10.26.2008 Grace Summit Sermon - How to respond when Christians don't act like they should
26th October 2008
Pastor Mike Marette:
Father, we thank You that You are the One we love and that our sins have been forgiven. Our past has been changed and forgotten. All that we have done against You have been taken out of the way. We have a relationship that we don’t deserve. As we have communion, we remember all we’ve been given. Help us to receive Your love in humility. I ask as we look at Your word that You would teach us. Show us issues in our lives that we might not even know are there.
Recently, I heard that there are groups of Christians today that are cutting off relationships with other Christians because of predestination and freewill. It is becoming a big thing. Sometimes, we as Christians are our own worst enemy. The watching world looks on and asks, why would I want to be a part of that? Throughout history, Christians have attacked Christians in many ways.
I was talking to one whose boss is a Christian who is so arrogant and obnoxious that they feel that they can’t share Christ because he has ruined the testimony. There are probably Christians in your neighborhood that you don’t want to associate with because of the way that they have acted.
How do you respond when Christians don’t act like Christians?
Nehemiah was building the wall of Jerusalem for the protection of the city. They were making great progress – soon to be complete.
Nehemiah 5:1 Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. 2 For there were those who said, "We, our sons and our daughters, are many; therefore let us get grain that we may eat and live." 3 And there were others who said, "We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine." 4 Also there were those who said, "We have borrowed money for the king's tax [on] our fields and our vineyards. 5 "And now our flesh is like the flesh of our brothers, our children like their children. Yet behold, we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters are forced into bondage [already,] and we are helpless because our fields and vineyards belong to others."
So what we have is a situation – there is this great outcry – a significant protest – the people and their wives… in this day – in their way of thinking, the wives would not be saying anything and it shows how desperate a situation these people are in. They came to Jerusalem to build the wall – it was a work of God – but they had neglected their own well-being for the work of God. They weren’t giving their farms and vineyards what was needed – because of this great work of God. The land was not producing like it normally would. They couldn’t feed their families. There was a famine and a drought. They could not afford to eat! They had to sell everything they owned just to get food. They were in an economic crisis. They were committed to the work that God had called them to.
There were Jews who were wealthy – and the others were becoming in debt to them. And the wealthy ones were taking the land – and taking their own people’s children as slaves. The people of God were their own worst enemy.
Desperate times – desperate measures.
World War 2 – if you were a man of a certain age, you were going. Women had to go into factories to build bombs. Can you imagine – if, while men were fighting for your freedom – others were coming in and taking their houses? That is what is going on here.
Nehemiah’s response – what He does when Christians don’t act like Christians (or, Jews don’t act like Jews).
First, he gets angry – it is a righteous anger – it is okay. There is an anger that is not okay. But this one is okay. We tend to look at anger as always bad. He wasn’t just a little bit angry either; he was furious. An anger that is good – it is okay to be angry at others’ sin when it causes injustice for others. He was angry at the injustice and lack of mercy that his fellow believers were showing to one another. That is a good anger. Politicians, banks, CEOs – because of greed and hunger for power – ruin a culture – because of immorality and ruin a people.
I think of Jesus – if one causes a little one to stumble – better a millstone be tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea. There is anger and justice in that statement. We have lost that in the Christian world. We don’t cry out against injustice! It is okay to be angry with that. It is not okay to be angry with a freshman quarterback who fumbles in the closing minutes of a football game.
Eph. 4: 26 Be angry, and [yet] do not sin
We are okay with, Love your neighbor. But now – he is telling you to be angry – but do not sin! There is a line there – so we are afraid of the balance – we may have grown up with a parent who was always angry and didn’t know how to be angry without sinning.
It is okay to be angry when your children make wrong choices. Be angry AND DO NOT SIN. It is a fine line. Jesus gave us an example of being angry without sin – when he went into the temple and turned the tables.
It was wrong what they were doing. It was inflation. It was bad economic policy. They were ripping people off – forcing people to use temple money to buy sacrifices. He was angry – turned tables over – took a whip out. But he did not sin. He wasn’t like – okay guys, could you please leave, this is not good… - it was not a nice whip he used. It was with purpose – it was against evil that he was angry.
Christianity is the only army that shoots their wounded.
What he does here…
6 Then I was very angry when I had heard their outcry and these words. 7 And I consulted with myself, and contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, "You are exacting usury, each from his brother!" Therefore, I held a great assembly against them.
He confronts it. He is angry with the right thing and confronts those who are doing the wrong thing. Bad anger often comes from NOT confronting those who are doing the wrong thing. When you don’t confront that which is wrong – sometimes it is just addressing the issue – in your marital relationship – what happens is anger – the wrong kind of anger. Failure to get angry at the right things will lead to getting angry at the wrong things.
Second – he sets the example.
8 And I said to them, "We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?" Then they were silent and could not find a word [to say.]
Remember 586 BC – Jerusalem fell? What happened then – they were scattered – taken away – a few stragglers and they became slaves in Persian homes. Nehemiah was taking his own money and buying back his Jewish brothers. We are out buying back our people from the pagans – from the nations – and you are buying them for yourself! Would you at least sell them back to us?
He sets the example. If there are Christians you know who are not acting like they ought – then we need to set a higher example. It will take sacrifice – but it makes up for others’ failure. That is a reality. As Christians, there will be times when you need to make sacrifices which make up for the failure of others.
There is a difference between doing that and enabling others to fail. “Don’t chase the bus!” When your kid leaves his lunch at home – don’t take it to him – he’ll learn to remember it if he is hungry for a day!
9 Again I said, "The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? 10 "And likewise I, my brothers and my servants, are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury. 11 "Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also the hundredth [part] of the money and of the grain, the new wine, and the oil that you are exacting from them." 12 Then they said, "We will give [it] back and will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say." So I called the priests and took an oath from them that they would do according to this promise.
Nehemiah sacrificed the benefits of his position for those who had less.
13 I also shook out the front of my garment and said, "Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied." And all the assembly said, "Amen!" And they praised the Lord. Then the people did according to this promise.
Nehe. 5: 16 And I also applied myself to the work on this wall; we did not buy any land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work.
First – he confronts –
Second – sets example – requiring sacrifice of his own goods and well-being.
Third – he is engaged and gets others engaged in a work that is greater than his own personal happiness and success.
A lot of times Christians don’t act like Christians because their purpose is way too small – they are engaged in just making it – buying the next thing – but if you don’t have a purpose above your job, support and home – then you cannot act like a Christian needs to act. – we must have a higher purpose. Something much greater.
An area where people don’t always act like Christians is their involvement in the political world – and the reason is not having a high enough purpose. They think their purpose is THIS NATION. But it doesn’t end there. Our primary concern should be a bigger kingdom – a heavenly kingdom – that is not changed or helped by elections. When Pilate talked to Jesus, Jesus said – My kingdom is not of this world. We need to learn to live for that kingdom. That needs to be our purpose. I think the way that will work out – Whenever you have a small group – for a lot of us – our Christian life is just lived on Sunday morning – but it is really lived out the rest of the week. Your small group should set a foundation for how you live your life the rest of the week. Our true Christianity is seen in the rest of the week. Too many leave it at church and don’t take it with them everywhere they go.
One final word – from a practical standpoint – with the economic times getting worse – there are several families in our church who have some financial struggles – we’d like to start doing the benevolence fund again. There are some needs now but there will be more down the road. We were talking at dinner last night – one of the folks is a financial consultant – and saying how – things may get really difficult. It is a little scary – for all of us. Those who are at the verge of retiring just can’t. Everything has changed. We were discussing what an opportunity this will be for the church. Most have never lived in an era like this. Our parents or grandparents lived through the Depression – but most of us have lived through general prosperity. If things continue the way they are going – the church has an opportunity. It may get really hard. The tendency is to hold. To gather for themselves and not be concerned about the brother. God calls the church to be concerned about the neighbors. That is how we fulfill the purpose. I urge you to consider and pray to contribute to the benevolence fund.
Lord, we ask You to help us to be aware of the time we live in and in light of that to be the type of community that brings you glory and causes the world to say, I need the church, I need Christ. There are fears and anxieties and stress out in the world – but there is an answer. Help us to step out of the way and let Your light shine. In Your name we pray – amen.