When the city needs to be rebuilt, Again - Nehemiah 13

In Sunday’s sermon, pastor Darin preached from Nehemiah chapter 13, where we find a very sad ending to this book. After rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and the spiritual revival of the people, Nehemiah returned to Babylon.  But, when he returned to Jerusalem, he discovered chaos: the people fell back into the very sin that resulted in their being exiled. Nehemiah immediately worked to restore order and turn the people back to the Lord again. Thus while single experiences of revival are important, this text shows us the need to live a life of continual repentance. So, the key message of the sermon was that God’s people must live a life of repentance before God. There were 3 major points related to this:

 

1. We never outgrow repentance:

           a. Our entire life is one of repentance. Martin Luther: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”[1]  In Neh 8, we saw the primacy of God’s Word. God’s Word reveals the sin in our hearts, and drives us to Christ, who bore our sin, and who is at work in us to forgive us and cleanse from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Let us go to His Word, and confess and turn from our sins everyday as we rest on the finished work of Christ on our behalf.  

 

           b. We must not expect experiences of revival to sustain us forever. Many examples of moral failure after revival: Noah, Kings Saul, David, and Solomon, the church at Ephesus (Rev 2:4-5). We must continually seek God afresh and anew through repentance and faith in Christ. How might we do this? We must make right use of the means of grace; i.e., those things God has appointed to nourish and strengthen us spiritually: God’s Word, prayer, fellowship, sacraments.    

 

           c. God is after a walk with him to all that he calls you to:

                       1) Time: how do we use our time for service to God?

                       2) Money: do we give sufficiently of our financial resources?

                       3) How we lead our families: are we teaching our family God’s Word?

 

2. God wants your work to be for his glory:

           a. Issue of success: Nehemiah gave his life for this cause, but returns to find it a mess. But he understands that his work was not ultimately to secure Jerusalem, but to worship God.

 

           b. God calls us to offer our work to him for his pleasure and glory (Rom 11:36). This is true success.  Do you do your work as unto the Lord? (see Colossians 3:23)

 

3. All of our work will be incomplete in this world:

           a. Nehemiah realizes his service is incomplete, but takes action:

                       1) They forsook the house of God. Nehemiah cleanses the temple. This points to the ultimate temple cleansing that Jesus would perform. He drove out those who profaned the temple with whips, but then would allow the violence to be turned on Himself, as the whips would be brought down upon Him, and He would bear God’s wrath on the cross for us.

 

                       2) They profaned the Sabbath Day. Nehemiah reinstates Sabbath observance. This day is about rest in Christ. Are you allowing unnecessary things to keep you from regularly worshipping the Lord in corporate worship?

 

                       3) They acted treacherously against God by marrying foreign (unbelieving) wives. The issue with the foreign wives was that they would drive them away from the true God, to false gods. Nehemiah puts a stop to this.  What things in your life are you allowing to seduce you into committing spiritual adultery against the Lord? Identify it, get rid of it, and return to the One who loves you with an everlasting love.

 

All of this points to the promise that we find in Deuteronomy 30:6, which speaks of the longed for day when the Lord would transform the hearts of his people so that they would love him, and that they may live. This is what the end of this last chapter in Nehemiah screams: We need someone who will give us a new heart--we need a Savior!  Through His shed blood on the cross and resurrection from the grave Jesus cleanses His people as they throw themselves on the promises of the gospel through faith and repentance.  Have you done that? If not, turn to Christ today! If you have, realize that we never outgrow our need to keep appropriating the promises of the Gospel through faith and repentance.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] 1st theses in Luther’s 95 theses, http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/95theses.htm.

 

The mercies of God and the Courage to repent - Nehemiah 9

In Sunday’s sermon, pastor Darin preached from Neh chapter 9, which highlights the importance of God’s mercy, confession of sin, and repentance. The Levites again read from God’s Word, and what emerges is a pattern of where God provided for and delivered His people, yet, they repeatedly rebelled against Him. Despite this, God moved in mercy toward His people. The people that were gathered that day were living testimonies to that fact, because even though God exiled His people from the land, He provided for them there, and now, He has brought them back to the land, and the temple and the walls have been rebuilt! So, the pattern we see is “We sinned, we rebelled…but God in His mercy!” (see vv. 17-18, 21, 26, 28, 32).

 

So, the key idea from the sermon was that repentance is the way to renewed joy in God. As we turn from our sins to the salvation we have through the perfect work of Jesus Christ in His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, God hears us, forgives us, and heals us spiritually (2 Chronicles 7:14). There were 2 points in the sermon related to this:

 

1. What does repentance look like?

           a. We must own our sin.  Instead, we often deflect the issue and/or blame others. For example, telling someone  “I’m sorry you were offended by my words.” In other words, the problem is the other person because they got offended! True confession and repentance doesn’t deflect or blame-shift. It says, “ I was wrong, and  I own my sin.” Think about folks you’ve wronged. Did you truly own and confess your sin? If not, go to them and confess.

 

           b. We justify God instead of making excuses for ourselves. Repentance says I will own what I need to own with no excuses, and commit myself to God, and ask for His mercy in Christ.  Have you made excuses? Stop making excuses, and turn to the Lord in repentance by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. This is the gateway to joy!

 

2. How do we get to repentance?

           a. Martin Luther spoke of how the whole of the Christian life is an ongoing response of repentance—of turning from our sin, and resting upon Jesus Christ alone.  We never outgrow our need for Christ and the Gospel! Meditate on God’s Word, and turn to Christ!

 

           b. To know God is to know that he is profoundly merciful. This is seen most significantly in the person and work of Jesus (see Eph 2:6–7).  The key to repentance then is that we must know that God is a God of mercy and grace. Time and again after we sin, God says “Grace!” And this grace leads us to repentance (see Romans 2:4).

 

           c. How do we acquaint ourselves with this God of mercy?

                       1) In the text, they discovered the story of God’s mercy in the church. We need to get into the covenant community to hear the gospel preached.

                       2) Reacquaint yourself with how God has moved in your life.

                       3) Get into the Scriptures. You’ll see He’s merciful to you before you repent!                     

As we do these things, we will be confronted with the person and work of Jesus Christ! In the text we see this pattern of disobedience on the part of God’s people. All of this pointed to their and our greatest need: we needed someone to take our place. We needed a covenant keeper. Jesus is the true covenant keeper. And at the cross, He bore the covenant curses that you and I deserved.

 

So, preach the Gospel to yourself everyday. Think about how God has acted so mercifully to save you from your sin through Jesus Christ, and why it’s because of Him we now have access to God’s throne of grace. The writer of Hebrews puts it so well: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16). Let us turn our gaze there in faith and repentance! Jesus is our righteousness. He is our peace. He is our joy. And God’s mercy comes to us now through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. To Him alone be all the glory!