First Assembly of God
Brick by Brick
BRICK UPON BRICK
Tonight we're going to look at the rebuilding of a nation brick by brick by a remnant of His people, and the connection between that story and the work that God has called us to do in rebuilding His kingdom one soul at a time in a lost and dying world. First, let's take a brief journey into the times of
Now, from the very beginning of God's dealings with the Israelites, they demonstrated a pattern of willful disobedience. First, they didn't drive out the inhabitants from the land during their conquest of Caanan, as you remember. Second, they made unholy alliances with their enemies. Now what they didn't realize at the time was that these alliances – this remnant that they had spared and left behind – ultimately was going to lead them into sin and destruction and they themselves would end up becoming a remnant as a result. It's kind of like what Peter wrote in his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians where he says: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."
So anyway, after they had taken the Promised Land, they rejected a theistic society in which God was their king. If you’ll remember, like spoiled children, they said, “Well all the other nations around us have a king. Why can’t we have a king. We want a king!” Samuel said, “You – you don’t need a king.” “We want a king.” “You don’t need a king!” “We want a king.” (There’s a moral to be found in this lesson which is be careful what you wish for.) But they got a king. First they got Saul, then they got David, and then they got Solomon. But by the time that Solomon's reign was ending, you’ll remember, that the –
Now in the midst of all this sorrow, an interesting and supernatural thing happens. After
Now before we do that, the question is: “What does any of that background – what significance does it have to our generation?
Well our nation right now is in a state of moral decay and spiritual decline. It seems like each day that religion is playing less and less of an impact in people’s lives and society’s views. Statistics show that church attendance, for example, I think the highest polls put church attendance – weekly church attendance at maybe around 40%. Some other polls say, you know, Americans tend to exaggerate about how much they go to church each week, so it’s probably closer to 20%. National divorce rate, of course, it’s still hovering right around 50%. Since Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973, more than 40 million unborn children have been legally destroyed (Now in order to get a – to wrap your head around what 40 million people is, if you’ll picture every American who has ever fought in any war since 1775 – every single American who has died in combat, take that number and multiply it by 30. That’s how many unborn children have been terminated – that’s a staggering, staggering, colossal waste of life. Sixty percent of all websites – you know how many websites are out there – millions and millions and millions of websites – three out of every five websites are pornographic in nature. Three out of every five. Over 3 million teens between 14 and 17 in the
But you know all of this doesn’t necessarily come as any large surprise, because the Bible says that in the end times, perilous times will come. If you’ll turn to the familiar scripture of 2 Tim. 3:2-5.
2 Tim. 3:2-5, and I’m reading out of the New Living Translation. It says that “people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly." And if you fast-forward to verse 13 it says, and this is out of the King James, it says that "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived."
And so when we contrast the state of the nation and compare it to the background story in the times of Ezra, we see that there’s a clear parallel between the moral and spiritual decay that’s going on today and the moral and spiritual and physical ruin that’s going on in those days. So what happens to the people of
Now the rebuilding process of the temple in
It says “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled Jeremiah's prophecy by stirring the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation into writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: "This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a
So here surrounded by defeat, the first shimmer of hope kind of shines through there. God has begun stirring hearts and the restoration of the house of God begins here. Now by Ezra, chapter 3, the work of building the temple's foundation is complete. In Ezra 3:10, it says "When the builders completed the foundation of the LORD's
And so this is a bittersweet victory for the Israelites. They have begun the task of re-establishing a place to worship the Lord, and there was happiness and there was gladness, but they were still very much an oppressed people. They were still under foreign domination plus the old spiritual leaders who remember the original temple (they see the new temple), and they remember it in all its great splendor and their hearts are sad because they know how far they’ve come from where they started. But still the people pressed on and they continued the work of the Lord as best as they could. So by Ezra chapter 4, trouble is being stirred up which makes progress kind of slow, but by chapter 6, the reconstruction of the
Now oftentimes, we're in a place where we look back to way things were – maybe we look to a time when more of the church seats were filled or we look back to a time in our life personally when we maybe we were a little closer in our walk with the Lord. Maybe we spent more time in prayer with him, we spent more time reading his word. We spent more time being about his business. And then we see that things have changed and we’re not where we used to be, and sometimes regrets creep in there and we start wondering, we start being discouraged and wondering, “Well are things ever going to get back to the way that they used to be?” But what we’ve got to do is that we’ve got to do what they did, we’ve got to press on and continue to do the work of the Lord. We can’t get downhearted and downcast. We’ve got to just continue to keep on keeping on. We have to begin to allow the spirit of God to stir our hearts to more effectively witness to those around us. But as we’re getting ready to see, just getting them back into God’s house wasn’t enough, and you know just compelling people to come to the house of the Lord by itself isn’t enough either.
As we get to Ezra, chapters 7 and 8, we’re introduced to Ezra and a second group of exiles who continue the rebuilding efforts in
Chapter 9, verses 1-6. It says, “But then the Jewish leaders came to me [Ezra] and said, "Many of the people of
If you’ll remember, back in the law of Moses, it said that they were forbidden from marrying wives from these other cultures because these other cultures had given themselves over to idolatry, and to sin and wickedness, and they were to separate themselves from these other nations. But they had fallen into error and they had married in with them and they were falling into this same idolatry that they were forbidden to be anywhere associated with.
So it says, “then all” – let’s see – he “pulled hair from [his] head and [his] beard, and sat down utterly shocked. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel came and sat with me because of this unfaithfulness of his people. And I sat there utterly appalled until the time of the evening sacrifice. At the time of the sacrifice, I stood up from where I had sat in mourning with my clothes torn. I fell to my knees, lifted my hands to the LORD my God. I prayed, "O my God, I am utterly ashamed; I blush to lift up my face to you. For our sins are piled higher than our heads, and our guilt has reached to the heavens!”
So Ezra, a God-fearing man, has set out to begin religious restoration and reform. So what do the people do? They consecrate and they purify themselves before the Lord. Likewise, how many of you all know that our nation needs a fresh wave of spiritual reform. Throughout
OK, so the first wave we talked about brought a restoration of God's work. And the second wave brought a consecration of His people. So let's look at the third wave of the exiles returning and what that brings.
We’ll pick up in the book of Nehemiah, chapter 1 – and Nehemiah is really just like part 2 of Ezra. It’s a continuation of the story of the rebuilding of the temple and the walls and the gates in
So in Nehemiah, chapter 1, verses 1-4. It says, “These are the memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah. In late autumn of the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes' reign, I was at the fortress of
And so after he prays, we find in chapter 2 that the king, who he was the cupbearer for, allows him to return to
And so the work that God has called us to, bringing about spiritual reform, it’s not easy and it can be slow work sometimes. You know they didn’t always have it easy while they were trying to rebuild the temple, when they were trying to rebuild the walls and the gates and refortify the city. They ran into some troublemakers who tried to stir up trouble and tried to mess up the plan and all this. And they faced persecution and ridicule and all these things. But they persevered and they completed the work of the Lord and ultimately they were able to rebuild the walls and rebuild the temple.
And so as we go about doing the work of the Lord, God wants us to know that “greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.” And he who has called us has given us everything we need in order to complete his work. In 2 Peter it talks about – let’s see, now how does it say it? It says that he has given us “exceeding great and precious promises, through which we may be partakers of the divine nature.” And so he’s given us all the equipment that we need in order to carry out his work.
And so in these last days, we need to focus on three things. We need to focus on getting back to work about being about the Lord's business, cause the Bible says the time is short. Time is short. It says the night is far spent and the day is hand. Therefore let us cast off the unfruitful works of darkness and put on the armor of light – I don’t know if it says it quite those words, I’m paraphrasing. But anyway, we’re to be about the Lord’s business. We’re to not take for granted anything that God has blessed us with. We’re to take all the talents he’s blessed us with and use them to advance his kingdom.
The second thing we need to focus on, like they did, is repenting and consecrating our hearts so that our efforts are fruitful. What was it Samuel said to Saul when Saul fell out of grace with God? He said, well I don’t know if he said it this way, but he said basically “to obey is better than sacrifice. God’s not interested in your sacrifices.” Cause of course, Saul had come up with this excuse as to why he hadn’t obeyed the Lord. He said, “Oh well I was just going to take these extra things that God said to destroy – I was going to sacrifice them to the Lord.” Samuel said, “No, no, no, no. To obey is better than sacrifice.” And so God wants us to know that our obedience is better than the work that we might get ourselves into working for the Lord and doing things for the Lord, that God wants us to be sensitive to him and to obey him. He wants us to purify our hearts and to repent and consecrate our hearts so that our efforts are fruitful.
And then after we get back to work and begin about the Lord’s business, and repent and consecrate our hearts, the last thing God wants us to make sure we’re doing is that we’re not stopping short. It would have been very easy for the Israelites who had been through so much – they had had the ten northern cities completely destroyed. They had been scattered all over the place.
And so God’s wants us to not stop short of crossing the finish line. He wants us to complete the work that he’s called us unto.
So as we dismiss tonight, I want to challenge each of you to spend time this week asking yourselves ways that you can more effectively let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in Heaven. I want to encourage each of you to spend more time talking with him and communing with him. The Christian walk isn’t just doing things for him. God wants to have a very intimate and personal relationship with each of us. He wants us to spend time with him, the same way we spend time with our friends, the same way we spend time with our loved ones. And so he wants us to spend time with him in fellowship with him and talk to him as a man speaks to his friend. So I want to encourage each of you to invite someone to come to church next week so that they can have the light of his truth revealed in their hearts. So if everyone will stand, that’s all I have to share. Let’s close with a word of prayer. [Closing prayer and dismissal.]
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