Justice and the Vulnerable

An Important Component Of Justice Is Caring For The Vulnerable

Phil Shahbaz
Oct 16, 2022    45m
When you're caring for the vulnerable and powerless, you honor God and show the world His justice. He calls you to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. He wants you to be passionate about justice and be generous with your time, talent, and possessions. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Phil Shahbaz: [00:00:18] If you were here last week, you'll remember that Pastor Dan leaned into that bruised reed in Isaiah, that bruised reed that Jesus will not break. That bruised reed, that is where we're going to live today. And we're actually going to focus on the book of Proverbs chapter 31 verses 8 through 9 specifically, but I think some meaningful setup in the Book of Proverbs is probably important.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:00:41] Now, the Book of Proverbs is a very special book to me. It's probably been the most formative, maybe the most important, and influential book of the Bible in my life. Now, I graduated high school in 1992. Now I know for the college students here and for the Exit83'ers out there, that is a long time ago. I get it, I am old, but for half the congregation I am still at recess drinking whole milk and I am very thankful for that. But love to the Gen-Xers, you keep rocking it out to Alanis Morissette and wearing those cargo shorts, and I will be doing it with you. All right?

Phil Shahbaz: [00:01:16] But I promise you, in the second semester of my senior year, I took a Bible class with the wonderful Mrs. Burrows, who I'm very thankful for, and it was a semester-long dissection of this book of proverbs. And as we read each chapter, a rolling assignment through the class was to create this journal, and in that journal, our job was to take each verse or section of verses and put it in the category that it best fit into. So, for example, if we read a proverb on leadership, I would write it down in the leadership section of my journal. And there were many other sections like humility, foolishness, alcohol, parenting, marriage, dating, etc. You know, for me, Proverbs always seemed really easy to understand, it didn't take a whole lot of interpretation.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:01:57] See, church, Proverbs is a book written from the perspective of a father teaching his son, giving his son wisdom and knowledge, it's easy to relate to for me. So from a very early age, Proverbs just seemed pretty simple. If you do this, well, this is probably going to happen. And if you don't do this, well, this is probably going to happen. I love that because it made Proverbs feel like real-time immediately applicable advice. So whether you're a new Christian or an old Christian or figuring this out for the very first time, wherever you read in Proverbs, it's going to have something to tell you that's going to be relevant to your day, something that you can immediately apply to your life.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:02:36] Now, Proverbs was written and compiled by King Solomon, and it's a wonderful example, a wonderful example of Hebrew poetry. And Hebrew poetry carries with it a couple of different distinctions. One of them is called parallelism, it's two sentences or phrases that are brought together within a stanza, and sometimes they modify each other or expand on one another, or provide a counterpoint to one another. And in most cases, one thought helps to sharpen our understanding of the thought that came before it. And I'll give you an example here, Proverbs 24:26, does anybody know this church? An honest answer is like what? Does anybody know? "An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips." Now junior highers are like, I will never tell the truth again in my life. In college, it's like, Oh Lord, I pray for the truth every day, Phil, every day. But here's the thing, though, like, you can get it, you can understand it, a kiss on the lips is intimate, it's meant to be satisfying, it draws your focus in, it stops you in your tracks. Even in 2022, we can understand it and we can digest it. And for the Hebrew reader, a kiss on the lips signified true friendship, the metaphor being that real friendship is characterized by truth-telling.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:03:54] Another distinction of Hebrew poetry is the importance of vivid images or word pictures that help teach a lesson. Here's a Shabaz family favorite, Proverbs 6:6-11, Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest." And this is where mom and dad then walk into the teenage son's room, they open the door and the musk of Old Spice and BO wafts towards you, and there is laundry everywhere, and pizza boxes and your son is hanging off the bed with the headphones in the computer, and this is where mom and dad say, How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 11and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man." We get it, right, right away the idea is that if you procrastinate, if you put things off, if you're lazy and say, oh, I'll just do that tomorrow, I feel like sleeping in or I feel like watching TV or playing video games, it will become a habit and eventually it will catch up to you.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:05:04] So as we get to Proverbs 31, we see a colorful example of the second marker of Hebrew poetry through word, picture, and metaphor. And I also want to make something clear, church, as we get started, Proverbs is not just meant to be good advice so that you're smart with your money and you don't get drunk and lose your goats or whatever. Proverbs, it reveals to us its fullest and richest meaning when it's read in the context of the person and the work of Jesus Christ.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:05:35] Remember our series on the Book of Haggai, Pastor Dan spoke about the fear of the Lord in reference to Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." We are reminded that, yes, the fear of the Lord is about being afraid of God. But it means so much more, we don't want to be on the wrong side of the judge of this universe, it's an attitude of awe and wonder towards God as we acknowledge that He is the most important existence in our reality. And if we can't acknowledge God as central in our lives, we will never get to wisdom. In Luke, chapter 11, verse 31, Jesus claims to be the new Solomon with the ultimate wisdom. So it should be clear, church, that the kind of relationship that Proverbs calls us to have with God, and then, with our community, is only realized through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:06:27] So we're going to actually start with Proverbs 31, verse 1, to set the stage for 8 and 9. And as we begin, you may notice in your Bible that Proverbs 31, verse 1, is entitled Sayings of King Lemuel. In fact, verse 1 says, "The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him." Now you're like Shabaz, you just said it was written by Solomon. Well, here's the thing, some theologians believe that this is still Solomon writing, but what he's doing is that he's painting a picture of the ideal relationship between the king and his queen mother. But what sets Chapter 31 apart from the rest of Proverbs, is that this is the one chapter where a mother is advising her son. So this one goes out to all the moms out there as we read verses 2 through 7, Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! "Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! 3Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings. 4It is not for kings, Lemuel— it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, 5lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. 6Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! 7Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more."

Phil Shahbaz: [00:07:56] So let's briefly start with the moms. Moms, no one knows more than you what it's like to worry about your children, to worry about your son, to pray that he makes good choices, the joy that you have when he makes good choices, and the grief you bear when he makes bad choices. And when those choices stack up, you can see the possible ruin of his life out in the distance, and all you can do is pray for him. And all you want to do is cry out, listen, my son, I love you so much, listen to me. And in these verses, Solomon paints a picture of the most powerful distractions that sit in front of a young man with the world at his fingertips, women, and booze. Older guys, you've been there, right? Mom is telling her son, son, you are king, women will do anything to get close to you, do not indulge yourself, do not get distracted because it will be your ruin. And she's saying, son, you are king, you can drink and party as much as you want to. No one will stop you, son, do not indulge yourself, and do not get distracted because it will be your ruin. And if you frolic and if you're party, and if you live a life focused on yourself, on pleasing yourself, on your desires, the greatest consequence will be that you will leave the vulnerable in your community ripe for oppression. You will no longer care for the needs of those around you that are hurting the most, and while you're focused on yourself, the least of these in your kingdom will suffer.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:09:32] And as we get to verses 8 and 9, she says, Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Oh, church, I just love, I love these verses. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. What an amazing Old Testament picture of the saving grace of Jesus Christ in our lives today through His mercy, Jesus is our ultimate advocate. You know, as you read through Proverbs, there are many, many important themes. But the biggest theme, the biggest theme that you cannot miss, church, is this, to be passionate about justice,

Phil Shahbaz: [00:09:32] Vulnerable, that word is going to come up a lot today. See, today's passage is not just an isolated theme in Proverbs or the Old Testament. If we go back to the start of Chapter 31, we see a very clear thesis play out. Solomon's telling us, he's asking us, will you use your power and position to indulge yourself? Because the vulnerable in your community will suffer if you are distracted by the things of this world. He takes a deep breath, and he says, instead, speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, speak up for the rights of those who are destitute.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:11:06] So let's break down verse 8. Those who cannot speak for themselves. Well, who are they? Who's he talking about? Well, Solomon gives us a clue by referring to the poor and needy, the rights of all those who are destitute. So depending on your translation instead of the word destitute, it might say those appointed to die. In other words, church, those who have nothing, those who have no resources, no provision, no possessions, and those who are impoverished or poverty-stricken. Essentially, those that are at the brink and defenseless. And this takes us back to that definition of justice that we talked about in week one, if you remember, or actually the whole month. If you remember, biblical justice means to give people what they are owed. Another way to say that, church, is to give people what they are due.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:11:55] The Hebrew word for justice is actually mishpat, it shows up over 200 times in the Old Testament. And its simplest meaning, church, is to treat people regardless of their wealth, their race, or their status, to treat people equally. And a couple of weeks ago, you remember Exodus 23:3, "Do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit." And we see it again in a different context in Leviticus 19:15, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great." The idea here is that if a man commits murder, whether he is rich or poor, he should be given the same punishment, this is the punishment that he is due, rich or poor, they should have the same penalty.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:12:37] But, church, mishpat, justice, in the Old Testament means way more than just punishing bad guys. As you read through the Old Testament, there are certain classes of people that keep coming up over and over and over again. Let me give you one verse that gives you all of them at the same time, and I love this verse, Zechariah 7:9-10, this is what the Lord Almighty says, "Administer true justice." Well, God, what does that look like? I'll tell you what it looks like, if you show mercy and compassion to one another, that is true justice. And then he doubles down, and he says, do not oppress the widow or the fatherless or the alien or the poor. These groups, those four groups, are what theologians refer to as the quartet of the vulnerable orphans, widows, immigrants, and the poor.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:13:33] You might remember in week two, Pastor Dan taught that favoritism is the great enemy of justice and that the bulk of the commands about favoritism in the Bible are about protecting the vulnerable. The major warning is to not show favoritism to the rich and resourced at the expense of the poor. And a few weeks back, we also talked about bribes, church, church, our God hates bribes, it's brought up over and over and over again in Scripture. Why? Because the vulnerable orphans, widows, immigrants, and the poor, they can't afford bribes, bribes pervert justice. So justice mishpat is giving people what they are due, whether it's punishment, protection, or care, punishment protection or care.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:14:20] So our heart for justice doesn't just end with not showing partiality in the courtroom, to neglect the needs of the vulnerable in our life, it's not just the lack of grace or lack of mercy or a lack of charity, it's a violation of biblical justice. Psalm 9, "The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed." Psalm 14, "The Lord is a refuge for the poor." Psalm 103, "The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed." Church, see those words righteousness and justice, they show up in Scripture together, combined over 30 times. And when we think of that word righteousness, we often think of our own private holiness, like I pray every day, I read my Bible an hour a day, I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't cut off people when I'm driving, my cargo shorts always go past my knees, and I only wear T-shirts that say iron sharpens iron or fusion or something like that. All right. But, church, here's the thing, righteousness, that word righteousness comes from the Hebrew word, tsadaq, it refers to the day-to-day living in which a person conducts all their relationships. Church, not some, but all their relationships with their family, with their friends, with their community, with fairness, with generosity, and with an eye for righting the wrongs that we see in front of us.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:15:45] So according to Scripture, and this, if you're writing stuff down, you'll want to write this down. According to Scripture, the righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves, to advantage the community; while the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community, to advantage themselves. And no wonder God was so angry with Israel all the time in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 58, God says, "They pretended to seek me out, they act like they want to know me, they asked me to be near to them, to be just with them. They say, Oh Lord, look how I'm fasting, look how humble I am. But as soon as their fast is done, they exploit their workers, and they fight with one another. And God says, What is this, is this what you call a fasting? Do you think this is acceptable to me? And then he says, is this not the kind of fasting that I have chosen to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer church, the wanderer, the alien, the immigrant with shelter? And when you see the naked, to clothe him and not turn away from your own flesh and blood." And that means everyone because we're all image bearers.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:16:55] Remember Micah 6:8, a few weeks back? Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. In this chapter, in chapter 6 of Micah, God takes His people to court over their behavior. Micah Chapter 6 is called the Lord's Case against Israel. And before God pronounces them guilty, he says, you know what I require of you, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. He's telling them you must punish wrongdoers, protect and care for the vulnerable, to freely give out my mercy, my loving kindness, to everyone as I have given it to you, and not show off about it, instead, trust me.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:17:35] And in this context, church, the words of Amos, "Let justice roll like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream.", take on a whole new meaning. The orphan, the widow, the immigrant, and the poor. And if you're an orphan or a widow sitting in the sanctuary today, I want to be very clear, a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling, that is Psalm 68, that is his promise to you. Our God identifies with the vulnerable and powerless and takes up their cause. As a result. no, we are not supposed to show partiality to the vulnerable, but we are to show special concern. Did you hear that? We are to show special concern. That is why Solomon does not say speak up for the rich and powerful, he says speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, speak up for the rights of the vulnerable.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:18:33] And you know, church, as we get to the gospels, Jesus, he doubles down on this message. Once we get to the New Testament, we see that God literally identifies with the poor. In the words of Pastor and Theologian Tim Keller, "When God sent his son Jesus, God made himself poor, he was born in a feed trough. When he was dedicated at the temple his parents gave two pigeons, the offering given by the poorest of the poor. He wandered homeless throughout his ministry. At the end of his life, he rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey and had his last supper with his friends in a borrowed room. He was stripped of his last possession, a robe that the soldiers gambled for. And finally, he was buried in a borrowed grave." See, church, not only did our God become poor, but Jesus also became oppressed, his own trial was a miscarriage of justice.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:19:32] So church, I have a couple of questions for you. The first question is this. Can you relate? That word, vulnerable, have you been there? I'm sure you have, if you're there right now, you know. But if things are good, can you remember how it feels? You know, the life of Jesus expands on this quartet, he heals the sick, he heals the afflicted, and then he pursues the outcasts, the prostitutes, and tax collectors. Today, the list of vulnerable continues to go on. Of course, we have the homeless in our communities. We have mental illness. We have mental and physical abuse. The single moms and dads out there. The unborn, we speak up for them because they cannot speak for themselves, right, church? Do you remember what it's like?

Phil Shahbaz: [00:20:29] You know, there are a lot of different ways that we feel vulnerable. For the Dodgers fans, they're probably feeling very vulnerable today, but this is what it feels like to be an Angel fan all the time. I had to get one in there, I had to do it, I couldn't help myself. I couldn't help myself. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I just, here we are, let's get back to it, let's get back to it. Adults, do you remember what it was like to be a student? Do you remember what it was like to be in high school? Exit83ers out there, your parents are on your back because you need to study for a test. You know, you need to study for a test, but you get distracted. You show up for the test and you don't recognize a thing on that test. You know you're going to fail, and you know your parents are going to see your grade online before you get home, and there is nothing you can do about it. And for some of you, your parents are like, hey, I know why you failed that test, I checked your screen time, and in the last three days you've been on Instagram and played video games for 14 hours, that's why you failed on that test. And then there's some of you, you're like, I did study for the test, you killed yourself getting ready, and then you fail. And then the words, this isn't fair. What's the point? Why should I work so hard? That's vulnerable.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:21:45] You know, there's another kind of vulnerability that Exit83ers, you go through, the guys, high school guys. You're hanging with your buddies in between classes, and then she walks up. Do you know what I'm talking about? The girl that you've sort of been crushing on. And she does that thing with her hair and like, time slows down for a beat, it's like a slow-motion Pantene commercial, and the A-Team theme begins to play in your head, you've never seen the show, but it's there anyway. And then you proceed to have a conversation with your buddies that just uses the word dude, dude, dude, dude, dude. And then she walks up to you and she's like, Hi, John. And then you freeze up and then you're like, oh, it's just chemistry, it's just chemistry homework, I'm just all about the chemistry right now. And your guys are like, oh, he's melting down in front of them. And girls, the girls, it's no different, you can smell the dude coming 5 minutes away because of the Axe body spray. And as he walks by, one of your girls blurts out, Jessica thinks you're hot, and you begin to hyperventilate. That's vulnerable. But even worse, even worse, is those of you that feel like you're outside the circle, like making friends seems easy to everyone but me. And you're like, I'm nice to people, I try and be friendly, but everyone has their cliques and has made it clear that there is no room for me. So the hardest part of your day is having lunch at school by yourself. That's vulnerable.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:23:15] The adults in this room know that it doesn't get any easier. When you start your relationship, she loves football, and you know everything there is to know about tulips. A few years later, you've drifted apart. You're constantly fighting and the only thing you have in common anymore is that you both love your kids, but he doesn't see me anymore, or she doesn't appreciate all that I do. And you don't know how you got there, but you're thinking, what's the point? That's vulnerable. Those of you that have been through a divorce, the pain of a broken relationship, wondering how something that started so good ended up being so toxic. Feeling betrayed, maybe replaced, feeling alone, trying to figure out how am I going to raise three kids on my own and no one can understand the depth of your grief and the fear of what the future holds. That's vulnerable.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:24:08] And for some of you, the loss of a loved one, or an illness in your family that you did not plan for, has torn your family apart. Maybe it's you, maybe it's a child, and your days are spent in and out of the hospital or fighting with insurance. The physical pain on its own is one thing, but your bank account is approaching zero balance. And every single day you're like, God, why? Why me? Why did you do this to me? That's vulnerable.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:24:30] For some of you, parents out there, the grief you bear is because of your adult children's choices. They've chosen not to follow the Lord. Or live their life, through their anger, have chosen to indulge themselves or follow the things in this world. And you pray every day, and some of you cannot help but blame yourself. Kids here today, I want you to hear this clearly, I have never seen grief here at LBF more powerful than a parent who has lost their child in this way. That's vulnerable.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:25:00] You know, church. I've been there. Many of you know, my wife Amy, and I have four kids that were all born at the same time, in 2007. We had quadruplets as the economy was collapsing, they were born at 29 weeks, all under 3lbs. Our daughter Cedar was the smallest at 2 pounds, 4 ounces. They were all born just under the threshold of lung development. My wife spent three months at Santa Monica, UCLA, with the rear end elevated above her head just to keep those babies inside. Each child was born and immediately taken to NICU, and the amount of doctors and nurses and machines and medications that help keep them alive for the next three months is hard to describe. As they came home, they all came home one by one, and we quickly realized we are outnumbered. Over the next year, Amy and I would barely see each other as she would do the day shift with a group of volunteers, I would do the night shift with a group of volunteers, and that was it, church, that was life. I had just left APU, I was doing real estate at the time, but there was nothing left to sell, the real estate market had already collapsed, and I couldn't leave the house anyway, even if there were jobs.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:26:12] Anything you need for a baby, we had to have four at a time, the chubby one that looks like me is running the camera right now, that's Jonah back there. See, Jonah, look how great this is when Dad is on the stage. We needed nearly 30 diapers a day, and so I ordered them in bulk from 1-800-Diapers.com. We drained all the baby formula from every store in the area, we had AP students running all over Los Angeles, just taking baby formula for us. We watched as our savings account disappeared, then all the equity in our house disappeared, and within just a few months our insurance ran out and we had to apply for Medi-Cal. We had to enroll in the WIC program just for food. We had to enroll in California Children's services. We had to rely on government programs just to survive. And, church, I was angry, I was angry at God. I would go into the backyard and just yell at God. I did everything by the book, I graduated college, I got my master's, I honored my parents, I married a woman who loves you, we both saved ourselves for marriage, we gave generously, we led dozens of missions’ trips, I dedicated my life to ministry, we've been diligent with our finances, and this, God, this is what I get. What's the point of this kind of suffering, God? Why would you allow this suffering to happen to us? And you, by the way, God, have the power to literally fix this right now. You could literally make it so that I wake up with one child in the morning, and you just give us the rest back every two years. But no, you're not going to do that because watching me suffer is just too much fun.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:27:44] Church, all of our challenges, and all the ways in which we are vulnerable are different. Your story is different than mine, but your story counts, it counts. Right now, you might be like me, all your prayers are screaming at God. Well, if that's where you're at, you are next in a long line of believers that have done the same thing. Jacob wrestled with God in a night of prayer that was so violent he hurt himself. Moses whined to God, why are you treating me this way? What did I ever do to deserve this? Jeremiah ranted at God, you deceived me, Lord, and now all the people make fun of me all the time. Remember, if you are a bruised reed right now, if you are a smoldering wick that is about to be snuffed out right now, if you were at your most vulnerable and waiting for someone to speak up for you, you, church, you have an advocate. His name is Jesus, he's been there, and he says, come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:28:44] Take your bad prayers, remember from last week, take your bad prayers, your distracted worship, and your inconsistent obedience to God, because He is our only hope. And, church, don't stop, because if the enemy can make you feel distant from God, He can isolate you and get exactly what he wants, and that is to separate you from God and make you say, what's the point, God's not involved, I'm on my own, and I'll do things my way. And you can see Satan's weapon there, its pride.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:29:21] It worked on me, I was so blinded by what I wasn't getting, what I didn't have, and what I thought I deserved, that I couldn't see the blessings amidst the suffering. The people that I didn't even know, who dedicated their lives to finding a way to keep premature babies alive. The doctors and nurses, the idea that someone invented what's called a PICC line, a plastic tube so small that it could fit into the vein of a 2lbs baby's arm and lead up to their heart to provide medication and nutrition, and by the grace of God, we didn't bring one, two, or three, we brought four babies home. Amen. The droves of AP students and friends and family members there to help care for these kids 24 hours a day. The fact that I had a wife who gave up her life so these kids could be alive, and later would color code and coordinate the greatest baby-feeding and changing operation Southern California had ever seen. The people that were constantly praying for us, sending us support, and that remained by our side when we were at our most depleted and our most exhausted. And that the fact that these babies would grow up to be wonderful teenagers who love the Lord, a profound source of joy in our lives that is a daily reminder of God's goodness, that he will never leave us, and that he will never forsake us.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:30:35] And of course, when we got to LBF, many of you know the challenges and the hardship for our family were just beginning. Many of you stood in the gap for us, you spoke up for us when we were too depleted and at our lowest and we couldn't speak up for ourselves. You did? What a picture of Jesus, this community has been to our family for nearly 15 years. So today, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, or the poor, if that is you, if you are needy and destitute, just know Jesus is way closer than you think. If you are vulnerable and at the brink, the God of this universe is aligned with you and right there with you, the bruised reed He will not break.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:31:15] And so here's my second question for you, church. The first is, can you relate? The second question is, are you distracted? You know, Solomon warns that if we're distracted, the vulnerable will suffer. He uses the examples of women and alcohol for a young king, and those are still valid today. But my goodness, there are so many more tools that he has. Here's another one to write down, if you're writing stuff down. Church, Satan wants to divert your worship away from Jesus, so that you put your hope in the things of this world. Do you hear that? If I only had more money, if I only had a better car, if I had a different job, if I had a different boss, if I had a different teacher, you don't understand how bad my wife is, how bad my husband is, my brother, or my parents are. And we build up our defenses, church, we draw lines in the sand, we make enemies out of one another, and there's no longer room for justice or mercy or God's grace because now we're too busy protecting ourselves.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:32:14] And you might be thinking, Phil, we're talking about the poor and immigrants, and this is an easy topic, it's the government's fault. Our immigration system is a mess and homelessness is out of control, policies in Southern California are destroying our communities and our country and the poor and immigrants are taking advantage of the system, they don't appreciate it anyway. It's the Democrat's fault or it's the Republican's fault, and folks are on both sides of the aisle saying you don't understand, they're the ones that are destroying this country.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:32:43] And, church, this takes us back to week one in our series. The main way we practice justice and mercy is not through our vote, because it doesn't take much work or sacrifice. And more importantly, we start to make enemies out of those who choose to vote differently than us or live differently than us, and we end up saying, you know, I don't know if I want justice for them, in fact, I don't know that they deserve it. And if that's where your heart's at right now, I have another harder question. If that's where your heart's right now, who are you being discipled by? Because, church, if it's cable news, or if it's talk radio, or if it's podcasts, or if it's social media, especially to the young folks, if it's social media, then yeah, the only hope we have is in government and to destroy our enemies before they destroy us. And we take the moral high ground to justify our positions on both sides, and apart from Jesus, church, it's just moral theater that causes us to look down on one another and demonize one another while the vulnerable around us continue to suffer.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:33:47] And yet, if we are discipled by Jesus, he points us in a very different direction. I'll give you an example here. The Son of man shows up performing signs and wonders and miracles and those that believe are like, finally, the Messiah is here, it is revolution time, it's time to overthrow our Roman oppressors. An imposter king sits on the throne, Jesus, and you're finally here to bring justice. Oh, my gosh. I'm excited. Are you going to break John the Baptist out of jail? Wait, wait, wait, where's your horse? Where's your army? I'm sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself, I'm sure you've got plans, but you're probably going to start the revolution in the Decapolis, I've got my money on that. I'll tell you what, I'm going to run, I'm going to go tell the zealot, they're going to be excited that you're here, they've been training all their lives for you to get here. Then I'm going to run home, I'm going to get my sword and I'll be right back, and I'll be ready to go.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:34:34] And Jesus is like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on. I've got plans and they will be revolutionary, but not in the way you think. So here's what I'd like you to do instead, when you go home, don't worry about that sword. Instead, here's what I want you to do and listen close, I want you to love God with all your heart and all your soul. Okay, yeah, I can do that. Yeah, that's okay, I can do that. And I want you to love your neighbor as yourself. I'm sorry, what? What does that have to do with Rome? And do you know my neighbor? He doesn't mow his lawn, he's mean, he has five cars, and listens to Nickelback at 2 a.m. And Jesus says, I know this is going to be hard, but if you can love your neighbor, you'll introduce them to me. Wow, okay. And another thing, and I know this is going to be hard, but I also want you to love your enemies, and I want you to pray for those who persecute you. What? What? Wait a second. Wait, we've been oppressed for generations, the Romans abuse and exploit our people. I know. I know, this is going to be hard. But if you can love your neighbors, and if you can pray for them, you'll introduce them to me. But Jesus, they're Romans, they're evil and sinful. I know, but think of it this way, see that grapevine over there? Yes. I'm like that grapevine, and you, you're like that branch, which means you're going to bear fruit. I love you, and if you love me back, that means you'll carry me with you, I'll always be in your heart. That means when you do bear fruit, it will look like that love, that's why you've got to love your family, you've got to love your neighbors, you've got to love your friends, even the Samaritans, and Romans the same way I love you, so that you can introduce them to me.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:36:45] Okay, well, this is surprising, I think I'm starting to understand. But please, can you tell me you're going to break John the Baptist out of jail? No, hang in there, I know this is hard. But here's the thing, see, everyone's in prison, but not all prisons are made of metal and stone, that sin you carry, that guilt, that burden, that's the real prison. And if you believe in me, if you trust in me and let me carry that burden for you, that's the real freedom that I bring, that's the salvation that everyone is looking for. So you're saying that in this revolution if someone smacks me in the face, you just turn the other cheek. Now you're getting it. Oh, come on. I know, I know this is going to be hard, but in this revolution, if you are poor in spirit, if you live in mourning, if you are meek, if you are merciful, if you are pure in heart, if you are a peacemaker, if you are persecuted because of your righteousness, if you try and right the wrongs that you see around you, you will be blessed. And if people insult, you and lie about you, and say mean things about you, not only will you be blessed, your reward is in heaven. And, church, that's what it looks like to be discipled by Jesus, that's the revolution that Jesus brings.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:38:04] You may be right about immigration policy, you may know exactly what the government needs to do about the homeless, and you may know exactly who to vote for. But no matter what is happening in this world and in our country, we are called, church, to treat people fairly, to be generous, to right the wrongs that we see, to protect and care for the vulnerable, to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves right here in our own lives, in our own communities, so that we can introduce people to Jesus. It was a radical idea then; it is a radical idea now. The gods in every other ancient religion identified with the kings and the generals and the priests. The Pharisees believed that they had the favor because they were at the top of the ladder, that's why they had God's favor, and if you oppose the leaders at the top, you oppose God.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:38:48] But the God of the Bible said, no, if you insult the poor, you insult the Lord; if you give to the poor, you give to the Lord. Proverbs 14 and 19, our God identifies with the vulnerable, those at the bottom of the ladder, and no priest or judge or king can tell him what to do. Right out of Romans 5:6-8, the Gospel says that if I admit that I cannot live up to my own standards, that if I admit that I am a moral failure, if I admit that I'm not better than anyone else, I can be redeemed through the sacrifice of God's son, Jesus. And through my weakness, I can have the real freedom that only comes through His grace and mercy, and I will be compelled to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves because of what he's done for me. That's what it looks like to be discipled by Jesus, church, that is the real revolution.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:39:35] So junior highers and high schoolers, do you have friends? If you do have friends, you have what everyone else your age wants. Have you noticed that kid outside the circle eating lunch by themselves, that girl that no one talks to at practice, the weird kid in band? Take a risk, go show God's loving kindness, and go be nice to them. If you do, you'll be introducing them to Jesus. But, Phil, what if they're mean? Even better, Jesus knows your heart. Fighting with your brother and sister, they're selfish, they're entitled, and they have no respect for my privacy. It's okay, let them have the big piece of chicken at dinner. But they won't care, they won't appreciate it. Even better, Jesus knows your heart.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:40:26] Adults, we've been talking about the local outreach programs for the past five weeks here, and I personally believe that the Upland Community Resource Center has the potential to send shockwaves through the [inaudible] Empire. And if you can donate, amazing, great, do it, amazing. If you happen to have time during the day where you can possibly help with reception, help administratively, help with safety, great, they need you. But I'll tell you what else they need, are you a licensed clinical social worker or counselor that knows the system, that can help advise and organize? Are you a retired business manager or real estate broker or financial executive, a retired COO that can look at the big picture and work with other experts here at this church to help scale a ministry that is managed by both the mind and the heart? Because that is the next step for UCRC, that is what they need. If that's you, Pastor Troy's waiting for you after the service.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:41:22] But more importantly, even more importantly than that, who's the family member, the friend, the coworker, the person in your own personal community, that needs your generosity, your protection, and your care, the most vulnerable person in your life that needs you to speak up for them because they cannot speak up for themselves? Because if you do, if you speak up for them, you'll be introducing them to Jesus.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:41:50] Prayer team, can you please come on up? You know, today, if I've been talking about you, if you are the vulnerable today, if you are the fragile today, if you are the bruised reed today. Or maybe your heart is on the other side, maybe your heart is hardened today, and you need to confess that, yes, I've been distracted. Lord, I don't have a heart for the vulnerable because I've been disabled by someone or something else other than Jesus. You can put an end to that today, the prayer team is here to pray with you or pray for you.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:42:29] And for the rest of us, in a few moments, I'm going to close with the benediction from Scripture. But I want you to close, you don't get out for prayer, I want you to close with your own personal word of prayer. I'm going to give you a few moments to commit to the Lord, the vulnerable person in your life that needs you to speak up for them, the sick brother that needs you to get on the phone with insurance on their behalf, the sister that's squatting at your parent's house, the widow across the street, the single mom across the street, the neighbor that doesn't speak English across the street, the coworker that's getting a divorce, the employee that's gambled their life away, the friend that's addicted to pills, the friend with fresh bruises, you know, weren't because they fell off a bicycle. And for some of you, the child you need to foster or adopt. In your own personal moment with the Lord, lift up that person right now.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:43:25] And if you need prayer, if you are vulnerable or distracted, come on up right now. We'll take a minute of silence, and then I'll close with a benediction. Those of you who need prayer, continue to come up even after the service.

Phil Shahbaz: [00:44:27] Matthew 25:35-40, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’".

Phil Shahbaz: [00:45:20] If you need prayer, come on up. For the rest of us, go find someone to bless this week. You're dismissed.

Recorded in Upland, California.
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Life Bible Fellowship Church
2426 N Euclid Ave
Upland, California 91786
(909) 981-4848