This week, I’m starting a new sermon series from the book of Nehemiah. It’s difficult to cover a 13 chapter book in 4 weeks so I’m resorting to the old preachers trick of picking some themes and then have them start with the same letter so that they’re easier to remember. I chose the letter “P”, just because several of my themes began with that letter and then I made the other two fit.
One of the many unique characteristics of Jesus’ ministry was his ability to see life from a different perspective to those around him. At his trial, he could look Pilate in the eye and say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) Honestly, who talks like that? If we encounter someone claiming to be a king in an alternative universe we generally label that person a geek or a freak. But Jesus spoke in a way that made his perspective seem rational, real, and believable.
Jesus could see the dualism of the physical and spiritual realms and the way they interact. He understood how actions in one realm influence events in the other. He knew saw life like no one else saw life.
We could argue that any great leader in history brings a unique perspective to their task, that’s why they’re recognised as a leader. (Although some of them may have simply been in the right place at the right time.) But God’s leaders in Scripture generally share the trait of seeing life from God’s perspective.
Thousands of people knew that the walls of Jerusalem were in a state of disrepair: the inhabitants of Jerusalem and surrounds; and, others, like Nehemiah, who heard the news from travelers. Apparently every other person simply accepted that “it is, what it is”. (Granted, there may have been farmers etc. unhappy with the situation, but not in a position to do anything about it.) In contrast, when Nehemiah heard the news he mourned, fasted and prayed for 40 days.
There are several ways to consider the destruction of Jerusalem’s walls:
- It could be a civic pride issue, “What’s the point of mowing my yard and keeping it nice, when the cities walls are in mounds of rubble all over the place?”
- It could be a national security issue, “Without walls anyone can just waltz in and sack and pillage the city!”
- It could be a political issue, “If we don’t have any walls how can we ever gain our independence from foreign rulers. We need to be able to defend ourselves.”
But Nehemiah saw the destroyed walls as a spiritual issue. He prayed to God confessing his sins. He reminded God of His promises. And because he knew that God is, “the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love…” (Neh 1:5) he saw possibilities for rebuilding the wall. Yes, he worked in a position of privilege as the king’s cupbearer, but hasn’t God used faithful peasants and slaves in the past also? Nehemiah’s faith and vision allows God to use him, not his job.
We often limit the mission of the church and the influence of God in our lives by not recognising God’s perspective on our situation. We’re too quick to see problems rather than possibilities. Yahweh is a God with big ideas. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God wants “everyone to come to repentance.“ How many churches and Christians really want that? How many people really believe that it’s possible? What possibilities do we see in our community or among our family and friends? How many people have we written off as “not interested” in knowing God? I wonder if Nehemiah would see different possibilities?
- If you’re a member at Lawson Rd, “What possibilities might Nehemiah see that we’ve been overlooking?”
- What attitudes or perspectives do we hang on to that limit our ability to view life as God would have us view life?
- Is it unrealistic to have the goal of “everyone coming to repentance“?
Last week I attended a seminar by Nelson Searcy. He made the following statement that I like and believe is pertinent to this discussion.
“Our churches need to have the goal of making it difficult for people in our communities to go to hell.”
If our churches are not contacting people in our communities, then it’s easy for them to go to hell. They just keep doing what they’re doing. But when we’re involved in the lives of those around us. When we’re inviting them to meet Christ. When they’re hearing the Good News of Jesus. They have to deliberately reject all that in order to go to hell. I like that as a church goal… but I’m not going to put in on the church sign!