You can never outrun the love of God.
Well hey there everybody! My name is Trent Drye. I’m the Senior Pastor here at China Grove First Baptist Church and I’m so excited that you’ve joined us for this time of study and worshiping in God’s Word this morning.
We’re in our ninth week in our series Rebuild an Restore as we’ve journeyed through the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. It has been a rich study in a rich book filled with knowledge and filled with things that we can apply to our life. As we’ve seen God do amazing things through His people. We’ve seen God work through his people and in his people to rebuild the wall around the holy city of Jerusalem, facing intense opposition throughout the process. And we’ve seen God overcome the opposition, and the wall has been successfully completed.
Last week we started the spiritual restoration of the People of Israel, again as God is working in the hearts and the minds of people to restore them to what He has called them to be. In fact, in chapter seven they kind of restore the government and take attendance. And then in chapter eight we see the first spark of revival start to spread through the community as they assembled together, they hungered and desired to hear the Word of God preached and proclaimed so that they could understand it, and so that they could apply the Word to their life.
Throughout history, the great revivals have been marked by a return to God’s Word. In placing a high value on the Bible, and understanding that the Bible is authoritative in its teachings. It is perfect. It is inspired by God and it is sufficient to lead us to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And so the first mark of revival was a hunger for God’s Word, which we saw throughout the pages of Chapter 8 last week.
But today we will look at Chapter 9 and will see two more marks and two key things that continues the restoration of the people and that is the confession of sin and the repentance of their ways. You see back in chapter eight in the first verses, as they’re reading the Word of God, and as Ezra is proclaiming it, they begin to get convicted of sin. They’re weeping and they’re upset that they realize that they have rebelled against God, that they have failed to keep His commandments, and Nehemiah comes in and says, let’s go through the festival’s it’s the new year, it’s the new month, we’ve got three really important festivals coming up and so let’s move through the festivals. And then after the Festival of Booths here in Chapter 9 the people gather together and begin to confess their sins before God and repent and turn back to him, and so I would invite you to turn with me to Nehemiah Chapter 9, and that is where will be this morning.
But let me ask you this question, have you ever failed? Have you ever experienced failure? Maybe you’ve failed as a husband. I have just today, and this is Thursday that we’re recording, failed as a husband. You see I didn’t eat breakfast this morning and so I left early. I came up here to the church to do some work and I decided on my way home, I was going to go to Bojangles and get me some lunch. Well, the failure in that was I didn’t call my wife and ask her if she wanted any. And when I got home and she said, what did you have for lunch? I said, well, I had Bojangles. I immediately knew that I had messed up an I had failed and so I told her I said, well I’m sorry I just was I, you know I admitted that I was wrong. I should have been considerate of her and I should have known that we didn’t have anything to eat at the house ’cause we just didn’t. And so I messed up and but luckily my wife, man she’s pretty forgiving and she’s pretty awesome, she’ll forgive me immediately, and remind me for the rest of my life that I made that mistake.
Maybe you failed as a parent. Recently I have failed as a father. I sent my son onto the soccer field to play a game in Crocs and not cleats because I forgot to put his cleats on. Now my son’s pretty cool, he just went with it and he didn’t give me a hard time. I’m not even sure he really knew he was wearing Crocs and not cleats, but we fixed the problem and he forgave me. But I owned up to my mistake. I owned up to my failures. You know failures are a part of life. Maybe you failed in your business or you failed in your friendships, you failed in any area of life. We experience failures, ’cause failures is a part of life. Just like successes are. But one thing that I know is all of us have one failure in common. We have failed to live up to God’s standards.
God gave us his law. He gave us his commandments and they are perfect and they are righteous and they are good and therefore our good. But throughout life we just fail. We can try really hard. We can wake up every morning with our checklist of things that, hey, I read my Bible today. I didn’t say that four letter word, even though I wanted to. But eventually there’s going to be that box on that checklist that you’re not going to be able to check, and you’re going to fail at living up to God’s standards. No matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you work, you are a failure when it comes to keeping God’s commandments and God’s standards. But the good news is we are in great company. The people of God, the Jewish people are consistent failures, they’re repeat offenders in their failures throughout the history of the nation, and that’s what is so cool about Nehemiah Chapter 9. We’re not going to read all of it today. I’m going to summarize some of it and then highlight some of the key passages in it. But what we see in Nehemiah 9 is like a survey of the Old Testament. It’s a history of God’s people from creation from Genesis chapter one until the present day. And so I know a lot of us struggle with history. History is not always our favorite subject because we don’t always understand history. We can’t see how a history applies to our life. You know why do I need to know? But the history of Israel reveals to us some very important truths about God’s response to our failures. Truths that will slingshot us into the New Testament. Truths that apply directly to you and me and the Church. And so when we experience failures and then we’re overwhelmed with that guilt of failing that shame of messing up, and, you know, we’re overcome with depression and desperation to not fail again. A lot of times when we fail, we feel hopeless because we tried so hard.
But I want to tell you what we see in Chapter 9 that in a hopeless moment of failure, God is full of hope in His faithfulness. Everybody fails, but God is always faithful to His people and that’s what we see in Nehemiah chapter.
It starts out setting the stage if you will, for what is what is to come. The opening verses are the people are convicted of sin, they’ve gathered, they want to confess their sins. You see the Levites coming up and the Levites are going to lead them. The Levites, are the priests, are going to lead them through a prayer of confession and they start at the beginning.
Verse six is where the prayer starts and they praise the Lord because He is creator. You know, everything in the universe was created by God out of nothing. And that’s so important for us to understand. The creator of the universe is setting the stage to restore His people to what He wants them and desires them to be, even though they have failed over and over and over again.
And then after creation He calls a guy named Abram and changes his name to Abraham and that’s what we see in verses 7. In Chapter 9:7, “You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chadians and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart fateful before you an made with him the covenant.” Now this is so important. This is why I’m reading this. This is the covenant God made with Abraham. “To give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And You have kept Your promise, for You are righteous.”
Now this is years, hundreds of years, before Nehemiah shows up, God made the promise to give this land to the people and after the wall is rebuilt and the people have been restored to their governance of the city, God has kept His promise to give all of this land to Abraham’s descendants, because God is a faithful promise keeping God. And that’s what we see in verses seven and eight. But then we run into a problem, because God’s people end up going into Egypt. There was a famine. They had to go into Egypt, and in this story, and starting in verse 9 is the Exodus story and the wilderness wondering. We see that the Levites asked them to remember the parting of the Red Sea, and God delivering them from the hands of the Egyptians. And we know during the day God guided them with the cloud and at night it was a pillar of fire. God was leading them to the Mount Sinai so they could be so they could receive the 10 Commandments.
But here’s what happened. Look at Nehemiah 9:16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck.” Now this is stiffened their neck is like a stubborn mule that won’t go anywhere. Or the best illustration I could think of was the “Loaded Goat” episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Man, that goat was loaded with dynamite and he wasn’t going anywhere unless Barney played his harmonica and they let him out of town.
You know, we’re talking about stubborn people now. I don’t understand this. They had just crossed over the Red Sea on dry land. They had seen their enemies wiped out. They had lived through the 10 plagues and God had delivered them from slavery. God had guided them through the desert to this point so that God could give them His perfect law. And look what happens in verse 17. “They refused to obey an were not mindful of the wonders that You performed, but they stiffened their necks and appointed a leader to return them to slavery in Egypt.” They wanted to go back to slavery.
Here’s something that just sticks out to me. Sometimes our sinful life is more enticing than following God. I don’t know why that is, but that’s just the human nature that we have. We are sinners by nature. It is kind of our nature to fail to keep God’s command. And here, after seeing all that God had done, they wanted to go back to Egypt. They didn’t want their lives to be changed. They didn’t want to be restored. They wanted to keep on doing what they were doing and so they refused to accept God’s commandment. They created idols for themselves, but I love what happens next. “But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and did not forsake them.” Verse 18, “Even when they had made for themselves a Golden calf”, they made them an idol. They worshipped in idol instead of God. “This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt and committed great blasphemies.” Verse 19. “You in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness.” You see, even though they disobeyed God, and even though they had seen God do some mighty things, they turned away from God, and even in their rebellion, God didn’t leave them, because He is merciful and He is gracious and He loves the people. He didn’t turn His back on them. Now God, I’m glad God’s in charge and not me. You know you disobey me. I may not talk to you ever again. I may just write you off and move on to the next group, but that’s not what God is. God is merciful. He is gracious. He is ready to forgive people of their sins because of His mercy.
Listen. Mercy is kindness and compassion, and it basically means we do not get what we deserve. Mercy says that we do not get what we should get. There was a mother who went to Napoleon and, her son, had committed a crime. It was his second strike and the punishment of this crime was death. This mother went to Napoleon and she got on her knees and she said please mercy, mercy, mercy do not kill my son. And the emperor said, listen, your son does not deserve mercy, he deserves death. The mother says I’m not asking for anything other than mercy. If he deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy. And she just continued to plead. And finally, the emperor says, then mercy, he shall receive, and the boy’s life was spared, even though he deserved it.
The Israelites deserve to be destroyed. And God spared them and saved them, and continue to lead them through the wilderness. But God is also full of grace. Grace is a little different than mercy because it’s getting something we do not deserve and have not earned. It’s getting a gift or a favor that we didn’t do anything to earn or anything to to deserve. In fact, go back to the story. Let’s say the son was set free and not punished. And then Napoleon turned around and just out of nowhere out of the goodness of his heart, gave him $500,000 and says, well, I’m going to save you and here’s some money to go pay your bills.
That’s mercy and grace working together. You see God not only saved the people from destruction; He gave them hope. He gave them away to be restored and eventually it’s going to be through His son, Jesus Christ. And so for 40 years they had to wander in the wilderness. Now that’s important for you to keep in mind, because all sin has consequences.
Your sin will have consequences. You know, Grace and mercy doesn’t always mean your life is going to be perfect. There are consequences to our decisions. We make bad decisions. As kids we have to face the consequences. We can repent. We can ask for forgiveness. In fact, I’ve made a lot of mistakes as a teenager. I did a lot of dumb stuff and my parents loved me and they forgave me and they did things that I didn’t deserve, but I still had to suffer consequences. The consequences of their sin was they had to wander around for 40 years before they could go into the promised land, and in fact, the generation that rebelled would never enter the promised land, not even Moses.
But God, but here’s the important thing. Through there wandering God never left them. He provided for them. He protected them. He guided them through the wilderness. Listen when we’re going through the wilderness, consequences of our sin, it can be hard. It can be challenging. And we may think it’s too much, but I want you to hear something. God didn’t turn His back on you. Gods right there, guiding you through the wilderness, and if you refuse to turn back to God and you keep walking away from Him in the wilderness. Well, He’s going to be walking behind you trying to get you to come back because God is faithful in our failures. God is faithful in our failures.
Listen, all of us have broken the Law of God. All of us deserve punishment. And the punishment for sin is death. Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin is death.” But God is full of grace and mercy. And He made a way for us to be saved from that penalty. And so aimed the failures are amidst the failures of those people, God remained faithful because of His mercy, His Grace, and His love, even though they had to wander, they had to suffer the consequences, God was still faithful.
Then the Levites continue in Nehemiah chapter nine. They tell the story of the conquest, how Joshua led the people through the area, and they conquered the land that God had promised to them. And God gave their enemies over to their hands and they were successful. But then again, their success was short lived. Look in verse 26. “Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against You and cast Your law behind their back, and killed Your prophets, who warned them in order to turn back to You. And they committed great blasphemies.”
So once again, the people turned from God. But God remained faithful. The story continues into the Judges. In the history of the Judges, and there’s a pattern as you read the Judges. Israel is nice, they’re good, they’re restored, then they sin. And listen, it wasn’t always just overnight. Sin is not just an immediate thing. Our sins and our failures happen over time. The people slowly compromised. They slowly entered into those gray areas that they knew they shouldn’t go in over time they sinned and they rebelled and they completely turned their backs to God and they suffered consequences in the Judges. And so they, when they realized their sins, they cried out to God. And God, being faithful, heard them, and he sent what Nehemiah calls a savior, which is a Judge to lead them back. They confessed, and they turn back to God, and they are restored. And this pattern of sin, consequences and restoration just goes on and on throughout the Judges. And you just see God continually to be faithful through all the sin, over and over and over again. In fact, look at verse 27. “And in the time of their suffering, they cried out to You, and You heard them from heaven, and according to Your great mercies You gave them saviours (Judges) who saved them from the hand of their enemies.” Verse 28. “Yet when they turned and cried to You, You heard from heaven, and many times You delivered them according to Your mercies.”
We God is gracious, he is merciful. He is loving. He is ready to restore when we turn back to Him. Verses 29 and 30 talk about the prophets in the kings and again throughout the kings you see that slow decline that, slow fade from righteousness to rebellion. It’s just one decision after another. Listen, we live in a world that tells us hey, it’s OK to do that it. It’s just a little drink. What’s it gonna hurt? It’s just a little white lie. What’s it gonna hurt just just why don’t you just accept this little thing it’s no big deal. But if you notice, they keep most pushing the goalpost on us. If you compromise here, you’ll compromise again and again and again and before you know it, you’ve compromised until you’re in complete rebellion against God. We have to stand firm in our faith.
Like Daniel, who refused to compromise over what he ate. Because he was committed to God’s Word, but the people of Israel they just kept compromising and compromising and the Northern Kingdom failed and the southern Kingdom fell and they were conquered again, suffering the consequences of sin. But God remained faithful. Look in verse 31. “Nevertheless, in Your great mercies You did not make an end of them or forsake them, for You are gracious and merciful.” Listen the Babylonians conquered Judah, destroyed the city, killed lots of people. But the nation still stood. God left a remnant of people.
Think about Noah. Listen, I think Noah’s Ark is one of the most tragic stories of the Bible. Everyone in the world was wiped out. It’s almost like God was washing His hands of everything. But in God’s grace and God’s mercy, and in God’s faithfulness He said, no, Noah will be saved in his family. And yeah, we can think about how tragic it is. But God didn’t destroy humanity.
Because of His Grace and His mercy, God just continues to give second chances to His people. We don’t deserve it. We certainly haven’t earned it. But it’s grace, and it’s mercy.
Their failures keep adding up and adding up. It’s like that laundry at your house. It never ends. The laundry basket, pretty much everybody’s house I think, is like a never-ending bottomless pit. No matter how much you do, you can do laundry every day. It’s going to be there. Listen, the sins, keep piling up and piling up and piling up. But God’s faith continues to be steadfast, and every time the people turn to God, He restores them. 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If My people who are called by My Name, humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”
Everyone fails, but God is faithful. But you need to understand something. God is faithful and God is good, but we have a responsibility. We have to turn back to God. For some people we gotta turn to God for the first time. That is our response. To confess our sins and repent and repent, which is to turn away from the world and turn towards God.
Look what they say in versus believe 33 “yet You have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for You have dealt for You have dealt faithfully” what the Levites are saying is we’ve been wicked. You’ve dealt with us faithfully and then they confess their sins. We have acted wickedly, our kings, our princes, our priest in our fathers (everybody) have not kept your law or paid attention to Your commands and Your warnings that you gave them.” Verse 35. “Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that You gave them and in the large and rich land that You set before them, they did not serve You or turn from their wicked ways.”
They confessed they just owned up to it. When we mess up, I mean I’m a guy. I have a hard time admitting I’m wrong. Right? We don’t like to admit we messed up. I’m sure this was hard. It’s hard to say we messed up. We made mistakes. I remember being a little kid. I was not supposed to have any more Sun Drop. My parents had said you’ve had too much. Well, when they weren’t looking, I went to the refrigerator and I got me a glass of Sun Drop. And I set it on the counter. And then my dad walked in and says, what’s that glass Sun Drop doing? I said I don’t know how it got there. I didn’t want to admit that I had done it. He knew I did it. He probably watched the whole thing. I don’t want to fess up to it. Because we don’t like to confess that we’re wrong. We don’t like to admit we fail.
The Bible says all of us have fallen short of God’s glory. We’ve all fallen short of His law and His standards. We’re failures. We gotta own up to it. We gotta own up to our anger problems. We gotta own up to our bad decisions. We gotta own up to our lust in our addictions. We gotta own up to it. In fact, if we don’t own up to it, if we live our life like we have never made a mistake, then I’m not sure God can change us. We have to acknowledge that we need Him.
In fact, let me look at 1 John. You don’t have to turn there, but 1 John 1:9-10. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them.” We confess them. “But if we say we have not sinned, we make Him, God, out to be a liar and His words are not in us.”
The first step in restoring your life is admitting that you’ve got a problem and it’s a sin problem. And you’ve fallen short of the glory of God. But once you confess your sins, you need to repent. We got a lot of people who confess and confess and confess, but they never repent.
Look what the Israelites do. Verse 38 “because of all of this, we make a firm covenant in writing on the sealed document are the names of our princes, and our Levites, in our priests. And in verses 10,11 and parts 12 go into more detail about this covenant. But what they’re saying in this moment is, we know that we have been walking this direction with our backs turned to God. That we have failed God. God’s not failed us. God’s never broke His covenant with us. And so, in this moment after confession, confessing our sins, we’re going to turn around, fix our eyes on God and we’re making a covenant, a promise to follow Him.
And the goal is never to go back. But so many people do. You’ll see in Chapter 13 in a couple weeks the Israelites went back. Listen, just because God is faithful doesn’t give us an excuse to sin. It doesn’t give us a free pass to sin. But when we do sin, just remember God is faithful to forgive you of your sins. So as we repent we keep our eyes fixed and focused on God. I don’t know if any of this resonates with you. Man, it resonates with me. I mean this this chapter hits home in my life. Because before I became a Christian, I was far from God. I was far away from God, but God never abandoned His pursuit of me. And He’ll never abandon His pursuit of you, and so even though we fail, even though we feel hopeless, don’t be discouraged because there is hope found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:1-5 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit, who is now at work, and those who are disobedient. Verse 3 all of us lived among them. At one time we’ve all lived among them, we’re all failures gratifying the cravings of our flesh, following its desires and thoughts like the rest. We were by nature deserving of wrath.” Verse 4 great verse but. Might be the biggest but in the whole Bible it’s an amazing word, “but God, but because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. It is by grace that you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:8 “for it is by Grace you have been saved through faith and it is not from yourselves, but it is a gift from God.”
Jesus died on a cross to save us in restore us from our brokenness. Listen when He is hanging on the cross that density and the weight that massive weight in that massive block of my sins were laid upon Him and taken off of me. He died for it. He bore my sin and my shame. He conquered that on the cross and in three days later He arose from the grave, conquering sin and death for one last time. The final element of God’s restoration happened on that cross, and in that empty tomb on Easter Sunday, as God made a way for His people to be eternally restored to what He has called us to be.
Listen. As a boy, one time walking a police officer in Northern Ireland. He was walking the streets on his beat and he heard crying over here to the side and he looked over his little boy sitting on the stoop. The boy was just filled with tears and he goes officer I’m lost, I’m lost. I don’t know how to find my way back home. So the officer goes over. He kneels down. He begins to comfort the boy and he starts naming streets. Do you live on this street? Do you live on this street? Do you live near this business? Do you live near this business? Can you give me any idea where you live? And he couldn’t, and the police officer thought for a moment and then he remembered. There was a big church in the center of town with a really tall white cross on top of it. So the police officer pointed to that cross and he says, young man, do you live near that? Do you live near the cross and the boy responded, Yes. If you take me to the cross, I’ll find my way home. He could be restored to his family. He could be restored to his home. Take me to the cross.
Today if we need to go to the cross, that is how we find our way home. That is how we are restored from our failures through the Cross of Christ. We have to go home. And God wants us to go home. He desires us to come home. That’s why He sent His son to die for us. Listen. That’s how much God loves you, John. 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God does not want you to perish. He sent His son to die for you, to save you not to condemn you. Listen. God’s not abandoned you. God’s not abandoned this city and God’s not abandoned the nation and God’s not abandoned this world. He has not turned His back on it because of the words of John 3:16. He loves the world so much He will not turn His back on us. We may turn our back on Him. But he is always faithful. He pursues after us like the Shepherd, chasing after that loss, sheep, the Shepherd, who left 99 to seek after the one that is how God is pursuing us through His son Jesus. You can never outrun the love of God. No matter what you do, you can’t outrun the love of God but you gotta turn back to Him. And when you do, man, when you turn around and confess your sins and repent, man, Jesus is gonna be staying there with His arms wide open. He’s going to wrap His arms around you and hug you. And welcome you home. That’s what He did for you on the cross.
Romans 10:9 says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Do you believe that? Do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead? Are you willing to confess Him as the Lord of your life? If you are today’s the day. I mean you can just pray to God and there’s not a form prayer. There’s nothing formula wise to say you just pray God I’ve sinned. I’ve messed up. But I believe that you sent Your Son Jesus to die for me, and that You raised Him from the dead, and you’ll forgive me of those sins. And then you confess that He is Lord of your life. You turn around, you never look back. And you’ll be saved. Don’t wait to make that life changing decision. Believe in Jesus. Confess and repent and follow. And if you’re ready to do that, and you’re watching, and you want more information or you want to talk to us, you know they’ll be some information at the end of the video. You can get into contact with the Church, me, and we’ll be glad to walk you through that. We’ll be glad to disciple you and take you through the next steps on this journey.
But maybe you’re here and you’re listening and you’ve been a Christian for a long time and you’re just still struggling with sin. Maybe you’ve strayed from that path a little bit. Maybe you just need to recommit your life like the Israelites, re-committing, entering into a new covenant with God. Turning from the ways that you have been living and saying, I’m going to live for You. It’s not easy. It’s going to be hard, but you can do it through the power of the Holy Spirit. Listen, we have the power to overcome sin. And I don’t make light of it because I know how hard it is. Some of us are struggling with sins that are just weighing us down, and it seems almost impossible to overcome, but you can with the power of the Holy Spirit. So we keep praying and we keep seeking the Lord. We memorize Scripture. We let God lead us and empower us and we will overcome those sins in those failures. So remember everybody fails. But God is always faithful.
Let’s pray together.
Father, I thank you for the Word of God. I thank you that it convicts us that it teaches us that it corrects us and rebukes us. I am grateful that it reveals to us who You are and how You sent Your Son Jesus to die for us so that we would have eternal life, not because we deserve it because You love us that much. Father help us to hold on to the truth that even when we fail You are faithful. But help us to understand that we have to fix our eyes on Jesus and each day we have to live following You, overcoming our sins, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and change us from the inside out. And Father, I pray for those who are struggling with sin. I pray for the lost who need to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior that You would lead them to make that decision today. I pray for Christians who are struggling with failures that are weighing on their hearts. Father relieve them of that burden. Help remind them of Your faithfulness and help them turn back to You. We ask all these things in Your Son’s Name.
Amen and Amen.