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Sunday, February 7, 2021

Nehemiah and the Need for Continual Renewal

This week, we will wrap up our focus on the book of Nehemiah but we must never lose our focus on renewal. Throughout the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we see a people that have overcome their oppression by a foreign and hostile government only through the graces of the Almighty God. Out of His love and compassion for them, they were taken into captivity to learn and to grow in their faith and practice. Their discipline remains for us to learn from but let us not think that we too would not also be subject to discipline.

Hebrews 12 reminds us, “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.” In fact, rather than thinking by virtue of being in the family of God we may avoid discipline, we should expect it: “If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.” Therefore, discipline is something we expect, even though it’s not something we would desire! “Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11).

Discipline is required because in our imperfect walk with Christ we all stumble. We make mistakes and bad choices. We succumb to the temptations of sin and we wrestle with the old way of life as we strive to live as transformed followers of Jesus. Israel failed in their walk and then came the exile. But the exile was not the end of the story. Redemption came and the Lord returned the people to the Promised Land. So too with us, Jesus Christ is our redemption and hope for the future.

Each day, we feel the tension between living for a higher calling and living for self. Jesus tells us the best way to combat sin is to die to it: “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24.

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah show us what a grand, wide-scale, intense renewal looks like. What we’ll see this morning is that not only is there a need of wide-scale reform, but we also need changed deeply. Unfortunately, many of the changes we have read about were short-lived. The focus on renewal lasted for a season and faded. Jesus tells us that renewal must come day after day, every day, until that great day when all will be made new (Revelation 21:1-8).

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