No matter how far you strayed, God is ready to forgive you today.
Well hey there everybody my name is Trent Drye and I’m the Senior Pastor here at China Grove First Baptist Church and I’m so excited that you have made the decision to join us for a time of Bible study and worship this morning. We’re so excited to just dive into God’s Word together and just see what He has to say to us today.
As I’m going to be doing for several weeks, I want to remind us who we are. I’m someone who constantly needs a refresher and constantly needs to be reminded of things. I mean, you can just ask Jennifer, I forget things that she told me 30 seconds ago, and so I’m constantly reminding myself, and so I want to remind us of who we are. We are disciples of Jesus who are called to make disciples for Jesus. And we get that out of Matthew 28 verses 18-20 where Jesus says “all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, an behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” And so much truth is in that passage, that Great Commission, where we are going to work together as a church family, as disciples of Jesus, to go into our communities to go into our places of businesses, and we are called to make disciples and I’m so excited to be a part of what God is going to be doing through us in our communities.
We’re going to continue our series today, Rebuild and Restore, through the book of Nehemiah, an Old Testament Book, the last historical book of the Old Testament. Not the chronological book in your Bible, but historically speaking, it’s the last history of the nation of Israel before the birth of Jesus. So I would invite you to grab a Bible, open it up to that Old Testament Book of Nehemiah, and let us continue to work through chapter one. This morning will pick up in verse 5 here in a few minutes.
Just to remind you, last week we were introduced to Nehemiah and a conversation that changed his life. Nehemiah’s brother shows up from Judah and gives him the news that the walls of Jerusalem are still broken and the people are still in distress that they are helpless and that there is still work to be done and that conversation changed Nehemiah’s life. Because, you know, as we study this, and as we learn about Nehemiah, we learn that Nehemiah’s got a passion for God. He has a passion for studying God’s Word and following the Lord, but he’s also got a passion for people.
And last week we saw that his passion for people led him to ask about the condition, and when he heard about the condition, he was broken hearted for the people. And in that moment Nehemiah’s passion aligned with God’s passion. See, God’s passionate about people.
And when those passions aligned Nehemiah’s purpose, the purpose for his life aligned with God’s purpose for his life. And now we’re going to continue that journey, to see how an ordinary guy was used by God to do a great and mighty work. And so just excited to dig into that today. So let us pray together.
Father, I thank you for our time. I pray that as we open Your Word that it would be a guiding light in a dark world. That You would help us to understand it. That You would make it clear for us and that You would help us to apply it to our lives and we ask this in Jesus Name. Amen, Amen.
So my daughter is in 6th grade. I feel really old as she started in 6th grade this year. I don’t know what happened to that little baby girl that I used to have, but she’s growing up and the one thing that we did has with her being in 6th grade we bought her a cell phone and you know I was kind of against it. But it’s OK. We thought that she should have the capabilities and the abilities to get a get a hold of us at a sporting event or a dance or whatever you know middle school kids do these days. And so we got her cell phone and we put an app called Life 360 on it. I think people are familiar with that and you know I can track her every movement and when it comes to my little girl I’m OK with big brother monitoring everything she does.
Because I want to know what she’s doing, I want to know where she’s at, but it got me thinking, what did I do when I was in 6th grade? Because I am in that interesting generation where I grew up in middle school without cellphones. And all the teenagers are like how did you survive middle school? Well, we didn’t have texting. We didn’t have Snapchat, we didn’t have Instagram. We didn’t have Facebook Messenger or anything else that you’re using these days. We had to talk to each other. I mean, that’s how we survived. We had face to face conversations and we knew how to communicate. We also passed notes to each other in class. Now that’s fun because you know what I would do. Not me, but an unnamed male. OK, we’re not going to use me, an unnamed male would write love letters. You know, not really love letters so much, but you know, do you love me? Check yes or no. You know some of the older folks my age and older will remember those notes, but young people, I don’t know what your text. Hey, I like you, do you like me? And then you know you just wait for the text. But this was the letter. Do you like me? Check yes or no and you would pass it.
And if you got caught by the teacher more times than not, the teacher would grab the note, open it up and read it to the whole class. Happened to me more than once. That’s how we communicated. Now you know when I was in middle school we had something called a pay phone. On campus. I mean you still pay for your phone today, but this was an actual phone, a landline phone. You stuck a quarter in it and you could call somebody except we found a way to do it for free.
We were at a middle school dance and I was ready to leave, so I called my mom and dad using the payphone. I didn’t have a quarter so I dialed 1-800-collect. Now see what you can do is when the operator says, “please state your name”. You got about 5 seconds to leave a really quick message. So here’s what it was. “Please state your name.” “Mom and Dad. I’m ready for you to come get me at school. Please hurry up.”
And so when the 1-800-collect lady called my mom and dad, she that’s what the message that would play and my parents would say. We decline the charges and they would hang up the phone. They’d come get me.
So unsophisticated back in the day, but we had to communicate. If you’re familiar with the Andy Griffith Show, which I am, I love it. I watch it every night. They have the phone. They say Sarah get main the filling station. You know, Sarah, get me this, you know they had an operator to connect the call, and on Sunday afternoons when the party line was in use. That’s an episode of Andy Griffin. Nobody was calling anybody OK, but that’s how people communicate. Cultures have communicated with each other for years. We’ve used pigeons to fly notes from location to location. Some cultures use smoke signals to communicate long distances apart. We used Morse code and Telegraph’s. Grunts and Grands, however, civilization has always found ways to communicate because communication is essential for strong relationships. Communication is essential for unity. I think about my marriage. If me and my wife never talk to each other. But she might be happy, but you know, but most of the time, how good of a relationship would that really be? Communication is an essential part of the human relationship.
Well, communicating with God is an essential part of the Christian life as well. And the way we communicate with God is through something that we call prayer. Prayer is the way that we communicate with our Heavenly Father. You see prayer as talking with God, a God who loves us, a God who desires an intimate relationship with you, and me. He wants us to talk to Him and we do that through prayer. And as we look at Nehemiah today, we’re going to see that the first thing Nehemiah does when he hears about the brokenness of the walls. When he hears that there is a great task that lies ahead of him. When he realizes the call his life, the first thing he does is pray, because prayer is the key to an effective ministry. Prayer is the key to an effective ministry.
You know, if you’re like me a lot of times you like to plan. You want to have a strategy and you want to have a plan in place and you want to do this and you want to get to work as fast as you can. But Nehemiah said I’m going to pray because I can’t do this task without God. He’s completely dependent upon the Lord for success.
You know churches like to make plans and have strategies, and then after the planning we pray. God bless our plans. God we got a big job to do today. We’ve got it organized. We’re going to pray to bless it. Pray that You would bless it. The first step should be prayer. Let’s pray first and let God develop the plan for us because prayer is the key to an effective ministry. We can’t do it without God’s help. We can’t impact our communities with the gospel unless God helps us. And so we need to pray big prayers. We need to pray prayers like Nehemiah and Nehemiah shows us in this text 3 very important aspects of an effective prayer life, so read with me in Nehemiah chapter one, starting in verse 5.
“And I said, O Lord God of Heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments. Let your ear be attentive, attentive and your eyes be open to hear the prayer of Your servant, that I now pray before You day and night.” Man he’s a man of prayer, day and night. He never ceases praying. “I now pray before You day and night for the people of Israel, Your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel which we have sinned against You. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember the word that You commanded Your servant Moses saying if you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. But if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though you are outcast to the uttermost parts of Heaven from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen. To make My Name dwell there, they are Your servants and Your people whom You have redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. O Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant. And to the prayer of Your servants, who delight to fear Your Name and give success to Your servant today and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
It’s a very powerful prayer that Nehemiah prays, and I imagine he prayed this prayer over and over and over. As he patiently waited for God to give him the plan, and empower him to take the next steps in this extraordinary task. But the first thing that we see is he prays a prayer of adoration. He praises God. He says he calls God great and awesome.
Great and awesome. Now we use that word awesome all the time, and that cheeseburger I had about an hour ago was awesome. Put a little bacon, on it. That made it double awesome. You go to you, go to a restaurant in Locust, you can get a cheeseburger with bacon, onion rings and barbecue sauce. And that’s awesome. OK, we say that word awesome all the time. Man, that the Braves scored 29 points last night. That is awesome. And if you’re watching this on Sunday, today’s Thursday, so on Wednesday night, the Braves scored 29 points. That’s awesome.
OK yeah yeah. My wife is awesome now. She really is awesome. OK yeah. My my daughter comes home from school. She was I got 100 and I’m like man that’s awesome. My son gets in the car after school one day this week he goes I said how was your day he gets it was awesome. We love to use that word awesome I do. I mean you come to me and tell me something exciting in your life. I’m gonna say man that’s awesome. That’s awesome, but here’s here’s here’s the thing. God’s the only thing, God is the only Being the only thing that is truly awesome. Because He’s the God who created the universe. He’s the God who created you and me. He’s the God who created the trees and if you ever get a chance to go to a place where there’s not a lot of city lights and it’s a clear night and you just look up at the sky. And you know what you’re going to say? God man, you’re awesome. He created every star, every planet man. Our God is an awesome God and when Nehemiah starts his prayer, adoring God and calling Him awesome, what he’s doing is he’s focusing his attention on who God is. The character of God, the goodness of God.
You know God is a God who keeps promises. That’s what Nehemiah says. He says. You have kept Your covenant. You have never broken a promise. You know. Here we break promises all the time. I’ve broken promises and see I promise to do this and I break it. You know, we are people who break promises. We’ve made promises to God, and we’ve broken promises to God I’m sure, but God has never broken, not one single promise we find in His scriptures, and the scriptures are filled with them. Now, not all of the promises have been fulfilled yet, but I promise you that I promise you that God will keep His promise.
For Nehemiah and the people of Israel, He is in the process of keeping His promise to restore them. But He’s also in the process of keeping his promise to make a way for a coming Messiah, who would save the world from their sins. We worship and adore a God who keeps His promises.
Scripture is filled with praises. Psalm 117 says, praise the Lord all nations. Extol Him, all peoples for great, is the steadfast love towards us and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.
In Daniel 9 now Daniel is one of the exiles he is, he has been taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar, and he’s in the land of Babylon and in Daniel 9 he prays this prayer very much similar to Nehemiah. Daniel prays. Daniel says, “I prayed to the Lord My God an made confession, saying o Lord, the great an awesome God who keeps covenant in steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
Brothers and sisters, we worship a God who keeps his promises. We worship a God who is worthy of our praise and who is worthy of our adoration. And God desires us to praise Him, not because He’s egotistical, but because He deserves it.
You know every single day I tried to say something good about Jennifer. I want her to know that I adore her. She doesn’t have to have me say it. But she deserves it ’cause she’s married to meand she’s just awesome and great.
We need to treat God the same way when we go to Him in prayer, we give Him praise and honor and glory. But what this does when we start our prayers with adoration and praise, we are focusing attention on God and not ourselves.
Nehemiah could have easily went to God, and said, God I got a big task. I need your help. This is what I gotta do. He could have started with me. But instead he started with Him. He put all his focus and all his attention on God Almighty by adoring Him.
And I know that there’s a there’s times in life where we struggle to adore God. We go through dry seasons where we’re like, I just don’t know what I have to be thankful for. I have been through those dry seasons. I’ve been through those times where I just don’t know what to pray and I find myself going to Isaiah 6 three where I just cry out. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord. Or Psalm 95, where it says come let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord, our maker. I’m reminded that when life isn’t going the way I thought, God still made me and and He’s worthy of my adoration.
When I’m struggling with praise, I go to the hymns. One of my favorite all time hymns starts out like this is Oh Lord, My God. When I an awesome wonder. Consider all the works Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed man, I read those words and I’m ready to praise God right now. And the song continues, then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee how great Thou art, how great Thou art man, it’s powerful, adoration to God almighty.
So we start our prayers with prayers of adoration focusing on God. But then Nehemiah goes to a prayer of confession. And it gets real serious here too. Remember the people of Israel have sinned against God. They have worshipped idols, they have rebelled. They have broken the commandments. And so after focusing on God, Nehemiah goes to a prayer of confession.
Listen, no revival has ever started without confession. If you want revival to break out in our communities, if you want revival to break out in our nation in our world, and it’s going to have to start with confession. No life has been restored without first confessing sins to God. Confession is a vitally important thing for us. We have to admit and acknowledge that we’re sinners. Listen, anyone who says they’ve never sinned and never made a mistake is lying. For the Bible says that. For the Bible says, we’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And we need to confess those sins every, not just once in our life everyday. I don’t know about you, but I probably I know I sin at least one time every day. Honestly, probably more than that.
We have to daily confess our sins, not to anybody else, but to God and God alone. You see, Leviticus 5:5 says “when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty of any of these matters. Referring to the law, they must confess what they have sinned.” Proverbs 28:13. “Whoever conceals their sin does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Psalm 32 “I acknowledged my sin to you God, and did not cover up my iniquity. I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and You forgave the guilt of my sins.” In Acts 3:19 it says “repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out that times of refreshing times of restoration times of rebuilding may come from the Lord.” And then in 1 John 1:9 the writer says “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and purify us from all on righteousness.”
And even Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1:8 says remember the word that you commanded to your servant Moses saying if you are unfaithful, I will scatter you. But in verse nine he says if you return to Maine and keep my commands and do them. Then I will gather you and bring you back here.
Nehemiah is confessing the sins of the people because he knows restoration comes from confession. When you confess your sins, you are restored. There is restoration power in that confession. The nation of Israel had sent and notice that Nehemiah prayed a confession of the nation as well as himself.
Now we can pray and we can confess our own sins. But when is the last time you prayed and said God forgive this nation of their rebellion? But that can be a hard thing to pray. God forgive this nation. How about this one? God forgive this world. God forgive the people in Africa for their rebellion. Forgive the people in Europe. Forgive the people in Asia. Forgive the people next door to me. Forgive the people in the cubicle next to me. Forgive them of their sins and then we can follow that up with this prayer. Help me to show them the love of Christ.
We need to be a people who confess our sins and pray that others would confess their sins as well. So God never turns away from the people of Israel and God will never turn away from you. You’ve not sinned so great that God will not forgive it if you confess it. You can’t outrun the forgiveness of God.
Do you need to confess your sins today? Do you need to let Jesus Christ change you, restore you, and begin the process of rebuilding you into the image that you were created in? No matter how far you strayed, God is ready to forgive you today.
And so Nehemiah prays a prayer of adoration. He prays, a prayer of confession. But then he prays a prayer of intercession and supplication. This is where he’s going to ask God to give him what he really wants. He says, oh Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant. Then he says, give your servant success. Success at building the wall success at helping lead the people to a restoration of their faith and then he adds here at the end and grant him mercy and the sight of this man well who is this man it’s the king. See Nehemiah’s got a boss. And Nehemiah can’t do anything, and less this boss, the king a dictator type leader, gives him permission, and so he’s right there in the prayer says God grant me mercy in the sight of this man.
Nehemiah knows that God can change the heart of anybody. God can change the heart of a king. God can soften him and do a work in his life so that when Nehemiah comes to the point and we’ll see it next week when Nehemiah comes to the point and says I’ve gotta go do this the king says, go for it.
Only God can do that kind of work in the heart of men. When there’s a task that needs to be done and we have to get permission, only God can do the work to grant us success or to grant us mercy in the sight of our bosses. Because God can change. In fact, God’s in the business of changing hearts. He’s the heart changer.
Hudson Taylor, a great missionary. He wrote these words. Hudson Taylor says it is possible to move men through God by prayer alone. Listen that again, it is possible to move men through God by prayer alone. When we go to God in prayer and we can ask him to change people’s hearts, we ask God to change the heart of the prodigal son, change the heart of the prodigal daughter, change the heart of that loved one who’s addicted to drugs and alcohol. Change the heart of our coworker who just is living a sinful and rebellious life. Change the heart of my boss. Change the heart of this person and that person so that we can be successful in the ministry that God has called us to. Because it is possible to move men through God by prayer alone. This is a big time prayer for a big time God ’cause it’s a big time task.
Church, we need to be in the business of praying big time prayers. Yeah. Now we need to pray and all prayers are heard by God. But when I look around and see the lostness and the brokenness of this world, we need big time prayer. And I challenge this, all, me included, starting with me. That we would commit to a life of praying big prayers of adoration, praying prayers of confession, praying prayers of intercession asking God to do a work that only God can do so that God can be glorified.
Prayer is the key to an effective ministry. We can’t do anything without it. Oh, we might be successful for a while, but eventually we’re going to run into a roadblock that only prayer is going to breakdown. Prayer is the key to every ministry, every mission, every Sunday school class, everything that the China Grove First Baptist Church does has to be saturated in prayer.
If when we do that man, I can’t wait to see what God does. And I’ll tell you this one thing that really stood out to me and Jennifer is that you’re really already doing it. One of the things that we heard over and over again that we’ve seen experienced is this really is a praying church. The prayer requests that go out every week we can we know that people are praying. So my challenge is that we just continue that prayer and that we step it up a notch and pray big time prayers. And let’s see what God can do in this community.
And the last thing is just this. As you’re watching this today. And you’ve never admitted to God that you’re a sinner and you’ve never prayed that prayer of confession if you’ve been running away from God. If you’ve been living a life that’s just not not, not not good. And you’re searching a life that is searching for something. The answer to all those questions is Jesus Christ. And He’ll forgive you, and He’ll forgive you today. All you have to do is is just reach out to Him and say, Lord, I’ve sinned. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve rebelled against you and just say God forgive me. The Bible says anyone who confesses their sins is saved. The Bible says if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and if you will believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved.
As I said earlier, the Bible says that all men have fallen short of the glory of God every one has sinned. The Bible also says the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. I invite you to put your faith in Him today. And if you’re willing to make that decision, man, let us know. Send the church a Facebook message, comment, direct message or use Messenger. Let us know will come alongside of you and help disciple you and answer any questions that you may have.
But don’t wait another second to give your life to Jesus Christ. Prayer is the key to an effective ministry.
Pray prayers of adoration.
Pray prayers of confession.
Pray prayers of supplication and intercession.
Let’s pray together, Father. Thank you for Your Word. Father help it to resonate in our life. Father, as we end our time together and as we leave our homes or our vehicles or wherever we’re watching this video. Father help us to leave with that understanding that we’re on a mission from You and for You. help us to live lives that glorify You and to bring honor to Your Name. And Father, we do pray that You change the hearts of people. Father, we pray that You would do a mighty work in our families and our businesses and in our church, and that You would just change people. Father, we know you can do it and we trust you to do it. We ask this in Jesus Name, Amen.