Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 27th - Count the Cost

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Swift Cantrel Preaching
Indian Christians murdered
David - College
Kyle - Mt. Paran
Greyson - Mom health, Uncle health, Job interviews
Tyler - Job interviews
Kari - Friend in hospital, Dance teacher's husband cancer
Tyler McIntosh's collar bone
Jennifer - Magnet Decisions

Text - Nehemiah 1

We're starting this morning the book of Nehemiah. There are many different types of writing in the Bible, the Epistles are letters which are to instruct and edify. Zechariah, which we just finished, is prophetic, it is teaching through dreams and visions and word-pictures. Other types are the poetry of Psalms, the wisdom of Proverbs, and the Narrative of the Gospels and Acts of the Holy Spirit. Each of these requires a slightly different teaching style, and Nehemiah, which is a Historical Narrative, will be best taught not line-by-line, but so that you see the major theme of each major event. If you get lost or confused it is imperative that you ask questions, because something that may seem totally obvious to me might be lost on you, since I've spent so much time already in this book.

Nehemiah comes as a package deal with Ezra, so much so that sometimes this book is called Ezra-Nehemiah. They are split up mainly because of scroll length when they weren't written in books, but on scrolls. The reason we are not going to Ezra right after Zechariah is because Ezra is an extremely fast paced, numbers-based, book which is really useful for giving us the timeframe of Zechariah, Haggai, Nehemiah, and Esther, but with not a lot of didactic material of its own. It would literally take us years to get through Ezra because every chapter would have us going to another minor prophet.

The reason we chose to do Nehemiah after Zechariah is because in Zechariah the major rebuilding effort was the Temple, now the major rebuilding effort in Nehemiah will be the wall of Jerusalem. Both of these books happen after the Babylonian exile, Zechariah in 522-518BC, and Nehemiah quite a bit later in 445BC. Remember that Jerusalem was burned in 586BC, so the fact that Jerusalem lay in rubble for so long is a very important point as we get a little farther into Nehemiah.

After the Jews were allowed to go home after the Babylonian exile, starting about 535BC, there were two major returns. The first was when Zechariah and Zerubbabel and Joshua led many back. The second was led by Ezra, quite a bit later. During this time there were trickling of Jews back in, but even as we see in the book of Acts in the AD40's that many Jews had not come back but had lived in foreign lands for hundreds of years.

It is very important to remember that God dwelt in a temple in Jerusalem during this time, so to have no interest to be near to Jerusalem was to have no interest to be near to God. In our days though, we remember that Jesus Christ, God the Son, created for himself a temple of flesh and dwelt in it; that if anyone is born again then the Holy Spirit dwells in them and they are a temple of God.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

It is massively important that we recognize that a Jew living willingly outside of Jerusalem in the 5th century BC was rejecting God. To the contrary, Daniel was forced to live outside of Jerusalem and he reacted this way,

Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Daniel knew where God dwelt, and prayed towards him, not at all happy that he was a prisoner in a foreign land. Remember this point, because it will be very important for our application at the end.

So that brings us to Nehemiah. Nehemiah is a man born outside of Israel in Persia (Modern Day Iran), he is probably about 60 years old, and many think he was probably a very smart and handsome man, because of his job he had as the Cupbearer of the king of Persia. A Cupbearer isn't just a waiter, it is a much more trusted position. It can be so high as to be the second in command of a nation. The Cupbearer is responsible for making sure the king is not poisoned, so it is a very trusted position. There have been no lack of Cupbearers in history who have betrayed their kings to death in order to try to steal the throne.

The Cupbearer is privy to all manner of military and kingdom secrets, and his advice is readily sought and desired by the king. So the first thing we learn about Nehemiah is that he has done very well for himself in the world, he is probably the richest and most powerful Jew in the world at this time, more so than even the governor of Jerusalem.

At this time, the land of Israel/Judah aren't even called by their names, but are called the "Province Beyond the River." Which river do you think it's beyond? The Jordan. It is a dark, dark day for Jerusalem, but Nehemiah seems to be oblivious, so let's start into Nehemiah,

Nehemiah 1:1-3 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the capital, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, "The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire."

The twentieth year is the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, so that definitively dates this book to 445BC. The month of Chislev is November, this will be more important in a bit, but not right now. There was constant traffic from Jerusalem to Susa, a capital city of Persia, some of whom would be Jews. Nehemiah talked with his brother named Hanani, who was either just coincidentally in Susa where Nehemiah was, or more likely perhaps Hanani sought Nehemiah out to try to improve the condition of Jerusalem. Nehemiah asks, basically, "How is the rebuilding of Jerusalem coming?" I don't think he gets the answer he was expecting at all, he is told they are shamed, in great persecution from surrounding peoples, and that their walls are still in shambles and the gates are wide open to any oppressor. The Holy Spirit greatly convicts Nehemiah and Nehemiah instantly goes into mourning.

Nehemiah 1:4-5 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, "O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments..."

Nehemiah goes into great mourning, both for the condition of Jerusalem, but I think more so for his own sin of being so affluent in a sinful place.

His prayer is fantastic, he starts here by quoting Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9. He shows himself to be well versed in the Hebrew scriptures, he quotes Daniel, Moses, and Ezra, and I love his beginning to this prayer, to the Lord God of Heaven. This prayer is asking both for forgiveness of the people Israel, and also for Nehemiah, and I think his opening shows that he has not mixed any of the Persian gods into his worship, but sees that God is the only God and Saviour. His prayer continues,

Nehemiah 1:6-7 Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.

Nehemiah confesses great sin before God, starting with the nation, then to his own house, then even himself. He is totally broken over this sin, as evidenced by his fasting and weeping for days, not just minutes. He continues now by appealing to God's faithfulness and that he responds to repentance,

Nehemiah 1:8-9 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.'

Nehemiah confesses that Israel's sins led to the exile and the condition of Jerusalem now, but he continues the verse from Deuteronomy, that if they repent then they will be returned to a place where God dwelt. Nehemiah is hoping for this repentance to lead to God turning his eyes and ears back in favor towards Jerusalem.

At this point we see that it was very clearly the sins of Israel that led to their great pain and destruction. Sometimes when bad things happen, it is the result of sin, especially in the context of a whole nation. But it is not always the result of sin. Like if you stub your toe you shouldn't go to try to figure out, "Which sin was it that God is punishing me for in the stubbing of my toe?" As children of grace, we do not expect every sin to receive a retribution, since they have been paid for on Calvary's cross. But we also have to see in the falling of nations and bad things that happen to cities can be seen to be punishment from God,

Amos 3:6 Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?

Does that mean that cities that have disaster in them are worse and cities that are safe was better? No, Jesus answered that question by saying, "Unless you repent, you shall likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5) Disaster is a punishment for sinners, and also a warning. This is a complex issue and I encourage to read Psalm 73 when you get a chance, which tackles it a lot deeper. Not everything bad that happens is a result of sin, but some things are. Like the condition of Jerusalem right now in Nehemiah's day is definitely a result of sin. Nehemiah is praying that God will forgive them and build them back up,

Nehemiah 1:10-11 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."

This is recognized as one of the greatest intercessions in the Bible, asking God to listen and save and rescue his people. We'll see much more next week on how Nehemiah brings it to fruition, but we need to remember that the beginning of all success starts with prayer. When I'm witnessing I like to remember that we have to talk to God about people before we talk to people about God.

John 9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.

We see in this case that Nehemiah is a worshipper of God, but he needs to do his will. It is impossible to be a follower of God and not be changed. Nehemiah at this point is a great sinner, he lives in absolute wealth and extravagance while his people perish. We'll see next week that he does God's will, he is changed, he does act on his worship of God.

This is very similar to one of my favorite conversations Jesus had in Luke 18,

Luke 18:18-30 And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said, "All these I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" But he said, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." And Peter said, "See, we have left our homes and followed you." And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."

There is a young man very like Nehemiah who has the world by the toes, he has every good thing, wealth, food, respect, power, and yet he is confronted with the fact that these things have become his idol. You can't go to Heaven by selling everything you own and giving it to the poor, what you must do is love God more than anything else, and we see that this young man wouldn't repent, and walked away sad, walking away from the greatest treasure in the universe. Jesus said that it was easier to get a two-ton dromedary through a 1 millimeter hole than to get a sinner into Heaven.

Jesus' followers recognized that they wouldn't make it either, so they said, "That sounds impossible." This is similar to Nehemiah's condition, in that he is the Cupbearer of the king, he cannot leave. He has all sorts of classified information, he knows where armies are, how big they are, how major campaigns are being waged, the tactics of the Persians, building projects and weaknesses of cities and provinces...if he asks to leave, it is very unlikely that the king will let him go. We'll see next week that what is impossible with men, is possible with God. After four months of praying, Nehemiah is allowed to return to Judah, leaving all manner of wealth behind him.

And this is not a call to leave all money and comfort, but it is a call to love God more than money and comfort. In the New Testament we see Christians with families and houses and wives and parents and children and even some with great wealth (Lydia), but these must not be your idols, or they will keep you out of the kingdom. Whatever you lose in this world will be repaid many times over in Heaven, Jesus calls us thusly,

Matthew 6:19-21 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

None of us should enter lightly into following Christ. He does not say, "Try it for a little while and if you don't like it, then go on your way." He does not say as many have dubbed "Pascal's Wager" that "It is better to believe in God and be right than not to believe in God and be wrong." or "If I'm right, then I'm fine, but if you're right, I'm fine."

No, Jesus calls for a much deeper and more committed discipleship. It is a discipleship that says if your own brother hates you for being a Christian, that you continue to be a Christian. It is a discipleship that says if you lose your life you will rejoice, if you lose your house you will continue to follow, if none go with you, you will walk alone with Christ.

Luke 14:25-33 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

So your application today is to not love the world or the things in the world, but to recognize that there is salvation and hope and everlasting happiness in only One. He requires much, but he also promises much, do not enter into his discipleship lightly, endeavor to be the best disciple he has ever had, or don't claim to be a disciple at all. Nehemiah prayed for 4 months before he decided to leave his worldly paradise to do the work of God, please be likewise praying and counting the cost, knowing that whatever you lose in Christ will be repaid to you many times over in Heaven.

Also, pray for your nation, for your church family, for your biological family, and for yourself, that you would be strengthened to withstand the temptations of the world, that you would be accurate representations of Christ in the world, and that through your life and ministry many would be saved. When we pray we don't pray towards Jerusalem, but towards Heaven, knowing that through Christ we are heard and that our prayers have great power because of him who has effected them.

Finally, as we'll look at next week, that Nehemiah is a type for Christ, he shows us some things about Christ which wouldn't take place for almost 500 years. Jesus Christ, God our Comforter, (Nehemiah means God comforts), stepped out of the kingdom of Heaven to be poor, to exchange our spiritual poverty for his spiritual affluence, he came to save his people, and he has secured salvation for those who once were exposed to the world without hope. Set your affections on this Christ, know that he always lives to make intercession for his saints, know that he has paid for all of your sins, both confessed and unconfessed, that he took our sins on himself and confessed them for us, so if we follow him, repenting towards him, and placing our full faith in him, then we are totally forgiven and will be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 20th - The Watchman

Prayer Requests

Pastor Aaron Preaching John 14

Princess Weekend

Men's Dinner

Athens Preaching

Swift Cantrel Preaching

Students Traveling:

-Hannah DC

-Westbrooks Caribbean

Kari Birthday

This morning we will look at a topical lesson at our purposes in evangelism. Please turn to Ezekiel 33, actually start in Jeremiah 23. Next week we will start Nehemiah 1, which is the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile. What major structure was rebuilt in Zechariah and Haggai? The Temple, this was also rebuilt after the Babylonian exile and the destruction of Jerusalem.

I realized as I was looking at Nehemiah 1 that I didn't do a very good job of explaining to you why Jerusalem was destroyed and Israel sold into captivity by God. This exile happened from 605~535BC. The sin of Israel was great, it started partly in her prophets, who preached "Peace!" when in fact there was no peace, neither peace with Babylon, nor peace with God. Prophets who were godly who warned beforehand were Isaiah and Micah, prophets who were godly who preached during the exile were Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. Prophets who were godly after the exile were Zechariah, Haggai, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Let's let a prophet tell us why God is so furious with false preachers then and now and why he sent Israel into captivity then, and the church today.

Jeremiah 23:9-32 Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and because of his holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. "Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. 12 Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the LORD. In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah." Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: "Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land." Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, 'It shall be well with you'; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No disaster shall come upon you.'" For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly. "I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds. "Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, 'declares the LORD.' Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD.

This passage perfectly sums up why Israel was taken into captivity, because they rejected God, substituted an idol, chased after their sin, and then found preachers who would tell them that God had no wrath and was not angry and did not require them to repent. These false prophets became a burden both to God and to the people, and so God sent them both from his presence in Jerusalem into far away lands, and also from his spiritual presence into everlasting pain. Besides lying prophets, Israel had a problem with prophets who wouldn't tell people about sin or the consequences of sin,

Isaiah 56:10 His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all dumb dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.

A lying or lazy prophet will reek havoc on a people spiritually, and we see this today in a myriad of preachers who say, "It will go well with you," or "No disaster shall come upon you," or "Live your best life now," or "I'm ok and you're ok," or any such thing pretending that God is not angry. Let me start out by saying because of our sin, you and I are in grave danger from the God of Heaven.

Hebrews 10:31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

There is but one hope, it is listed throughout the Bible, but my favorite is in

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

We are in Christ, not because we do good works, but by faith, but if we are in Christ, then we will do good works. If you have not been changed, not born-again, not seeking to the will of your Father who is in Heaven, then beloved, the chances that you still stand in condemnation are great. This message is a painful one, and one which is not popular today just as it was not popular then, check out Jeremiah's response when he preached this message, people HATED him for it, and though he preached for at least 50 years, he never so much as reaped one convert, because the people were so sinful:

Jeremiah 20:8-10 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my close friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him."

So now, let's go to our application. Every person who speaks for God is a prophet, if we speak of the true and living God, then we are true prophets, if we say we speak for God but we preach a different god, then we are false prophets. We do not receive new revelation, for in these latter days God speaks through his Word, but this revelation is more than sufficient and it is the Word of Faith which we are to proclaim. Let's read two verses to support this:

Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Romans 10:8 "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)...

Beloved, here is where it gets personal; you may say, I don't want the office of a prophet, I don't want the derision of Jeremiah, I don't want to be persecuted, so I will not speak for God and therefore will not have this responsibility. But just by your affiliation with a Christian church, you have a reputation as a Christian, and if you do not speak then you fall into the camp of the lazy and hungry dumb dog of Isaiah, and you tell the world that the message of Christ is not worth proclaiming.

I don't say this simply to scare you, but to impress upon you the huge responsibility and privilege you have in being called out of the darkness into the light of Christ, that we cannot waste this life nor this Word we have been given, not just to avoid punishment, but there is a threat of punishment,

Luke 12:47-48 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Not just to avoid punishment, but for the great reward of both the glory of Christ, and to be welcomed home as a faithful witness,

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'

It has taken us a while to get to Ezekiel 33, but here we are. Ezekiel was a great sinner, sent away from the presence of God in the Babylonian exile, but who was called to be a prophet in Ezekiel 2. He was instantly changed and declared the Word of God to many and converted some and angered others. In chapter 3 he is given a command which he heeds, which is again reiterated in chapter 33. This is reiterated for a purpose, to assure us that the office of prophet is not a one-time command, but extends over our entire lifetime. So let's read

Ezekiel 33:1-9 The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. "So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

The picture here is of a watchman set in a high tower to watch for danger. His job is simple, it is not to defend the people against an army, it is simply to see an army coming and sound a trumpet saying, "There is danger coming, brace yourself!" This is his one and only job.

He can fail in this job one of two ways. First by seeing the advancing army and not caring. Or two by falling asleep and missing the advancing aggressor, or by seeing the aggressor and being too lazy to do anything to warn the people.

Either way, this failed prophet/watchman will answer for his sin to God.

How can we see this in our life? Is a real army going to march upon Swift Cantrel? Very unlikely. But is there a great danger from God towards sinners? Yes, check out

Nahum 1:8-9 But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.

Let's read some places where the Apostle Paul quoted or alluded to this passage:

Acts 18:6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."

Acts 20:26-27 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

This is our charge, to never shrink of declaring the whole counsel of God, to proclaim Christ and him crucified, the offense of the cross, telling people that they must repent or perish, they must be born again to inherit the kingdom of God. Now, if we are genuinely a Christian, but we fail to do our duty as the watchman, will we lose our salvation? Let's let 1 Corinthians 3 answer that:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

We're not saved by our efforts, but the efforts of Christ, so we cannot lose our salvation, but we can be disobedient and enter Heaven with nothing to show for our lives at all. Lecrae says, "I would hate to never lead someone to Christ before I face the Lord."

So what do we say? Ezekiel continues,

Ezekiel 33:10-20 "And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: 'Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?' Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? "And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, though I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live "Yet your people say, 'The way of the Lord is not just,' when it is their own way that is not just. When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this.

There is salvation in none other than Jesus Christ, who is the just and the justifier, the righteous one who died for the unrighteous. If we do not repent towards him, putting on his righteousness, then we will fall in the final judgment. But wearing his righteousness, him paying for our sin and rising again, we have a strong and perfect plea, we will live.

So let us go out and proclaim this message of reconciliation, let us not be dumb dogs, let us not be lying prophets. We have the words of eternal life, let us declare them with boldness, both so that we are not bad stewards and watchmen, but so that many will turn and live, and Christ will get the glory for being a perfect Saviour, and we will be welcomed into Heaven on the phrase, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 13th - Superbowl Debrief

Prayer Requests
David Preaching
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Superbowl Outreach Results
Kari's friend Kyle - Death of mother, heart attack of father
Hannah - Washington Trip
Jennifer - Magnet Admittance
Greyson - Job Interviews

Text - Zechariah 14:16-21

Today we are going to finish up Zechariah with a definite application of world-evangelization.

Since Tyler and myself and 108 of our closest friends went to the Superbowl we have lots of sermon illustrations for this lesson, so the second part of this lesson will be a Superbowl debrief.

The very end of Zechariah is an amazing prophecy for world-evangelization. God has always had a chosen people, starting first with the descendents of Seth, then to Abraham, then to the people Israel descended from Jacob. This selectivity shows that God is Sovereign in the world and has a plan and a purpose for everything that happens, that he is orchestrating history, and is under no requirement to save anyone at all, but in his grace has a small remnant of saints amongst rebels.

If you asked a Jew in Zechariah's time, or even today, you'll most likely hear that God's chosen people is the nation Israel, and God is not particularly interested in people outside of Israel. But chapter 14 is going to show us otherwise, the God will be saving from every nation and tongue.

It's always good to check the New Testament to make sure it agrees with our interpretation of the Old Testament, and here we definitely see that it does:

Revelation 5:9-10 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

So, what was the major event that happened in the beginning of chapter 14 of Zechariah? Major battles and Christ's total victory. The language used at the end of this passage is great, because it really paints a great picture of Heaven and of Christ.

Zechariah 14:16-21 Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the LORD afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, "Holy to the LORD." And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.

All survivors will recognize that God is the King of the earth, and they celebrate a very specific feast, it is called the Feast of Booths, or probably a better title is Feast of Tabernacles. This feast commemorates a time when God lived with the Israelites in the desert when Moses had led them out of captivity from Egypt. This was a very important feast because it reminded the Jews that God was with them and dwelt with them and cared for them and would be their Saviour. Basically what this feast was was the Jews would built little tents in their front yards or on their flat roofs or in the center of town, and live in them for a week, both to remind themselves of God's provisions, and to remember that ultimately they must dwell with him if they would live. So that brings us to the greatest verse in all of scripture, if you only memorize one verse in your entire life, you need to memorize this verse, it is the summation of the whole Old Testament, John 1:14. Let's start at verse 1 for context:

John 1:1,14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus Christ, God himself, tabernacled among us, he built a tent out of flesh and came and lived in it. So this feast of Tabernacles that we will celebrate for eternity is not us living in tents in our back yards, no, it is so much more grand, it is us recognizing that Jesus Christ is God with us, he is the Word Incarnate, the gracious God, the True God, the full weight of glory of the Father, and that we have put on his righteousness and his Spirit dwells in us and makes us holy. Anyone who rejects this Christ as the true Tabernacle will be rejected,

vv.17-19 And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the LORD afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.

The language here is very prophetic, it's something the Jews would have understood without knowing exactly how Christ would save them, so it relates it in language they would understand giving allegiance to a sovereign conquering king. What is missing from this passage is any idea that the decision is reversible; if a nation changes its mind there is no chance of blessing after they have rejected the Conquering King.

Look at the language of the curses, there will be no rain, we can very clearly see Hell described in this passage, look at one description of Hell in Luke 16:

Luke 16:24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.'

And there is a final nail in the coffin for anyone who thinks they will find blessing somewhere else, like Egypt doesn't really need rain because they have the Nile River, so God adds pain to the lack of moisture. The other curse is a plague for punishment, it doesn't take much to see this described in the endless torment and wailing of Hell. We could say these are the people who say, "I don't need Christ, I'm good enough," or "Mohammed will save me," or "Mary will save me," or, "my suffering in purgatory will save me," or even, "My ceasing to exist will end my torment." No, there is no other Saviour than Christ, and God knows how to keep them in eternal punishment, as it says in 2 Peter 2.

So all who recognize Christ as God in the flesh, and who honor him as such, will be saved and receive blessing after blessing after blessing, but those who will not recognize him will face an endless punishment because their sin against a Sovereign and Infinite King will require an infinite retribution.

vv.20-21 And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, "Holy to the LORD." And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.

These verses describe Heaven, where everything is totally holy. The smallest ornaments will be holy, there will be no need for Priests, which is where, "Holy to the Lord" used to be found, because there will be no need for atonement for sins, both because the atonement has been perfectly completed by Christ, AND because there will be no sin to atone for. Everything down to your coffee cups will be holy, as if they had been cleansed in the temple. And we will forever offer a sacrifice of praise to God for our salvation, partaking in the blessings forever and ever.

And the book of Zechariah concludes with a great little phrase, that there will never again be a sinner/trader/Canaanite in Heaven ever again.

So, let's transition to real world application; evangelism and world-missions. Right now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of nations that have no believers in Christ from them. When we think nations, we think big massive governmental systems, but a nation can actually be much smaller. In early American evangelism it was an exciting time because many thought it was the last frontier to bring the gospel to, and they catalogued Indian nations and found there were thousands of them. Growing up I always remember that he Hopi and Navajo Indians were very careful to call themselves nations.

The main reason that Christ is not returning today is that many of his saints have not yet believed, and many of these are in currently-lost nations. So it is vital for us to be hastening his return by sharing his gospel. We live in such an amazing age today that we are able to witness to Christ in ways previously unknown of, like the internet, or skype, or online games. Another way is our airport in Atlanta has multitudes of foreigners travel through it daily. And yet another way is to visit major sporting events which draw massive crowds.

Last weekend Tyler and myself and six others from Atlanta drove to Dallas for the Superbowl. We went because there were probably half-a-million visitors in Dallas/Fort Worth for this event.

We were in Dealey Square, where Kennedy was shot, and an Egyptian demonstration sprouted up behind us. My guess is that there were 150 protestors there, mostly Muslims. This fall of Mubarak is a horrible thing for the world, and will cause great damage to the world, the fact that our president supports the Muslim Brotherhood in this tragedy is horrendous.

The demonstration happened under a guise of democracy and social justice, but truly it is a means for Islamic domination of the nation. At the rally I read Revelation 3:14-21 on how God is against democracy and calls for people to recognize him as King. The Muslims were using a public address system, which I clearly had to preach over. I really surprised the man speaking when I was so loud, and the Muslims moved very close to me to try to intimidate us. As soon as I knew I had their attention I preached the gospel and called them to repentance. Later my friend Rich preached for over an hour with our public address system.

At the rally my friends were talking to various people, one of them talked to an Egyptian woman named Messina who believed that Jesus was just a prophet. My friend asked, "Can prophets lie?" She said no. He asked, "Well then was Jesus lying when he claimed to be God?" The woman said, "I've always wondered about that." They were able to answer many of her questions.

Another group of my friends talked to a man from Jordan who had gotten saved a few months ago. He had no idea where to go for discipleship, and was getting some really bad information from various places. My friends were able to show him a little about how to read the Bible, and they got his contact information to hopefully help find him a church near where he lives.

Another man from Jordan was given a Muslim specific gospel tract and read the entire thing, which was not short. Probably every Muslim there got that tract, given out by a new evangelist who really stepped out of his comfort zone to call people out of the darkness into the light, to be a part of the chosen nation of Christ.

I was getting flustered and my friend Bobby asked me if I wanted to go somewhere else to talk to some people, I assented and went with my friend Katherine to share the gospel. It so happened that the first people we talked to were from France; four 17-18 year olds. They had no idea who Jesus is or what he has done, and it was a real treat to get to witness to them. They tried to say that they didn't need to worry about their sin because they didn't believe in Jesus; I corrected them to say that it doesn't matter what they believe, judgment is coming and they must flee from the wrath to come. At the beginning of the conversation I used the example that they could get hit by a bus and stand before God today. At the end of the conversation one of them was so anxious to get away that he almost ran into traffic. I told him, "Don't you get hit by a bus until you've had time to think about this!"

Afterwards Tyler and I approached a group of five local kids hanging out next to a parking lot. As we approached it became readily apparent by odor that they were smoking Marijuana. Two of them ran off as soon as I started talking, I thought it was to get away from the light, but I think what they did was run off and stash their drugs, because they came back after not too long and got to hear the gospel.

That night as we were waiting to eat in a crowded restaurant lobby my friends Peter and Alex had the idea to do what is called "eavesdrop evangelism" where they share the gospel over their cell-phone with the hopes that people around them will listen in on the conversation.

I open-air preached at the train station and got to talk to two totally lost girls who claimed to be Southern Baptists. It was a running theme through the week to talk to people who thought they were Christians but had no idea of the basics. We gave them tracts and a book on what the gospel is.

Late that night we ended up preaching in front of an Usher concert, there was a line of about 250 people and we got to tract and preach to the whole crowd. Sometimes when you're preaching you need to gather a crowd, other times the crowd is provided for you. A drunk guy came up to tell us we were evangelizing wrong, and over the course of a long conversation it became apparent that he didn't believe the Bible, that God is Trinity, or that drunkenness and fornication is a sin, and we left him knowing that we did not consider him a brother and that he needed to repent.

At the Superbowl we gave out about a hundred thousand tracts, and preached all over the stadium. It was a great day and many many people from all over the world heard the gospel. I was preaching in front of the Rangers Stadium, doing what is called stoplight preaching, which means you need to deliver the message very quickly, between a minute to three minutes. My friend Eddie had my open-air stand, so I was at street level, while it's always good to have some elevation over your audience so your voice will carry farther. Once when I was preaching a guy said, "You're too loud." I responded, "Sir, you're too close."

My open-air sermon when something like this: Hello sports fans, we're with Sports Fan Outreach International out of Atlanta, Georgia. We're here partly because we like football, we were here last year because we like baseball, but the main reason we're here is because we want to see you in Heaven some day. Every major religion says that in order to go to Heaven you must be a good person. I know from the Bible that almost everyone of us will proclaim our own goodness, but we have a problem, Jesus said, "There is none good but God." So let's test ourselves to find out if we're right, or if the Bible is right. Here is the good person test: Have you ever told a lie? What do you call someone who lies? A liar, right? Have you ever stolen anything, regardless of value? Here is the good news for your Packer fans, it doesn't make you a Stealer, but here is the bad news, it does make you a thief. Have you ever taken God's name in vain? When we do that we set our mouths against Heaven, we declare war on the God who made us. And the one that got me, you've heard it said of old, thou shalt not commit adultery, but Jesus said that if you look with lust you've committed adultery already in your heart. Those are four of the Ten Commandments, there are six more and they don't get any easier, if you've broken them then you are not a good person, but a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart, and you have to stand before God on judgment day. But God, in his great mercy and by the great love by which he loved us, sent his Son Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, to live a perfect life and die willingly for our sins on the cross. We broke the law, he paid our fine. Three days later he defeated death, proving he was who he said he was, so now if we repent of our sins and place our full trust in him to save us, we will be saved, for he who knew no sin became sin for us so that we may become the righteousness of God in him. I implore you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God! Thank you for listening to me, enjoy the game!

That night we wanted to go eat and watch the game on TV, but we ended up at a Chili's where they didn't have TV's except in the bar. It was alright though because we had great fellowship. We asked our waitress if there was anything we could pray for her about, and she said no. As we were ready to leave she asked us which church we went to, and we explained that we were from out of town. We had two girls with us, Eve and Katherine, both amazing young women with great theology and boldness, and Katherine took over this conversation, encouraging the girl to read her Bible. At the end Katherine asked to pray for her and when Katherine was done the girl was crying and really touched by the compassion of our group.

A couple days before Eve had read the entire book of Second Corinthians in the open-air in Fort Worth.

It was really a great trip and hopefully people from many nations and tongues will be added to the kingdom of Christ. I pray that it encourages you to share your faith and go out and preach Christ to your friends and neighbors. Our next major evangelism outreach will be the Big Shanty Festival in April, so be praying about going with us.