Friday 10th July 2020
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Welcome to Digital Church, I hope you find the teaching useful. My prayer is that you will be encouraged in your walk with the Lord and that you will bring glory to his name.
Letter 14: Living within the walls 02/07/2020
When Nehemiah made his initial survey of the city walls (Nehemiah 2v17-18) the task to rebuild must have seemed huge. The destruction, the rubble that lay in the way, the ruined materials and the need to build new gates would in themselves all seem massive tasks at any time, but add to this that the people were few in number and had families to support and at the same time needed to build and stand watch while enemies looked on; the job could be seen as almost impossible, a job that would take years to complete; yet fifty two days later the walls had been finished and their enemies instantly lost their self confidence.
These two verses are important verses for us to keep in mind as over the last few weeks we have looked at ourselves and the church with sober judgement (Romans 12v3); the task that needs to be undertaken can seem impossible and our little bit of building may look as if it will hardly make an impact; yet we see that with the Lords help and strength, in under two months, the city walls had been rebuilt and the same is true of our spiritual walls today. It is at times like this that we need to understand that starting a work that seems impossible is what real faith is all about, undertaking a job that in our own strength seems impossible, yet trusting that the Lord will lead, guide and fulfil His plans for us (Philippians 4v13); for our God is a God of the impossible.
This week we will start by looking at the builders themselves to see what we can learn and the first lesson is the walls were rebuilt by a whole variety of people, from the small to the great. Priests and rulers, craftsmen and traders all worked alongside each other with the goal of completing the task in hand. One thing we notice though is that the men led the work, we read in Nehemiah 3v12 that the daughters of Shallum helped in the work, and I am sure other women helped elsewhere, but what is important to understand here is that the men led their families by example. This is an important spiritual principle for any leader and highlights the difference between management and leadership. A manager tells people what to do, a leader shows people by example, by going first. This was the way Jesus taught his disciples and we see the same principle when Paul writes to Timothy to tell him what to look for in leaders for the church (1 Timothy 3v1-10). He was to look for those who led their families by example as this is the real fruit of the spirit that the Lord wants to see in all our lives (Galatians 5v22-24). This means that the men of the church need to step up to the job and get to work and lead by example. In this day and age I hear complaints about churches putting women in positions of leadership in conflict with the guidance of Paul as we saw earlier in 1 Timothy 3v1-10. However, the real issue is not "Why are the women leading?" The real issue is "Why are men not leading?" Why are the so called "Men of God" not willing to take their place of leadership? It is easy to complain about things while sitting and watching, the Kingdom of God is not a spectator sport, it is an active living walk with God, a calling on our servant hearts (Romans 1v1) and one in which the men of God need to stand up and lead the way, not in talk but in action.
These same issues occurred during the rebuilding of the walls. Some men saw themselves as being above doing manual work (Nehemiah 3v5), and even worse, some of these men, instead of helping the situation, actually made the work harder for those doing the rebuilding, putting an extra burden on the workers (Nehemiah 5v6-8) to the extent that they even finished up making slaves out of the workers; wanting the protection of the wall, while to their shame, exploiting the workers building them. For them, business, making money and building their own little kingdom was far more important to them than the work being done, exactly the opposite to the ways of God (Matthew 6v33). As the walls are rebuilt, men of God need to be willing to stand up and lead by example, individually knowing what the Lord has called them to and not waiting for others to go first. This hypocrisy has to stop if the Kingdom of God is going to move forward; everyone starting with the leaders and family heads needs to show by example the seriousness of the work at hand, but also the need for each one of us to live within the walls and the restrictions those walls may bring. It is so easy to want to see everything done in the right way, providing it does not impact our own lives. As we see in Nehemiah, once the walls had been built, a call was put out for people to leave their homes and move in behind the walls (Nehemiah 11v1-36). For the church to move forward, for the walls to be defended, needs a lot more than just the pastors and elders to live within the walls. It needs the whole church to take up its position of being a holy nation before God (1 Peter 2v9-12), for revival has always come from a foundation of prayer and repentance that leads to holiness; not a holiness that leads to a separation from the world, but a holiness that stands out in the world and shows love to the world around while being able to return to the safety of the walls that surround and protect the temple and the altar of sacrifice.
Ten weeks ago we looked at the idea of the church being in exile and how exile was a period that God used to bring the Israelites to an understanding of just how far they had fallen. The promises God made to the Israelites in exile is as true today as it was in the days of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29v10-14). They would endure exile, but through that exile they would come to know the blessings of God when they once again sought Him with all their heart. As churches in the UK and indeed all over the world, we will have had over one hundred days of exile. Over one hundred days to think and ponder on the things of God. Over one hundred days to have sought Him and asked Him what needs to change in our lives and in the life of the church. In many ways we have been given a huge task, removing rubble and rebuilding on the message of Christ crucified. The difficult question we need to ask is; Have we been changed in the last one hundred days? Are we looking forward to a new start or are we just anxious to get back to the way things used to be, to go back to the comfort of the old routine?
Nehemiah 9v1-38 is the confession of the Israelites of their sin, their constant walking away from the ways of the Lord and the understanding that the Lord in His discipline has been just and merciful towards them. It is as if at this point they have understood the ways of God and regained a holy fear of the Lord. Nehemiah 10v28-39 is their response, their repentance. Not a set of words, but a set of actions to be undertaken to ensure that Gods laws would be fulfilled within the walls and that the verses we started with in Nehemiah 6v15-16 would continue to be fulfilled in their lives and the generations to come bringing glory to God; it looks like everything is going to finish with a glorious happy ending, if only that was true.
After some time Nehemiah had to return to Babylon for a short period and in that short period we find that foreigners once again had been given rooms in the temple (Nehemiah 13v6-9) and that people had once again let business take over from the things of God (Nehemiah 13v15-22) and finally the people quickly intermarried with the nations around them creating a nation that no longer knew it's own language (Nehemiah 13v23-31). It was a pattern that continued for the years to come and that Jesus saw when he entered the temple and found that it had become a marketplace (Mark 11v15-17); yet let us remember that the Israelites thought everything was alright. Even more alarming is that the spiritual leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were the ones that opposed the ways of Jesus more than anyone else and led the call for him to be crucified (Luke 22v1-6 & 23v1-2).
Let that last thought sink in for a moment. Those who regarded themselves as the spiritual elite, the guardians of the laws of God, led the call for the rejection, removal and crucifixion of Christ, the Son of God, rejecting his teaching and his ways, and even accusing him of being of the Devil (Matthew 12v22-32). Meanwhile, those who recognised themselves as sinners found salvation through Christ then and to this day, as they humbled themselves and repented of their sinful ways.
The Bible warns us that in the end times there will be a great falling away (Matthew 24v10), it is so easy to think of that falling away as meaning that churches will be empty, however Jesus is not talking about falling away from church, He is talking about falling away from faith in Him. Faith in walking in His footsteps, faith in walking in the ways of Christ crucified; falling away from the message of Christ crucified is easily done while still attending a church. He reinforces this message in Matthew 11v6 after the death of John the Baptist, warning those around that following the path of Christ crucified is difficult in this world and will face opposition and persecution even unto death. As we have seen before in Matthew 7v15-23, we are warned that if we stray from the true message of Christ crucified that brings about the true fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5v22-25), we may be active in our church, yet be far away from the Lord himself.
For us, as individuals, are we willing to work hard to build on the foundation of Christ crucified or do we want to find teachers who will tell us what our itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4v3-4)? For you can be sure that in the end times, those false prophets will not be preaching to empty churches, it is why Timothy was to stay calm and continue to preach the true message of Christ crucified (2 Timothy 4v2). False prophets have always given the people what they want to hear while God Almighty gives us the truth in Christ. These are all things that we need to spend these last days of exile thinking and praying about so that once again we are clear on the direction in which the Lord wants us to go.
So as we come out of our exile, rather than having our heads held high, let us walk in true humility and repentance and obedience before our God (Micah 6v8), that we may bring glory to the name of Jesus for all He has done for us through the cross.
1 Peter 1v13-16
The Spiritual Man
"The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed."
So often we talk about walking according to the Spirit or being led by the Spirit when we really have little idea what these terms mean.
This short book looks at some of our attitudes and behaviours and challenges what is being led of the Holy Spirit and what is being led of the flesh and how can we change how we are led.
Author: Simon Coward
Number of Pages: 42
Click to Download or Order
A Walk in the Park
An easy to read book covering the basics of Christianity in short chapters. ideal for new believers or those wondering what Christianity is all about.
Author: Simon Coward
Number of Pages: 44
Click to Download or Order
Letter 14: Living within the walls
When Nehemiah made his initial survey of the city walls (Nehemiah 2v17-18) the task to rebuild must have seemed huge. The destruction, the rubble that lay in the way, the ruined materials and the need to build new gates would in themselves all... (read more)
Letter 13: Rebuilding the walls Part 3
This week we will continue look at some of the issues around rebuilding of the spiritual walls of our lives and in turn the church, but before we look at some of the problems that can arise, we need to take a close look at o... (read more)
Letter 12: Rebuilding the walls Part 2
Last week we started to look at the idea of building walls and their purpose of keeping the enemy out of the city, figuratively our lives and our churches. We saw how Jerusalem was seen to be in great trouble and distress (Nehemiah 1v3) because thes... (read more)
Letter 11: Rebuilding the walls Part 1
Last week we looked at the return of the Israelites from captivity and how they started at the altar of sacrifice and then around that altar built the temple of God .
It would be nice to think that that was the end of ... (read more)