“HOW TO REGAIN RESPECT”
Pastor Phil Winfield
October 21, 2007
Grace Church of Des Moines, IA
4200 E. 25th Street
Des Moines, IA 50317
Online Sermons: http://gracehome.sermonaudio.com
We are in the book of Nehemiah. We have been laying down the building blocks of a rebuilt life, of a reclaimed life. And I want you to look at them with me for just a minute. We have them right up here and the wall is kind of taking shape. When we get done we are going to have a completed wall. The very first number one there that we had to do if we are going to rebuild our life is we have got to face the reality of it. We have got to look at our situation with honesty and we have to see what are those things in my life that are a hindrance to my testimony as a Christian and the growth of my family and of my influence over other people? What is the reality?
An after we face the reality then we have to go and recognize that the next stop is to pray. I can never emphasize that enough. We do more than pray, but we never do anything before we pray. Pray first. Pray early. Pray often. Pray continually as Nehemiah has given that example in the Scriptures. And recognize your position as you pray.
In other words, Nehemiah was in the best place on earth to effect change and to be able to make a difference for the Jewish people. He was sitting next to the king of the world. You and I can never make the assumption that if I was just here or there, if I only had this situation or that characteristic, if I could just make this change or that, that I…if and then I would be able to do something.
Nope. God knows who you are, where you are, the ability you have. He has placed you right where he wants you to be for you to be able to make the changes that need to happen in your own life. Prayer and position.
Number three takes faith. There is fear in any step of change. In any step that we take in our Christian life there is the element of fear. And so number three, there says that the way that you combat fear is with faith.
And you say, “Well, what is faith?”
Well, faith is certainly not the absence of fear. Faith is hanging on to God’s Word in his promises and it is marching forward in spite of fear. Then, number four, we have got to do a thorough investigation. Nehemiah showed up after he had made this several month long trip. He came to Jerusalem and the first thing he did was rest. He rested for three days. We talked about this. Some of you guys just need a nap. I am going to get one this afternoon. It is a Sunday afternoon ritual.
You need a nap. You need some rest. But after you do that, after you get your wits about you need to take a real good look at the detail. You face the reality, yes, it is a big problem, but what are the details? What are the habits? What are the hang-ups? What are the decisions? What are the choices that we make daily that lead to the difficulties of our life? We investigate. Once we nail it down we communicate to our spouse, our friend, our neighbor, whoever it is, our coworker, our relatives, our friends, our church associates. We let them know what we are working on and seek some help.
Then number five comes along there and that is team work. You know, I made this statement and it is so true. That is that you alone must face your reality, but you alone cannot fix your problems. It takes a team. It takes a group of people to come together and work in concert. So team work, we team up together, we team up with our family and friends and we thank them for their participation.
Last week we looked at number six, a word I really love, the word tenacity. And it is not because of our power, but God gives us the power if we dedicate ourselves to the task. They had the wall built to the half height. They had built that wall up to the half height and just about the half way point. The further discouragements and difficulties came. They were attacked from their enemies on all sides. The work was hard and even people within the camp began to complain and say, “It is too hard. The work is too big. We just need to stop.” But a tenacious person, one who keeps their eye on the goal and keeps going, that person can get the job done, tenacity.
Now we come to number seven. And the key building block today is the building block of integrity. And I want you to know that each one of these we are digging out right out of these passages of Scripture. And this building block of integrity is so very, very important.
On the 52 day journey toward a successful life we are identifying the blocks. This is the seventh. It is the word “integrity.”
Today this integrity has a meaning that we all understand. That is, it has that obvious meaning of being completely honest, not at all duplicitous and totally ethical. We understand that. To be a person or a man of integrity, a woman of integrity means that we are not hiding anything. We are not saying one thing and doing another. We are not living a hypocritical life. We are not trying to wear a mask to fool people. There is nothing more discouraging to people that are trying to help you change and help you in your life and you the same with others as to find out that you are doing al the work and the labor, but they are not helping themselves, that when you turn your back they are going right back the same way that they have been. So it takes integrity.
But just as it is with many words, sometimes we don’t go to the root of the situation. The etymology of the word “integrity” is very interesting in what it really means. And the word “integrity” at its base etymology means “completely sound, solid, whole and complete.” There are no cracks, no hollowness and there is nothing that is hidden.
You have to understand that we are building a wall and as you build a wall with stones you want stones that have integrity.
What does that mean?
Well, if you were building your house you would not want to build your house with termite eaten wood or lumber and you would not want to be using any kind of bricks that were nothing but powder and as soon as you put any pressure on them they come apart. They need to be full of integrity. You want to build with integrity.
Let me give you an illustration. In the 80s there was a man in our country. His name was Jim Bakker. He was one of the most famous and easily recognized figures on the landscape of televangelism. He was a very likable and seemingly honest man that had the attention of millions of viewers almost on a daily basis. His star rose very quickly. His fame was huge. His influence was impressive. The problem was that Jim Bakker had no integrity at that time. He was saying one thing and he was doing another. He was calling for sacrifice on the part of God’s people for many good causes while he himself was living in such luxury and opulence that it would make Cleopatra blush. He had no integrity and because of that he had lost all moral authority. He was a shooting star and today that star is extinguished. Integrity.
At the top of your sheet you have got a phrase that I wrote myself as kind of a summary of everything I am trying to say today. And I wan to make sure that you get it and don’t miss it. And here is the statement: Building a successful life requires integrity because integrity is the cornerstone of moral authority.
And you say, “Well, just exactly what do you mean by moral authority?”
Well, let me give you a good Bible example. Jesus said one day when he was teaching, he said to those who would correct other people, he said, “Now listen.” He said, “Don’t be a hypocrite and start taking the speck out of your brother’s eye while you still have a beam or a log in your own eye.” He said, “ You get rid of your own hypocrisy and the log in your eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to help the other person.”
You know what it is talking about. How many of you have had somebody that you know is not living anywhere up to the standards that they are trying to impose on you yet they are trying to correct you and it really irritates you because you know they have no moral authority? Would you just raise your hand up? You know what I am talking about, no moral authority.
Now, let me just go on and just make it real simple. A person who…a father who was staying and living the life of a drunk can’t say anything to his children if they go out and they start drinking. And a person whose life is full of anger and he is just fiercely angry at everybody and everything all the time, can’t get up set with his children or upset with anybody in his family if they show those same signs of anger.
You see, we can’t cancel out our words by the walk of our life. We just can’t do that.
We have politicians today that are running on a platform of helping the impoverished while they live the life of the King of Siam. Folks, they have no moral authority. Nobody trusts them. They are only politicking. And a lot of us live a life of politics. We try to do the politics in other people. We try to make people believe that we are changed, we are changed people, we are trying to go a new direction, but we are always making provisions for our habit, making provisions for our anger, making provisions for our envy, making provisions for our hang ups and hurts and we are not allowing the truth to be told.
Well, that is exactly what is going on in chapter five of the book of Nehemiah. And I have given you a lengthy introduction, but you have to have the foundation to understand. What was going on in the previous chapters was that they had assembled. They had built the team. They began to build the wall. But when we get to chapter five they found out that there was not just opposition from the enemy. There was not just discouragement from within, but what we find out is that there are people within their own crowd that are actually taking advantage of the situation.
There is not anything that is more despicable, as far as I am concerned, that when everyone is suffering, when misery is going on, people are making sacrifices, to find out that somebody is enriching themselves at the expense of somebody else’s misery.
Am I the only one or does that really get your goat for people to enrich themselves when other people are miserable and they are making themselves rich at the base of their misery? Well, that’s what’s happening.
Stand to your feet if you would. Listen to the Word of God and here we are in Nehemiah chapter five and let’s do this. When we open the book of the Word of God what do we say? Amen, amen. Excellent.
And there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren. For there were those who said, “We, our sons, and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain, that we may eat and live.” There were also some who said, “We have mortgaged our lands and vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine.” There were also those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our lands and vineyards. “Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children; and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have been brought into slavery. It is not in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards.” And I became very angry.…
Remember, this is the journal of Nehemiah.
And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, “Each of you is exacting usury [That’s an Old Testament word there for interest] from his brother.” So I called a great assembly against them. And I said to them, “According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?” Then they were silenced and found nothing to say.
Oh, what a statement. “The were silenced and found nothing to say.”
This is not the main point of the sermon, but I want to say to you that there is going to be a moment of silence once day when words will escape everyone because at the feet of Jesus everybody is going to bow and we are going to confess without ay choice that he is Lord to the glory of the Father and here is something else. When he tells us about opportunities missed, when he tells us about sins committed, when he tells us about forgiveness not granted and when he tells us about those souls that we could have shared with that we didn’t, we are not going to give excuses. We are not going to give reasons. There is going to be nothing but silence in the face of Jesus because he can see all that we might say.
Well, here is what happened.
After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, “Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.” So I called a great assembly against them. And I said to them, “According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?” Then they were silenced and found nothing to say. Then I said, “What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them.” So they said, “We will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say.” Then I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise. Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said [Look at how vivid this is] “So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.”
And, Father, add your blessing to the preaching and teaching of your Word in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Would you be seated?
You see, the people were upset especially the women. You have seen any of the women in the Middle East maybe on a television broadcast after the various bombings. You will see the women wailing and beating their chest and screaming. That is the connotation in the Hebrew here of just wailing and screaming. And why the women?
Well, because the women would have been most closely associated with the hunger that was going on. Their men would come to them after their work on the wall and they would say, “What is there to eat?” And they would say, “We have eaten it all. It is all gone.”
And so they are crying out against these people in their midst who are making merchandise of them, who are taking their misery and making it an opportunity for personal gain.
Well, this is exactly what was going on. These nobles—and I am not sure exactly who they were, but there were nobles and the leaders of the people, probably the same ones that didn’t want to lay their shoulders to the work back there in chapter three, verse six, they didn’t want to get their hands dirty. The reason they didn’t is they were sitting back trying to figure out a way to make a buck on this situation out of the misery of other people. And, of course, there is nothing more discouraging and upsetting than that.
Well, when you set out in life to start over, to turn the page and to begin again to repair the walls, it is crucial that you do so with integrity. And, by the way, your personal reformation will not last in your life unless it begins with life in the first place.
This series in the book of Nehemiah has been a very clear series preaching to the saints, preaching to those of you that name the name of Jesus. I have been trying to help you and encourage you at picking up the pieces and making sure that you are going the right direction and growing in your life. But I want to say something to you this morning that if you listen to the preaching and the teaching and you don’t get anything out of it, it is not moving you or motivating you to grow and to make choices and decisions to help you, well, perhaps it is because you don’t have life at all. And I want to say this to you. Many people think that the answer to their problems is religion, the answer to their problems is reformation, the answer to their problems in life is turning over a new leaf or, perhaps, some liturgical Christian participation such as baptism or the Lord’s Supper. And we look for the answer in all these different places. But I want to tell you that the Bible says that until a person comes to the Lord Jesus and gives him their heart and his life it is not a question of aren’t you good enough or are you bad. It is a question of are you alive or are you dead.
The Bible says in Ephesians chapter two that we were dead in trespasses and sins. And if you are here today and you have never come to Jesus to put down the first foundation stone of your life, if he has not become the chief cornerstone of your life, if you have never said, “Lord, save me from my sin,” then no other stone can be laid. They are all hollow. None of them will last. They are all termite eaten lumbers and timbers. It won’t make any difference because you have to build your life on Jesus. To do otherwise is to build it on sinking sand.
Have you ever in your life trusted Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior? Have you ever said to him, “I am a sinner and I am separated from you, God, but I believe Jesus, your Son, died for me and today I trust you.” Have you done it? Have you put all of your hopes and aspirations? Have you put your eternal destiny in the hands of Jesus? Well, without Jesus, without knowing him and building your life on him, you are building a life on shifting sand.
One of the things we want to do most is to restore respect in our life and that is what this sermon is all about. We want people to respect us. We want people to take us seriously. And we want to be able to have moral authority and we want to be able to give advice and opinions and have people take note.
But when we say one thing and we do another, like these guys were doing, they were just, you know, they were giving verbal assent, but around the back side they were enriching themselves and letting other people handle the real work. When we say one thing and we do another we have no moral authority.
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard this statement? “Don’t do as I do. Do as I say to do?” How many of you have ever heard that statement? How many of you that statement makes you mad when somebody tells you that? “Don’t do as I do. Do as I do.”
“Never mind that I am angry in the home, son. Don’t you be angry.”
“Never mind that I have got myself completely out of control and have no self control. You have self control.”
“Never mind that I…”
In other words, “Don’t pay any attention to the way I am living. You just do what I say.”
Guess what? It just won’t work because you have no moral authority. Many people today, both on the public scene and also in private homes, are giving dictums and giving out all kinds of instructions to other people, but because you are living two lives and you have this huge opposition of duplicity, that is two faced, living two lives, saying one thing and doing another. People know. Your family knows you have no moral authority.
Well, I tell you. If you can regain respect in life, it is a wonderful thing. To have people to be able to look at you and look at you with confidence and know that your word is your bond? To know that when you say something you mean it and when you promise something you complete it. If it is at all possible you do it. I tell you. Even the world, even the lost world that doesn’t even know our Lord has a great appreciation for integrity, amen? They do. Everybody knows that a man of integrity ,a woman of integrity is respectable and they are worthy of respect. And they respect it.
And so I want you to see some things this morning. Write them down quickly. Here is what I want you to see from those first few verses. We read them about the crying out. And the first thing we have to see is respect is repaired, number one, when you own your problems. Respect is repaired when you own your problems.
And you say, “Pastor, what do you mean by that?”
Well, just very simply that we don’t just dismiss our problems. We looked at that when we got to face reality. We can’t just say, “Oh, it’s not a real problem.” You may be having a problem with my problem, but my problem is not a problem for me. It’s a problem for me. Therefore it is not a problem.” So we dismiss it.
“You may not like the way I am. I have been this way all my life,” somebody might say. “Well, you know what? You knew that when you married me or you knew that a long time ago. When are you going to…what’s going to get through to you that I am who I am and that’s all there is to it?”
Spoken like a person who is a self centered person who is indulgent and is serving themselves as the king of the world and not someone who is growing in grace as the Lord Jesus would want us to do.
Don’t dismiss your problem. Number two, don’t down play your problem. It’s really not a big thing. How many of you have had this growing up? I think we have all tried it at one time or another. We try to down play the problem. You wanted to seek permission to do something that was against family policy in your home? By the way, families, it is good. Have family policies and let them be you policies and don’t let them fluctuate according to what everybody else is doing. But how many of you tried this when you were a kid? You went to your mom and your dad and you wanted to do this, that or the other and it was just totally against family policy and you tried this. You said, “Well, hey, daddy, everybody else is doing it. Why it’s not such a bad thing. Yeah, I only got a D minus on that test, but so did everybody else.” You know, that never did seem to work with my mother. It just never worked.
How many of you have ever heard this? I know you have heard it, but we will do things like this. When we were young we would say, “Well, everybody else is doing it.” And they would say, “I don’t care if the entire world is doing it. You are not going to do it.” And they always followed it up with this question. Everybody knows it. “If everybody in the world was jumping off the bridge are you going to go jump off, too?” Bridge, cliff, I mean everybody uses that. You know, we don’t want to hear it in the life of other people, but do you know what we do? We use the same excuses. It takes away our moral authority. We have got a hollow spot in the building block of our life. You are building on a hollow log. You are using termite eaten wood to try to say something to others that you are not willing to abide by yourself. That is what this is all about.
Don’t dismiss your problems. Don’t down play your problem. And, boy, this is the biggest statement of the day. Don’t donate your problems.
You say, “Donate?”
Yeah, you know how lots of folks, “I’m just so messed up. I’ve got so many problems. I just don’t…can you please help me?”
We come over. We give this…we want to give this problem to somebody else. Wash our hands of it. Let them have the problem and then we turn around and go make new problems. Don’t donate your problems.
Let me talk to you moms and dads, you mommas and daddies for just a minute. Please allow your children to suffer the consequences of their behavior. Let me say that again very clearly. Please allow your children to suffer the consequences of their behavior whether they are consequences administered by you or if they are consequences administered at school. Now, obviously you have to make a judgment about what it is they are trying to get. If they are trying to get them to deny God and to stomp on the Bible at school and they won’t do it, well, God bless them. Come tell me about it and I’ll bend down and kiss their big toe. But just here is the point. In general terms when they have done something and they have misbehaved or they have shown extreme pride or disobedience and they have done it, do not be a part of that army of people to go trotting off down to the school, go trotting off to some authority. Don’t trot up to pastor Jonathan’s office or pastor Josh’s office. Don’t go running up there defending your child when you know that your child has done exactly what they said, created a problem. They spoke to you about it and all you did was try to shift the…let me just share who the people are in this world that are maladjusted, do not know how to behave and never do take responsibility in their life. Their parents never let them suffer the consequences of the choices and decisions that they made.
“Amen, pastor Phil. That really is good preaching. God bless you. Amen.”
Don’t donate your problems.
Psalm 51:3: “For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.” Maybe that is why David was a man after God’s own heart. He wasn’t sinless, but when he sinned and God put his finger on it he said, “Yep, I’m wrong. I am wrong.”
Proverbs 28:13: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”
Galatians chapter six, please turn there in your Bible. I don’t usually do this. I like to stay in one passage, but you really need to see this this morning. It came up in my small group last week in my home. We discussed it, talked about it and I said, “Wow. How appropriate for this illustration here.” Oh, we need to understand that we have to own our problems. They are our problems and we have to own them.
Chapter six of Galatians in the New Testament, right before the book of Ephesian says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
Be real careful when a Christian brother, a wife, a son, a daughter is caught in some sort of sin or offense. Don’t get proud and all, you know, high and mighty and all those kind of things because the Bible says, “If any man thinks he stands let him take heed lest he what?” Fall.
Spirit of gentleness and consider,” but look at what it says in verse two. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” That is interesting. Drop down to verse five. “For each one shall bear his own load.” That’s interesting. It sounds like a contradiction.
It is not a contradiction. In English we only have one way to express that, but in Greek and many other languages as well, there is more than one way to express that. The very first one says, “Bear one another’s burdens.” What does that mean?
That means when in your life you have an overpowering, crushing burden, you have a load that is impossible for one person to bear, then the Christian brotherhood is supposed to come together and help you carry that load. That is what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to bear one another’s burdens. When it is a crushing, overbearing, overwhelming need we come along side one another and we help one another.
But it says there in verse number five, “But each one will carry his own burden or his own load.” It is a different word all together. It is as if we are carrying a back pack. You see, If you go on a walk or you go on a trip or you go on a trek or you go on a hike in the mountains and everybody needs their day pack so that they will have the things that they need, everybody is responsible to carry their own burden and to take off. And so what you do is if somebody with a big heart doesn’t come along and start taking off everybody’s backpacks and putting them on themselves because before you know it they can’t carry their own backpack nor what everybody else is doing. And so one person walks along with out any burden and they are just donating their burden to everybody else and everybody else is carrying it.
And I wan tot say to you today that we have built a generation, we have built a society, we are building a government in which no one is ever expected to carry their own load.
Well, do not let it be said of you as a Christian because even the world recognizes when a person will not carry their own load. You see, we are supposed to carry our own load. But if there comes a huge overpowering crushing load, then we come alongside. We help one another. We lighten the load. We strengthen weak knees and weary hands. That is what we are supposed to do. We have done that here at this church. We continue to do it day in and day out. But what we do is we recognize that God made everyone a burden bearer. And we are supposed to not donate our problems, our difficulties and daily tasks to other people.
The second thing you have to do—and I have to hasten—you pay the price. Verses one through five. You just can’t pass on the cost and effort of rebuilding to others.
There is a phrase that we use. So and so gets off scott free. If you think about that somebody says, “Well, that must be from the…it must have been some story in Scotland, you know, you get off scott free.”
No, a scott is a tax. And they did use it in the British Empire, but there was no such thing as scott free living. Everybody had to pay a tax. Everybody had to do it. So you paid the price.
Perhaps those people of chapter three, verse six, that did not want to lay their shoulders to the work, perhaps they were scheming of, they were too busy scheming of how they could make an extra buck out of this situation.
What we see here is they wanted the wall built. They wanted things fixed, but they didn’t want it to cost them any effort. They didn’t want it to cost them any money. If they could work this thing and milk this thing they could actually enhance their own situation out of it.
Now, folks, that is extremely discouraging. You have got a family. And that family comes together to love and to support one in the family that is going the wrong direction. Perhaps they have become some sort of an addict or they have become dependent upon a substance or maybe they have developed some sort of attitude in their life or they have developed…or they have just made some poor choices and it has cost them dearly. And the rest of the family comes along to support, to help. And then some friends come along to support and to help. And that person who is receiving all the help and gaining all the benefits sees the advantage. And he realizes that, “Wow, what I can do here is I can just sit back and relax because somebody else is going to take care of this.” Or he even tries to take advantage of.…
We have to pay the price.
Look at your passage of Scripture. Nehemiah five. I want you to see exactly what is going on here. I want you to see the best description of this day and age that you will ever read. Let me show it to you here. It says here, the very first thing, write it on your Scripture sheet, “A crumbling life costs other people.”
Sometimes we just can’t remember. We think what I do is what I do and it is nobody else’s business. It only hurts me. There is no such thing as that. There is no such thing as living and making decisions that only affect you. It is impossible. In a home, in a family, in a society, in a church, in an organization what we do affects other people.
Now watch this. I want you to see that a crumbling life costs other people. Look at verse number three. “There were also some who said, ‘We have mortgaged our lands.’” Would you underline that in your Bible? “We have mortgaged. We have mortgaged our land.
Do you know what we are doing today? The decisions that we make, the choices that we make, the irresponsibility that we show, the refusal to bear our burdens to be people of integrity…do you know what happens? We are mortgaging the future of our families, our nation, our culture. That is what we are doing. We are mortgaging our future.
Look at verse number four. We are doing something else. “There were also those who said, ‘We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our lands and vineyards.’” We have mortgaged our future, we have borrowed for the present. In order to get by we are borrowing. Do you get where we are going here?
You say, “Well that just sounds like the way the government is doing it right now. I mean with social security and all these. They are just borrowing on tomorrow to pay for today.”
Well, yeah, we can put it in a great big picture like that and we could talk about that all day long. But the truth is that when a person in their individual life likes to have total indulgence and total self will and they just want to do what they want to do and they don’t care who it costs. Do you know what you are doing? You are fulfilling that Old Testament passage Scripture that says that God visits the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation because an alcoholic is more apt to have an alcoholic son than a person who is not an alcoholic. And a person who uses drugs is more apt to have children who use drugs than a person who doesn’t. Do you understand the point? In other words, we are mortgaging the future, we are spending tomorrow’s money today and we are borrowing to do it. We are borrowing our children’s lives. We are dooming them in the future. We are planning a path for them. Oh, it is so important, isn’t it, to make your choices wisely. The example that you set is so hugely important.
Do you know that it takes about four generations for somebody to come along and break the cycle? That is pretty much the way it is. I mean, homes and families just kind of follow the same cycle until somebody comes along and God in his grace and mercy reaches down and touches a heart.
“No, no, no, no, no. I’m not going through that cycle of divorce and remarriage, divorce and remarriage, no, no, no, no. I am going to wait. I am going to find the one God wants for me. I am going to keep myself pure.”
Somebody else says, “Nope. I am going to say no to alcohol, no to drugs, no to illicit sex.”
Oh that God would give us some people with integrity that would make up their minds and their hearts and give themselves, some young people, some teenagers that would say, “I don’t care what has happened in the past in my family. Right here and right now, beginning today I am going to be a man, a woman, a boy, a girl of integrity. You are not going to hear me say one thing and see my live something else.”
Do you understand? We are mortgaging the future. We are borrowing from the present. Look at verse number five. “Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children; and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves.”
The choices we make can enslave the future generations. Oh. Wow. What a picture of the year 2007 in which we live. Oh, we need to pay attention.
You say, “Well, I can’t do anything about it.”
No. You may not be able to fix the entire picture around you of the government, but do you know how we are going to do…do you know how we are going to have the greatest impact? One person at a time, one family at a time. Start making decisions and making choices. Don’t be duplicitous. Don’t be a person that says one thing and takes advantage of the people around you and continues going the wrong direction. You pay the price.
Third, you appreciate people. Verses one through five talks about these people that were sacrificing while some where riding scott free. We appreciate the love of people, the labor of people, the long term commitment of people. Oh, my soul. How could it be that a family, a wife or a husband or a child or somebody that comes along loves us and cares for us and helps us and makes excuses for us and does all the things that they do to try to help us and show us that they love us and that they are patient. And yet we just continually take advantage of those people. If you want to have respect, if you want to be respected in this life you are going to have to pay the price. You are going to have to own your problems. You are going to have to appreciate people.
The fourth thing, write it down. If you want to be respected in life you respect other people. Do you know that respect demands respect? Did you know that when we respect other people that that is a respectable thing to do? Did you know that if you would have for people to respect you and to show you some sort of deference that you are going to have to respect and show other people that kind of…? Write these things down. Respectable people respect people. That’s all there is to it. If you are going to be respectable, you are going to show respect. Respectable people reject disrespect.
You know, these kids today and young people and you say, “There he goes…” Old people, whatever, you know, 25, 50 year. It doesn’t make any difference. But this generation of people that is ready to take out a knife and stab somebody, slice somebody, shoot somebody, you know…[?]…that kind of stuff.
What is that? That hasn’t got anything to do… you wouldn’t know respect if it slapped you in the lips. I got the worst spankings of my life for riding my bicycle across my neighbor’s yard.
“Well, I think your mother was overreacting.”
Do you know what? My whole life I have respected other people because my mother beat the everlasting…she wore herself out until her tongue was hanging out. She said, “No son of mine is going to disrespect his neighbor like that.” Man, she…I mean she is only about that big. She nearly killed me. I was 13 years old and she laid into me like a chicken on a June bug. You have never seen anything like it in your life.
You say, “Well, that was over reacting.”
Do you know what? Do you know that all of my life I have had the habit of respecting the people that are around me and I don’t…I just don’t…you know, I’m not perfect. I am a sinner. I get angry. You know, I do everything everybody else does, but God be my witness I wish you the best. I am not going to do things to hurt you or your property. I am not going to get an advantage in my life by making a disadvantage for you because I respect you. What happened to respectable people also giving respect? You respect peoples’ property. You respect peoples’ things. You respect peoples’ time.
I am going to be honest with you. People make appointments with me all the time and they just never show up. I mean they just make an appointment.
“Well, pastor I just couldn’t come in.”
“Oh, I got it all worked out. Forgot to call you.”
I just want to slap the fire out of somebody does that. My momma is coming out of me when that, you know…
Respectable people respect people. You want to regain respect? Be respectable. Have integrity and people will respect you. It is just real simple. Respectable people respect people.
Respectable people respond to respect. Something else we do if you want to regain the respect of your life and that is you go the extra mile. You can’t just talk repentance you must walk it. This is so interesting here. You know, Nehemiah is a case study in how to confront people. He was really good at it. I don’t know whether he just enjoyed it or whether, you know, God just used him. I don’t know anybody that loves confrontation, but sometimes, you know, you just have to face up to the situation with people you love. And I want to tell you the most loving thing you can do for somebody that you know is being duplicitous, they are saying one thing and doing another, is to look them right in the eye, put your arm around them and say, “Listen. I got to tell you. I love you and because I love you I want to talk to you about this. This is not right.”
You say, “Well, how did Nehemiah do it?”
Look at verse number six. “And I became very angry.”
You say, “Well, that doesn’t sound very loving and kind. That doesn’t sound like this lily livered sissy type Christianity that we are all…”
No it isn’t.
The outline: Point one. Get angry. Now, some of you guys are really enjoying this right now, but wait until point two, all right? Get angry.
“Boy that sounds like somebody…I’m going to give somebody a piece of my mind.”
Be careful you won’t have much left. Get angry. He did. Look at verse number six. “And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.”
“But, pastor, Christians are never supposed to lose their cool.”
Well, you’re right. If you mean to get angry for no cause or to get angry because things don’t go your way or you can’t have it all your way all the time. We are not supposed to do that. We are supposed to be kind, peaceable, loving, all of those things. But the biggest problem today is that Christians never get angry at anything. We never get angry.
You know, I have told you just a few minutes ago, I told about going and signing this thing right here. I mean, it ought to make us worried. It ought to make us concerned. It ought to make us care enough to want to show up over there and bow our heads in prayer to almighty God and to take the first step of prayer in the situation. But as soon as I put this thing over with…there are a lot of guys, “Oh, there’s a ball game going on. I got to go watch that ball game. I’m not going to be able to be there.”
Well, I got to be frank. It is irritating to me, greatly, that we want great things to happen, but we are not willing to bow our knee and pray and then get up and do something to serve the Lord and make things happen.
Listen to me. We are supposed to get angry from time to time. Folks, you cannot love flowers if you don’t hate weeds. You can’t love right if you don’t loathe wrong. You cannot love God and be indifferent towards the devil. Get angry at sin. Get angry at unrighteousness. Get angry at exploitation.
And many times an irresponsible person stays that way because he was facilitated instead of lovingly corrected by somebody speaking the truth in love. We are supposed to do that.
“What do you do next, pastor? How do you confront somebody?”
Well, get the facts. Look at verse number seven. Here is how you temper that “get angry verse. Verse seven, first three words, “After serious thought.”
You say, “What does that mean?”
Well, he got angry, but he didn’t blow up. He got angry, but he didn’t just go punch people. Now, he does that in chapter 13. We’ll get there and talk about that later. He didn’t just explode. He got angry and then he gave it some serious thought. He tempered it. He said, “Now, I have got to think about this. He said, “Now, is this just me or is it just the way I am looking at it or am I trying to be too controlling? Do I expect too much?” He thought it over. He said, “No.” He said, “To be honest, these dudes over here are enriching themselves at the sacrifice of other people and there is not enough food. They are mortgaging our future. They are borrowing for today and they are ruining the future of our children. They are selling them into slavery.”
He says, “Oh, no, no, no. I am not over reacting.”
What did he do next? After you get angry then you get the facts, then you get in their face.
You say, “Really?”
Yeah, in Christian love. Would you look at verse number seven? “After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, ‘Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.’ So I called a great assembly against them.” He didn’t just accuse them in private. He made it a public thing. He said, “I’m going to let you…I’m just going to let you see the people that you are affecting with your life.”
Wouldn’t it be something if we could just line up all of the people of our lives that have been affected by the choices and decisions we have made and let them all speak their peace? Wow. That is what he did.
And then the next thing is you can’t just make a promise. You have got to perform your promise. Verse 13 is huge. “Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, ‘So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise.’”
It is one thing to have an emotional decision. It is one thing to make a big decision.
“Oh, I am just going to turn around.”
Did you know there is a whole lot of men who have beat the ever loving fool out of their wives in a drunken rage or because of anger. They beat them up, came to their senses, came back begging forgiveness. “Oh, it will never happen again. I am going to be a…”
And what do they do? The do it again and again and again. Partly because they don’t know Jesus and have never been changed from the inside out and partly because that was as far as they intended to carry it in the first place just to get past the moment.
You can’t just make a promise. There has to be a performance. To have moral authority and respect you have to keep your promises. This is a very vivid illustration of the attitude that some people have that continually takes advantage while making promises to change. Well, promises, promises, they don’t mean anything without fulfillment and practical application.
Nehemiah wasn’t satisfied with the promise of new direction. He wanted to see the performance in the daily life. And, folks, you can never be guaranteed a reward by doing all of these things. In the last part of this chapter here it talks about how that Nehemiah himself was the example of integrity. He didn’t tell the others to make sacrifices and he wasn’t willing to make one himself. He didn’t say, “Let’s built the wall, but it is not going to cost me anything.” He refused the allotment of a governor and he had been appointed governor. And he refused the allotment. In fact, he took no money from them and he still fed 150 people at his table every day to make sure that he made up for the shortfall.
They were perilous times. It was very difficult. He made tremendous sacrifices. And because of his sacrifice he had a voice. Because he was not duplicitous people listened to what he said.
What could they say to the person living such a life of sacrifice?
They could not deny him. They listened to his words.
Regaining respect starts with integrity and that means to be whole. Some people are trying to do this without even being alive spiritually. And the Bible says until our sins are forgiven we are dead in our trespasses and our sins.
Would you bow your heads and close your eyes? Point seven. Integrity, wholeness, completeness, solid on the inside, no façade, no cracks, no hollowness. We are who we say we are.
Do you want people to just sacrifice for you and help you and encourage you and come along side of you in your life? Do you want that husband or that wife to forgive you and then help you? Do you want your children to forgive you, receive you and help you? Do you want your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, you Christian family? Then tell the truth.
You will know the truth and the truth will set you what? Free.
Heads are bowed and eyes are closed. Are you here this morning and you would say, “I have to be truthful. I do not know Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”
Nehemiah 5:1-6 (All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated).
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