Sunday, September 27, 2009

"A Jealousy for Integrity" - notes for sermon 27/09/09

(hear the sermon here)

Why did Nehemiah have such a heart for the walls to be rebuilt?
  • Not a desire to see his “home-town” win the prettiest village award, nor about beautifying the City, but a heart to see the identity of God's people protected & secured.
  • "pleasing God is more important than pleasing people"
  • This required jealousy for integrity needs to be long-term and not incidental: Spurgeon called his monthly magazine "The Sword and the Trowel" because he knew we must be prepared to build and to fight simultaneously.

The walls in Jerusalem were not just for protection from physical threat, but also from corrupting spiritual integrity (Ch 13):
The walls we build here at Beacon will be tested...

  • What are they? 
  • Walls = "Securing identity and community"
  • Community/cell life; Relationships/Accountability; iron sharpens iron
  • Service – protects our identity (“Love one another”) - are you serving?
  • Our leaders - Nehemiah spoke to the nobles & officials & people in that order, not just "everyone": the vision dissipates from leadership down, protection too. This is why we are being more deliberate about Cell leadership, etc
How we submit our thought lives to Him is another wall (personal integrity): IF WE ARE SAVED INTO A BODY, THEN YOUR SIN/SPIRITUAL CONDITION AFFECTS THE REST OF US TOO.

So, "we" build our walls, and what happens? Attack! v1-3 = taunts, 7,8,11 = death threats

  • Why? Jerusalem was herself a threat (economic: on the E-W trade rte) 
  • The church is also a threat itself in the spiritual realm; we will face opposition

We need to remain continually vigilant for our family, our marriages, our church life, our personal integrity...

  • Opp comes from inside AND outside the church 
    • OUTSIDE: The Jews were literally surrounded: see v7 = N, S, E & W!
    • We are surrounded too:
      • Accusations of fundamentalism/dogmatism
      • Taunts on the subjects of Evolution/abortion/sexuality, etc
  • HOWEVER, unfortunately, also from within the church [v10 & 12] 
    • = cynicism & unbelief – don’t be one of those people
    • apathy – if you don’t want opposition, don’t do anything!
    • those who don't grasp vision or trust God or the leaders (v10&12)
    • [elders look out for ungodly agendas: Tobiah 13 yrs on in temple!]
  • 1st RESPONSE = v4 & v9: PRAYER! THEN practical arrangements (v9) 
God is 100% committed to His people; This jealousy for integrity on God's behalf
ensured HIS promises were fulfilled: that His Son Messiah came at the right time through the right blood-line (including Zerubbabel!!!)

  • He will fulfil his purposes today too. So pray with that in mind! 
  • Prayer helps us see this. Here's a nuclear fusion of truth:
    • take Isa 43.10b :"Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me"
    • and Psa 119.68a: "You are good and do good"
    • Two amazing atoms of truth, now combine them, & pray again!
  • v14-15 : Nehemiah follows the same: remind, then pray...
  • THEN came the action, “setting the guard”, where the weaknesses were, stationed... SWORD AND TROWEL IN HAND
While there's still weak spots in our defences, we have a responsibility to deal with them, to repair our breaches: Peter 5.8: "Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour"

  • as we grow, as we repair cracks, as we close our breaches, opposition & attack is inevitable - BE PREPARED!!!
  • In order to repair them, we need to know where they are:
    • Resisting temptation can be helped by general rules of thumb/look for the patterns (when/where/who/how do I feel before etc?)
  • Rick Warren: "Sin always has a temporary payoff. You wouldn’t do it if it didn’t. If sin had the pain of a root canal, it wouldn’t be a problem. There’s pleasure in sin. The Bible says it’s fun. But the pleasure is short-term. When you sin, you’re trading short-term pleasure for long-term damage and destruction. It’s not a good deal."
  • Corporately, our breaches can be: 
  • Disunity; cynicism & unbelief; gossip; pride; apathy

It is easy to run hard for a period and then run out of steam

  • REMEMBER: within 13 yrs: intermarrying again, Tobiah in temple! 
  • Apathy is a big enemy to the church; we must remember we are in this for the long haul... The people of Judah began to think the job was too much: "The builders' strength is failing; there's too much rubble; we can't do it by ourselves" (v10)
  • BUT: they were simply losing sight of what resources they had and Who was on their side! When you lose sight of Who: read Book of Revelation (chapter 19!).......
  • All it took was a man of vision like Nehemiah to show them not only the preferable future, but also that they COULD do it
  • And then, despite overt opposition & threats AND with a reduced workforce (½ holding the armour or carrying spears)
  • AND the builders working with swords strapped to their sides
  • THEY DID IT IN 52 DAYS! A WHOLE CITY'S WALLS! About 4.5 miles (Josephus)
But thru seeing God's dream - WHICH HE WILL FULFIL – of His Son Messiah being glorified amongst us and our community, and setting our hearts on unfolding His purposes IN THE LONG TERM – with VIGILANCE and PERSISTENCE, then we - like Ezra and Neh - will see the church here in Herne Bay no longer running with a limp, but making great strides for the kingdom, FOR HIS GLORY

  • Having a heart of jealousy for the integrity of God's people is not arrogance, or lack of humility, it is only reflecting God's own heart:
  • Zech 1.14: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion"
  • If we don’t have that heart, we have some serious talking with God to do...
  • A JEALOUSY 4 INTEGRITY of God's people reflects our God's hrt, and is reflected in how we build the walls that protect our identity and community – SWORD AND TROWEL IN HAND
Remember the 1st rule of Fight Club!!!

Cell Q's:

  1. Look at Nehemiah's prayer in 4.4-5: How do we reconcile this kind of prayer with what we've been led to believe is the “appropriate” heart to pray with?
  2. How can cell enable a long-term perspective amongst us?
  3. Discuss the difference between genuine tiredness – and the need to take some “Sabbath” time out - and a need to persist in God’s strength. How many of us feel tired and what do we usually do about it?

Read more!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ezra & Nehemiah events timeline

(For the new Beacon sermon series Autumn term '09)

Read more!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beacon Touchpaper #14: "The Author's Perspective"

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." (2 Tim 3.16, ESV)

Many people look at Scripture in a manner akin to any other historical texts - as documents written by men of old, in days unlike ours, and therefore of interest possibly but certainly not relevant. Unfortunately, that's because they don't see the real authorship behind it.

A decision made last week by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has only proven similar: they voted to allow practising gays as clergy, a case that sparked the same worldwide debate as occurred last year when the Anglican Church faced similar issues. One advocate said, "We live today with an understanding of homosexuality that did not exist in Jesus' time and culture. We are responding to something that the writers of Scripture could not have understood." Except the Corinths of 2000 years ago were exactly the same as the Brightons, Amsterdams, Seattles, etc of today, of course. The writers may not have understood how modern culture will look and act today necessarily, but the Author of Scripture most certainly would. Nothing takes God by surprise.

The Bible is more than a book, more than a guide, more than just a manual; it is God's revelation to us of Himself, it is prophetic, it is inspired through man (as opposed to the common assumption that it was written simply by man), it is His living Word... it is literally "breathed out by God".

The Bible is 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents - way too many factors to allow for conspiracy or coincidence! And yet this collection of books shares the wonderful common storyline: of a glorious plan to create and rescue a people made to glorify and enjoy God forever. That has never changed. "Times they are a changin" as someone once said, but Jesus Himself affirms, "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10.35).

In which case, ask the following when talking to others about the Bible: Do we understand the Bible in the light of our own lives and surrounding culture? Or do we understand our lives and surrounding culture in the light of the Bible?

Read more!