are many passages in the Bible that at first glance seem to be a mistake. But when you study them more carefully with the right resources, you find that the Bible has no errors and no contradictions. Let me give you just 2 examples:

  1. In Mark 2:26 Jesus mentioned the incident where David was running from Saul. He said that David “went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest…” Only problem, when you look back in the Old Testament to I Samuel 21:1, the name of the High Priest in not Abiathar but Ahimelech. Hence, some people have claimed that not only the Bible has mistakes but also Jesus made a mistake.

What do you do with that? Abiathar was Ahimelech’s son, who became the high priest after Saul killed Ahimelech and the rest of his family. Abiathar was the only one who escaped. Listen again to how Jesus said it – in the days of Abiathar the high priest…” It means when Abiathar was living not when he was the High Priest. By the way, the larger section of the scroll was identified by the name Abiathar.

  1. In Mark 6:45 it says, Immediately He (Jesus) made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida…” Only problem – in John 6:17 the disciples “got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.” Was it Bethsaida or Capernaum? If the disciples were sailing from the east side of the Sea of Galilee, both Bethsaida and Capernaum were towards the North and Northwest.

For e.g. Driving towards Charlotte on I-85, there are signs that say “To Atlanta.” I don’t want to go to Atlanta but what the sign is saying is that we are headed south in the direction of Atlanta.

I can go on and on. At one time Bible critics used to claim that there were no such people called the Hittites (Genesis 15:20; Exodus 3:8, 17; Numbers 13:29; Joshua 1:4; Judges 1:26, etc.). They claimed that the Bible writer made up these mythical peoples. Toward the end of the 19th century, archaeologists uncovered Hittite monuments at Carchemish on the Euphrates River in Syria. In 1906, some more excavations at Boghazkoy in Turkey revealed thousands of Hittite documents. The Hittites were a real people who were powerful and dominated Asia Minor and the Near East.

Anytime I hear someone say – “the Bible has errors,” I know that the enemy is working behind the situation. He is using his oldest trick in the book. The very first temptation that Satan used in Genesis 3:1 was “Has God indeed said…” He caused Eve to doubt God’s Word. His tactic has not changed. He is still trying to do that. “How can you be sure that the Bible is God’s Word?” Before you dismiss this book as one riddled with mistakes, examine it carefully and you will find that it has no errors.

OBSTACLE #2 – HOW CAN I BE SURE THAT THE BIBLE IS GOD’S WORD?

One time I was witnessing and someone said – “The Bible is a very interesting book. It has a lot of great historical information. It is also a great work of literature.” What really caught my attention is what this person left unsaid – “The Bible is God’s Word.”

Here’s the answer – The Bible is much more than a historical record and a literary masterpiece. It is a prophetic book. It is full of prophecies that have been fulfilled and prophecies that are waiting to be fulfilled. Human beings can do fortune telling but there is a big difference between prophecy and fortune telling. An example of fortune telling is “A handsome man/woman will come into your life.” Prophecy is exact, precise information that comes to pass in the future. Did you know that there are 1817 prophecies in the Bible – 1239 in the OT and 578 in the NT?

1. There are predictions in the Bible about kings, nations and cities.

For e.g. In Ezekiel 26 there is a remarkable prediction that the city of Tyre would be destroyed. The description was given in details. Through a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar and a Greek emperor named Alexander the Great Tyre was destroyed.

2. There are predictions in the Bible about the Jewish people.

For e.g. Moses and Hosea predicted that the people of Israel would be driven out of their land because they had disobeyed God. It happened. Then Jeremiah predicted that they would return and they did.

3. There are predictions in the Bible about Jesus Christ.

For e.g. Prophet Isaiah lived 700 years before the coming of Christ and he gave prophecies about the coming of Christ. In Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Also, in Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”

The meaning for “wounded” is “pierced through,” and “bruises” or “stripes” is “blows that cut in.” The Bible prophesied about the Roman crucifixion even before the crucifixion was invented by the Persians. Romans borrowed from the Persians and Rome did not even exist at this time.

What is my point? Although, human beings wrote this book, there was a divine hand behind them. 2 Peter 1:21 “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Before you dismiss this book as a history book or literature book, you need to recognize that it is a heavenly book.

III. WHAT IF I TRY TO DO GOOD LIKE THE BIBLE SAYS?

This is one that I come across more than any other – “We can learn a lot from the Bible about how to treat each other.” “I try to live by the Ten Commandments.” “I try to live by the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…”

Here’s the answer – The Bible does teach us a lot about how to treat our fellow human beings but the Bible is much more than a “do good book.” It is a rescue note. It gives us instructions on how to be saved.

#1 – We are trapped in sin. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Our problem is our sinful nature. Mark 7:15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.

#2 – Jesus came to save us. Romans 5:8-9 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

It is a free gift. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

#3 – We have to make a decision to trust His sacrifice as our only hope. Romans 1:12-13 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.

How do you receive Him? Romans 10:9-10   9 “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Have you received Jesus as your Savior?

READ THE MANUAL – THE BIBLE

READ THE MANUAL – THE BIBLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Read the Manual - The BibleMen are notorious for throwing away the instructional manual. It comes in the box but who needs it. But as they say, “when all else fails, read the manual.”The Manual for everything in life is the Bible – the Word of God. “When all else fails, read the manual – the Bible.”

Nehemiah 8:1-3 “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”

Overall Background: Until Chapter 7, Nehemiah’s focus was on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. But starting in chapter 8, he shifts his focus to a different kind of building project. This project was not about repairing broken walls; it was not about brick and mortar; it was about rebuilding the broken lives of the people of Israel. Nehemiah knew that as wonderful as it was for the people to have well-protected cities, thick walls and high gates, none of them could repair their spiritual brokenness. The answer to their deepest needs was found in the BIBLE. So in chapter 8, Nehemiah re-introduces them to the Creator’s Manual. Listen to verse 1 “Now all the people gathered together as one man (meaning: it didn’t matter who they were, what they looked like, and where they came from) in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.

Application: This is the same message for all of us this morning—There is nothing wrong with having well-protected cities, nice houses and good jobs but none of them can rebuild broken lives. You and I come into this world broken. The answer to all our problems is found in this book – the Creator’s manual – the Bible. What we need, what our community needs, what our nation needs, what our world needs is to hear from God. This is the Book that tells us about Him; this is the Book that gives us the plan of salvation.

If you find yourself broken this morning, listen every carefully to this message. Three important things we will see in this passage.

I. THE PEOPLE WERE HUNGRY FOR THE WORD OF GOD.

Ezra Reads The LawThen he (Ezra) read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand;

Background: First of all, the people did not care for their comfort. They did not look for the most shaded place. They did not grumble that the reading was not inside the temple. They stood from morning until midday, which is about 5-6 hours.

What else? and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”

Meaning: No one budged. No one skipped out. They all listened with rapt attention.

Why were they so hungry for the Word? In 587 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the temple and shut down the sacrifices. He had taken the people of Judah into captivity to Babylon. They were in exile where they did not have the Word of God. They had to rely on their memory. They had to rely on the songs of Zion they had memorized growing up. But they didn’t even want to sing those old psalms about the Lord. Psalm 137: 1-4  1“By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion. We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land?

Meaning: For seventy years they lived in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!Babylonian Captivity Pucinelli

In 539 BC, Babylon fell into the hands of the Medo-Persians. The new king Cyrus freed the Jewish people and gave them permission to go back home. About 50,000 returned to Jerusalem and tried rebuilding the temple but gave up when they faced opposition. For the next 16 years, the temple remained unfinished.

Meaning: Again, for the next 16 years they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!

At the end of the 16 years they tried again and after altogether 20 years, they finally finished the temple.

Meaning: For another 20 years they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!

Now the temple was ready but still there was no one to give proper leadership.

Meaning: For the next 60 years, they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!

Finally Ezra came and helped them but the walls of Jerusalem were still down. Without the walls, there was no stability, no security, and no hope for the future until Nehemiah came in 445 BC and rebuilt the wall and brought some security and stability to their lives.

Meaning: For another 13 years, they were in a spiritual drought – No Word of God!

Meaning: From 587 BC to 445 BC—that’s about 140 years—the people hadn’t heard the Word of God. They were in a spiritual drought. They were hungry for the Word!

That is a long time to go without the Word of God. Is it any wonder that they did not move and listened with rapt attention!

For e.g. Even today there are people in some villages in India and parts of China who will walk miles and put their own selves in harm’s way just to hear God’s Word.

Why is it that we are not hungry for the Word of God?

For e.g. When kids come home, they immediately go to the fridge or the pantry and look for a snack. We have to warn them to get only one because they will spoil their supper.

The reason we are not hungry is because we have no appetite for the Word of God. We are so full of the junk of this world so when a home-cooked, hot, delicious, nutritious meal of the Word of God is offered we have no appetite. We are up on every TV program and every new movie and every new song but we have no deep concept of the Word of God. We get mad when we cannot find the remote but our Bibles are usually on the dashboard collecting dust.

So what do we have now? Spiritual Hypertension, High Cholesterol, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke, Gallstones, Gout, and the list goes on and on. Even though many of us are saved, we look just like the world.

Application: Are you hungry for the Word of God? Are you desperate to hear the truth?

II. THE PEOPLE WERE SUBMISSIVE TO THE WORD OF GOD.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people (he was on a platform/pulpit); and when he opened it, all the people stood up.

Background: Isn’t that powerful? They all stood up. This was a mark of respect. This was not just Ezra the scribe reading some book. Ezra is just the mouthpiece. This is the Word of God that was about to be read.

This is why we stand up when we read God’s Word at the opening of every message. It visually demonstrates that God is about to speak. His word is inspired; His Word is inerrant; His Word is Authoritative; His Word is Clear; His Word is Necessary; and His Word is Sufficient.

Application: What attitude do you bring to the church? If you’ve already made up your mind that you will not agree with anything that is preached, more than likely, you will walk away hating the Word.

There’s more – 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

Background: The Word “Amen” simply means “So Be It” or “I Agree.” Furthermore, they lifted up their hands, bowed their heads, and worshipped God by getting on their faces. Can you picture that?!!

  • Some churches are all emotions and no Word.
  • Other churches are all Word and no emotions.
  • Here is the ideal – As the Word is being read, the people respond to the authority of the Word and they are not afraid say Amen, lift their hands, bow their heads, and get on their faces before God.

Bottom line: They were completely submitted to the Authority of the Word of God.

Application: Are you submissive to the authority of the Word of God? Do you come with objections or do you come with obedience?

III. THEY WERE TRANSFORMED BY THE WORD OF GOD

Background: It was not enough to just read the Bible. It was also important to understand the Bible. What was the result? And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

Why were they weeping? They realized for the first time how guilty they were before God. They were mourning for their sins. They saw themselves in the mirror of the Word of God. Romans 3:20  “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” For the first time they realized that they had broken their covenant promise of love to God.

Application: As you read this book and as you hear these messages, there will come a time in your life that you will come face-to-face with your utter sinfulness. When that happens, you can either harden your hearts or you can respond with godly sorrow. What happens if you harden your hearts? You will have to weep one day. What happens if you respond with godly sorrow? Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

That’s exactly what happens here – 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Background: In just a few days they were going to celebrate the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This was a day of national mourning, fasting, and repentance. What were special about this day were the two goats. One was sacrificed and the blood was applied to the mercy seat in the temple. The second was kept alive and the sins of the nation were symbolically laid on its head. Then the goat was taken out of the city and driven away, never to return. This was the “scape goat.” Since the Day of Atonement was on the way the people had no need to mourn any more.

So also with us – if Jesus Christ is our Atonement; if you have received Him as your sacrifice for our sin, there is no need to mourn any more. Now all you need to do is live in the Joy of the Lord – that is our strength.

Are you joyful when you should be mourning?

Are you mourning when you should be joyful?

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