Divinely Supplied, Humanly Gathered

Scripture Study – Revelation 2:12-17 “The Church in Pergamum”

PERGAMOS –

Pergamum is located about 100 miles north of Ephesus with Smyrna located halfway between.  It still survives today as the Turkish city of Bergama.

Pergamos was considered Asia’s greatest city.  By the time the Apostle John received the revelation and wrote this section of the book, Pergamos had been the region’s capital for about 250 years.

Pergamos was an important center of culture and learning.  The city considered themselves as “the defender of Greek culture” in all of Asia Minor.

The city was also considered an important center of worship.  Four of the main deities of the Greco-Roman world had temples dedicated to Athena, Asklepios, Dionysos, and Zeus were located there.

But overshadowing the worship of all these deities of Pergamos’ devotion was the cult of emperor worship.  Christians of the day were in constant danger of harm from the emperor worship cult.  Elsewhere, Christians were primarily in danger of one particular day of the year where they were required to offer sacrifices to the emperor; in Pergamos, they were in danger every day.

The Church At Pergamos Was One That Lived and Served In The Shadow of Satan’s Headquarters.

Revelation 2:13 (a).

“I know where you live–a place where Satan sits enthroned.”

Notice the introduction Jesus used in introducing Himself to Pergamos as “the One Who has and wields the sharp two-edged sword”.

In ancient times, the highest symbol of authority was the sword.  It represented the greatest authority that people knew.  It represented absolute authority!

Jesus’ introduction leads one to believe that God wasn’t at all happy with the church at Pergamum.  So I found it quite interesting to what Jesus had to say to the Assembly.

The Church’s Dedication Observed (2:13)

Here was a church positioned on a hill, so to speak, that was in the shadow of Satan’s throne, and Jesus noted their dedication.  I can only imagine their struggle.

WOW!  How complacent we can get while sitting in church on Sunday’s feeling comfortable without obvious persecution by the community in the valleys of our culture constantly trying to blow out the candle.  “No LIGHT in shinning in that building!”

The headquarters of Satan is a strategic place best used by his influence.

Then Jesus goes on to say, “[Yet] you are clinging to and holding first to My name”.  That meant they had not denied the purpose for which Jesus came.  They had not turned their backs on the gospel.  And in spite of the difficult circumstances that surrounded them, the BELIEVERS at Pergamos courageously maintained their FAITH in Jesus Christ.

A Period of détente –

détente [a French word meaning release from tension] and a name given to a period of improved relations during the Cold War, between the United States and the Soviet Union that began tentatively in 1971.

Revelation 2:14-15

There was a problem in Pergamos.

It’s a problem that exists in our own backyards today as well, perhaps more strongly than ever in history.

Notice the church’s détente–détente meaning an easing of friction between two groups.  It means compromising so as not to muddy the waters.

The church was faithful; it believed in Jesus.  It was a strong church, an Orthodox church.

They had not denied His faith, BUT…they were tolerating false views.  They tolerated what should have been expelled from the church.  Don’t get me wrong here.  The church didn’t hold onto false doctrines.  It was a proper, orthodox, fundamental church in the city.  There are churches similar in communities today.  Perhaps you belong to a “fundamental” church like Pergamum. But the assembly in Pergamos held fellowship with those views ignoring the Truth laid down by Jesus.  That was the thing Jesus attacked.

What has this assembly of believers allowed in their fellowship?

First, they allowed the doctrine of Balaam.

Balaam was called by a king to curse Israel in Numbers 22-23. 

Balaam didn’t try to change the theology or to curse the nation.  He just encouraged them to COMPROMISE the purposes of God.  He polluted the people socially and spiritually.

THE END RESULT (vs. 14), A “stumbling block” before the children of Israel, resulting in the eating of things sacrificed to idols and committing immorality.

They taught that ORTHODOXY gave license to SIN.

What does the word, “Orthodox” mean in this context?  It means “conventional Christian beliefs” or “traditional beliefs and customs of the early church that Jesus had established”.  [See footnote [i].]

The church at Pergamum ‘new age’ thinking was “Believe in the right things, church, and you can do anything you want to do!”

I once had a pastor who rationalized celebrating Halloween activities in the church parking lot with this same reasoning, using 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23 as his point of reference–“All things are lawful”; as a believer, we are free to do anything we please.”  He left out the rest of the verse:  “but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome…”  This isn’t to say that every Christian who uses this phrase “All things are lawful” has the wrong general idea.  But I think it’s fairly clear that this is an example of a legitimate intention from the wrong text, with wrong teaching. We don’t want to cause a wave with the world over issues like homosexuality or abortion so we will allow FALSE TEACHING to enter in and adjust our doctrine, keeping everyone happy and the attendance up.

Given Direction (vs. 16)

“Repent [then]!  Or else I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth.”  [AMP]

NOTICE the direction Jesus gives to them, “REPENT!”

He’s not talking to the people who had the doctrine of Balaam.  He’s speaking to the CHURCH.  He was telling the church to repent.

As I pondered over Jesus’ words, I began trying to understand His words here on how the CHURCH could repent.  They weren’t guilty of believing those things.  Jesus essentially says to the church, exclude those people from fellowship.  Don’t give them false security.  They were wrong; they were destroying what the church believed, so the church should remove them.

Jesus was saying to the church to exercise discipline, people!

Do we realize the danger of someone who rebels, fights against the things of God?  The danger of someone in the midst of the fellowship who stands for that which contradicts the doctrine and gospel of Jesus?

Jesus said, you as a church better REPENT and ACT on this matter, or I will come and work against them.  Basically, you take care of them, or I will take care of them!

DELIGHT (vs. 17) –

Revelation 2:17 (The Message Bible)

“Are your ears awake?  Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blows through the churches.  I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name.”

The hidden or sacred manna typifies the spiritual food provided by God in His Word.  Jesus is talking about individual feeding, not a church function.

The manna is something that you receive daily already in life.  It corresponds to your hidden life.  A place inside where no one knows what’s going on except for you and God.  It’s where you are tempted to impure thought, to pride, to lying, etc.  It’s where you fight and overcome those temptations.

The sacred (hidden) manna, is the help you get when you pray for it in those times.  It’s the nourishment you receive, by the power from heaven. It’s given to everyone who asks for it, everyone with a longing to be free from sin.

The hidden manna gives vitality and life.

But like the Israelites in the wilderness, God provided the MANNA for sustaining the daily physical life, but the people had to go out and gather it in daily.

Manna was divinely supplied but had to be humanly gathered.  

God gave it, but the people had to gather it!  God will not spoon feed you!!

 The “White Stone” (“clear stone”) and the “New Name” meaning: [See footnote [ii] ]

  • The WHITENESS represents the PURITY and the HOLINESS of God.
  • The NEW NAME represents the name that a BELIEVER (“overcomer”) receives one day in Christ.

Sometimes a white stone was given to a person after a trial.  The STONE symbolized NOT GUILTY,

Sometimes after a battle, the VICTOR (“conqueror”) was given a white stone representing total victory.

Sometimes a stone was given to an individual signifying CITIZENSHIP.

When we apply that to our Christian faith, it forms a beautiful picture.

But the Scripture is very clear here that the CHURCH must not tolerate those who lower the STANDARDS of the Truth.

It’s not a question of holding the TRUTH; Pergamos did that.

As a Church, we too face the same choice that Pergamos faced.

We can repent and receive ALL of God’s blessings, or, we can refuse to perform a spiritual self-examination and face the terrifying reality of having the Lord Jesus Christ declare war on us.

We need to remain to hold true to the Word of God and never compromising our position in Christ Jesus.

____________________________________________________

CREDITS AND FOOTNOTES –

Credit:  ActiveChristianity – Hidden Manna, White Stone and a New Name – Revelation 2:17.

FOOTNOTES:  [i] The Christian Crier – “What Does Orthodox Mean?”; [ii] Word Detective’s White Stone, New Name blog – https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/a-name-change-at…heavenly-arrival/

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search, settings advanced.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  Amplified (AMP), New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Perhaps, A Different View of God’s GRACE?

BIBLE STUDY:  2 Corinthians 12:9; Ephesians 2:8

QUOTE:  “Worship is our invitation to God to fill wherever we are with His presence and power–His grace.  When we worship, we draw close to Him.  And the closer we get to God the more of His grace we will access.”  Barry Johnson.

In my daily Bible reading this week in 2 Corinthians 12the Apostle Paul is found pleading with God three times to handle “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan,” sent to stop him from preaching the gospel.  The Lord’s response to Paul’s plea gave me goosebumps along with encouragement regarding my own “thorns in the flesh.”

Let me share with you with what Paul shared in a different Bible translation.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Living Bible)

[9]  Each time He said, “No.  But I am with you; that’s all you need.  My power shows up best in weak people.”  Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am.  I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power instead of showing off my own power and abilities.

If God’s GRACE is all Paul needed in dealing with the devil’s assignment to stop him, perhaps then, there’s more about GRACE that we need to know and understand.

In the New Testament, TWO WORDS define and capture the essence of what it means to be a CHRISTIAN–

GRACE & FAITH –

We generally refer to GRACE as the “precious, unmerited favor of God.”  Even my study bible uses this definition.  And FAITH is often described as “believing and trusting in God to take care of us.”

In Scripture, GRACE & FAITH are inseparable–work together, for example in Ephesians 2:8 to bring about God’s FREE GIFT,  “For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God”  [AMP].

  1. Our FAITH accessing God’s GRACE is how we are “born again.” 
  2. Our FAITH gives us access to God’s GRACE and we need to understand more clearly what happens when our FAITH touches that GRACE!

My narrow view of GRACE– my textbook answer of GRACE was simply “God’s unmerited favor.”  God had given me something I didn’t deserve.

GRACE was also the one thing that made me different from Old Testament believers.  I didn’t have to worry if I sinned–accidentally or on purpose–because I wasn’t under the Law.  I was now living under GRACE (Romans 6:14).

YES, my view of GRACE was narrow, self-serving.  If I sinned, I was under my Heavenly Father’s unmerited favor.  I knew He’d forgive me when I sinned (not “if” I sinned).  First John 1:9 told me what I needed to do when I sinned.  I was behaving as though God applied a different standard for being under GRACE than He did under the Law.

You know what?  The STANDARD never changed.

Under the Law, God demanded HOLINESS and OBEDIENCE.  And you are probably way ahead of me, here…God demands Christians today the same!

So, could our view of GRACE be off–just a little?

When we talk “churchly talk” about GRACE, we usually associate it with God’s “FEELINGS” for sinners and for error-prone and /or needy Christians.  We also associate GRACE with His willingness to FORGIVE.

But is that all there is to GRACE? 

If God’s Grace is only about His FEELINGS, there are certain verses in Scripture difficult to understand.  Take Luke 2:40–

[40]  And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the GRACE (favor and spiritual blessing) of God was upon Him.  [AMP]

Did Jesus sin? NO!

Was Jesus error-prone?  NO!

Did Jesus need God’s forgiveness?  NO!

Now look at the words in Acts 10:38–

[38]  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.  [NIV]

I saw similarities in these verses.  Whatever this GRACE is, it gives us access to the same ANOINTING and POWER that Jesus had when He was here on earth.

I’m now seeing GRACE through new “glasses”.

In Acts 4, the religious leaders forbid Peter and John to preach about Jesus.  When they went back to their own people and reported all that the religious leaders had said to them, notice the response:  “they raised their voices together in prayer to God”.  You can read more about this in verses 24-30.

Now look at verse 33–

VERSE 33 connects “great power” with “abundant (great) grace”.

Could it be that GRACE is more than we’ve imagined–more than God’s “unmerited favor”?

Is it possible that GRACE is a spiritual force–A POWER–released by God into our lives to help us accomplish His will?

After much study and meditating on God’s Word for answers, I’ve come to believe the answer to both questions is “YES!”

The 20th Century New Testament renders “abundant grace” as “divine help”.

It presents an image that gives more insight into the real nature of God’s GRACE.

God’s Word found in the Scriptures, the portrayal of God’s GRACE is much broader than simply God’s “unmerited favor”.

For example:

  • Acts 11:23, Barnabas saw the grace of God in the believers at Antioch.
  • Acts 13:43, Paul and Barnabas persuaded the Jews and religious proselytes to continue in the grace of God.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:8 says God is able to make all grace abound toward us.
  • In Galatians 2:9, James, Cephas and John perceive the grace that was given to Paul.
  • Ephesians 1:7 says we are redeemed through the blood of Jesus according to the riches of His grace.
  • 2 Timothy 2:1, Paul tells Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
  • James 4:16 says it’s possible for God to give more grace.

God has given us His GRACE “to HELP in the time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

To limit its definition to “unmerited favor” is to limit God’s POWER in our lives.

GRACE is POWER to us and in us!

If we are to truly walk in the same POWER, the anointing and authority as Jesus, we must re-think and alter our understanding of GRACE.

GRACE contains all our Heavenly Father has to offer us.

GRACE IS A SPIRITUAL FORCE and functions like a channel from God to us.

One of the first things I do when I get up in the morning after walking our dog is to make a pot of coffee.  After putting in the right number of scoops of coffee, pouring in the right amount of water, push a button, the power comes on and the coffee-making process begins.

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?

Our home receives electricity from a channel that connects it with the source of the power–the utility company.  The utility company provides the power; but I determine how it’s used, how much is used and whether or not it’s used.  Not only that, I can use the power for other things, like turning on the lights, using my computer to publish my blogs, etc…  And the POWER from the utility company is flowing whether I use it or not.

GOD’S GRACE is like the channel or conduit that connects our homes with the utility company.

EVERYTHING the Father has made available to us flows to us through His GRACE.  Everything!

And like using electricity, we’re responsible for accessing God’s GRACE and activating it in our lives.

Looking again at Ephesians 2 –

In verse 5, Paul says we’ve been made ALIVE along with Christ:  “Even when we were dead (slain) by [our own] shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ; [He gave us the very life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him, for] it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation)”  [AMP].

“By GRACE” describes the POWER used to make us alive. 

And because of GRACE–the POWER that raised Jesus from the dead–says we sit together with Christ in heavenly places  (verse 6).

Because of GRACE–God will show us the exceeding riches (immeasurable–Amplified Bible) of His Grace in this life and in the next life (verse 7).

GRACE has “immeasurable riches” really stuck out to me.

That brings us to VERSE 8 –

The word “SAVED” is “SOZO” in the Greek language–“material, temporal, and spiritual deliverance from sin and its effects and power.” [See footnote [i].]

This is what God has done for you and me through the POWER OF GRACE!

“SOZO” is the GIFT of God’s GRACE and our FAITH putting is in the position to receive it.  We must learn to tap into God’s Grace so that we can live the fullness of our SALVATION.

Learning to “stretch” our FAITH to access more and more of God’s Grace.

LEARNING TO TAP INTO GOD’S GRACE –

One way to access more of God’s Grace in our everyday lives is through spending time in His Word–our Bibles.

In Acts 20:32,  “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (NIV Bible).

I love the words in Jeremiah 15:16, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.”

Another way to tap into more of God’s Grace is through WORSHIP –

John 4:24, Jesus says “God is Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality).” (AMP)

WORSHIP becomes an invitation to God to fill us wherever we are with His presence and power–HIS GRACE.

When we worship, we draw closer to Him–or should draw closer.  And the closer we get to God, the more of His GRACE will become accessible.

“More is better!” as the child in the TV commercial explains.

A third way we can tap into more of God’s Grace is through our FAITH –

Romans 5:2 says we can tap into God’s GRACE through our FAITH.  

And in 1 Timothy 1:14, Paul tells the young pastor, Timothy that the Lord’s grace was “superabundantly and beyond measure with faith”.

I don’t know about you, but I want “more”, because “more is better” in my life when it comes to God’s Grace.

As our FAITH increases and accesses MORE of God’s GRACE, we increase His ability to work in our lives to BLESS not only His people but those who are lost.

Acts 10:38 says, “How God anointed and consecrated Jesus [put your name in here] with the [Holy] Spirit and with the strength and ability and power; how He went from doing good and in particular, curing all who were harassed and oppressed by [the power of] the devil, for God was with Him.”  (AMP)

Perhaps now, with a better understanding of the GRACE OF GOD, shouldn’t this be the heartbeat of our hearts?

____________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i]:  Strong’s #4982: “zozo” – Greek/Hebrew Definitions – Bible Tools.

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV); and other translations as noted in the text.

THE QUESTIONS about WORLDLY ASSOCIATIONS

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Although 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 are often applied to various sorts of alliances (e.g., mixed marriages, improper business associations), Paul’s primary ASSOCIATION was probably churchly. 

The CONTEXT of these verses was the leaning tendency of the church at Corinth to listen to and accept the teachings of FALSE TEACHERS and those masquerading in the gatherings of the saints as APOSTLES of Christ.  These false teachers and apostles continually competed for the affections and allegiance of the Corinthian believers, criticizing and lying about Paul in the process.

Paul alludes to this in 1 Corinthians 4:5, where he said,

“So don’t get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in.  When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of–inner motives and purposes and prayers.  Only then will any one of us get to hear the “Well done!” of God”  [The MESSAGE Bible].

In 2 Corinthians 6:3-13, Paul defends his ministry.

Showing that he had sacrificed his personal comforts in order to minister to the Corinthian church, Paul points to something obviously missing from the ministry of the false teachers and false apostles.  The false teachers and apostles were merely after a following, ‘fill them church pews on Sunday mornings’, and undue respect and position.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Paul urges the saints in Corinth to make a judgment, be discriminating concerning the teachers they heard, for some of these people were not real followers of Jesus.

However, Paul also wanted to drive home the point that they shouldn’t try to live with one foot in the world, and one foot in the teachings of Christ.

What they truly believed would affect how they behaved. 

They couldn’t live for Christ while spiritually straddling the fence.

That Brings Us to THE QUESTIONS –

QUESTION #1.  “How can there be Any PARTNERSHIP with the World?”

2 Corinthians 6:14b. c. (NKJV)

“For what FELLOWSHIP has righteousness with lawlessness? And what COMMUNION has light with darkness?”

It might be worth taking some NOTES here:

  1. The word “fellowship” means, “in partnership, participation.  What is there in common, or how can the one partake with the other?”
  2. The word “unrighteousness” [“wickedness”] refers to “lawlessness”. 
  3. The word “communion” is interesting, in that it “…involves close relationship (Arndt), as in marriage or as in the spiritual relationship with God (c.f. 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3, 6).

Paul is simply saying here that the child of God cannot be close to God while at the same time living in the ways of the world.

The “Stockholm Syndrome” –

John Suk, author, and church minister writes, “Soldiers of the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst on February 4, 1974.  In return for her release, Patty’s kidnappers demanded that her father, Randolph Hearst, give millions of dollars to the poor.  On April 15, 1974, the FBI identified Patty in a videotape of a bank holdup in San Francisco.  On September 18 of that year, Patty was captured.  She served nearly three years in prison for her crime.  It was said that “Patty Hearst suffered from the Stockholm syndrome.  This condition affects some hostages who are so traumatized by their captivity that they IDENTIFY to their captors.”  The syndrome gets its name from a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, where one hostage fell in love with her captor.  People who then fall prey to the Stockholm syndrome, in essence, sleep with the enemy.”

Many Christians suffer from a “spiritual” kind of Stockholm syndrome.  We find ourselves sleeping with our enemy–the World.

WORLDLINESS is more than a fixation on card playing, dancing, drinking at the local pub after church on Sundays.  True Worldliness is being caught in a sticky web of comments to self.

QUESTION #2.  “How can there be Any PEACE with the World?”

2 Corinthians 6:14-15

The word “Belial” in verse 15 is a synonym for Satan.

Paul stresses the lack of harmony between the children of God and the children of the world with the use of the words, “in common”.  The Greek translation suggests a deep sharing of things–“in common…”  (c.f. its used in Lk. 10:42; Acts 8:21; Col. 1:12)  [Footnote [i].]

QUESTION #3.  “Can there be any PARTICIPATION with the World?

2 Corinthians 6:16 (AMP)

“What agreement [can there be between] a temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in and with and among them and will walk in and with and among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

The word “AGREEMENT” carries the idea of “…a sympathetic union of mind and a will in a plan mutually agreed to”  [Dictionary.com].

The same idea can be found in the Old Testament of the Bible:

Amos 3:3 (NIV)

[3]  Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

THE QUENCHING OF WORLDLY ASSOCIATIONS –

Matthew 5:29-3o (NIV)

[29] “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

[30]  “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than your whole body to go into hell.”

Terminate SIN, don’t toy with it! (2 Cor. 6:17; Eph. 5:11).

Just a NOTE here concerning the TEMPTATION to ignore SIN.  Charles Spurgeon once said:

“What settings are you in when you fall?  Avoid them.  What props do you have that support your sin?  Eliminate them.  What people are you usually with?  Avoid them.”

There are TWO equally damaging LIES that Satan wants us to believe: 

  1. Just once won’t hurt.
  2. Now that you have ruined your life, you’re beyond God’s use and you might as well enjoy the ride (sinning)!

Learn to say no, asking the Holy Spirit to help you.

THE QUEST TO CONQUER WORLDLY ASSOCIATIONS –

LIVING IN THE SPIRIT IS A MUST!!!

1 Corinthians 6:19 

“Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you.  Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God?  You are not on your own”  (AMP).

2 Corinthians 6:16b

“I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people”  (NIV).

Ephesians 5:18b  “…be filled with the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:16

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh”  (NIV).

“LIVING IN THE SPIRIT” doesn’t mean that a prayer thrown out to God after discovering we’ve sinned is being in the Spirit.  It’s a moment by moment experience in our living with complete surrender to God’s Spirit.

My QUEST:  May not a single moment go by in my life that is spent outside the light, love, and joy of God’s presence and not a moment without the entire surrender of my self as a vessel for Him to fill with His Spirit and His Love!

We Must Shine as Lights in the World.

A Christian brother and fellow blogger, Joe Rodriguez, both of us are equally yoked with the burden of shinning the Light of God’s Word.  Joe uses a constant theme in his writings of different Lighthouses found around the world.  I particularly enjoyed reading “A Light Among The Light”, Posted on May 1, 2018 [http://lighthousedevotions.blog/]

JESUS’ sermon on the mount message to the people in Matthew 5:14:  “You are the LIGHT of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”

THE EMPHASIS OF THE LIGHT –

The apostle Paul emphasizes the same LIGHT in his letter to the church at Ephesus.

Ephesians 5:8

“For once you were in darkness, but now you are LIGHT in the Lord; walk as children of LIGHT [lead the lives of those native-born to the Light]”  (AMP).

So, does our WALK backup our TALK?

Here’s where CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT comes in to play.

What is CHARACTER?  

Our Character is best described as “the sum of moral qualities associated with a person and suggests ethical strength and excellence.  It is about doing what is right, regardless of what is convenient or popular.” [Charizma Magazine].

The character of a person is comprised of the core principles and values of who we really are, both inwardly and outwardly, in your behavior and relationships.  That’s not just in Christian assemblies, but wherever you spend your time during the day (e.g. work, social gatherings, grocery stores…).

CHARACTER QUALITIES:

  • Faithfulness,
  • Honesty,
  • Integrity,
  • Trustworthiness,
  • Loyalty,
  • Honor,
  • Dependability,

Even good old-fashioned manners are basic to good character.

But because so few Christians exhibit these traits, there has become a huge credibility gap in society and church today.

Many of our unbelieving associations in observing our everyday CHARACTER consider us a bunch of hypocrites.  We want to win the lost for the LORD…”A LIGHT ON THE HILL” but they won’t listen to us, because they only see the glaring inconsistency between our MESSAGE and our lifestyle.

QUESTION #4 – “Does your Christian TALK square with your Christian WALK?”

Is your HONESTY, your CHARACTER above question?

WE MUST BE LOVERS OF ONE ANOTHER!

John 13:35 (AMP)

“By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples if you love one another” [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].

1 Peter 1:22b. (NIV)

“…love one another deeply, from the heart.”

1 John 4:7 (NIV)

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Paul taught that the corrupt ways of the WORLD are totally incompatible with the LIFE that’s in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle has asked the church some searching questions to point out the absurdity of Christians trying to straddle the spiritual fence in their daily lives. 

WHERE DO YOU STAND?

____________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote:  [i] – John Gill’s Commentary of the Bible

Dictionary:  Dictionary.com – used for this blog.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other translations used are noted.

 

 

 

BREAKING CAMP

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE:  2 Corinthians 5:1-9

Growing up in Southern California brings back fond memories of summertime camping with the family.  My dad was a city fireman for over thirty years and because of his work schedule of 24 hours on duty/24 hours off, he would have as many as three days and sometimes five off, plus accrued vacation time which led to many camping trips during many summers.

Setting up the Campsite was always an adventure. 

Dad had to find the exact spot for the tent location.  He knew that the preciseness of location was a must or my mother would have him move the location to her liking.  The men (my dad, and brother), all three of us, would call my mom a ‘picky camper’!; the campsite had to be near the restrooms with hot and cold showers AND… the site had to be neat and clean for the entire stay.  Oh, and a clothesline was always stretched between two pine trees near the picnic table to hang out damp washcloths plus any wet bathing suits and towels brought back from the local swimming hole at the nearby river.

Don’t forget the rake! 

Mom wanted my brother and me to take turns in raking the campsite every morning after breakfast, then hook up the nearby hose to settle the dust in front of the tent.  “NO DIRT IN, OR ON THE TENT!”

The sad part in all of this…eventually, we had to leave and break down the campsite.  Although mom wanted the trip to be enjoyable for all, she also wanted her experience to feel like,,, let’s say, clean, tidy, and like home sweet home.

“But Mom, it’s all just temporary!”

WE LIVE IN A WORLD COMPOSED OF THAT WHICH IS ONLY TEMPORARY.

For,  “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”  (1 Peter 1:24-35, NIV Bible)

ALL will eventually fade and pass away.  Only that which has its foundation built on and in God and in His Word will live on.

DWELLING IN TENTS –

The TENT should remind us of the TEMPORARY NATURE of things which we deal with.

Abraham in the Bible Lived in a Temporary Tent but looked for a Lasting City [Hebrews 11:8-10].

BEDOUIN TENTS:

  • They were portable.
  • They were protective.
  • They were durable.
  • They were temporary.

The Hebrew Nation dwelled in TENTS but looked for a HOMELAND.

Marvin Wilson, a noted author remarked, “Israel’s religion might be called a ‘pup-tent’ religion.”  [See Footnote [i].]

The Israelites traveled for forty years in the wilderness and in doing so, they dealt with the “temporary” to achieve the permanent–Canaan, the Promised Land.

Each Year the Feast of Tabernacles is a Reminder.

It might surprise some, but Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles as well.  On the last day, “great day of the feast”, He stood in the Temple and cried out:

John 7:37-38 (NIV)

[37]  On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  [38] Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

God Lived in a Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) but Longed for the Heart of Man (Exodus 29:46) –

The Tabernacle was a CONTRAST to the magnificent temples of pagan gods that surrounded God’s people.  When God laid out the CAMPING PATTERN for the Hebrews, the TABERNACLE was at the center while the twelve tribes camped around it in the shape of a CROSS.

That may be incidental, but God did teach them that He was in their midst–in the very heart of the Campsite.  Their lives flowed from Him and He taught them this arrangement would only be temporary.

Even the TEMPLE would picture the TEMPORARY–

God permitted the Temple that King David had proposed to build but the Tabernacle had been sufficient:

2 Samuel 7:5-7 (NIV)

[5] “Go and tell my servant David, This is what the LORD says: Are you the one yo build me a house to dwell in?  [6] I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day.  I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.  [7] Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

The TEMPORARY was made visible when the VEIL in the Temple was torn (“rent”) from top to bottom at Jesus’ Crucifixion [Matthew 20:50-52].

God was mourning His Son–symbolized by the “renting” of His garment.

God was changing His residence [1 Corinthians 3:16, AMP] –

[16]  “Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]?

God dealt with the TEMPORARY to establish the PERMANENT [Jeremiah 31:31-34].

JESUS momentarily lived among us but looked for His Father’s EVERLASTING house (John 1:14) –

JESUS’ brief LIFE was but 33 years…His brief DEATH…3 days.

In the interim until His return, He’s preparing a PERMANENT PLACE in His Father’s House [John 14:1-6].

Jesus dealt with the TEMPORARY to establish the PERMANENT and we live in the Short-term but should look to the Eternal.

That brings me to some QUESTIONS for all of us to ask ourselves:

  1. HOW MUCH TIME, EFFORT AND ENERGY DO WE PUT ON THE TEMPORARY?
  2. HOW MUCH TIME, EFFORT AND ENERGY DO WE SPEND ON THE ETERNAL?

(2 Corinthians 5:1-5) – LIFE IN TENTS

Especially notice what Paul is saying in the verses here.  He says, “For we KNOW [not we hope for or we expect or even that we believe] that if our earthly house of this TABERNACLE were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  This is a very positive “KNOW”.  Paul knows because of the fact that the Holy Spirit has made it real to him.

The Word “TABERNACLE” – (Translations – ERV; AKJV; ASV; DBT).

The word for “tabernacle” is skene, meaning “tent”.  That’s the same word that was used for the wilderness tabernacle on the Old Testament in the Septuagint, the translation of the Old Testament into the Greek language.  The Old Testament tabernacle, a skene, a tent.  It was a flimsy sort of thing.

That thought brought me back to my CAMPING DAYS as a young boy and as a father raising my own children believe or not.  Setting up a TENT in the middle of the day was hard enough, much less at night by car headlights as once happened in the pouring rain.  At the time, I was thinking, I hate tents!  No privacy, there always seems to be small rock poking my back in the floor of the tent–right where my sleeping bag lies.

I like CAMPING IN TENTS, but only for a short time, not for weeks on end.

So it’s a little disconnecting to hear how the apostle Paul describes life in this world, as a TENT CAMPING TRIP that lasts your entire life!  For we must KNOW that if this TENT that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a HOUSE not made with human hands, but an eternal home in the heavens.  For in this tent of ours, we GROAN longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.  We don’t often think of LIFE like this, do we?

We hurt at times, reminders that our earthly bodies are TEMPORARY structures: sore joints, aches, pains, diseases, you name it!  We can resonate with that language especially as we grow older as we GROAN to put on the heavenly dwelling!

But at the same time, even as we look forward to our heavenly body, TENT LIFE is still a little scary, because one day, for each of us, hearts will stop beating, and lungs will stop breathing, and the CAMPING TRIP is over.

TIME TO BREAK CAMP and it’s then we’ll be glad that we have another home!

2 Corinthians 5:6 [Amplified Bible]

So then, we are always full of good and hopeful and confident courage; we know that while we are at home in the body, we are abroad from the home with the Lord [that is promised to us].

Let’s be honest that many times we feel completely at home in our bodies [“tents”] and they’re all we’ve known.  I know every scar and can point directly to moles on my back that I’ve never seen with my eyes.  However, as long as I’m at home in this body, I’m absent from the Lord.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight”  [2 Cor. 5:7].

Paul explains that we WALK BY FAITH–We take God at His Word.  I don’t know about you, but I would rather take His Word than anyone else’s word.

FAITH is taking God at His Word.

Remember, who you are, that the soul never dies; the soul goes to be with Christ as a true believer–the ‘overcomer’.  It is the physical body that’s put to sleep. 

It’s the BODY that must be changed–TRANSFORMED [1 Cor. 15:51-53].

RESURRECTION doesn’t refer to the SOUL or the SPIRIT.

The English word RESURRECTION is the Greek word “anastasis”, meaning a “standing up.”  It’s the BODY which will stand up.

Knowing these things, we WALK BY FAITH.

Being Ambitious [2 Cor. 5:9, AMP].

“Therefore, whether we are at home [on earth away from Him] or away from home [and with Him], we are constantly ambitious and strive earnestly to be pleasing to Him.”

The Greek word “philotin” is “to esteem as an honor”.  It is the same Greek word which is translated “study” in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NIV).

[11]  To make it your ambition to lead a quiet life:  You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you”

Be AMBITIOUS to mind your own business!

We should be Ambitious, LABOR, study. “to esteem as an honor” in such a way that we will be accepted of Him.  I’m not talking here about “works”.  This isn’t AMBITION to become a great somebody but to do our very best to PLEASE God.

Being ACCEPTED in Christ.

Being accepted in Christ is my…your standing before God at the “judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10).

God sees me in Christ, and He is made for me ALL that I need:

  • WISDOM & RIGHTEOUSNESS.
  • SANCTIFICATION & REDEMPTION.

[see 1 Corinthians 1:30]

HE IS MY PERFECTION – I am COMPLETE in Him!

You can’t add anything to COMPLETENESS.

True believers have Christ, and we are accepted in the Beloved.

ACCEPTED in Christ Jesus the standing that ALL BELIEVERS have before God.

But to be ACCEPTED of Him is a different thing.

This has to do with our present state and refers to the way we are living our lives.  Are we living in the “tent” of ours for Christ’s sake?  Are we “ambitious” to live in acceptance of Him?

To be AMBITIOUS to be accepted doesn’t mean that we are to crawl over everybody and step on top of them in order to get to the top of the heap.

God gave His Word to the prophet:

Jeremiah 45:5 (NIV)

“Should you then seek great things for your self?  Do not seek them.  For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the LORD, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.”

That’s putting it plain enough don’t you think?

There are no guarantees in this world aside from the Grace of God.

This is what we hold onto in the storms we face here on this earth.  The TENTS of our lives get tattered and worn out, and they get blown about by the winds of struggle and conflict, and they get drenched by storms of tears and heartbreak and then get covered with the dirt of sin.

But we have a PROMISE to stand on that gets us through the storms.

And that PROMISE is, I’m going to have a glorified body [house] someday that will make a mansion look like a worn out tent, and my God has already paid for it in full!

KNOW THIS & STAND ON…

  • THAT OUR GOD IS GOOD.
  • THAT THE CROSS HAS CHANGED US.
  • THAT THE EMPTY TOMB WILL NEVER FORSAKE YOU.
  • THAT GOD’S GRACE WILL NEVER DESERT US.
  • THAT WE HAVE THE UNSHAKEABLE BUILDING AHEAD OF US, ETERNAL IN THE HEAVENS!

____________________________________________________

CREDITS  & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  Quote byMarvin Wilson, author of “Our Father Abraham – Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith.”

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Bible TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or as noted in the text.

Commentary:  Sermon Notes from Jerry Shirley on 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 – Sermon Central.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – settings, advanced.

 

 

Our Church “Behavior” Should Be An Extension of Worship

THE PROPER ATTITUDE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD: 

A Study In FIRST TIMOTHY.

Over the past several years I have noticed a certain casualness that has become prevalent on Sunday mornings.  Our culture seems to be dictating the attitudes of church leadership in responding to the change.  Is it just me, or has this become a fulfillment of biblical prophecy?  So in searching for answers, I, of course, turn to God’s Word in the bible and was led to First Timothy.

STUDY TIME –

At the beginning of Paul’s letter to a young pastor, Timothy, this letter had a central purpose behind it.

Paul’s Instructions – 1 Timothy 3:14-15

[14]  “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,  [15] if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar, and foundation of the earth” (NIV).

IS THE APOSTLE PAUL REACHING JUST A BIT IN THE ABOVE VERSES?

I don’t think so.  He’s telling not only the church in Ephesus but to today’s CHURCH as well:

The proper and orderly BEHAVIOR within the body of BELIEVERS in the house of God should always be an Extension of WORSHIP.

The given instructions by the Apostle to Timothy (and consequently, all who will follow in the Faith) know what conduct is pleasing in the sight of the True and Living God.  This Letter to Timothy is Paul’s effort to remind the young pastor, and through him to remind the Church at Ephesus the fundamentals of church life.

These fundamentals appear to have been forgotten in this day and age.  And from my own observations of behavior in many churches today, the foundations are being attacked by an infestation of ‘cultural termites’ and are crumbling before my eyes.

The Apostle tells us the reasons for his letter to the Church.

He’s not merely informing Timothy that he intends to come to Ephesus; he wants to ensure that Timothy has in hand information vital for congregational health.

Paul uses three descriptive terms, all referring to the CHURCH.

To really appreciate the CONDUCT AND CONFESSION required of the congregation there’s a need to understand the apostolic view of the Church.  Keep in mind, Paul’s not writing about some unorganized body that is difficult to understand–he’s writing to Timothy about the congregation in Ephesus, the church Timothy pastored.

The first term Paul uses is “the Household of God.”

This phrase is more common for Paul than one might think.  For instance, writing to the saints of the Galatian churches, Paul insists, “Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers]” (Galatians 6:10, AMP).

Then again in his letter intended for general circulation, the Apostle has written, “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household” (Ephesians 2:19, NIV).

WHO IS THE “CONGREGATION”?

It should be obvious that in the mind of Paul, “the household of God” encompasses ALL the saints gathered in an assembly as a CONGREGATION.  In this instance particularly the Church in Ephesus is identified as “the household of God.”  Just so, the CONGREGATION you associate with as seen as “the household of God.”

THE CONGREGATION IS A FAMILY–

God is the Father and believers are His children.  Therefore, believers are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Leadership Responsibilities-

The elders and deacons are given as LEADERS to assist the FAMILY to fulfill the Father’s will and purpose.

“Woah.  I thought they were there to help serve communion and pass the plates for the tithes and offerings!”

NO, it more than that.  It’s all about FAMILY–the “household” of God.

“Family” CONFLICTS –

I know on occasion in our own physical families, family members have conflict and the same can occur within the church family.  However, in Heaven, it will be redeemed, perfected “household” in entirety then.

J. Vernon McGee used to quote a couplet that speaks to this challenge:

To live above with the saints we love

Oh, that will be glory.

To live below with the saints we know,

Well, that’s another story.

The next term the Apostle uses is “the church of the Living God”.

Twenty-seven times in Scripture God is identified as “the Living God.”  Fifteen of those times occur in the O.T. and twelve times the term is applied to God in the N.T.

Whenever I see the Lord God identified as “the Living God,” my mind turns to the knowledge that He is eternal and He is immortal.

The title testifies that He is the source of life.  We LIVE because He has given us life–we are alive in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.

Knowing this to be TRUE, the child of God must not associate with that which is identified as DEAD or DYING; we must not embrace if you will, that which is dying.

The ATTITUDE of this world are the ATTITUDES of DEAD PEOPLE.

John, the apostle testifies that “As the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever”  (1 John 2:17, AMP).

So if we are identified in the community as “the Church of the Living God,” then we’re responsible to avoid embracing that which contaminates that which speaks of death.

Paul has written,

IDOLATRY today comes in many forms.  It extends beyond the worship of graven images.

Our modern IDOLS are many and varied.  Even for those who don’t bow down physically before a statue.

IDOLATRY is a matter of the HEART–pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions… sports heroes, music legends, etc.  Ultimately, it’s REBELLION against God.  Is it any wonder that God hates it?  And if God hates something in my life, I should recognize it and hate it too!

In Christ Jesus, the CONGREGATION is being built.

AND…

When we gather for WORSHIP on a Sunday morning, or at other times, we are not just another organization registered with the government–we are the CONGREGATION of the Lord.  We don’t go to church–we are the church.

The church of the Living God is not an organization; it’s an “organism”-  

A breathing, living entity, indwelt by His Spirit.  When we meet together, we don’t just sing songs and listen to sermons.  We are and should be energized by His Spirit by offering sacrifices of praise.

As a significant aside, a COMMUNITY is only as strong as the churches of the community.  If the community is religious, though unchanged by the preaching of God’s Word, then it has no depth or stability to permit it to stand.  The same holds true for a NATION or a CULTURE.

The Psalmist is correct when he writes:

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.

[Psalm 33:12, NIV]

Whenever a people no longer WORSHIPS the True and Living God, that PEOPLE have placed their trust on a flimsy thread that must soon fail; they’re stepping onto a slide from which they may never return as they plunge into insignificance and ultimately into ruin.

THE CONDUCT EXPECTED–

The Word of God, God’s TRUTH given in written form, serves as a FOUNDATION for our lives as a CONGREGATION and it’s to be the MESSAGE we deliver to the world around us.

The WORD is to saturate our lives, to be central to every activity in which we engage as a CONGREGATION.

Note in our passage of Scripture, Paul is addressing Timothy, not the congregation.  The reason for this is that the ELDERS are responsible to teach these things faithfully while the CONGREGATION should and must know these things, it’s the responsibility of the Elders/Deacons to teach them.

If your church leaders excuse error in the midst of the Assembly and fail to hold the line on biblical truth, you should be questioning their adherence to all other truths.

What were the criteria to qualify as the Church of the Living God?

In answering the proposed question, we need to review what has already been laid down in Scripture.

  • FIRST, the Church of the Living God is a place of PRAYER. (CHECK)
  • Seeking God’s MERCY for ALL people.  (CHECK)
  • The body of Christ, the CONGREGATION, should be marked by holy living!  (???)

Here’s what the Apostle wrote [1 Timothy 2:1-6]:

So the CONGREGATION (that’s you and me) will endeavor to qualify as the Household of God should remain focused on glorifying the Son of God through winning others to FAITH and that CONGREGATION (that’s you and me) will PRAY for God to bless civic authorities so that the CHURCH is free to evangelize.  Moreover, that Congregation should labor to ensure that men assume the position in leading such prayer.

Paul wrote, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing”  (1 Timothy 2:8, NIV).

R-E-S-P-E-C-T In the House!

How we dress, how we dress our children, how we instruct our teenagers to dress, says far more than we might imagine.  I’m not suggesting that we must be ‘flashy,’ or try to attract attention in our dress; but we must bear in mind that we are coming into the presence of the Lord God.  It’s not about you!

This brings to mind the instructions Peter wrote at one point with his first letter directed to WIVES, the principle should apply to each Christian.

“Let not yours be the [merely] external adorning with [elaborate] interweaving and knotting of hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes;  But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God”  [1 Peter 3:3-4, AMP].

It’s a serious challenge to us living at what appears to be the twilight of the Age of Grace to question whether we hold CULTURE accountable to the Word of God, or, whether CULTURE now holds the Word of God accountable to whatever silly fad happens to have captured the popular imagination of the moment.

Looking at the CONDUCT…

In the CONGREGATION of the Master, it is sufficiently important to the Apostle in the entirety of chapters TWO and THREE regarding our conduct.

PAUL admonishes Timothy and all those who stand behind the pulpit, that the task assigned is to provide instruction of godly CONDUCT in the Household of God–holy behavior, prayer led by godly men, modest dress, a biblical order in the service of the Assembly and ELDERS and DEACONS being marked by righteous lives that reveal His work in them and through them.

Note carefully the next two verses in Acts 20:28-31 (NIV)

[28]  Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.  [29]  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  [30]  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  [31]  So be on your guard!  Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Soon after Paul’s WARNING, a half-brother of Jesus penned a warning to the CHURCHES.  Jude opens with these pointed words.  Jude 3-4 (GNT)

“For some godless people has slipped in unnoticed among us, persons who distort the message about the grace of our God in order to excuse their immoral ways, and who reject Jesus Christ, our only Master, and Lord…”

The danger was not potentially, it was indisputable; the DANGER to the churches was piercing!  What Paul foresaw, Jude recognizes as already happening–an ongoing assault against the Faith.  Tragically, the churches across the land appear to have become complacent, as though accepting what I like to call, a paradigm shift of the church practices that somehow honors God.  Has the condemnation of the Prophets been pronounced on us today?

Has our CASUALNESS in God’s House become the post-mortem of our WORSHIP?

HOLINESS–things are done in and about the worship service must be done for GOD’S GLORY, not ours.  We cannot allow cultured shifts or norms to dictate out the manner of WORSHIP.  We just can’t!

____________________________________________________

~ CREDITS ~

Sermon Central:  Proper Attitude And Order in The House Of God, contributed by Duane Smith on April 11, 2011.

Photos & Images:  Google Image search, Advance settings.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other translations used are noted in the text.

 

Our Need For REBUILDING – RESTORING

Scripture Passage:  Nehemiah 9:1-37; 10:28-39

I want to first take a quick glance at the setting in Nehemiah 9:

  • The Jewish people had been in captivity in Babylon.  Their Temple (place of worship) and the entire city of Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • Now, after 70 years, they’ve returned and rebuilt their city.

Although, when I say “returned” to Israel, most of them were first-time arrivals.  They were a newer generation, born in captivity.  They found the Law of Moses while working on the Temple.  And when the Prophet Ezra read it aloud to them, they vowed to return to God’s Law.  They were determined to get back to God’s ways.

Chapter 9 continues on this theme.

Then Ezra leads out with the beautiful PRAYER (vs. 6-37) and in that prayer, you can clearly see the nation making attempts to RECONNECT with God.

This is the longest recorded PRAYER in the Bible. 

It was a prayer of CONFESSION & REPENTANCE, recounting what God had done for them personally, as a nation, and man’s failure to honor Him.  This prompted me to read and re-read this prayer, making notes in my workbook while checking down the examples in the prayer with my own prayers.

How selfish we can be at times in our prayers.

There was this realization by the people just how far they had drifted from God and an honest CONFESSION of their sin. 

This is the first step for RESTORATION, for REVIVAL–a realization that we have drifted away from God and a desire to return to a Godly life in an ungodly culture.

This CONFESSION makes RENEWAL possible!

TRUE CHANGE OR RENEWAL –

This can only begin to happen when three things happen.

We need the 3 A’s to take place:

  1. Admit our wrongs,
  2. Acknowledge God’s ways, and…
  3. Act on it!

THE FIRST STEP…

CONFESSION is to admit that there’s a need for change!

James Montgomery Boice, a Christian theologian, Bible teacher, author, a speaker says, “There can be no genuine forward moral progress for either a nation or an individual without an acknowledgment of, sorrow for, and a true turning from sin.”  

It’s important that we all examine ourselves in reading God’s Word.

In Nehemiah 8, we can see where it began with the people – when they heard the Word they mourn and wept.

In Chapter 9 of Nehemiah, we see this again in corporate prayer.  If we’re not convinced that we need a CHANGE, we won’t.

This realization leads to REPENTANCE.

And by the way, it doesn’t help if we confess ‘just to confess’, or because ‘this is what everybody does’, or because ‘we have to do it’.

We should CONFESS because we are being prompted of the Holy Spirit when He brings to our mind the Word of God.

We want to CONFESS because we are moved by God’s Word or convicted by the Holy Spirit.

This is what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15:17-18 (confession).

QUESTION:  Why does God want us to confess?  Surely not to inform Him of something He already knows about us.

First of all, God wants us to admit our sins so that we can take the steps toward CHANGE. 

Only when we agree with God of our faults, our trespasses, and our need to change can we find the commitment to do so.

Secondly, CONFESSION makes us real.

REAL, if we are honest with God, honest with SELF and honest towards people.

It’s being AUTHENTIC, being VULNERABLE and BEING REAL!

This is the way to happiness.  We’re not weighed down, burdened with GUILT or SHAME.  We experience God’s FORGIVENESS and the JOY of forgiveness.

REAL FELLOWSHIP with God can’t happen when unconfessed SIN is in our lives.

WHAT IS SIN?

I’ve had the question directed at me over the years to what I think “SIN” is.  And my response is always redirected to,  “What do you think “SIN” is?

In a nutshell, according to the classical definition, “hippo”, SIN is “a word, deed, or desire in opposition to God’s Word.”

The second thing that’s necessary for RESTORATION to take place is to acknowledge God’s way–or take God’s Word seriously.

It’s this deep conviction of His Word that’s the only blessed way!  This conviction is closely related to the first thing–CONFESSION.

GOD’S WORD LEADS TO CONFESSION!

The reading of the Law in Nehemiah and the subsequent DAILY reading of the Scriptures led to the people’s confession and repentance.  It wasn’t the preaching of Ezra, the Levites that brought about restoration.  It was God’s Word!

The realization that yes, we’ve sinned against God, comes through the reading of the Word of God and by the leading and conviction of the Holy Spirit. 

We will never acknowledge SIN to be SIN or grieve, weep over it unless we understand it’s an offense against God, and the only way to see that is to know God’s Word.

So what are we looking at in all of this?

If we want CHANGE to happen we’ve got to have an alternative:

  • What do we really want to change into?
  • What kind of a change are we looking at?

It can’t be your way against my way or his way against the world’s way.  It must be God’s WAY we’re looking at.  It must be God’s Word we’re fixed on.  That’s the standard.  God’s Word is the MIRROR of our soul. our character, and our conduct.

In the prayer of CONFESSION, the Levites directed the people’s thoughts–notice I didn’t say ‘manipulated’ their thoughts–to the goodness and grace of God.

NOTICE how many times“YOU” appeared throughout the PRAYER.

Despite their failures, they were to recognize God’s KINDNESS in their betrayal, that God remains FAITHFUL and continues to shower His blessing on them.

NEHEMIAH 9:17

“YOU” didn’t desert them in the desert; “YOU” gave your good Spirit to instruct them; “YOU” didn’t withhold your manna from their mouths, and “YOU” gave them water for their thirst; “YOU” made their sons a numerous as the stars in the sky.

NEHEMIAH 9:31

NEHEMIAH 9:33

THE PEOPLE’S PRAYER…

In the PRAYER, the people were led to see through their history a God who is great, good and gracious despite man’s SIN AND FAILURES.  This is the basis why we CONFESS our sin.  We have a forgiving God, a merciful and gracious God.  This is why the father waits for the prodigal son to return.  Not to judge or condemn him, but to embrace and forgive him (Luke 15:11-32).

Our PARDON today is not based on our MERIT or our WORTHINESS, but upon His goodness and grace. 

We shouldn’t base our appeal on our past accomplishments (how much I HAVE DONE for God), but simply upon His grace and mercy (Nehemiah9:17-b) –

[17-b]  But You are a God ready to PARDON, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great steadfast love; and You did not forsake them” (AMP).

The THIRD STEP in a CHANGED LIFE is to ACT ON IT!

When we know that we know, where we are and where we want to go, we need to take the necessary steps to bring about the CHANGE.

NEHEMIAH 9:38 –

The LEVITES led by Ezra ended the people’s prayer saying, 

THE COMMITMENT –

The ASSEMBLY, the gathered people are going to make a COVENANT (an agreement, COMMITMENT) before God that they are willing to do the following:

Nehemiah 10:30 – “We shall not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons,”

10:31 – “We shall forego raising crops the seventh year [letting the land lie fallow] and the compulsory payment of every debt” [Exod. 23:10, 11; Deut. 15:1, 2].

10:32, 35, 36, 37 – “And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites”

10:39-c  “We will not forsake or neglect the house of our God.”

The people were determined to make right what was wrong and so should we today.

OUR NEED FOR REBUILDING – RESTORING BEGINS NOW!

EXAMINING ourselves in light of the world that surrounds us is a great place to start if you are looking for REVIVAL.

David – Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

[23]  “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

[24]  “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Allow the Holy Spirit to take away the hindrances and obstacles we’ve placed in God’s way.  Be honest with yourself.

  • Tell Him what you did wrong.
  • Is there someone or something you love more than Him?
  • Is God’s Word a concern to you?  Can you really worship Him, or has something taking the place of God in your spirit?
  • Tell Him the attitudes you have that aren’t good – pride, arrogance, jealousy, lust, unwillingness to forgive, laziness…

Allow Jesus to minister His CLEANSING & HEALING to your spirit.

  • If we CONFESS OUR SINS, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness.      (1 John 1:9)

____________________________________________________

CREDITS –

Christian views on SIN – Wikipedia.

Photos & Images:  Google Image Search – Settings advance, using referencing bible verses.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP);  New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.

 

Finding Your Purpose

 A Study in Nehemiah 3:1-32 [Be sure to have your Bible nearby!]

NEHEMIAH’S VISION – To rebuild the walls around Jerusalem (Chapter 2:5-8)

If OUR VISION is to start rebuilding in our churches, our communities, in a relationship, our trust, our faith…the time is now to put into action all the planning and praying.

To REBUILD successfully, you need VISION. 

What Is Your Purpose?

If there are others in your midst that are going to be a part of your intentions to REBUILD, what’s their vision, their expectations, their purpose?  If your vision and their vision aren’t the same there’s a problem!

What if Nehemiah’s workers built their own visions of the wall?  You most likely would have had a section of decorative fence, a section of wood, a section of the block, etc…The fence would’ve looked…stupid?

My wife and I are both ardent followers of Chip & Joanna Gain’s TV show, Fixer Upper.  And in a lot of shows we watch together, we have differing views of what should have been done:  “Too much shiplap for me.  I would have done it in beadboard.”  And Dianne would counter, “I love shiplap there!”

To rebuild successfully you’ll need someone to unify everyone.

You need to lead!

Nehemiah had noticed and was troubled that the wall of protection had fallen into disrepair.  He had defined the PURPOSE, communicated his discontent, motivated the people to accept the task.

Now the work began.

The walls of Jerusalem had fallen into sad shape for about 150 years, and Nehemiah was determined to REBUILD them and to end the shame brought upon the Jews in Jerusalem.  It was work that couldn’t be undertaken or carried out by one person.  It would take many people with common purpose and desire!

Nehemiah was wise enough to allow a variety of people, some more skillful than others to pitch in to help build the wall.

There’s a good lesson for us here.

Some of us have more skill than others.  Some have more experience than others.  Some have more wisdom than others.  But there’s a place for ALL willing to work.

GOD USES ALL TYPES OF PEOPLE!

Nehemiah Chapter 3, notice that there are:

  • Priests and Levites and other temple servants.
  • Goldsmiths, perfumers, and merchants.
  • Officials.
  • Men and women.

What are they doing?  WORKING!

Nobody is too young, too old, too poor, too rich.

God accomplishes His PURPOSE through people…

But people need leaders to motivate, not manipulate, and organize them for the cause.

There are some areas in your life, in my life, where we need to lead.

It is your life…your purpose and if you’re not going to care enough to make a decision to lead then why would someone else?

The same people listed in Nehemiah 3 had been living in the city for years, but the wall didn’t get built until God sent Nehemiah to lead the charge.

I thought it was interesting that Nehemiah is never mentioned by name in chapter 3, but his labor is behind the whole chapter.

So a LEADER must…not mind if the credit goes to others.

Nehemiah didn’t want a huge sign over the main gate or a bronze plaque reading:  The Nehemiah Memorial Wall.  Rather, Nehemiah was committed to the task.  He wanted the wall to be built so that God’s name, His glory, would be exalted in Jerusalem and His people no longer live in ridicule.  I would call GOD’S PURPOSE…REBUILDING PEOPLE!

Nehemiah knew that God would recognize his efforts.

Hebrews 6:10 (AMP)

[10] For God is not unrighteous to forget or overlook your labor and the love which you have shown for His name’s sake in ministering to the needs of the saints (His own consecrated people), as you still do.

Nehemiah was laboring to hear “well done” from the Lord.

With over 40 years in the construction industry and 5 years in sales management behind me…I learned by experience that MOTIVATING people on the job can be difficult at times.

MOTIVATING OTHERS AS A LEADER…

The Jews had been back in the land for 90 years, but the WALL for their own protection hadn’t been rebuilt.

But Nehemiah came along and got everyone excited about the rebuilding idea.

Motivation is a KEY to productivity.

The difficult thing about motivating others is what motivates some turns off others.  Even Nehemiah couldn’t get the nobles of Tekoa to join the project.

One way that Nehemiah motivated the people…now catch this; was assigning many of them to work on the portion of the wall that they had a particular interest in.  No one wants to be a square peg put in a round hole.  Me, included!

The priests worked on the SHEEP GATE where people would bring sacrifices to the temple.  Others repaired the wall in front of their own homes.

Jerusalem, 1940-1946

THE “DUNG” GATE

There are 12 Gates to the city of Jerusalem and I’ll admit that it might have been difficult to motivate someone to the task of building at the DUNG GATE.

Please make a note on this point:  IF YOU HAVE A BAD ATTITUDE ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING, others may have the same attitude.

As a LEADER, sometimes you’ve to be the ‘cheerleader’; get people excited about what they’re doing.

That brings us to PLANNING & ORGANIZING.

Leaders gotta do this!

It’s obvious the smooth operation taking place in Chapter and it is evident Nehemiah had done some extensive planning and organizing.  He had figured it out how to go about this huge task by breaking the project down into small manageable units.  He assigned the available workforce into various units, then worked to coordinate them so everything fit together.

Just a reminder here, its God who provides the strength.  He alone provides the skills.  He alone provides the wisdom.

God is looking for our FAITHFULNESS!

Even though you might feel that your contributions to a given task are insignificant in the process, everyone counts, every effort counts in God’s kingdom work.

There was a big job to be done in Jerusalem, and it took FAITHFULNESS from everyone to get it done.

WHAT FAITH CAN DO – “By FAITH…” Hebrews 11:21-34

  • Prompts us to do…
  • Activates us…
  • Arouses us…
  • Motivates us…
  • Urges us…
  • Helps us…

Delegate & Oversee –

Nehemiah couldn’t possibly have done all the work himself and neither can we.  Sometimes, being honest here, it’s easier to do the job myself than to delegate it; but as the task grows in size, the necessity to DELEGATE grows.

Nehemiah had to entrust the work ahead of time to the workers giving them authority (an important gift) to get the job done.  And by the way… delegating doesn’t mean dumping or dictating.  To dump something on someone and walk away from it isn’t effective leadership.

While all along, Nehemiah was delegating the workload, you can be sure that he went around inspecting and overseeing the progress, talking to his leaders, helping them keep things moving toward the GOAL.

In 3:20, Nehemiah makes a specific note on a worker’s ATTITUDE on the project:

Baruch “zealously” repaired another section…”

Apparently, Jeremiah knew not only WHO was doing what, but also HOW they were doing it.

We don’t use the word ZEALOUSLY in our ordinary conversation these days, at least I don’t, so I turned to the KJV Dictionary for an accurate definition:  ZEALOUSLY = WITH PASSIONATE ARDOR – WITH EAGERNESS.

Baruch did an exceptional job.

A leader must give proper recognition when due.

Apparently, Nehemiah wrote down in detail who was doing what on the project.  He mentions some workers completing more than one section of the wall; BUT…the important thing I noted…not every worker was recognized, yet God recognized them by including their names here.  Oh, that’s GOOD!  How many times over the years have I felt hurt in service because man wasn’t recognizing my efforts?

As a leader, you can’t get distracted…

And the enemy will do everything to try to distract you.

Nehemiah 3:5 (AMP)

[5]  The Tekoites repaired, but their nobles or lords did not put their necks to the work of their Lord.

Perhaps the nobles of Tekoa refused to “put their necks to work” was because their necks were stiff–from PRIDE.

To the nobles’ shame, the people of Tekoa built two sections of the wall, and some other towns nobles rolled up their sleeves and went to work; but Nehemiah didn’t expend any energy on the nobles of Tekoa.  Rather, he worked with the many willing workers.  Those who didn’t get involved were losers in the long run.

To rebuild successfully, you’re going to need the help of others.

The PEOPLE heard Nehemiah’s VISION and they responded by building.

The WORKERS were willing to complement each other.  Everyone couldn’t do the same job.  Some worked on the walls, others worked on the gates, others carried heavy stones, etc…   Some workers were willing to work outside of their areas of strength.  Some of the people did things they weren’t trained to do and were not even good at.  It had to get done and they were willing to do it.  And those who physically couldn’t work, as there are in churches today, spent time on their knees in prayer during the project.  We can all do that!

Some workers were willing to do less glamorous or desirable jobs.

In Nehemiah 3:14, Malchijah (a “goldsmith”) repaired the Reuse (or Dung) Gate.  This was the GATE to the dump and sewer.

CONCLUSION:

What can we take to heart and mind from this passage of Scripture?

It’s time to start REBUILDING in our communities, our families, our churches.  No more, “I’m no leader! Let someone else lead.”

The time is right now, so do it right!

_________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

Dictionaries Used:  KJV Bible Dictionary; Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Advanced settings.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), New International Version (NIV).

Commentary:  God’s Task, Our Task by Scott Spencer–Sermon Notes.