Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sermon-- 1/6/08-- The Consequence of No Vision-- Nehemiah

Here is the audio for this message.

The late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Holmes was on a train when the conductor came through collecting tickets. Holmes couldn’t find his ticket and became rather distraught. The conductor tried to console him by saying, "Mr. Holmes, don’t worry. When you find your ticket, just mail it in. We trust you." Mr. Holmes responded in frustration, "My dear man, that’s not my problem. I need my ticket to tell me where I’m going."
We all need to know where it is that we’re going.

It’s a good thing to know where you’re going—and also how to know when you’ve made it. Exploration requires being able to see farther than just where you are at the moment.

About 350 years ago a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision. With a clear vision of what we can become in Christ, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.

Losing our Vision is a dangerous thing—it has consequences.

In 586 BC, the Jewish world was hit with a major blow—Jerusalem, the sacred city of David and the home to Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians—the walls were destroyed, the Temple demolished, the precious, holy articles were carried off to be used for pagan gods, their leaders and most of the inhabitants were taken off into captivity. Those remaining behind suffered through drought and famine, continued defeat and other problems. By 538 BC about 70 years later—Babylon had fallen and Persia came to power under Cyrus—and he did something unusual—he let the Jews go home. Under the leadership of a man named Zerubbabel, these exiled Jews returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. Things were looking up for while. It seemed as if Israel was on the verge of becoming a blessed nation once again. But the people refused to turn away from the very sins that God had judged their ancestors for. The temple was not being maintained. Sacrifices had ceased. The Jews continued to adopt the religious practices and culture of the surrounding nations.
By the time of Nehemiah, the political, social, and spiritual conditions in Jerusalem were deplorable.

Things were looking bad again for Israel—Israel Had Lost Sight of the Vision-the vision that God had for them

Israel had Great Potential—
God’s Great Plan
Genesis 12:2—“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.”

ISA 42:6 "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,

Exodus 19:5-- 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'

Deuteronomy 4:34-35--“ 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
DT 4:35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.

2SA 7:22 "How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel--the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.

All the nations of the earth were to be blessed through this nation God had created—God’s vision was for them to be a blessing—to be His priests and representatives to the World—to be a light. But somewhere along the way, Israel lost sight of what God had called them to be

At various times, the nation that was His possession, rejected their place in God’s plan—rejected the vision of greatness—each man turned to his own way and did what was right in his own eyes. And that is a dangerous place to be.

There is a Consequence for Not Living in the Vision
Again, Being Outside the Vision Has Consequences

Proverbs 29:18:Where there is no Vision—the people perish—they let it all go—they are let go—they suffer spiritually

The Vision comes from God—He gives it—we must receive it, commit our selves to it and live in His Revelation. When we don’t, when we go our own way—there are consequences—and you can see some of them in and around the man Nehemiah who came back to Jerusalem after about 150 years of Captivity, about 100 years after the Jewish people were allowed to return home

READ Nehemiah 1:1-4—

After all these years of struggle and exile—after the provision of God by being allowed to return home—the people of Israel were still struggling to live the Vision because even after God had tried to get their attention they still hadn’t gotten the fact that their lives needed to change, their commitment to God needed strengthening.

By not living in God’s vision—the people of Israel experienced defeat after defeat—they lived in “great trouble and disgrace”. This is what lies outside of God’s vision. When you and I are unwilling or uninterested in God’s vision it’s typically b/c we’re more interested in fulfilling our own vision. We usually have great visions for ourselves—we can envision the Job we want, we can picture the kind house we want to live in, the kind of car we want to drive, see the figures of our salary, the prestige of our position. There is only one thing wrong with those dreams—if they are yours and not God’s.

You may have your dreams and visions of the future, but if you refuse or ignore God’s vision—there is “great trouble and disgrace” ahead. God doesn’t want us happy nearly as much as He wants us obedient—and not just obedient in the sense of “DO AS YOUR TOLD”—but in the sense of God saying, “Your dreams for your life are nothing compared to mine! They pale in comparison. You are setting the bar way too low because My vision is immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine for yourself.”

Our dreams are usually too small—what we try to do, the life we try to build on our own is not nearly as beautiful as the one that is in God’s heart.

In reality, our dreams and visions and efforts are embarrassing by comparison. Look over in Ezra 3:12-13—

Many of the older priests grieved at the new temple b/c it did not compare to the previous Temple. They looked at the Foundation, which foretold the size and shape and they wept of the new Temple and they knew. They knew it would never be as beautiful, never be as glorious or as large as it could have been had the old one remained standing—had they remained faithful—that opportunity was lost. They were ashamed and embarrassed even when they tried to do things for God. That foundation sat there for many years before the actually built it.

The things we pride ourselves in gets broken down—the gates have been burned with fire—so many of our dreams are about protection—protecting ourselves, protecting the ones we love, protecting our future—but this world tears through our defenses—but you know—that’s not even right—this world is not the only one that does tears down our walls and our defenses—God does it—when we are not living His vision. God takes full responsibility for sending the Israelites into captivity—Full responsibility for tearing them down b/c His desire is that they be fully Restored and then be Willing to live as He has dreamed--

Out side the Vision—the Israelites were Fearful of everyone around them. They Feared and Catered to the Opposition & their Lies—building stopped—walls knocked back down—the sacrifices for the Temple were given up—they had no confidence in what they were doing, they were not committed to God and so every decision was based more on fear—they could not be trusted.

Even Nehemiah was not confident of the people he came to lead. We’ll get into it next week, but Nehemiah came back with God’s vision and the king’s permission to a people whom he didn’t know how they would take his leadership so he does things secretly.

Nehemiah 2:11-18

He first stayed 3 days, doing nothing out of the ordinary.
He didn’t tell anyone until he could get an honest assessment himself
Only went at night—afraid to go during the day lest someone see him
Examining walls--Broken down
Gates destroyed so that no one could come through effectively which shut down convenient trade—but neither could they stop any enemy.

Why hadn’t they repaired the gates already, why hadn’t they already repaired the walls already—why hadn’t they revamped the Temple?
They let the enemy silence them, they let the enemy stop them—They let the enemy intimidate them—With No Vision from God—they were Perishing—they were letting it all go—neglect, indifference, fear—they were Paralyzed.

Paralyzation—inability to do anything, unwillingness to try anything.

They were more comfortable with trouble & disgrace because at least they knew what that was like. Not taking any risk or doing anything new, staying in a bad situation.

broken walls—anyone comes and goes—because you know, having a wall just invites attack—like you’ve got something to hide or something worth protecting—better to not have a wall at all—better not to project a picture of strength and power where you are actually influencing the surrounding area and the lives around you because that just invites the attention of the enemy.

You know there is truth to that—as long as you are doing nothing and having very little impact on the Kingdom of God—as long as you and I are unwilling to ask God for His vision, unwilling to Fulfill the vision He has already given us, then Satan has little to fear from us and he will largely leave us alone—because we’re defeated already.

Sure, he’ll do a few things here and there to remind us not to stick our heads out of our shell—Satan does the little things so as not to awaken a true dependence on God, awaken a desperate cry out to Him.

When I visit with people and they tell me they haven’t been to church in a while but they plan on it this week, I usually give them a warning. Get Ready. Because if you mean it, you’re really interested in making a change and pursuing after God—then Satan will try to intimidate you, he will try to threaten you—I usually tell them that something will happen between now and this Sunday to keep you from following through—especially on Saturday night or Sunday morning. You’ll get in fight with your spouse, one of your kids will get sick, your car will break down, the clothes you plan on wearing will be dirty or have some mysterious stain on them, the water heater will have quit so there’s no hot water to take a shower.

Satan wants to keep you with your Temple Unbuilt and Unused. He wants to keep your walls and your gates knocked down so you won’t be a threat or influence for the Kingdom of God.
Does it feel that way for you? Did you know that Satan really fears you, really fears this church living the dream, living the Vision God has for us and being the influence for the Kingdom of God?

That’s why Satan peppers us with fear and negativity, with bad attitudes and dissention, with laziness, busyness or other excuses.

You can see some of those attitudes and excuses pop up in the words of the people Nehemiah was trying to lead in ch. 4 & 5—I’m going to read these and then you tell me what the attitude and excuse

Nehemiah 4:10—afraid the task is too big and they don’t have the strength

Neh. 4:11-12—afraid their enemies too powerful and will defeat them.

Neh. 5:1-5—giving time & energy to this effort--afraid not going to have enough to pay bills, to support family, we’re so debt ridden that there’s no way—my home needs to be the bigger priority than the church—Rebuilding Jerusalem is not worth my time, effort and money—feel cheated and swindled—are we getting enough return on what we’re doing?

A people not willing or too afraid to live in God’s vision are defeated already. And there is a great Vision from God to be fulfilled.

This week we’ve been looking at a people that have lost sight of the vision of God—we’ve looked at some of the consequences that comes as a result. Being Afraid—living in fear, being Paralyzed to where you don’t do or try anything—the greatest of which is settling for less than God’s best.

Next week we’ll look at the benefits of living and believing the vision from God—using Nehemiah. But in the meantime, I want you to consider something:

Are you in the least concerned that you may have lost sight of God’s vision for your life or for the life of this church?

What evidence, if any, can you see in your own life? Are you, are we paralyzed and unwilling to do anything? Are you listening to the voice that whispers in your mind—no don’t do that, don’t start that conversation, don’t make that commitment—don’t try to build a wall—don’t try to build upon the foundation of my Temple?

Are you more afraid of messing up than you are of trying? Then you’re like the man given a talent in Matthew 25:25-- 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”—essentially paralyzed from doing what God has called you to do? Are you defeated before even trying—not in action but in your heart and in your mind?

Because when we are like that, even what we have will be taken and given to someone who will live the dream, live the vision—God’s Kingdom will not be thwarted by your or my stubbornness—He’ll find someone else.

God does not want to see you defeated, He does not want to see you afraid or hesitant or paralyzed. He wants to see you and me fulfilling our calling, fulfilling His Vision for us. He wants to empower and embolden you to start that conversation about spiritual matters, to pray on the spot for that person who is troubled and not worry about what someone else may think of you.

It is when we have lost sight of His vision that we are those things—it is when we lose sight of His vision that we are essentially like Jerusalem before the coming of Nehemiah—our walls have been neglected, our Temple has only minimal treatment—our commitment to living as God has called us to live is haphazard.

Can you imagine how far removed from the Vision and Glory of God it must have taken for them to have the Foundation of the Temple laid—but still be unwilling or too scared to actually build it?

Think about it—you are called the Temple of the Holy Spirit—Peter tells us that we are being built into a Temple 1 Peter 2:4-- As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…

Each of you has a great foundation of faith that is laid—this church has a great foundation of faith that is laid--and God is calling you and me to build upon it—to not go year after year with your individual Temple unbuilt—year after year with the walls of protection, the walls of strength, the walls of faithfulness unbuilt.

If you’re unwilling to build on your Temple or unwilling to build up this church to fight against the darkness—then you have lost sight of the vision God has for you. And if we have no vision—we will perish.

But—the flip side of that is—Where there is Vision—the People Live!

And if God is laying on your heart a vision for our church—I want to hear about it—don’t be afraid to share it.

And if we begin to shake off the dust and idleness of letting our Temple and our Walls remain unbuilt—then Get ready b/c 2 things are going to happen—the first is that Satan is going to try and put a stop to it before it gets very far—that happens over and over again in Nehemiah—the second Get Ready is Get ready for God to show more, for God to do more, for you and I to see Him working in such a way that is refreshing and powerful—Get ready for Him to take you on an adventure.

Are you willing to do that? To seek God’s vision and truly live it?

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