are we THERE YET? (Parts 1 and 2)

Scripture Study:  2 Thessalonians 2:1-8

– PART ONE –

The imminence of Christ’s return

Christ’s return has been written about almost exhaustively over the years, so I hesitated about my own investigation regarding this topic found in Paul’s letters to the church in Thessalonica.  The topic has been taken to a point where certain Scriptures are now just ignored and that’s sad.  It’s better to see imminence as a personal thing, which it is!

What is the truth?

From this point on, I’m assuming that Paul spoke the truth when he gave the fact of 2 Thessalonians 2.  And that Peter also spoke the truth when he told his people to look for Jesus, though many things were coming first.

Looking back at 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, we find many truths found nowhere else in the Bible.  It’s the KEY to understanding future events and central to the letter.

The church at Thessalonica found itself, much as we are at times, in a state of confusion over the return of Jesus.  So Paul here begins dealing with a doctrinal error concerning the return of Christ that had crept into the Thessalonian church.

The Day of the LORD!

Paul had instructed the Thessalonians concerning the Day of the Lord when he preached to them in person.  The Day of the Lord is the period of history mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament in which God will bring JUDGMENT [and Millenial blessing] on the people of the earth in a more direct and really drastic way than ever before (Isa. 13:6, 9; Zeph. 1:14-16).  

With other New Testament revelation concerning this period of time, it’s believed that the Day of the Lord begins after the Rapture of the church, including the Tribulation and the Millenium.

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he taught them that the day of the Lord would come as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2).  Misinformation ran rampant regarding this event.  To some, it sounded like the day of the Lord had already come.  After all, the persecution they were experiencing seemed to be what the prophets of old had predicted with great calamities coming on the world in “that day”.  Apparently, the church members in Thessalonica even had received instruction from other teachers that the judgments they were going through were during the Day of the Lord, that is, the Great Tribulation.  But if this was true, how could Paul’s previous instructions, that they would be caught up (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and escape the wrath of God coming on the earth be true?

Paul wrote this section (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8) to clarify the matter:

So the church had not been excluded from the Rapture nor was it the Day of the Lord, for other events must occur before the great gathering of God’s people and the Great Tribulation.  Not only that, but believers will not go through the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

VERSE 1 is an urgent request for them to understand properly the events around the Coming of the Lord.

Paul ow dives into the subject of the return of Jesus on which he has just referred to in his letter (1:5-10).  The brethren are begged to correct the confusion on the return of their Lord and Savior.

There are two phrases in the verse relating to the Second Coming.  The first is “regard to the coming” (NASB); “concerning the coming” (NIV), and the second is “our being gathered to Him”, which refers to the Rapture.  Both phrases are generally interpreted as referring to the coming of Christ.  The parousia (Grk.), or coming, had been used in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 & 4:15; the gathering out of God’s people event.  The gathering together is a reminder of 1 Thessalonians 4:17,  with both those in Christ who have died and those still living, will be “caught up together” to meet the Lord, and will “always be with the Lord.”

Just a side-note here.  I want to point out that “parousia” also is used for Christ’s return after the Tribulation (Matthew 24:37-39).  We still look for and await this great assembly together in the sky!

The Day of the Lord (Vs. 2)

VERSE 2 addresses the alarms that twisted teaching had brought about the cause of their present tribulation.

They were “shaken”, “unsettled”. “alarmed”, “disturbed” by false teaching about being in the Great Tribulation.

They were told that the persecution they were enduring was because the Day of the Lord had arrived!  The “Day of the Lord” was well known from the Old Testament and probably with Paul’s teaching as well.  In the Old Testament, the expression “Day of the Lord” occurs 20 times; “last days” 14 times; and“in that day” 100 plus times.  It will be a time of God’s special intervention in the affairs of the world (Isa. 2:1-2, 9-12; 4:1-2, 12; Joel 2:4-11; 30-32).  God has appointed a DAY that Christ the Lord shall return and remove His holy people, and they will be gathered to Him.

WHAT A GLORIOUS DAY THAT WILL BE!

Following the Rapture, is the period that’s identified as. “THE GREAT TRIBULATION” (see Revelation 7:14)

“The Day of the Lord” refers to a period of unprecedented judgments poured out successively on the earth and done so for a period of seven years.  However, even during that terrible period, God will receive any who turn to Him in faith.  Tragically, most of mankind will curse the God of Heaven rather than turn to Him in faith (Revelation 16:8-21).

I can’t help from thinking that it’s not much different from the situation that’s prevalent today when people are too wrapped up in pursuing their own desires to think of God or their relationship to Him.  For most of mankind, “self” is the center of their lives.

Apparently, the theory that the Thessalonians had accepted. was the day of the Lord had come through three channels: “by spirit, report or letter,” indicating that the day of the Lord had already come.  Because of the sources, the Thessalonians were more inclined to accept it as authoritative truth.

The reference to “spirit” probably indicates that some of this teaching came in the form of prophecy, utterances in public worship, purporting to be given by the Holy Spirit.  In addition to prophecies, there had also been “words”.  That probably means by normal conversation and dialogue.

A third form of the false teaching came in some kind of a “letter”, claiming to have been from Paul, which he denies responsibility for any such “letter.”

“Say it isn’t so!”

The Thessalonian church, in their suffering, were convinced that the tribulation period was already in progress, even though the Lord hadn’t come to gather them to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  And how about the promises that they wouldn’t see God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9)?

Paul had taught them, a pretribulational Rapture.  But their confusion arose because they couldn’t distinguish their present troubles from those of the day of the Lord.  And people were telling them of Paul’s apparent backing, that any such deliverance wasn’t going to happen.

So Paul needed to reassure them that they had understood him correctly in his first Epistle.  To accomplish this, Paul proceeds to describe features, obviously not yet present, that will characterize that day’s early stages.

THE APOSTASY OF THE CHURCH;  [V. 3a] Amplified Bible

“Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for THAT DAY will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come]”

The antidote to poisonous heresy is a good strong dose of the TRUTH!

So Paul proceeds by referring to three events which must take place BEFORE the judgments of the Day of the Lord took place,

The APOSTASY that Paul is speaking, means a “departure”, and religious apostasy means a departure from God’s TRUTH as revealed in His Word, the Bible.  Paul’s not talking about just any departure, or falling away from the faith, but about a special, particular, and widespread one.  “Apostasy,” doesn’t mean merely disbelieving but rather an aggressive and angry revolt (Hebrews 2:12).  It’s this apostasy that will come before the Day of the Lord.

This APOSTASY is not talking about just a few scattered people, but millions betraying the Scriptures, a dream of liberal churchmen for the establishment of a truly ecumenical church.  That church will be a moral church, teaching doctrine formulated to appease society’s expectations, telling mankind what he wants to hear.  This church will unite all religions under one roof, permitting worship of the Antichrist to be rapidly instituted.  This church is the scarlet whore foretold by John (Rev. 17:1-18).

But the Day of the Lord will not come until this great religious apostasy sweeps the earth!

Can you see it happening today?  Church members said they’ve been saved by the Grace of God BUT…don’t act like they love the Lord.  They have a form of godliness but deny by their action to love God’s people and the sharing of the Gospel of Salvation.  They won’t care for the things that God cares about (Mat. 24:10-11).  If they are not of the Apostasy, they certainly facilitate it!

  • PART TWO –  are we THERE YET?

THE LAWLESS ONE, (Vv. 3b-5)

Another event that must take place before the judgments occur is the revelation of “the man of lawlessness.”

This event will begin the awful DAY OF JUDGMENTS.

His revealing not only includes who he is but also being revealed for what he is, the MAN OF SIN.

He will be fully associated with and characterized by “lawlessness” (Grk., anomias, or “sin,” as some mss. have it).  This person is thus characterized as being opposed to God’s law.  He’s also described as the man doomed to destruction (“the son of perdition,” KJV).  The same spirit that filled Judas Iscariot (John 17:12), making him the son of perdition, also makes Antichrist the “son of perdition.”

Elsewhere in the Bible he’s called the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8); the “prince that shall come” (Dan. 9:27); the “willful king” (Dan. 11:36); the “antichrist who will come” (1 Jn. 2:18).  This man is also called the “beast coming out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1-10).

He is the Antichrist, a pseudo-Christ, hostile to the Savior.

He will be a real human being, not a principle or system or a succession of individuals.  Such a person hasn’t been spotlighted on the scene as of yet.  This person is the ultimate personification of Satan, the culmination of all that is opposed to God.

I don’t believe there’s a need to speculate about who this individual might be, we’re not told, nor is it important that we should know who he is.  He will be revealed at the appropriate time, but his identity will be revealed only after the people of God have been taken out of this world.  This man will be Satan’s showpiece who will usher in the Great Tribulation by his presence.  He will not be revealed until the faithful of the present age are taken into the presence of our Lord at the Rapture.  Jesus is our Savior!

Jesus did say quite plainly in Mark 13:32-33,

2 Thessalonians 2:4 gives us a fuller characterization of this evil person who sets himself up as God.

Revelation 13:5-8 certainly adds to. the picture that the “beast” will tolerate the worship of no one but himself.

So after the “departure” or falling away of the saints in verse 3, Antichrist will demand to be worshipped as God at the temple in Jerusalem.  Is this a literal temple, or is this a metaphor, meaning that he usurps God’s authority?  Both are possible.  The Jewish people are certainly preparing to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  [seeUpdate on the Building of the Third Temple” at Jewish Voice Ministries – https://www.jewishvoice.org update-building-third-temple]

“Wait a minute,” you’re thinking.  “How can THE TEMPLE BE REBUILT if the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock, the third most holy site of Islam sits on the very spot where the temple is to be built?”  The Antichrist will say, “Let me solve this sticky issue, the Palestinian problem, the question of Jerusalem.  Jews, you build your temple on the true site of the Temple.  We’ll build a wall to separate it from the Muslim Dome of the Rock Mosque.”  Ezekiel prophesied this very thing (Ezk. 42:20).  In this way, Antichrist will seem to have solved the problem that has troubled and divided Jerusalem for centuries.

Then, in the midst of his popularity, Antichrist will walk into the Temple and demand to be worshipped, “proclaiming that he himself is God” [Ezk. 28:2; Dan. 11:36, 37.].

Paul says to the Thessalonians, “Don’t be quickly unsettled or disturbed or kept excited or alarmed…you are not in the Tribulation.  This is not the Day of the Lord you’re in.  You didn’t miss the Rapture because the man of lawlessness–the “son of perdition”–Antichrist–has not come.”

Though the Lord will come “like a thief in the night”–unexpectantly (1 Thess. 5:1-11), Jesus will not come until certain events take place.  It requires no imagination to suggest that events around us are rushing toward the great finale.  It’s entirely possible that Antichrist has already been born; all that waits for the knowledge of this individual is the Rapture of God’s people and then he will be revealed.  At that time, those awful events that culminate and God’s Word to the earth will be set in motion.  We who are Christians are called to live with confidence in this present age, knowing that we are destined for SALVATION and not wrath.  We are responsible for labor at the task of declaring Christ’s LOVE and warning to all who will receive our word to flee from the coming wrath.

Before you finish reading this Bible study in the form of a blog, it’s possible that Christ the Lord will return!  Whether Jesus comes or whether He delays, we are nevertheless called to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

“We must work the work of Him who sent us while it is day.”

We live in the knowledge that time is short; whatever work will be done must be done now, while it’s day.

The Jesus supplemented His explanatory word to encourage us in John 9:4.

Jesus’ words lend to urgency and the need to be busy about His work [“Perhaps Today”, by Michael Stark. Sermon Central.com].

Paul emphasizes that he personally had taught them these prophetic truths in VERSE 5:  “Do you remember”

This teaching was nothing new to the Thessalonians.  Paul had taught them about the Day of the Lord when he was with them in Thessalonia.  He called on them now to recall these previously taught lessons.  Paul didn’t regard prophetic truth as too deep or unimportant or controversial to new Christians.  He believed it was a vital part of the whole counsel of God, so he taught it without hesitation or apology.

WHO IS THE RESTRAINER?  (Vs. 6-7)

Satan has been allowed enormous influence and power, capturing the souls of billions.  Though held back from the full vent of his evil, the power, and energy of wickedness continues to work and build toward the day of the Antichrist’s revealing.  Then and now, the work or energy directed, and this restraining will continue until the time appointed reveals the Man of Sin.  Satan’s desire to take control of the world by the Antichrist will then be allowed.

So then, who is RESTRAINING the satanically empowered movement against God’s law, postponing the revelation of the Man of Sin?

I think the most logical approach to answer that question would be to determine who could possibly hold such power to restrain the powers of Satan.  No mere man could.  So the “one” must also be superhuman.  This places God at the forefront.  Yet, God doesn’t abandon the world when the Antichrist enters the picture.

So the most reasonable explanation as to who holds back the powers of evil is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the only Person with enough (supernatural) power to do this “restraining.”

The Greek word, Katechon (“that which withholds”) is used in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 and is gender-neutral; (“what is holding back”), and so object to the idea of this being the Holy Spirit.  But I found that this isn’t a problem for several reasons:  The “neuter” is sometimes used of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14).  In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the words are masculine; ho Katechon, the ONE who holds back.

How Does He Do It?

How does the Spirit hold back the supernatural working of evil in the world?

A ministry of the Holy Spirit is to “convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).  The Holy Spirit works on His own, but the Spirit also indwells the born-again spirit of every true believer.  Through Christians whom He indwells and through whom He works in society, He also is holding back, restraining, the swelling tide of lawlessness throughout the land.  Thus, the true Church and those individuals in it, are also a restraining force of God in the world.

Now when the time for the Antichrist comes, the Holy Spirit will depart.  “He” will be taken out of the way.

This “taking out of the way” (v, 7) of the Restrainer seems to refer to the Rapture of the Church when Jesus comes to gather us, to snatch us up to be with Him.  When the Church leaves the earth as the Bride of Christ in the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way in the sense that His unique restraining of lawlessness ministry through God’s people will be removed (Gen. 6:3).  When the Church is raptured out of the way, God’s restraint of evil through His Spirit will no longer hold back the forces of darkness.

So the Thessalonians were not in the Great Tribulation because the Rapture hadn’t yet occurred.  The removal of the Restrainer at the time of the Rapture precedes the Day of the Lord.  Paul’s reasoning is thus a strong case for the pretribulational Rapture.

Being Prepared Is A Good Thing

We also should be daily looking for Christ’s return.  Our attention to spiritual matters can be diverted by many things in this world.  However, the Bible tells us to be PREPARED at every moment, for any day may be the Day Jesus comes for His bride, the Church.  Far too many who are called “Christians,” are content to be religious rather than godly.

Keep the words of the Apostle Paul in mind each day in preparation:

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CREDITS:

The Interlinear Bible Of Greek And Hebrew Words.

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Commentary:  Bob Faulkner, Caught Up, But When?, May 20, 2015 – SermonCentral.com; Dr. William D. Poovey, 7 Proofs of the Rapture Before the Tribulation,  April 17, 2015.

Bible Translations used in the text:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Bible (NKJV); The Interlinear Bible.

 

Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide!

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Revelation 6:1-17

SINNER MAN –

I first heard this song on the car radio the year after my wife and I were married, in 1965.  I was struck by the question in the lyric, “Sinner Man, Where You Gonna Run To?”  I discovered later that the song originated from an African American spiritual song that had been recorded by a number of performers (Bob Marley, Peter, Paul and Mary, Les Baxter and more).

The lyrics go on telling the story with…He [the sinner man] runs to the rock, to the sea, to the Lord and ultimately to Satan because he comes face to face with the wrath of God and he’s so frightened he’s looking for ANY way to avoid God’s anger.  But there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide because he had rejected God for so long there was no longer hope.

I thought to myself, now where would the writer for this old spiritual song get his idea?

Right here in Revelation 6.

That’s pretty scary stuff!

These SINNERS are running from God.  They’re RUNNING from the wrath of the Lamb.

In my reading of John’s words here, something just didn’t seem to correlate with my knowledge of the bible.  John 3:16 tells us that “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

And Jesus spent His time among the tax collectors, and the prostitutes and the SINNERS.

Over and over again we read throughout the New Testament hearing the message repeated and it all seems to be summed up in 2 Peter 3:9.  “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to yo repentance.”

BUT in our passage in Revelation Chapter 6, we have sinners running from the Wrath of the Lamb.  They are running from the wrath of the very One who died for them.  What’s going on here?

After re-reading and meditating on the previous verses in the chapter, the answer is found in verses 9 thru 10:

I see two things in play here.  1st – the scene here shows God’s vengeance on mankind.  As Hebrews 10:30 tells us and we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”

The major focus in Revelation 6 is GOD’S JUDGMENT on those who’ve persecuted and slain His people in the name of His Son Jesus.

Jesus, while on this earth, told us what was going to happen when He said “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22).

AND Luke 21:17 – “And you will be hated (despised) by everyone because [you bear] My name and for its sake.”  [AMP]

John wrote in 1 John 3:13 – “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”

DID IT HAPPEN?

Yes!  Within the first 3 years of the EARLY church’s existence.

  • The Apostle James was executed.
  • Peter was thrown into prison.
  • Philip was stoned to death.
  • And a man named Saul had Christians arrested, jailed, beaten and even killed.

And that was just the beginning.

Down through the ages Christians have been murdered and tortured for their FAITH.

In my research, for this study, I came across some statistics that shocked me. [See Footnote [i].]

Every month…

  • 255 Christians are killed.
  • 104 are abducted.
  • 180 Christian women are raped, sexually assaulted or forced into marriage.
  • 60 churches are attacked.
  • 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned.

And this isn’t a new situation for BELIEVERS.  Christians have been suffering and dying for their FAITH for centuries!

And Jesus’ Revelation to John is telling us that God knew this would happen and it made Him angry.

And He was so angry that He said:  “Vengence is Mine”.

You REALLY don’t want to be on the receiving end of that kind of anger.

Paul wrote:  “God is just:  He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you”  (2 Thessalonians 1:6).

I literally feel sorry for the people who try to harm God’s people because I know the truth of Revelation 6.  You don’t mess with God’s people!

Hebrews 10:31tells us “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

So the 1st thing I see in Revelation 6 is THIS:

  • God will bring JUDGMENT on those who hurt His people.

But there is something else here that I almost missed:

God’s JUDGMENT isn’t just about VENGEANCE, it’s ALSO about reaching out to the lost!

In the Youtube video presentation at the beginning of this Blog, listen to this verse:

RUN TO THE LORD

“Lord, won’t you hide me?”

RUN TO THE LORD

“Lord, won’t you hide me?”

RUN TO THE LORD.

“Lord, won’t you hide me?”

“And the Lord said ‘sinner man’ – you shoulda been prayin.”

Do you know what this verse is saying?

It’s saying, it’s too late Sinner Man…you shoulda been a prayin!  BUT you didn’t, so don’t bother me.  You’ve messed up big time and now there’s no hope.

I have a real problem with that thinking.

Isaiah 55:7 – “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

As Long as the wicked are willing to REPENT…God will forgive. 

That’s the MESSAGE throughout Scripture.

Hebrews 9:27 tells us “And just as it is appointed for [all] men once to die, and after that the [certain] judgment”  [AMP].

But these guys (in Revelation 6) aren’t dead yet!  Until they die they still have the opportunity to REPENT.

And besides, it doesn’t say that the “Sinners” were appealing to God.  These folks weren’t running TO Jesus…they were running AWAY from Him.

Revelation 6:15-16 says they “hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains”

These folks aren’t appealing to God to hide them, they “called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne’.” 

They were calling on the rocks and Mountains to fall on them and protect them.

I remember growing up in a home where the punishment my folks dealt out to my brother and I definitely got our attention.  So much so, that even a slight look of dissatisfaction was all that was needed.

And there are times in Scripture where God disciplined entire nations in order to get their attention to REPENT–“turn from their wicked ways”  (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Psalm 32:4, we see David speaking about how God dealt with him after he had sinned with Bathsheba.  He wrote: “For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me…”  (AMP).

It was a repeated theme throughout the Old Testament.  God would slap the people in order to wake them UP!

And God hasn’t changed.  He’s still working on sinners NOW as He did back then.

One of my favorite bible verses is where Jesus says:

What does Jesus mean when He says the Holy Spirit (“the Helper”) will CONVICT?

It means that someone has been convicted of their GUILT.

It means to make a person FEEL their Guilt.

AND that’s the Spirit’s job–to CONVICT people of their SIN.

CONVINCE them of the need of RIGHTEOUSNESS and remind them of the coming judgment.

Now, how’s the Holy Spirit going to do that?

As my mother would try to explain when I was a child:  “That small voice inside of you will make you very uncomfortable, Mel, when you are doing something you shouldn’t.”

Being AWARE…

Being aware of what the Spirit of the Lord is trying to get your attention for.

Be open to receiving His correction and what He is showing you that you need to REPENT of and change direction in your life.

The word REPENT means to turn in the direction you were headed; change the way we did something or the direction we are thinking of proceeding.  [See Footnote [i].]

Remember always, the Holy Spirit is CONVICTING and NOT CONDEMNING us! 

That’s what the enemy does.

HOLY SPIRIT is NOT going to badger or nag us about the same thing.  He is going to show us the MISTAKE–laying it on our hearts to REPENT and ask for forgiveness and then… He is going to expect us to move on.  He will keep on until we do something about it!  That’s not “nagging,” that’s the Father’s LOVE for us.

In reflection and asking myself the question. who do I know, or don’t know today who are living in the ‘spiritual caves’ right now while shaking their fists at God?

Should I be praying that the Holy Spirit might CONVICT them to REPENTANCE?

QUESTION:  “But aren’t these people really God’s enemies and if they are God’s enemies, they have to be mine too? And shouldn’t God’s enemies be put in place–PUNISHED?”

MY ENEMIES–GOD’S ENEMIES deserve to be punished!!

Well, here’s the deal.

If I rejoice when my enemy falls, I prove I’ve missed something.

You see, Jesus came to die for SINNERS.  Now–are my enemies…SINNERS?

Yeah!  I’m pretty sure that’s part of the reason they’re my enemies.

There’s an interesting passage of Scripture from Proverbs 24:17-18 (AMP).

[17] Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles or is overthrown.  [18] Lest the Lord see it and it be evil in His eyes and displease Him, and He turns away His wrath from him [to expend Thit upon you, the worse offender].

There’s a hint given in the verses at the fact that your ENEMY is being punished for a reason.

THE REASON is this:

God is punishing your enemy so that you can show them GRACE.  You see God punishes your enemies so that you can come into their lives and show them God’s LOVE for them which lends to REPENTANCE.

You and I need to be constantly reminded by God’s Spirit that we were not SAVED so we could be pampered.

We were SAVED because we were going to HELL!

We were SAVED because we didn’t stand a chance without God’s MERCY!

It’s not that God doesn’t want you to have a better life than you’d have if you didn’t become a Christian; it’s just that God has SAVED us to become something more than just self-centered and self-serving individuals.

GOD SAVED you and I–and enlisted us to be His Ambassadors (His missionaries) to a lost world.            (2 Corinthians 6:20)

Now here’s the deal–you may be thinking that you are not qualified–not important enough to become a missionary–an ambassador.  But if you are willing to go to the “sinner man” during their struggles and SHARE with them the LOVE of God and HOPE of His forgiveness…then you have a chance to change the world!

Are you willing to take a chance?

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  Statistics –  https://www.opendoorusa.org/christian-persecution/

Credit:  Charisma News – Discerning the Difference…Between Holy Spirit Conviction and Demonic Condemnation.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  The New International Version (NIV), or elsewhere noted in the text.

Media:  Sinner Man by the Seekers, 1965.  Courtesy of YouTube. 

 

Our Need For REBUILDING – RESTORING

Scripture Passage:  Nehemiah 9:1-37; 10:28-39

I want to first take a quick glance at the setting in Nehemiah 9:

  • The Jewish people had been in captivity in Babylon.  Their Temple (place of worship) and the entire city of Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • Now, after 70 years, they’ve returned and rebuilt their city.

Although, when I say “returned” to Israel, most of them were first-time arrivals.  They were a newer generation, born in captivity.  They found the Law of Moses while working on the Temple.  And when the Prophet Ezra read it aloud to them, they vowed to return to God’s Law.  They were determined to get back to God’s ways.

Chapter 9 continues on this theme.

Then Ezra leads out with the beautiful PRAYER (vs. 6-37) and in that prayer, you can clearly see the nation making attempts to RECONNECT with God.

This is the longest recorded PRAYER in the Bible. 

It was a prayer of CONFESSION & REPENTANCE, recounting what God had done for them personally, as a nation, and man’s failure to honor Him.  This prompted me to read and re-read this prayer, making notes in my workbook while checking down the examples in the prayer with my own prayers.

How selfish we can be at times in our prayers.

There was this realization by the people just how far they had drifted from God and an honest CONFESSION of their sin. 

This is the first step for RESTORATION, for REVIVAL–a realization that we have drifted away from God and a desire to return to a Godly life in an ungodly culture.

This CONFESSION makes RENEWAL possible!

TRUE CHANGE OR RENEWAL –

This can only begin to happen when three things happen.

We need the 3 A’s to take place:

  1. Admit our wrongs,
  2. Acknowledge God’s ways, and…
  3. Act on it!

THE FIRST STEP…

CONFESSION is to admit that there’s a need for change!

James Montgomery Boice, a Christian theologian, Bible teacher, author, a speaker says, “There can be no genuine forward moral progress for either a nation or an individual without an acknowledgment of, sorrow for, and a true turning from sin.”  

It’s important that we all examine ourselves in reading God’s Word.

In Nehemiah 8, we can see where it began with the people – when they heard the Word they mourn and wept.

In Chapter 9 of Nehemiah, we see this again in corporate prayer.  If we’re not convinced that we need a CHANGE, we won’t.

This realization leads to REPENTANCE.

And by the way, it doesn’t help if we confess ‘just to confess’, or because ‘this is what everybody does’, or because ‘we have to do it’.

We should CONFESS because we are being prompted of the Holy Spirit when He brings to our mind the Word of God.

We want to CONFESS because we are moved by God’s Word or convicted by the Holy Spirit.

This is what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15:17-18 (confession).

QUESTION:  Why does God want us to confess?  Surely not to inform Him of something He already knows about us.

First of all, God wants us to admit our sins so that we can take the steps toward CHANGE. 

Only when we agree with God of our faults, our trespasses, and our need to change can we find the commitment to do so.

Secondly, CONFESSION makes us real.

REAL, if we are honest with God, honest with SELF and honest towards people.

It’s being AUTHENTIC, being VULNERABLE and BEING REAL!

This is the way to happiness.  We’re not weighed down, burdened with GUILT or SHAME.  We experience God’s FORGIVENESS and the JOY of forgiveness.

REAL FELLOWSHIP with God can’t happen when unconfessed SIN is in our lives.

WHAT IS SIN?

I’ve had the question directed at me over the years to what I think “SIN” is.  And my response is always redirected to,  “What do you think “SIN” is?

In a nutshell, according to the classical definition, “hippo”, SIN is “a word, deed, or desire in opposition to God’s Word.”

The second thing that’s necessary for RESTORATION to take place is to acknowledge God’s way–or take God’s Word seriously.

It’s this deep conviction of His Word that’s the only blessed way!  This conviction is closely related to the first thing–CONFESSION.

GOD’S WORD LEADS TO CONFESSION!

The reading of the Law in Nehemiah and the subsequent DAILY reading of the Scriptures led to the people’s confession and repentance.  It wasn’t the preaching of Ezra, the Levites that brought about restoration.  It was God’s Word!

The realization that yes, we’ve sinned against God, comes through the reading of the Word of God and by the leading and conviction of the Holy Spirit. 

We will never acknowledge SIN to be SIN or grieve, weep over it unless we understand it’s an offense against God, and the only way to see that is to know God’s Word.

So what are we looking at in all of this?

If we want CHANGE to happen we’ve got to have an alternative:

  • What do we really want to change into?
  • What kind of a change are we looking at?

It can’t be your way against my way or his way against the world’s way.  It must be God’s WAY we’re looking at.  It must be God’s Word we’re fixed on.  That’s the standard.  God’s Word is the MIRROR of our soul. our character, and our conduct.

In the prayer of CONFESSION, the Levites directed the people’s thoughts–notice I didn’t say ‘manipulated’ their thoughts–to the goodness and grace of God.

NOTICE how many times“YOU” appeared throughout the PRAYER.

Despite their failures, they were to recognize God’s KINDNESS in their betrayal, that God remains FAITHFUL and continues to shower His blessing on them.

NEHEMIAH 9:17

“YOU” didn’t desert them in the desert; “YOU” gave your good Spirit to instruct them; “YOU” didn’t withhold your manna from their mouths, and “YOU” gave them water for their thirst; “YOU” made their sons a numerous as the stars in the sky.

NEHEMIAH 9:31

NEHEMIAH 9:33

THE PEOPLE’S PRAYER…

In the PRAYER, the people were led to see through their history a God who is great, good and gracious despite man’s SIN AND FAILURES.  This is the basis why we CONFESS our sin.  We have a forgiving God, a merciful and gracious God.  This is why the father waits for the prodigal son to return.  Not to judge or condemn him, but to embrace and forgive him (Luke 15:11-32).

Our PARDON today is not based on our MERIT or our WORTHINESS, but upon His goodness and grace. 

We shouldn’t base our appeal on our past accomplishments (how much I HAVE DONE for God), but simply upon His grace and mercy (Nehemiah9:17-b) –

[17-b]  But You are a God ready to PARDON, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great steadfast love; and You did not forsake them” (AMP).

The THIRD STEP in a CHANGED LIFE is to ACT ON IT!

When we know that we know, where we are and where we want to go, we need to take the necessary steps to bring about the CHANGE.

NEHEMIAH 9:38 –

The LEVITES led by Ezra ended the people’s prayer saying, 

THE COMMITMENT –

The ASSEMBLY, the gathered people are going to make a COVENANT (an agreement, COMMITMENT) before God that they are willing to do the following:

Nehemiah 10:30 – “We shall not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons,”

10:31 – “We shall forego raising crops the seventh year [letting the land lie fallow] and the compulsory payment of every debt” [Exod. 23:10, 11; Deut. 15:1, 2].

10:32, 35, 36, 37 – “And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites”

10:39-c  “We will not forsake or neglect the house of our God.”

The people were determined to make right what was wrong and so should we today.

OUR NEED FOR REBUILDING – RESTORING BEGINS NOW!

EXAMINING ourselves in light of the world that surrounds us is a great place to start if you are looking for REVIVAL.

David – Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

[23]  “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

[24]  “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Allow the Holy Spirit to take away the hindrances and obstacles we’ve placed in God’s way.  Be honest with yourself.

  • Tell Him what you did wrong.
  • Is there someone or something you love more than Him?
  • Is God’s Word a concern to you?  Can you really worship Him, or has something taking the place of God in your spirit?
  • Tell Him the attitudes you have that aren’t good – pride, arrogance, jealousy, lust, unwillingness to forgive, laziness…

Allow Jesus to minister His CLEANSING & HEALING to your spirit.

  • If we CONFESS OUR SINS, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness.      (1 John 1:9)

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CREDITS –

Christian views on SIN – Wikipedia.

Photos & Images:  Google Image Search – Settings advance, using referencing bible verses.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP);  New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.