Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hope - Part 4

Thursday, January 26, 2017
But in spite of this there is still hope for Israel.  Ezra 10:2b(NLT)
Then a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem that all the exiles should come to Jerusalem.Those who failed to come within three days would, if the leaders and elders so decided, forfeit all their property and be expelled from the assembly of the exiles.  Ezra 10:7-8(NLT)
We are continuing our look at a nation that got a wakeup call and responded well.  Part of the idea was to come together – to congregate with the sole purpose of honoring God as a nation, to turn their hearts over to their Creator and King.
But, can you imagine the squabble over this bylaw change?  The proclamation was like the church rule that says if you don't come to church we sell your house and car (selling the kids is optional at the discretion of the elders)!  Well, the people did gather!  Amen!
I do not think that it labors the obvious to point out that many of today’s church-gooing people who claim to be born again, and have an affiliation with a church, are simply avoiding the truth that their membership may be on some printed roll somewhere, but that roll is merely a figment of their imagination.  When you manage to make it to the church-house to worship God who is the Sovereign Lord of the universe only on Christmas or Easter because other things are too important…like sleeping-in, going fishing, or because you have to cook for company…well, a reality check reveals that you are more a fan of the idea of being Christian; you’re not really a follower of Jesus.  You are really a visitor, and visitors are welcome at church, but members are expected!
There is a genuine Contriteness in Repentance which God expects of His children:
Within three days, all the people of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. This took place on December 19, and all the people were sitting in the square before the Temple of God.  They were trembling both because of the seriousness of the matter and because it was raining.  Then Ezra the priest stood and said to them:  “You have committed a terrible sin.  By marrying pagan women, you have increased Israel’s guilt.  So now confess your sin to the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do what he demands.  Separate yourselves from the people of the land and from these pagan women.”  Ezra 10:9-11(NLT)
The word "trembling" means a violent shuddering.  This wasn't all because it was cold and raining; the first and foremost reason was the fear of God.  These people had begun to recognize how badly they'd failed the Lord.  This is like being found with your hand in the cookie jar.
When Ezra urged the people to confess your sin to the Lord, the word confess means to raise the hand.  In essence this is one more way of saying, take responsibility for your actions. 
Beloved, spiritual deadness comes as a result of disobedience to God.  It doesn't have to be actions we do – it may be actions left undone.  It may be attitudes buried deep within.  John wrote to the early believers and told them:
If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.  1 John 1.10(NLT)
If the church is to be revived, resuscitated from spiritual deadness, it will be our confession before God and man that we are indeed sinners, in need every day of the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ.

For You Today

If you have hung-in with us sofar, in the past four days we’ve hit some pretty touchy reality checks about our faithfulness.  Tomorrow’s final chapter will be the hardest yet. 
Before you lay your head on the pillow tonight it would be a good thing to pray for an open mind and heart.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

[i]Title image: Russell Brownworth (own work)

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