In the days and weeks to come, will you remember the Anderson family? Just be steadfast in your prayers for them, understanding that although these first few days are very difficult, the days ahead will also be difficult. We want to remain steadfast in prayer for them. Where they have needs we will let the body know. Where they need help in this area or that area we will make those thing known. But the best thing we can do right now is to just mourn with those who mourn and pray for our brother and sister, that God’s peace would make himself known in their home even now.
If you have your Bibles, let’s go to Nehemiah, chapter 8. All the more in light of the Andersons’ situation this morning, we need the Word of God to soothe and help our souls. For the past few months we’ve been walking through the book of Nehemiah. As we’ve walked through Nehemiah, we’ve walked through it a bit differently than we’ve done other books.
Historically, if I’m preaching through a book of the Bible, we tend to go line by line through that book and do what’s called “exegesis.” We take the text apart and look at it and put it back together and then apply it, whereas with Nehemiah we’ve taken the book and approached it thematically. Rather than line by line, we look at chunks of it at a time, and then pull from it a biblical theme, a theme seen throughout the Scriptures, and then apply that to our lives.
The first week, as we looked at Nehemiah, we saw a man 800 miles away from his people, from the city of God that laid in ruins. The walls were broken down. The gates had burned out. That means nothing to most of us, because we live in a place where help is just a phone call away. You can dial 9-1-1, and very quickly, depending on where you are in Dallas, the police will show up and can provide assistance.
In this period of time, gates and walls were your security. Without those gates and walls, anarchy would rule the day. Without the gates and the walls, you would be on the receiving end of all sorts of bands of marauders, those who would steal, those who would kill, those who would rape and pillage. That would have been the norm. Anarchy reigned among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the city of God.
Nehemiah, 800 miles away in the palace of the king of Persia (a wine tester for him, so he’s living large) hears that people he has never met, who are ethnically and religiously lined up with him but in no other way are lined up with him… He hears of the situation they are in and is devastated by the news. In fact, so devastated is he by the news that our current sensibilities probably couldn’t stomach it. I mean, for days, if not weeks, our brother Nehemiah is weeping and praying and fasting and is so disheveled by the news coming out of Jerusalem that he can hardly function.
If that were to happen to one of us today, we’d probably try to get one another medicated or maybe put in the hospital until we could cope. But Nehemiah is moved deeply with compassion and empathy for a people he had not met, for a people he had little in common with outside of ethnicity and religion, when he hears about their desperate state. We asked, is this historic (as in, is God just telling us something of history), or is this prescriptive? Is it God’s expectation that we be people marked by empathy and compassion?
We showed from the whole counsel of Scripture that God’s expectation on his sons and daughters, on his children, on those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ, is we would be men and women marked with empathy and compassion. We are not those who avoid pain and sorrow. We are those who enter into it in order to love and be, in many ways, the presence of God in the midst of sorrow and hardship. We do not shy away from difficult circumstances. We run into them. We are to be people marked by empathy and compassion.
Then, too, we watched how Nehemiah dealt with this empathy and compassion; namely, that he prayed. We saw Nehemiah pray in two different ways. We saw Nehemiah set aside large blocks of time to pray and seek the heart of God and lay before God, according to the Word, what he understood God had promised and what God had laid out. Nehemiah prayed the Word of God back to God in large blocks of time. Then we saw these kind of rifle-shot prayers throughout the day.
What we saw from Scripture is that is basically the recipe for robust, vital, intimate relationship. I date my wife, and the sole purpose of date night for us is, “What’s going on in your heart? Here’s what’s going on in mine.” We have a pretty strict “Don’t discuss the kids” rule that we break every time. The purpose of the date is, “What’s going on in your soul? Here’s what’s going on in mine.”
It’s purposeful, set-aside time for me to figure out, with the help of the Holy Spirit and her articulation, what’s going on in that spectacular heart of hers, and for her to try to fish out from mine what’s going on in mine, because a lot of times I don’t know. That’s date night. Now, how unhealthy the relationship if I don’t talk with Lauren except on date night. So if she called and just said, “Hey, how was service today?” and I said, “I’ll tell you on Thursday.” Click! I don’t know who you married, but that’s going to go really badly for me. Really, really badly.
In the same way that I have these set-aside blocks where it’s all about our hearts, we also talk quite a bit just here and there. “How are you?”
“Okay, I’m good too. How are you feeling this morning, Boo?”
“Okay, I’m doing well too.” Right? We have these kind of one-line touches throughout the day. Where you have both of those, you have what’s called a relationship. What we see happening in Nehemiah’s relationship with God is that he has just that: a relationship with God. He spends all of this time fasting and praying and setting aside this time. Then he’s in front of the king, and the king of Persia goes, “What is it you need? Why is your face so long?” and what does he do? He shoots a prayer out to the Lord. “Okay, Lord, give me wisdom,” and then he makes the ask.
In the same way, right before I came out here to preach, I literally went, “Okay, study is done. I know the text. Please breathe life into the work of study this week.” Then I’m walking out here, not having just set aside 45 minutes to pray, but rather, just as I walked out on stage, I said, “Okay, empower what’s about to occur, God. These are words of wisdom, but without your Holy Spirit breathing life into them they can motivate but never transform.”
For those of us who know the Lord and walk in relationship with him, these are pieces of that. We set aside time, and then a lot of us, as the day progresses, are saying, “Okay, Lord, guide me here. Okay, God, give me wisdom here. Okay, God, help me here. Lord, help me walk in this way. I prayed about this earlier today; now remind my heart.” This is what relationship with the Lord looks like.
Then we moved from there to the third week, where we said we’re not just people of prayer, but we’re people of action. We are not the solution to all of our prayer requests, but we are the solution to some, and that occurs as we walk in a distinctively Christian manner. Here’s how I explained it then. I think this is the best way to explain it now.
If the Lord puts someone on your heart who’s in the community of faith who you see is struggling or kind of leaning a direction that doesn’t look healthy, right, or good, our response is not to pray God would send someone to encourage them. “God, I just noticed John really looks like he’s struggling right now. I can just hear in his voice that things at home aren’t good. He and his wife are really not synced up right now. He just doesn’t even like one of his kids.
God, I just pray you would raise up someone from among the saints to encourage that brother. I just pray maybe someone would send him a text today, someone would write him a note, someone would just call and let him know they saw it, that they’re prayerful, and that they’re in it with him. I pray you would raise up such a man like that in John’s life.” I just feel like the Lord is going, “Yep, I am, which is why I put that on your heart to act upon those things.”
That week I wanted to push across, “Yes, some of us are going to go to the ends of the earth.” In fact, we have 121 people in the Sending Program right now. We’re going to plant churches and go all over the world to herald the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But most of us are going to be faithful where we are, aware of those around us and aware of the Spirit of God and being obedient where we are.
Whether we’re a housewife or a businesswoman or a businessman or a coach or a teacher or whatever, we are faithful where we are, and, in so doing, we act upon our prayers and not just pray, cross our fingers, and hope things work out. Now there are times where the intervention of the power of God is our only hope, and that’s where we lay those things down and there’s not much we can do, but where we can act upon what we have prayed for, we are to act upon what we have prayed for. Okay?
We rebuild because we’re people of empathy and compassion. We rebuild the broken and fallen world through prayer. We rebuild by acting upon those prayers. The world is broken. God has set us up as lights in the darkness with empathy and compassion, prayerfully beseeching God to work and then acting upon those prayers as we’ve been moved with compassion for the brokenness around us, first and foremost for the church and those who are part of the covenant community of faith, and then flowing out of those walls onto the world around us.
We then shifted for two weeks out of Nehemiah on realities we must face as we seek to rebuild what’s broken and fallen in the world. Here are two of those realities. There are those who have come to love and see as normative the ruin of the world. They look at the state of things and call it progress. Any attempt to rebuild what people see as normative is viewed as offensive and maybe even oppressive. Are you tracking with me?
I didn’t preach that week, but we talked about the reality of opposition out of the book of Nehemiah. In fact, if you read your Bible, you shouldn’t be a stranger to this. I mean, Jesus said, “If they hated me, do you think they’re going to like you? They hated me. If I’m telling dead people they can’t be dead and healing everybody who’s sick and they killed me, do you think they’re going to think you’re cool?” (That’s a paraphrase. Don’t try to search that.)
So you have this idea that as we, as the people of God, begin to seek to rebuild what’s broken in the world, the world will not view its brokenness as needing to be repaired or being broken at all. In fact, they’ll view our view of things as what’s actually broken, and that’s going to create a bit of a grind. We talked about the reality of opposition. Then from there we talked about the reality from inside the walls, of injustice and oppression occurring even within the household of faith.
Maybe you’re not a believer in here, and your hang-up on Christianity is you’ve met a Christian or two. Maybe that’s your problem with the whole deal. I want to try to encourage you this way, maybe shift how you’re thinking about that guy you consider to be a moron, that hypocrite you know. Let me try to flip the way you’re thinking. When you come across immature believers in Christ, those who claim Jesus but you can see there’s some hypocrisy in their lives, that should not serve to be a repellent for you, but rather as an encouragement to come in. I’ll tell you why.
If God is patient with his children as they learn to walk, if God allows scabbed-up knees and elbows, should that not be an invitation to you to come on in? Would you feel welcome at all in the household of God if all of us were running full speed? You wouldn’t. Praise God for those scraped-up knees and elbows! Praise God for those hints of hypocrisy in us all! They should make you feel welcome with your scabbed-up knees and elbows. I believe you should view the shortcomings in your coworkers and your neighbors and family members as an invitation that you can belong also.
Now is God making us more and more holy? Yes. Is that slower than anybody wants to admit? Yes. I still find in me things I can’t believe I’m doing, and I’m 20-something years in. That leads us back to rebuilding, now that we’re aware we’ll have oppression from outside the walls and some injustice inside the walls. God will progressively wring it out, but it never truly gets wrung out if people are coming to know Christ, like the video we just watched with these testimonies of people who came to know Jesus.
What do you have? You have new birth coming into the family all the time. You have new spiritual babies all the time, which means you’re always going to have scabbed-up knees and elbows. As people mature in the faith, they are replaced with those who are new to the faith, so you’re always going to have people bumbling and stumbling. Right? We should always, at some level, look a bit immature to those who are on the outside. Should we be maturing? We had better be. But if people are coming to a saving knowledge of Christ, they come in, and they need to learn how to crawl and walk. It’s that process.
With these two things in view, we now move back to rebuilding, back to our engagement with each other and with the world around us. This week out of Nehemiah, chapter 8, we are given the most indispensable tool we are given, sans the Holy Spirit, in order to do this work of rebuilding. To teach this, it’s going to require me to pronounce a lot of names that are not easy, so pray for me now in that little rifle-shot. Nehemiah 8, starting in verse 1:
“And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday…”
I don’t want to hear anything about my 50-minute sermons anymore. From early in the morning until midday. There’s no lunch break. Nobody is singing. No, this is just the reading of the Word of God from morning until midday as they stood as one man at the Water Gate. Now look at verse 4:
“And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. […] And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, ’Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands.
And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”
Now wherever you want to enter the narrative of God’s people, here’s what’s true about us. From the beginning, God’s people are a people who gather. We get together. God consistently, throughout the whole narrative of his interaction with his people, commands us to gather, whether that was at Mount Sinai, whether that was at the Tent of Meeting, whether that became the temple, or after the diaspora, the synagogues. After Pentecost when the Holy Spirit of God falls, followers of Christ begin to meet in houses together, and then in large gatherings in other places, all to gather together. We are a people who gather. It is in our DNA as gospel people to come together.
Now what is it we do when we come together? I love this passage in Nehemiah, because this is a legit get-together. There are hands shooting up. They were shouting Ezra down as he was trying to read the Law. “Amen! Amen!” That means, “So be it.” This is interactive. This is not a predominately Anglo gathering, if you’re tracking with me. It’s not just a bunch of people going, “Oh, that’s good.” They’re shouting, “Amen!” They have their hands up. They’re on their faces before the Lord.
There is an inward movement that has caused an external reaction. They are listening attentively from morning to midday. The brother is just reading the Law, and then those with him are expounding on it. “Here’s how you apply that. Here’s how that works in your life.” You have this kind of epic blowout of response. To what, though? What is the driving force? What is the focal point of the gathering of the saints of God?
What we see happening is when Ezra does two things the place explodes in response. Here are the two things he did. He read the Law, the Word of God, and then he blessed the name of the Lord. He said, “Great is God! Great is the name of the Lord! Who is better than our God? Who is greater than our God?” Upon hearing this, the people said, “So be it. Let it be.” They responded to the blessing of the name of the Lord by bowing their heads, by raising their hands, by tearfully bowing before the Lord, and by applauding the greatness of God.
How do we get our hearts to a place where we’re able to bless the name of the Lord? If you’re a believer in here, you would want to bless the name of the Lord, but sometimes the heart is not there. Sometimes the head is not there. How do we grow in our ability to bless the name of the Lord? What we see in the text is our ability to do that revolves around the truth of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit empowering our ability to see that, illuminating our ability to understand that.
Here are three things the Bible teaches us. Our sacred literature, that Book in your lap or that Book on your device right now… At some point I’d love to do a series here on just a bit of Christian history to help you understand how many men had to die to get that Book in your lap, how many guys were burned alive, how many people were imprisoned. There were those who sought to control the flow of what was in the Word of God.
Honestly, I don’t think it was mean-hearted as much as, in the period of time we’re talking about, most men and women could not read. Then, as our ability to read and understand grew wholly as mankind, the Book was made available to you through the Reformation and through the printing press. A lot of men were killed over that, because it was viewed by many to be too sacred for you and me. Now we have like 40 of them and we hardly touch them. What does the Bible teach us? It teaches us three things, primarily. I’ll give you them in order of importance.
1. The Bible teaches us who God is. Let me tell you why that’s so important. Our default, regardless of background, whether or not we would say it like this, is to create our own god, a god of our own imagination that we believe governs and rules effectively and rightly. The problem with that (I’ve said this before) is actually the Bible.
Here’s what I’ve found, God help us. So many people create a god other than the one found in the Scriptures, and they have created for themselves a cruel taskmaster. In their attempt to make a softer, cuddlier god, they have instead created for themselves one who will be unable to sustain them, unable to provide for them, and they’ve created no god at all. Let me give you the most popular example I can.
In our culture here in the West, God is a God of love. Right? Now that’s true. In fact, the Bible would speak to that in a thousand different ways and would even say God is abounding in love. But love is a bit of a difficult doctrine, isn’t it? I’ll tell you why. If you start digging into people, sans the Scriptures, who say, “Well, I just think God is a God of love, and I don’t think…” What they’re actually saying is they do not believe that God, because he is loving, would ever say no to them, or would ever ask them to live in a way contrary to how their gut wants them to live.
That is not a loving God. That is an impotent, weak, cruel God. Do you know how I know that? Because I have a 3-year-old daughter. Here’s straight-up truth. I am smarter than Norah in every way. There is no subject in the universe by which she is more intelligent than I am, not even Dora the Explorer. Her best friend is a monkey. His name is Boots. He wears red boots. She has a magical map that is extremely lazy and a backpack that has a demon in it. All right? This is Dora the Explorer. I don’t know where this girl’s parents are. She’s running all over the place in the jungle. We don’t have time for this, all right?
Not only am I smarter than her at everything, but I am physically able to dominate her in anything. You name the sport and she will not score. I can reach things she cannot reach. I can see things she cannot see. I can open things she cannot open. I can close things she does not possess the ability to close. In every way, I know more, and I am superior to her. Now, because I am her father, the task that has been given to me by God is to take that wisdom, to take that power, to take that knowledge, and to love and shepherd her, which means I do a lot of this: “No, ma’am.” I do a lot of, “Do I need to get the spoon?”
Maybe you don’t have a spoon. We have a spoon. It strikes fear into the life of everyone, even Dad. Not that they whack me with it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself saying stuff my dad said. “This hurts me more than it’ll hurt you.” I remember thinking, “I don’t believe that.” It really does. I hate that discipline gets to that point, but why do I do it? Because if there isn’t correction, it ends much worse down the road. I’ll take my fight now at 3, and I’ll try to lovingly combat her over the years to get her to a place of maturity. Why? Because I know more. Not because I’m cruel, but because I’m loving.
I hate to say no to her. I want her happy. I want her laughing. I want her filled with joy, loving life. That desire is the very thing that drives me to go, “Nuh-uh.” That desire is the very thing that drives me to say, “That ain’t happening in this house.” When you want that figment of your imagination, a God who’s unwilling to stand up to you and say, “Nope,” you either believe God is dumber than you are… You’ve compressed him to not being as smart as you. You’re like a 3-year-old saying to their parent, “I should be able to play with a gun. Why can’t I run around with a knife?”
That’s who you become when God is a God of love that’s taken out of the biblical definition of love and really taken out of the concept of love in any type of historic way at all. Love is always willing to say no. Love always invades and says, “No, this way.” Love always engages in ways that can be painful, or it’s not love. If you’re married you should know this. If you have kids you should know this. The Bible teaches us about who God is.
2. The Bible teaches us about who we are. Now let’s be straight. Most of us think we’re awesome, right? That’s pretty easy to do. Not all of us think we’re awesome. In fact, some of you dragged your tail in here, and you just feel whipped. God needs to correct that in you too. God will quickly agree with you, and then pull you to a place where you can rejoice in his love for you despite that. Most of us feel like we’re awesome, particularly because we like to judge by external things rather than internal things. I’ll take myself. I’ll take you out of the equation.
I can look around me and get to feeling pretty good about myself. I love my wife deeply. I guard my eyes. I guard my heart. I’m in with that woman. I love her. So I feel good. I see that’s simply not true for other people. I see them drawn to pornography. I see them not loving their wife well, not serving their wife well, so I can start to feel good about myself there. I don’t struggle with any major addictions. I don’t have a drug and alcohol problem. Again, I’m not addicted to pornography. So once again I can look around me and go, “I feel pretty good about myself there.”
I don’t externally act in violent ways. I can get to feeling pretty good about myself. I’m pretty disciplined. I’m probably not the most disciplined guy in the room, but I’m a pretty disciplined guy. I live an orderly life. I feel like I love my kids well. I’m far from perfect, but I feel like I love my kids well. I engage them. I’m going after their hearts. Going after their hearts is a lot harder work than just setting rules they have to follow. So I feel like I’m doing pretty well.
If I’m not careful, and if I’m not letting the Word of God read me, I can look around and go, “You know what? You’re welcome. I’m repping you well, showing off to these people how spectacular you are.” The Word of God is not going to let me do that. The Word of God is going to kick down the door of my heart, call me a fool, lay me bare, show the motives of my heart.
The reason I could say several times (and have said several times) that no one would want to stay in this room if I could take the thoughts of your mind and your heart and project them on this screen… No one would want to stay in this room and watch their own thoughts and the desires of their hearts. In fact, you would flee. The reason I can say that is I know I wouldn’t want to stay in here either. The Word of God lays me low in a way that if I’m just comparing myself to others I won’t be laid low. I’ll be puffed up. So the Word of God shows me who God is, and the Word of God shows me who I am.
3. The Word of God shows me how God has designed the universe to work. Be careful how you see the commands of God in Scripture. Often, in this day and age, God is viewed as oppressive, out of date, out of touch with modern sensibilities. In reality, the inerrant Word of God stands for all time, all people, all places, as a picture of human flourishing.
The commands of God are never about oppressing people, but rather freeing people to be all they could be according to God’s creative design. The Word of God shows us how God designed the universe to work. You can rail against that, but you’re railing against creative design, which means you’re using a screwdriver to try to hammer in a nail.
So the Word of God shows us who God is, it shows us who we are, and it shows us how we are to line our lives up with how God designed the universe to work. Without these three pieces, it becomes nearly impossible to bless the name of the Lord. If you’re smarter than God, then blessed be your name. Right? If he’s small and you’re big, why bless his name? We should be singing to you. We should throw your name in the songs, or you should just sing your name as we sing Jesus’ name.
If you don’t understand how God has designed the universe to work, then when you fall short, you’re unable to experience grace and rejoice in him all the more, or you’re not able to see the wisdom of God through and in your obedience, taste the firstfruits of obedience, and walk in gratitude as you rejoice in the name of the Lord. You must have at least a cursory level of understanding in these three things to be able to extol, to bless the name of the Lord, which, by the way, is what you were created for. We were all created to worship.
I was talking with a young man right before service. I like sports. I’m a sports guy. I love it, all right? But you shouldn’t be emotionally affected by what a 20-year-old does with a ball. Do you know why you do that? Because you were created to worship. We were designed by God to extol, to make much of something, to make something bigger than us, to give ourselves some identity in some way, and that’s why we’re drawn to stuff like that.
That’s why you get that People magazine. That’s why you follow celebrities. That’s why we have this kind of culture that looks at the lives of others and makes more of it than we should, envies it in some sad, kind of pathetic way. Why? Because we were created to make much of something, and in the absence of making much of the One who is worth that something, we replace it with sad, goofy, pathetic idols. Without knowing who God is and knowing who we are and seeing how he designed the universe to work, it becomes increasingly difficult to make much of the name of the Lord. Now look at this response to these things, starting in verse 9:
“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ’This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, ’Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord.
And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ’Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.’ And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”
What happens when we get our lives under the Word of God? What happens when we begin to walk in, understand, and grow in a knowledge of the Scriptures? Eventual rejoicing. There’s weeping and brokenness that comes from seeing who God is and seeing who we are that, upon repentance and a laying of those things down before the grace and mercy of God found in Jesus Christ, leads to rejoicing.
What was the command by the Levitical priesthood? “You’ve heard; now let’s eat the fatness and drink sweet wine. Let’s celebrate. Let’s rejoice. Because the Word of God has become clear to you. The Word of God has been heard and understood. Let’s celebrate.” Did you notice it also creates a generous people? As we grow in an understanding that we ourselves are recipients of much, it becomes much easier to give others freely out of our abundance.
Again, the Word of God not only creates much rejoicing and extolling the name of the Lord and blessing the name of the Lord, but then it also creates a generous people who are able to love one another freely because we understand what we have been recipients of. You and I are to be men and women marked by the Word of God. Here’s what I mean by marked.
I have found that many of us, particularly evangelicals in the South, are a kind of spiritual bulimic. What I mean by that is we hear a lot about the Bible, but few of us actually apply any of it. We kind of eat it up on Sundays or in our Bible studies, one of the seven we’re in during a given week, and we kind of devour it, and then we go throw it up somewhere before any of the nutrients actually get into our systems. We become, in a really horrible way, spiritual bulimics. This is not helpful for how God would have us engage the world around us and how God would have us walking with one another.
Let me read you two verses here: 2 Timothy, chapter 3, verses 16-17. If you have background in church, you should know this one. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Let’s chat here. That might sound good to you, but what that means is the Bible is going to grind on you a bit, that the Word of God is going to confront you, that you are going to have ways of seeing, ways of thinking, and ways of engaging the world around you, that the Bible is going to enter into that and say, “No, not like that; like this. No, not like this; like that. Not this direction, that direction. God is not like this; God is like this. Marriage should not look like this; it should look like this.”
The Word of God will correct. It will teach. It will point us in the right direction and show us where we’re in the wrong direction. It should not be surprising to you that at times there are things you read in the Scriptures that make you go, “Uh!” Its God-wrought, divine purpose is to chisel away at us, to correct, to reprove, to teach. Why? So we might be equipped to do every good work God has for us.
We’ve streamlined things here at The Village so you might maximize the Bible you get. What I mean by that is what we cover here on the weekends is usually the same thing we cover in our home groups. So you can hear me preaching from Nehemiah, and then you can do some study during the week on Nehemiah, and then you go to your home groups where you’re discussing Nehemiah.
The reason we don’t have 13 different Bible studies for you here is I’d rather you know one thing and apply it than know 14 things you don’t apply. That’s why we’re built the way we’re built here. Maybe in here you’re like, “Matt, I know these things. Matt, I know I should know the Word of God. I know I should walk in it. I just don’t know how to do it.”
Here’s what I thought we could do this week. I thought we could study the Bible together this week. If you go to our webpage, on the bottom left-hand corner you’ll see a document we created that’ll help you intelligently read the Bible. It’ll walk you through how you do that, the questions you should be asking yourself, questions you should answer. I thought this week we could just go through the gospel of John together.
You can download that, or just put it on your device, or look at it on the webpage. I’ll tweet out some things this week, and I’ll get on The City and interact. Those are the two best platforms I have in order for me to be able to study the Bible with ten to twelve thousand people. I’ll be interacting that way. I’ll create a hashtag. If you’re on Twitter you know what that means. If not, don’t worry about it. We’ll kind of do that together this week. So let’s study together this week. Then we can practice together, so then maybe you can take it and run with it from there.
As I conclude our time together, let me just say even if you’re not a believer and are somewhat a skeptic, you should want what the Word of God says to be true. It says God is gracious. It says God is merciful. It says there is no one in this room whose sin has more power than the cross of Jesus Christ. It says the religious college kid and the stripper are welcome in the kingdom of God. It says the man who grew up in church going on Christmas and Easter but didn’t know God in relationship is just as welcome as those who have struggled deeply in their lives.
The Word of God beckons you to come, regardless of background, regardless of your current situation. Will it grate against some of the things you think? Yes, and you should want that, because if you don’t have that you’re not following God; you’re just following what you think is best. If I had to wager with you, I would guess you’ve been a pretty crummy sovereign.
A relationship requires there to be conversation. Right? God’s way of communicating through the Holy Spirit is primarily through his Word. He’s going to say, “No, yes, here, there,” and that’s good news. It means you have a God who is not willing to leave you to your own devices. You have to be willing to hear. You have to be willing to respond. Let’s pray.
Father, I thank you for these men and women and this opportunity to come and just let your Word press on us a bit. I pray you would grow us in a knowledge of the Scripture, that we would not be like those in Ephesians, chapter 4, who were thrown to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by every crafty scheme of man. I pray we would not look at your Scriptures as fables or outmoded or needing to be updated, God, but that we would stand unapologetically, compassionately, and graciously upon your revealed will about who you are, about who we are, and about how you designed the world to work. Would you grant us favor with those outside these walls as we seek to love well those you love? Help us. It’s through your beautiful name I pray, amen.