“SPIRITUAL MAINTENANCE FOR A REBUILT LIFE”
Pastor Phil Winfield
Nehemiah 6:5-7:3; 8, 9
November 4, 2007
Grace Church of Des Moines, IA
4200 E. 25th Street
Des Moines, IA 50317
Online Sermons: http://gracehome.sermonaudio.com
Nehemiah chapter six, if you would, please. And what do you say when we say, “Open the Word of God.”? Amen and amen.
I am going to read two verses, just two verses. Stand to your feet and let me share God’s Word. The Bible says in chapter six and verse number 15 it says:
So the wall was finished on the twenty–fifth day of Elul, in fifty–two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.
And I want you to know that the one we always want to give credit for whatever goes on here at Grace Church or any other thing that has to do with our ministry, we want to give all praise and honor to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to his Father, our God. Can you say amen to that? Amen. To God be the glory.
Father, add your blessing to the preaching and teaching of your Word this morning. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen
You may be seated. Let me share with you, quickly, spiritual maintenance for a rebuilt life. Now, I don’t have time to go through all of the building blocks. You can read them. They are right up there. But we come to number nine at the top left and it says vigilance. We have to be vigilant in our Christianity. And the obstacle to vigilance is always negligence. And so we come close now to the end of the journey from ruins to repair of our life, our homes. We pray for our culture as well.
And the big question that comes up is why. Why have we done this? Why was it so important to take this series an to talk about repairing our lives? Why was it so important to get refocused and get our eyes on Jesus? Why? Well, it is very important. The biggest reason we find spelled out plainly in the book, Nehemiah 2:17 says, “Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” God intended for us, he made us, he designed us before the foundation of the world, he created us with a purpose, that purpose is to glorify him. You were made for God’s pleasure. It is so important for us to understand that we are not our own. If you are a believer you are not your own. You were bought with a price. You belong to your heavenly Father in heaven above. A price has been paid. And God had a plan. He has a plan.
And so the why of doing this is for the glory of God. Your home is about the glory of God. Your life is about the glory of God. The way you interact with the world is about the glory of God. This church is about the glory of God. And God intends to get the glory among his people.
And if you don’t think that’s so you need to read Revelation chapter four and five real slow and find out exactly what we are going to be doing in eternity as we lay prostrate before him to begin and we give him the praise and honor and glory and cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty.”
And the second question that comes along not only is why, but how. You know, we are really good at telling people what they ought to do, but telling people how to do what they ought to do is a different thing. And this morning we are talking about spiritual maintenance. We are talking about spiritual maintenance for a rebuilt life. Keep things going. How do you do that?
Well, there are no quick ingredients. There is no easy way to do it. We are not building physical buildings, we are building our spiritual house. We are building our lives up, a habitation for the Lord. And the recipe for vigilance is not new. The ingredients to be what God wants you to be is not new. It has never been new. They are always the same.
Let me start by giving…by answering that question of how to do it by asking a question. And the question is: Have you ever notice din life how it seems like everything degenerates? No matter what the advertising, now matter what the propaganda, things degenerate. Things run down. Things wear out.
I had a neighbor long ago that was replacing his maintenance free siding. How many of you know what I am talking about? How many of you have ever been promised something was going to last for x amount of time and it just didn’t turn out that way and it wasn’t so maintenance free? How many of you drive cars with maintenance free batteries? Well, they go dead just the like rest of them do. The only thing is that when they are maintenance free you can’t add anything to them. They are just dead. You just get rid of them and start over again.
So maintenance free, well, it just doesn’t work that way.
Well, what happens to your house at home if you don’t stay on top of things? What happens to your furnace if you don’t get it checked out and tuned up? What happens to the air conditioning unit if you don’t have it checked out and add freeon or whatever they add from time to time? What happens in your house if you just live in it, just, you know, just turn the lights on, go on about living, you never paint it, you never caulk the windows, you never do anything, you just keep on going. What happens to your house? It degenerates. It begins to fall apart. Things quit working.
Well, it is going to degenerate over time no matter what you do, but you can sure go a lot longer if you are doing maintenance.
How about your automobile? How does your automobile do if you just buy it? You go in. You buy that brand new automobile and it is just perfect. You drive it off the lot. And there is more to it, folks, than just putting gas in it. We all know that, but sometimes, you know, we just don’t pay attention and we get busy thinking about everything else and the old line is that if it ain’t don’t try to fix it. Well, that’s a good statement. If it ain’t broke you can’t fix it. But you can sure, dead sure, better be maintaining it.
I remember when I was working at southern lumber company when I was a boy. There was a guy who bought himself a new Chevy Vega. How many or you remember the Chevy Vega? All I got to do is say that and people go, “Oh.”
Fort Pinto and Chevy Vega. Boy, they were something, weren’t they?
This guy bought a Chevy Vega and he loved it and about six months after he bought it said, “The thing leaks oil.”
I said, “It does?”
He says, “Yeah, it is always leaking oil. I am always adding it to it and so on and so forth.
And, well, he got busy. He got tired of checking it. And one day he came in and he said, “You know what? That thing doesn’t leak oil anymore.”
And about two days later said, “Yes, and it doesn’t run any more either.”
Maintenance. You have to do maintenance.
How about your health? Uh, oh. What if you don’t watch what you eat, you don’t get any exercise?
By the way, somebody wants to know why Americans are having so much trouble with their weight it is the sedentary life style that we live. We have got a gadget for everything and we love to sit and do this, that and the other and you don’t even want to step across the room to turn on the television. You do it by remote. They have got a remote for everything now.
And so we are sedentary. What if we never get a check up?
Somebody says, “Pastor, you have stopped preaching and gone to meddling?”
I know that. I know that.
There is tremendous value, folks, to have a daily regiment that you follow for good health. Not long ago I had to go get measured for a tux. I went into the place there and the guy, you know, they get the little measuring thing and you hold your arms up and measure around here, measure around here. And I found…here is what I found out when he measured me for that tux that my measurements are exactly the same right now as they were when I was 32. Now, don’t laugh. Hold on. Just wait. The measurements are the same. The only difference is that my waist measurement is now my chest measurement and my chest measurement is now waste measurement.
Somebody said, “Pastor Phil has got Dunlap Disease.”
What’s that? His belly has done lapped over his belt.
Oh, boy. Exercise is cumulative. If you don’t exercise but once a month it won’t make much difference in what happens to you.
Spiritual exercise is cumulative. Spiritual discipline in your life is cumulative. Maintenance on your spiritual life is cumulative. And it is important.
You know, somebody might say, “Well, I can miss church and it won’t bother me. I can miss an early morning prayer time and I will be ok. Pastor, I just, you know, I just don’t like to be legalistic about things.”
Well, we’re legalistic about sleeping, brushing our teeth, eating. We are legalistic about so many other things.
“Pastor, I just don’t want this…I don’t want to have…I don’t want to have my nose tied to the grindstone of reading and studying God’s Word and meditation and prayer and I just don’t want to… I don’t want that kind of Christianity. I’ll tell you what I want. I want something where I come in on Sunday and you just charge us up and give us a warm fuzzy and I go on my way and just have a good time and as I run down during the week I come back and get charged up
Folks, you can get charged up more in 20 minute by yourself on your face in front of the Lord than you can by anything I will ever say from this pulpit.
Spiritual maintenance is cumulative. Exercise is cumulative. If you want to run a marathon you had better not go out the first day you start getting ready and run 26.2 miles, should you, Karen? You shouldn’t do that. No. You better build up to it.
You know, many of us would love to be spiritual. We would love to have spiritual aptitude. We would love to know God’s will. We would love to know his Word. We would love to be the Father we should be, the mother we should be, the parent. We would love all of these things, but you know how you become what you ought to be as you begin by taking small steps today and you just start doing the things that you know to do. Let me give you some thoughts today from God’s Word.
In order to maintain the repairs you make in your life you have to be vigilant. And so what is the building block for today? Vigilance. Say it with me. Vigilance. You have got to be watching. You have got to be always alert. You have got to be always doing the things that are important for you to grow.
You may not notice the difference if you skip a day or two in your Christian life or three. You may not even notice it when you exercise that your body has gone down. But you just let that habit continue and things will happen.
Here is what we need to do in order to be vigilant at Christian living. Write these things down.
Number one, give God’s Word priority. Give God’s Word priority in your life. It has to have first place. You must have time for God and for his Word. There are no short cuts to spirituality. And being ready to do battle with the enemies of your Christianity and to build the good qualities of your Christian character. it takes daily vigilance and we must be doing it and we must revere the Word of God.
Listen to chapter eight now. I am going to just scamper through several chapters here as this event is all leading up to a celebration. And chapter eight and verse four says this. “So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose.”
You say, “Well, where did preaching come from and the pulpit and all that stuff?”
This is where we find it in the Bible that preachers stand behind pulpits to preach, just like right here. Here it is. “So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael…” and all these other guys.
Verse five: “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.”
Do you ever wonder why I have you stand when we read the Words? There it is.
“And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered…” What does it say? “‘Amen, amen!’ while lifting up their hands.”
Now, I know a lot of us Baptists, we could just never…we could just never come to grips with that whole idea, but, boy, the Bible is so clear. They lifted their hands and they said, “Amen, amen!” They surrendered. Do you know what that is all about? I surrender. God is in charge. Just surrender. And that is what they did. And they lifted up their hands and they said, “Amen.” And then they bowed their heads and they worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground and that was before the preacher eve said a word. All he did was open up the Bible and they just knew that they were about to hear from God.
Oh, do you know what has happened in our nation? People don’t revere the Word of God. Do you know what has happened in our churches? It is that the Word of God has taken a back seat to all kinds of things. Do you know what has happened in our Christian lives? Psychology and psychiatry and pop information has taken the place of the Word of God in our Christian homes and I am here to tell you there is no short cut to spirituality. The daily intake of the Word of God on a regular basis, a little bit. Here a little, there a little, line on line, precept on precept, just adding a little bit to what you knew yesterday, help asking God to teach it to you. It will make you stronger and stronger and stronger and wiser and more intelligent. And it will make you the mother you want to be, the father you want to be. It will encourage you when you are discouraged. It will lift you up when you are down. It will give you hope when you think you are hopeless. The Word of God is strong in your life.
Listen to the Word. Reverence the Word of God. Give it proper respect.
No, we do not worship ink on paper. That is not what we do. I don’t worship the paper of this book or the ink. But in a symbolic way I will tell you this that I don’t mistreat it. I never lay my Bible on the floor. On my desk I don’t set other books on top of my Bible. I put my Bible on top.
You say, “Well, is that important? Is God mad at me if I don’t…?”
No, he is not. But I am telling you there is things that I do in my own personal life that I can always…I always open the Bible in the morning and I kiss it before I read it and I say, “Oh, why do you do that? That is so silly.” Because I want to tell God that I esteem his Word above anything else in my life. There is nothing that compares to what he has to say because I get a chance to hear from the God of the universe.
No, we don’t worship ink on white paper. We worship the living God who is behind what he said in this Word.
You are going to have to revere and reverence the Word of God. Number…letter B there on your outline write, “We are going to have to read the Word of God.” You are going to have to read it.
Folks, it is one thing to hear others talk about what they have read like me. It is another thing to read it yourself and meditate on it. You are going to have to read it. Give it proper attention.
I have got to hurry.
Everybody came and they stood still in front of the water gate and they listened to the Word of God read. Back in Ezra they stood in a pouring down rainstorm and listened to the Word of God being read. They just couldn’t go. They had to hear what God’s Word had to say.
You know, I always check the weather at Grace to find out what the attendance is going to be because I can predict the attendance on the basis of the weather.
You say, “What is the best weather?”
You say, “Well, what do you mean?”
A little bit of rain or a little bit of cold or a little bit of snow is better than anything. The attendance is always up. But if it is a beautiful day and it is warm, people find something else they would like to do on a beautiful day. If it is extremely cold and if it is very inclement, oh, I better not take myself and put me and my family in danger.
I always pray for just a little rain, just a little cold weather because I want you to be here. Oh, we have got to make sure that we read and revere the Word of God.
Then the next one, write it down. Rejoice in the Word. Look at chapter eight and verse nine. Nehemiah “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? Because it convicted them.
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.” So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.
Why? Because they understood the words that were given them.
What makes you happy>? What is it that gives you great joy? Does it make you happy? Listen folks. I must have 25 copies of the Bible. And then I must have 50 different Bibles on my computer. I have the Word of God. It is available to me. I can read it any time I want to. Not only can I read it, but God has given me the wherewithal to have an education enough to understand what it is saying. In addition, he has given me the Holy Spirit to lead me and guide me in all truth so that when I read it I can understand it. And when somebody says something that is not true it immediately comes to mind because the Bible has told me what it is that I am supposed to believe. And let them say what they will. I match it up with the Word of God.
And do you know what gives me great rejoicing? Is to know that I have the Word of God. I don’t have to run and hide. I don’t have to go into some catacomb and read it. I can read it anywhere I want to. I can take it anywhere.
I love to go down to the Des Moines public library down there by Starbucks, take my Bible in and sit down and right among all those books and just lay this thing down there and just read it.
You say, “Why would you do that?”
Well, because this is a free land and I helped pay for that library.
Oh, you are going to have to give priority to the Word of God in your life. Away with the Christianity that is only…listen. We had a Midwest Quartet Convention here this week and those folks just had a wonderful time. But do you know them theme of all of their singing didn’t come out of their head. It came on truths from the Word of God. All of our singing, all of our praying, all of our rejoicing, all of the hope, all of the future, everything we hold dear is based on what God has said. Don’t you think we ought to see what he said?
Read it. Read it. Rejoice in it. React to it.
Chapter eight, verse 13…faith seems to be a hard concept for us to grasp when we speak of spiritual things. In this story they soon found out that an ancient festival called the feast of tabernacles had been undone for many years and that put them in fear. They didn’t do a study of cultural relevance. They just obeyed. And faith for us is the same as it has been for all time. Faith is hearing God and obeying his command.
You say, “Pastor, what is faith?”
You know, we draw all of these pictures. Faith is hearing what God has said and obeying without fear of the consequence because the consequences are up to him. And the bible says that he has determined good for us. And we don’t have to see how everything works out. We need to get a word from the Lord and obey it.
I am amazed at Abraham the great prophet, the great priest, the great leader of the Jews that when God said, “Abraham you are going to have a son,” and then through a miraculous birth when he was old and his wife Sarah was too old to bear children she had a son and his name was Isaac. And they took Isaac and he was growing and one day God said to Abraham, “Abraham, take your son, your only son Isaac and I want you to go to a mountain where I am going to show you and I want you to sacrifice your son.”
And what did Abraham do? Did he argue? Did he complain? Did he fight with him?
He didn’t do any of those things. He got his son. He got the fire. He got the sacrificial tools. And he started on his way to a mountain.
Do you understand Abraham? There was no way he could know how that was going to turn out. But what he did was hear God and obey his voice.
Oh, if Christianity could come to the place where we hear God and obey his voice. Just hear him and obey.
Not only have you got to give God’s Word priority, number two, you have to take your sin seriously. We are talking about spiritual maintenance. What is going to reveal your sin more than anything else on earth? The activity of the Holy Spirit in response to his Word as you read it. Nothing ever convicts me in my life like just simply seeing something in God’s Word, having the Holy Spirit say, “Ok, smart Aleck. You preach to other people. You talk to other people, now what about you? How about that person that you have offended? That sharp tongue that you use? How about that unforgiveness that you are showing?” And God, through the Holy Spirit, makes me be reconciled with my brothers, my sisters, my wife, my family, my coworkers, the people around me.
Take your sin seriously. And, you know, we live in a day and age where sin is in style. It is in vogue. It is it. Man, I mean sin is in.
I have told you before about what used to be a church in Chicago that is now a vicious vice filled discotheque that goes all night long and has a big sign over the door. It says, “Come sin with us nightly.”
We wonder how God can allow so many things to go on that are so wicked in our nation right under our noses. How can the patience of God go on and on and on? God holds his people far more accountable than he holds those that are not his people.
Judgment starts always at the house of God with his own people. God judged the Jews way before he ever judges the pagans. Do you understand that? He judges us.
Chapter nine, verse one says, “Now on the twenty–fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads.” That was a symbol of humility.
Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one–fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God.
They read the Word of God and they did something with what they read. They read what God said and then they confessed where they had erred. That is what they did. Revival came because they understood the reading of the Word of God and then they confessed.
So what do we do when we take our sin seriously? One, we confess our sins. Confess your sin. Confession of sin is evidence of a true inner working of God’s Word since it is like a mirror and it shows us where we are and where we are out of order. The only property response is confession.
The Bible says that God’s Word is like a mirror and it is says that it is not a wise person who looks into God’s Word and then just turns around and goes the other way without taking any action. He says, “But a person who takes a lingering look into the Word of God will be like the man who looks into a mirror and as he looks into a mirror it identifies what is wrong. It casts light on what is wrong in his life. And so he deals with it because he has looked into the perfect law and liberty of God.”
Confess your sins. And the next thing it says: Claim your forgiveness. We come, again, to that great verse in the Bible.
You say, “Well, is there any hope? I am just such a big sinner and I am a believer in Jesus but I have erred. I have gone the wrong way. I have taken the wrong path. Is there any hope?”
The Bible says so clearly in 1 John chapter one, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Bu tit hinges on confession. Confession is not saying, “God, if I have done anything wrong.” That is not it. “Lord, if I offended anybody, forgive me.” How many times do we do that? “Lord, you know…If I…”
But, see, that is not the confession that needs to happen. We need to say, “Lord, I know what you are talking to me about and there may be many other things, but right now you have drawn this person to mind, that event, that deed, that sin. I am thinking about that one. That is what I need to confess.”
We confess our sins. And he is faithful.
Number three, very quickly. We have to make a covenant personally. Say now, say again? Make a covenant personally.
You mean is that any kind of kin to commitment?
Yes, it is. We give God’s Word priority. We take our sin seriously and then we make a covenant personally.
Look at chapter nine. Chapter nine, verse five begins a rehearsal of the history of the Jews and all of their good things God had done and all of the bad things they had done and all of the rebellions. And here is how they summed it up in verse number 336 of chapter nine.
Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, To eat its fruit and its bounty, Here we are, servants in it! And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, Because of our sins; Also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle At their pleasure; And we are in great distress. And because of all this, We make a sure covenant, and write it; Our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.
And he goes on to talk about all the things that they promised that they would do. They made a covenant. They did it before the Lord. They did it publicly. They did it personally and they wrote it out. They wrote out what that covenant was going to be.
The people rehearsed the story of God. They as a people had been very negligent concerning keeping God’s law. They thought that he really didn’t mean it. They thought that the warnings of the prophets and the warnings of the priests had fallen on deaf ears and they thought that it just wasn’t important. And we just, you know, you just can’t take God seriously. And when God says the soul that sinneth it will die, he doesn’t really mean that and when God says everyone of us will give an account of himself to the Lord for the deeds done in the body, we just don’t believe that. We…oh, no. He is a good God. He his a loving God. He is a kind God. He is an old God. He is a gray haired God. He is a long bearded God. He is like a doting grandfather. That is what many people have in their mind about God.
But I want you to know that from age to hage he is the same and he hasn’t aged one day in all of his history because he knows no time, no limit. He is above and beyond, outside of all of what we know as time. And God, our Father, in heaven and his Son Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever and he is the one that has eyes like a flame of fire and he is the one whose feet are like burnished brass coming in judgment and he is the one that can see right through all of our flimsy excuses. He knows everything about our life. He sees right through us.
“You mean that is the God of heaven?”
Oh, yeah. He is not the big daddy upstairs that the world today would like you to think that he is. He is a three times holy God dwelling in inaccessible light, sitting on an eternal throne. And I have got news for you. Everything is just fine in his presence not matter what is happening on earth.
They stood there in their own land that now produced goods. But they had to give it away to foreign powers.
How much of our lives are eaten up in terms of time, effort and money by the world around us and very little is left with which to glorify God. Our time, our talent, our money…it is eaten up and nothing is left to give to God. And so what do we have to do? Well, we have to remember our past negligence, face the facts, as we have said, remember our past negligence and then resign yourself to present diligence. Oh, if I could teach anything from this pulpit it is to be a diligent Christian, to be diligent in business, to be diligent parents, to be diligent husbands and wives, to be diligent in showing your affection one for another, to be diligent at teaching your children. Be diligent in reading your Bible. Be diligent. Be disciplined.
You say, “Oh, that is a word we don’t like anymore.”
I know we don’t like it and our world is showing it. Be diligent. Be disciplined. Just do those things that you know are the right things that, folks, you cannot continue to stir in the same ingredients and get a different product in your life. You keep stirring in lack of diligence and lack of discipline. You keep stirring in lack of care and apathy. Put apathy and put nonchalant attitude, just put all of that in there and that laissez faire attitude that we…just keep putting it in there. We are going to keep getting the same results.
You have got to change the ingredients. What is the number one ingredient? Add to your faith, with all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge and all of these things in 2 Peter chapter one. It takes diligence.
You say, “You mean there is something for me to do in the Christian life?”
“You mean in order to grow and to be more like Jesus I have to do something?”
Yes. You can’t save yourself. Jesus saves you alone. He won’t grow you. You are going to have to grow as he helps you, as you diligently obey the Word of God.
Resign yourself to diligence. The best way to assure a good tomorrow is to do the right thing today. And the sum of your daily choices, however insignificant, they are the building, they are the building that you are building to live in tomorrow. You have heard the statement made, “You have made your bed, now sleep in it?” All of us are making our beds for tomorrow and we will sleep in them by the choices that we make today.
Number three, rededicate yourself to future vigilance, future vigilance. Past…ask for forgiveness for your past negligence. Resign yourself to present diligence. Rededicate yourself to future vigilance.
You say, “Well, don’t…aren’t we supposed to trust each other?”
You say, “Pastor, do you trust yourself?”
How many of you men in here today you know that there are certain areas of your life that you dare not give yourself any slack because you should not trust yourself? Just raise your hand up. Oh, no. You can’t give yourself any slack. You can’t leave a foothold for Satan. You can’t leave room for Satan to build a beachhead in your life. You can’t do that. You have got to be vigilant, always watching.
And when do we do it? Well, we do it privately in our hearts. And I have got so much to say, but time is gone. We do it privately in our hearts. We do it principally in our home.
What does that mean? Well, the first place and the most important place besides in our own heart that we give diligence to these kinds of things is in our home. Our homes ought to be the one place on earth where the peace of God rules and reigns. It ought to be the one place on earth where God has his will. We may not be able to control the world around us, but we can certainly control what goes on inside of the four walls of our home when it comes to loving one another and caring for one another and giving diligence to those things that are important.
Do it privately. Do it principally. And we are talking about signing a covenant and we need to do it publicly in church. They made this document and they signed it that they would obey God’s Word.
It is interesting what was included in this document. Here, out of all of the history of the Jews—and, by the way, when you come to the end of the book of Nehemiah and Esther, that is all of the chronology of the Jews of the Old Testament. That’s it. It ends right therein the book of Esther. And Esther happens before Nehemiah, so basically we are coming to the end of it.
Malachi is going to start writing his last book in the Old Testament here in just a little while.
All right. Now watch this. They made a document and they signed it and chapter 10, verse 28 through 39—and I am not going to read that lengthy passage, but you really need to read that passage. And here is a summary of what they said. They made a document and they signed it publicly there before Ezra, before Nehemiah, before the priests, before the Levites, before the rulers, each and every person. Here is what they find. Number one, young and old signed it; chapter 10 verses 28 and 29. Young and old alike signed it. The second thing, they would not offer up their children to pagans.
Oh, if Christians…if we could just get a hold of that, not to offer up our children to the pagan world around us, understanding that the world is bent on the destruction of your family and of your children. They are bent on ruining your life and ruining your children. Every attack against a husband and a wife and a family to destroy that home, every illicit affair or even a thought of having one is an attack on the children of your home.
They decided that they would not offer up their children. They promised. They covenanted. They wrote it down. They committed themselves. They would not offer up their children to pagans.
They decided something else, that they would honor the Lord on the sabbath, verse number 31. They were no longer going to make sabbath another money making day, another day just to…
You say, “Now, pastor, do we have a New Testament sabbath?”
No, but the principle of a New Testament rest is just as important as the Old Testament sabbath. They had a sabbath in which they did no servile work. They had a sabbath that was holy to the Lord. They had a day that they rested. Their animals rested. They rested. They trusted God for their income, for them to be able to be able to get going again when it came to six o’clock on Saturday afternoon. They had a time to do that.
You say, “Do we have a New Testament sabbath?”
No, but we do have a New Testament Lord’s Day. I’m going to make half this crowd mad right now. God didn’t bring me here to this church to tickle your feet or to make you happy. He brought me here to tell you the truth. And I am going to tell you something else. I have said it before, I will say it again.
“Pastor, if you keep preaching like this you are going to empty out this church.”
God has not called me to fill the pews. He has called me to fill the pulpit.
Now, let me tell you something. If you make a round ball or an oblong ball the god of your family on Sunday your children, one day, will have a hard time making the distinction that they should be in church on Sunday.
The gods of softball, the gods of basketball, the gods of football and the gods or organized sports have taken over the Lord’s Day.
You say, “Well, is there a sin in that?”
I’m not going to tell you it is a sin, but if you remember that cumulative effect thing I was talking about? You miss this Sunday. Then you miss another Sunday. Then you miss another Sunday. And pretty soon the kids that are 10 or 12 years old are going, “ Huh. Well, if we ain’t got ball going on we go to church.”
And you wonder why when they grow up that the local New Testament church doesn’t mean anything to them and they are distanced not only from the church, but from Word of God and the people of God and their best friends have nothing to do with God. They have everything to do with this world.
It is mighty quiet.
They would honor the Lord on the sabbath many of the things we can talk about. They would never again abandon the house of God by leaving it unsupplied and in ill repair. Verse32 to 34. They made a promise. “We are never going to leave the house of God unsupplied or ill prepared. We are never going to abandon…We are going to make sure that there is food in the house of God so that the priests of God can do their work.”
Let me just tell you a little secret. I just want to tell you something. Our offerings in this church are running about $6000 a week behind what the offerings of this time last year were running.
You say, “Pastor, people don’t like your preaching.”
Well, that may be true. But in order to keep the house of God supplied for the work of God and for missionaries to remain supported, the people of God have got to be dedicated, committed, covenanted to keep the house of God prepared and supplied so that the work of God can go forth.
Do you know one of the reasons we want to pay off t his debt on this building? Because it would release $240,000 a year for more ministry.
How many of you would like to see $240,000 of more ministry going on at Grace Church? Would you just raise your hand?
All right. Let’s pay off this building.
Listen to me this morning. They would never again abandon the house of God by leaving it unsupplied and in ill repair. They would be faithful in giving their first fruits and tithes, verse 35 to 38. They would give and they would participate and not neglect the house of God. That is what their commitment was. It was so simple.
They made a commitment. They signed it. We are not going to do this anymore. We are not going to leave these things undone. They wrote it out.
Our objective goes far beyond a smooth ride from here to eternity. It goes to the point of our creation in the first place. We were made for the glory of God and we are better able to worship God and magnify the Lord with a restored heart and a restored life. Are you restored? Are you revived in your heart? Have you come to the place where you are functioning as a believer? Are you growing in grace? Have you put aside those things that are disturbing you? Are you gotten rid of some distractions? Have you focused on why God laid hold of you in the first place? Have you begun to focus on what is important in your life as a father, what’s important in your life as a mother, what’s important in your life as a husband or wife?
What is important in your life is your home. What is important in your life is that you are a member of a local New Testament church. Have you refocused? All right. If you have refocused, if you have gotten rid of distractions, all right, then dedicate yourself to it. Commit to it. Covenant to it. Write it down.
You say, “Pastor, you are leading up to something.”
Two weeks from today we are going to have a giant piece of paper up front. And across the tope it is going to say, “our covenant.” And what we want to do is when we come up and give our one month for the master offering, I am going to give you an opportunity to just sign on this piece of paper. Just write your name.
You say, “What are you going to do? Are you going to put it out there on that memorial?”
No. It will probably get thrown away eventually. But we are going to give you a copy to put in your Bible. We want you to take it with you. And it is going to have these things listed out here. And this is what I am going to do. I am going to do these things as a believer, as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the thing. I am not going to let these sermons come and go without coming to a decision, making a promise.
You say, “Pastor, do you think we ought to make covenants and promises like that?”
You know, they did that all the way through the Bible. They did it over and over and over.
Heads are bowed and eyes are closed. I want to ask you something. The Bible says in Hebrews chapter two, verse three, it says, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him?” How shall we escape?
There are those of us that know the Lord Jesus here this morning and God has given us salvation full and free and we are his children and we are ion the road to heaven, but that seems to be enough. That seems to be…well, that’s it. But we have just not completely understood that he saved us for a purpose. He saved us so that we could be lights. He saved us so that we could be salt. He saved us so that we could be the instrument, the messenger in our families so that our families could come to know him and love him. He saved us so that in our communities and in our neighborhoods and in our schools and our workplaces, he saved us so that we could be the wall building kind of people, strong, built on the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ and built up with all of these character traits. He saved us so that we could help make a difference in the world in which we live.
Are you making a difference, my dear Christian brother, or has this great salvation been a subject of neglect?
You are so important to the great plan of God. God has invested so much in you and you are so incredibly important. God wants you and he wants me to live out this so great salvation.
Maybe you are here this morning and you say, “Well, I have never been saved. I have never asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.”
Well, I want to say that there is no escape for the person who neglects so great a salvation. This salvation that was first preached by the prophets and the apostles and has been passed down all the way to me. And so when I stand and say that Jesus is the Savior of the world, that God sent his Son into the world to die for sinners and when I tell you that he will save you from your sin and I say believe on him today and he will let you be born into his family and forever be his child, when I say that to you today I am saying it to you just as if the prophets and the apostles were saying it to you and you dare not neglect so great salvation.
Don’t be negligent. If you have never called on Jesus pray a prayer just like this.
Father, God, I am a sinner. I am separate from you. None of these building blocks can happen in my life until I am your child. I have recognized and confess my sin. I believe, Jesus, that you died for me. I ask you to save me today. Come into my heart. Receive me to yourself. I receive you as my Lord and Master. I commit from this day forward the safe keeping of my soul into your hands. I trust you today, Jesus. Thank you for saving me.
And, Father, I ask that you would bless each and every person here. Help us now, Father, help us as we try to understand, as we try to apply. Lord, what is so interesting about the passage is the great rejoicing that happened. They were tempted to mourn. They were tempted to grieve. But they were told to rejoice because they had understood the preaching and teaching of your Word. Now they did something about it.
God, help us to do something with what we are learning. We ask this in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.
If you called on the Lord Jesus to be your Lord and Savior today welcome to the family of God and to the first day of the rest of your eternity. Amen.
I want you to take that little card and write on there, “Today I trusted Jesus.” It’s write on a place to check. Write your name on it and if you have any other needs, prayers or cares write them on those cards right now. We want to talk to you about it. And if you trusted Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and you said, “Today is the day,” I want you to come up here and I want to give you something out of one of these little boxes here that will help you in your new journey as you are serving the Lord.
And then I want to say to each and every one of you that are the children of God. In two weeks I want you between now and then…You know what is happening next week with Jeff Struker. In two weeks we are going to have a tremendous celebration. We are going to have a tremendous time of giving and celebration and a covenant service together. I want you to be here. I want you to be here with bells on and happy in the service of the Lord that day and we are going to have a good time.
Now, here is what I want to ask you a question. Are you glad to live in a country where you have the Word of God? Can you say, “Amen?” All right. Let me ask you…before you clap let me ask you another one. Are you glad that you are able to actually come to a church where they actually talk about the Word of God? Can you say Amen to that one? All right, number three. Listen to this. Can you rejoice in your heart that you understand what God’s Word actually…there’s a lot of people that read it and don’t have a clue. But if you can understand what it means and just like they did…he said, “Because you have understood the Word of the Lord it should be a cause of great rejoicing.” Have you understood the teaching in the book of Nehemiah?
Nehemiah 6:15-16 (All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated)
1 John 1:9
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