“A man had just put the finishing touches on a fresh concrete driveway. He went inside to enjoy a glass of lemonade when, to his horror, he saw his little neighbor boy playing in the fresh concrete. He went outside and yelled angrily at the boy. After he had fixed the concrete and come back inside, his wife said, ‘Why did you yell at him? I thought you loved little boys.’ The man replied, ‘I love little boys in the abstract, but I don’t like them in the concrete.’
Many Christians are like that when it comes to spiritual truth. We love it in the abstract, but we don’t like it in the concrete. When truth gets too specific, when it means that I actually need to change my life, that’s going too far! With Linus, we can echo, ‘I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand!’
Every Christian is for spiritual renewal in the abstract. It’s a wonderful concept. But when it means that I must actually change the way that I think, the way that I relate to my wife and kids, the way that I spend my time and money, or the way that I do business, now just a minute! You’ve gone from preaching to meddling!” –Pastor Steven J. Cole, Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, Flagstaff, Arizona (www.fcfonline org.)
In Nehemiah 8, we saw the beginning of a revival as God’s people gathered and listened to His Word being read and explained. In chapter 9, the people repented and confessed their sins. In 9:38, they make a corporate covenant to put God’s truth into practice in a number of specific areas. Now in chapter 10 they seal the covenant with their names. The chapter lists the names of the leaders who signed the covenant.
First, Governor Nehemiah himself signs, and with him a company of the priests whose names are given. Then a group of Levites, those who serve the temple, sign this agreement. Then there is a group of the leaders, the rulers or nobles of the land, who sign it. Finally, in Verses 28-29,
“Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim (Temple assistants), and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding—these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes” (Nehemiah 10:28-29).
This then is a list of what might be termed the committee of the committed! Every church needs a committee of the committed! Those who put God and His work first in their lives. These are the people who see the need for continuing with their commitments to serve the Living God and their local church! Promising and keeping the promise to be all that God wants them to be. Here in Nehemiah they sign this agreement to bind themselves to that promise. This agreement represents a kind of universal desire of humans to publicly and seriously pledge themselves to be loyal to a cause they feel is right. It always amazes me that some who claim to be believers will join, support, both with money and time clubs, sports teams or the Loyal Order of the Bats and Buzzards, but can never find then time of finances to support their local church.
One of our church members who was very much involved in his lodge came to me asking, “What’s wrong with my lodge?” I couldn’t say if there was anything wrong with his lodge, I really had not researched it so that I couldn’t give him an intelligent answer. So I asked him, “If your lodge was having a function at the same time your church was having a very important meeting, which would you choose? He got very nervous, fumbled with his keys, cleared his throat several times, and finally said, “Well I made a commitment to my lodge brothers.” I asked if he had ever made a commitment to Christ. He was a professor not a possessor!
Verses 32-39 mention a number of specific commitments to provide for temple worship, summed up by, “Thus we will not neglect the house of our God” (10:39). The phrase “the house of our God” occurs nine times in these seven verses.
First, they committed themselves to avoid the unequal yoke in their marriages. “We promise not to let our daughters marry the pagan people of the land, and not to let our sons marry their daughters” (Verse 30 NLT). “Don’t be teamed with those who do not love the Lord, for what do the people of God have in common with the people of sin? How can light live with darkness?” ( 2 Corinthians 3:14 TLB).
In 2 Corinthians 2:14 Paul is admonishing believer’s to not come into partnership with unbelievers because believers and unbelievers are as opposites as light and darkness. They simply have nothing in common. The idea is that the pagan, wicked, unbelieving world is governed by the principles of Satan and that Christians should be separate from the world, just as Christ was separate from all the methods, purposes, and plans of Satan.
And, of course, the closest alliance one person can have with another is found in marriage, and this is how the passage is usually used. God’s plan is for a man and a woman to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), a relationship so intimate that one literally and figuratively becomes part of the other. Uniting a believer with an unbeliever is essentially uniting opposites, which makes for a very difficult marriage relationship. If you marry an unbeliever, your father-in-law will be the devil.
Second, they promised to observe the Sabbath, the seventh day, and the Sabbatical, the seventh year. “We also promise that if the people of the land should bring any merchandise or grain to be sold on the Sabbath or on any other holy day, we will refuse to buy it. Every seventh year we will let our land rest, and we will cancel all debts owed to us” (Verse 31).
New Testament believer’s observe the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. “Now on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). “I (John) was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10).
Third, they promised to provide money, grain and animals for the offerings of the temple. “In addition, we promise to obey the command to pay the annual Temple tax of one-eighth of an ounce of silver[b] for the care of the Temple of our God. 33 This will provide for the Bread of the Presence; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, the new moon celebrations, and the annual festivals; for the holy offerings; and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel. It will provide for everything necessary for the work of the Temple of our God” (Verse 32,33).
Fourth, they promised to bring the first fruits of their crops, their herds, their flocks, and their firstborn sons, to God. This reminds us that our money is not the end of our giving. As a pastor I have seen some parishioners who were very wealthy people, some were like the Tekoites, “their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord” (Nehemiah 3:5). They assumed that just because they gave their money that others would do all the work of the ministry. Do you know what is involved in working for God? Everything! Serving God is the giving of my substance and my family to the Lord! “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19,20).
We do not own ourselves. The world says, "You are your own. If you are pregnant and you do not want the baby, you can kill it, because you have a right to do what you please with your own body." But the Bible says, "No, you are not your own. You do not have a right to do anything you like with the body God gave you."
Fifth, they promised to pay ten per cent (the tithe,) of all their income, their crops and wealth to the temple. (Verses 32-39). Some theologians have calculated that the Jews gave 43% under the law. God asks the Christian for the bare minimum of 10% (The Tithe).
The people of Nehemiah’s day gave, silver, wood for the altar of sacrifice, the first part of their harvest, their firstborn, both flocks and children (for service to the temple), flour and grain, fruit, wine, olive oil, and 10% of all their land produces. It is interesting to hear some church people talk about giving as just an Old Testament responsibility. Just realize that the Jews of Nehemiah’s day gave so much more than the tithe, 10% of our increase seems so little to give by comparison.
The New Testament does not speak of the tithe as to a legalistic system of giving. Our giving is to be in proportion to our income, we give, ”as God had prospered us” (1 Corinthians 16:2). For some 10% would be a sacrifice, whole for others, 10% means very little. Above all, all tithes and offerings should be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Sixth, they promised to attend faithfully the house of God. “we will not neglect the house of our God.” (Verse 39). This is the commitment of these people to faithfully attend the worship services of the temple. All through the history of Israel the temple, or the tabernacle before that, was called "the house of God." God signified his presence there by the Shekinah Glory that was located in the Holy of Holies.
Today the church is not the house of God in the same sense as in Nehemiah’s day. No building is ever called, the “House of God.” However, even today, as a has been the practice throughout the centuries, temples, cathedrals, tabernacles, and church buildings have erroneously been called, the “House of God.” “Yet that doesn’t mean that Most High God lives in a building made by carpenters and masons. The prophet Isaiah put it well when he wrote, “Heaven is my throne room; I rest my feet on earth. So what kind of house will you build me?’ says God” (Acts 7:48 MSG).
What is the ”House of God” today? We believers are the “House of God!”
it is the people who gather in the building. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Allow me to conclude this message with a word about the church.
Ephesians 3:20,21: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
When Paul exclaims “To Him be Glory in the church,” he isn’t simply ascribing glory to God, he’s saying that the glory of God is revealed in and through the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word, ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.”
When you come to church, you don’t just come to a physical location, you come to church. You don’t just come to a building of wood and concrete, you come to church. You don’t just come to be confined within these four walls, you come to church! You come to have an encounter with God. You have come to a place where God can change your world outside of these four walls. You come to, The church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NLT).
Today, some say that the church is outdated, irrelevant, soon to be reflected only in the pages of history. Others, that the church is lifeless, dull, and void of any real purpose, “You might as well leave your mind at home when you come to church.” Some say “the church is good, even necessary, but if she doesn’t change she will die.” Still others are ready to throw everything out except the doctrinal statement, this thinking is rooted in contemporary culture.
But the church, with all of its blemishes, division, failures trials and trouble is still the only hope for spiritual vitality in our lives, and the only hope for reaching the lost world, in the dying culture of the 21st century.
What is the Church?
The church is a group of happy, Holy Spirit indwelt believers, who allow themselves to be the minds through which Christ can think; hearts through which Christ can love; hands through which Christ can work; feet by which Christ can go, and voices through which Christ can speak as we go into all the world to make disciples.
The church is the living body of Christ on earth. The local church is an assembly of obedient believers, called together for the purpose of exalting the Savior, edifying the saints, equipping believers, and evangelizing the world.
The church is a covenant band of saved sinners who have been supernaturally converted from unbelief to belief in Jesus Christ our God and Savior. We are a people in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. Psalm 22:3, “You are holy, enthroned upon the praises of (Your people)”. Mark 11:17, “Then He (Jesus) taught, saying to them, ‘Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?’”
What it is not:
The church is not a social club, not merely a social organization; it’s not a weekly pep rally, or a political convention.
Why do we exist as a Church, why are we here?
Nothing will happen in the church without the special, supernatural power of God on every ministry: Preaching, teaching, worship, evangelism and missions. We exist to do things that cannot be done without God’s supernatural grace, and that brings glory to Him.
The church does not exist to preach the Gospel, but to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that people are awakened from unbelief and changed beyond what any human message could perform.
The church does exist to teach Bible classes, but to teach in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that God’s people, young and old are built up in faith and love beyond what any earthly writings or counselors could accomplish.
The church does not exist for evangelism, but to do evangelism in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that hard, unbelieving hearts will be supernaturally changed into soft, believing hearts.
The church does not exist for missions, but to do missions in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that the Word of God can be spread to the ends of the earth.
The Church is a people alive in Christ:
The emphasis is never on buildings, schools, programs, money, officers and committees. The emphasis is always on God and people. Money is never raised for anything but helping hurting people. Energy is never expended except to minister to hurting people in and out of the church. The church’s emphasis is always to minister in such a way as to demonstrate the GLORY OF GOD for everyone to see.
“The glory of Rome is gone,
The grandeurs of Greece are no more,
The armies of Assyria have stopped marching,
The Pharaoh’s of Egypt have been dethroned
The beautiful Gardens of Babylon have faded,
Ancient philosophy has changed,
Industry has gone out on strike…
But the Church goes marching on.”
What does God say about His church?
Matthew 16:17, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Acts 12:5, “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.”
Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
Ephesians 1:22, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.”
Ephesians 3:10, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”
Colossians 1:18, “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”
Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
Ephesians 5:25, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
Hebrews 10:25 TLB, “Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.”
As in Nehemiah’s day, our covenant must be, “We will not neglect the house of our God” (Nehemiah 10:39).
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also the New Living Translation (NLT); The Message (MSG); The Amplified Bible (AMP); and The Living Bible (TLB).