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The Work Begins

For the past two weeks, we’ve been looking a Nehemiah. Just to recap, Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia around 500 BC. He was a Jew who had been living in exile probably all of his life. Other Jews had earlier been allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, but rest of the city was in ruins. When Nehemiah heard about this, God laid it on his heart to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. He asked the king for permission to go, and through the sovereignty of God, he was allowed.

As we’ve been talking about Nehemiah wanting to build the walls of Jerusalem, we’ve been applying those principles to us wanting to build the church.

Now Nehemiah is in Jerusalem, so let’s read what happens.
Nehemiah 2:11-16
11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, 12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. 13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. 14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. 15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.

Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, takes three days to rest from his long journey, and then goes out at night with a handful of people to inspect the walls.

Why does he do this? Primarily, he wanted to know what he was up against. He wanted to know what it would take to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Rebuilding the walls was a major undertaking. Nehemiah did not want to jump into it without knowing all the details, without being prepared, without having a plan. So he did his homework.

Now if this were a three point sermon, this would be point #1. Nehemiah did his homework.

This is what our building committee is doing right now. They’re doing their homework. They’re looking at floor plans, investigating building codes, researching what other churches have done, pricing out materials, and working out all the details that we need to know BEFORE any actual building takes place. And that is essential.

We would be foolish to start pouring cement and nailing 2x4s before we’ve answered all these questions. You have to do your homework.

And the same thing applies to the spiritual building the church. When my wife & I first arrived in September, we determined not to make any major changes in the church until at least Christmas. We wanted to do our homework first. We wanted to get to know all of you. We wanted to see how things worked. We wanted to know what the church’s strengths were – what it’s weak areas were. We would have been foolish to come in on the first Sunday that we were here and presented you with a whole new set of programs that we wanted to start doing.

As a church, we need to do our homework if we want to win our community for Christ. How can we reach them? What are their needs? How can we successfully communicate our message to them?

We can’t just run programs because it seems like a good idea or some other church did it or we did it 20 years ago. We need to do our homework to see what will help us win souls for Christ here in 2009.

So on that note, I’m going to give you a homework assignment this morning. Your homework for this week is to do some research and come up with a few ways that you think would be effective methods of reaching our community for Christ.

Now you may be asking, “Well, what kind of research do I do?” Pay attention to people. What are their needs? What do they like to do? What do they not like to do? How do they communicate? What issues are they dealing with? Study the people in your sphere of influence.

Then write down what you learn and hand in your assignment to me. I’d love to see what you come up with and then together we can make plan that will be effective reaching our community.

Point #1. Nehemiah did his homework.

Nehemiah 2:16-18
16 The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. 17 But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” 18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.

They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.

Did you notice that up until after Nehemiah did his inspection of the walls, no one knew anything about his plans?

Verse 16

He didn’t send messengers ahead of him to Jerusalem when he traveled from Susa to announce what he was going to do. He didn’t tell people about his plans as soon as he got to Jerusalem. He waited until the time was right.

How important is it to wait for the proper time? Or more specifically, how important is it to wait for God’s timing?

Think about King David – he was anointed king by Samuel when he was a youth, but it was years later before he actually became king.
How about Joseph? He had that dream about the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to him when he was a youth – but how many years did it take (and how much did Joseph have to go through) before that became reality?

And consider even Jesus.

Romans 5:6 (New International Version)
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

At just the right time… That’s how God does things. How long was the church looking for someone to come help out at the church? How long has the church been looking to build a new building?

And I’m sure that many times along the road, you’ve wondered… “God, why aren’t you answering our prayers? Why is this taking so long?”

But God does things at just the right time. I know many of you could tell me the name of someone that you’ve prayed for for many years. There are friends and family members that we’ve told about Christ, we’ve prayed for them, we’ve invited them to church, or to other Christian events in hopes that they would accept Christ as their personal Savior. But so far, our prayers seem unanswered.

Don’t lose hope. Don’t be discouraged. And don’t stop praying. God does things at just the right time.

So that’s point #2: God does things at just the right time.

The last few verses that we want to look at is the whole 3rd chapter. There are 32 verses in this chapter, but we only need to look at the first four right now. I’ll let you read the rest on your own perhaps when you get home.

Nehemiah 3
1 Then Eliashib the high priest and the other priests started to rebuild at the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set up its doors, building the wall as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and the Tower of Hananel. 2 People from the town of Jericho worked next to them, and beyond them was Zaccur son of Imri.

3 The Fish Gate was built by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz repaired the next section of wall. Beside him were Meshullam son of Berekiah and grandson of Meshezabel, and then Zadok son of Baana.

The rest of the chapter reads just like this and I encourage you to take the time later to read through it.

To summarize the chapter, it’s different people doing different tasks to accomplish one goal.

Nehemiah didn’t go out and build the whole thing himself. And he didn’t hire a work crew from Susa to come with him. The people living in Jerusalem build the walls of Jerusalem – in fact, as you read the rest of the chapter, you’ll find that most of them worked on the section of wall that was nearest their house. This was a project of personal importance to these people, and so they were all personally involved.

And that’s a good reminder for us today of just how personal this whole “being a Christian” thing is.

So today I want to end with five “personal” reminders.

Reminder #1. Personal Saviour
Everyone one of us on this planet was born with a sinful nature – our natural tendency is to rebel against God. And because this, we are born separated from God.

Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death…” And that death is eternal separation from God, existing in torment forever.

We need a personal Saviour. Thankfully God, in His great love for us, sent His Son Jesus, to live a sinless life and die on a cross in our place, so that we can be forgiven and accepted by God.

John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Reminder #2. Personal Choice
God doesn’t want robots that are forced to love Him – He wants us to choose to love Him. So He give each one of us the choice. I can’t choose on your behalf. You mother or father can’t choose on your behalf. Your wife or husband can’t choose on your behalf. It’s a personal choice. Only you can choose to accept God’s free gift of Salvation.

We read the first half of Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death…” But the rest of that verse goes on to say “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But we don’t have that gift until we reach out and take it for ourselves.

And to do that is as simple as confessing your sin to God, inviting Him to be the Lord of your life, and determining in your heart to follow Him for the rest of your days. But it’s your personal choice.

Reminder #3. Personal Growth
Galatians 5:22-23
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

When we accept Christ as our Saviour, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, and He brings about this fruit in our lives. Do you see that fruit growing in your life? Are you becoming more patient? More gentle? More self-controlled? That’s the evidence that God is working in your life.

If you don’t see those things, or if you see the opposite fruit growing, you’d better take a look at your life. We always have the choice to do what is right or what is wrong. Don’t allow your old, sinful nature get in the way of what God wants to do. It happens to all of us. We’ll fight with our old nature until we get to heaven. But if right now you’re allowing some of the bad fruit to grow in your life, (things like hatred, jealousy, foul language, rage, wrong habits) then confess that to God and allow Him to start growing some of that good stuff in your life again.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

It’s never too late to make a fresh start with God. Pursue personal growth.

#4. Personal Involvement
We talked last week a little bit about how we are all part of the body of Christ. Every one of us has gifts and abilities that God intends for use to us to build each other up and grow His church. I won’t go into that all over again, but I’ll ask you this question: What is your personal involvement in the body of Christ?

#5. Personal Evangelism
I don’t know everyone’s background on how they became a Christian, but I’m guessing that most of you didn’t accept Christ because you watched a Billy Graham special on tv. And I’m also guessing that most of you didn’t become Christians because, one day out of the blue you decided to go to church and you heard the gospel. Those are both possibilities and God can bring people to Himself in whatever way He pleases. But from what I’ve observed, most people come to know Christ because someone who knows them and cares about them – told them about Christ.

That’s called personal evangelism, and I believe primarily, that’s how God grows his church. It’s you talking to the people in your sphere of influence about God. You can’t leave it to the tv preachers, your pastors, or your elders, your parents, or your children. Evangelism is a personal responsibility. It’s your job.

So those are the five personal reminders. Personal Saviour, personal choice, personal growth, personal involvement, and personal evangelism. Put that together with our previous two points, that Nehemiah did his homework, and that God does things at just the right time, and that’s a lot to absorb for one morning. But I trust that God tugged on your heart at least once or twice and that He’ll help you to apply those things to your life this week.

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