Greg Laurie - This Is Not a Drill
Alright, so we are in the book of Nehemiah. By the way, this is our last message in the book of Nehemiah so I want you to turn to Nehemiah, chapter 10. We're in our series, we're calling The Rebuilt Life but the title of this message is, This is Not a Drill. Sound familiar? Let's pray together.
Now Father, we're so thankful that we can come to your house with your people and find hope. Our hope is not in government, our hope is not in technology, our hope is not in the military, our hope is not in any earthly thing. Our hope is in you, and that is a sure foundation and that is an anchor in the middle of a storm. So we look to you now, Lord and ask you to speak to us through your word for we ask it now in Jesus' name, Amen.
Hey, imagine for a moment what it would be like, you've been saving for your big vacation to Hawaii. Your plane lands, the warm balmy breezes of the island roll over you, and you check into your hotel and the next morning, you get up bright and early, and you're going out for a cup of coffee and suddenly, you get a buzz on your smartphone, and you read this message that's on the screen right now. "Emergency alert, ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill". Of course, this happened as you all know yesterday at 8:07 in the morning to all residents of Hawaii and to visitors as well. The reason panic sent in is because Hawaii is in range of intercontinental ballistic missiles that North Korea have been testing in recent months under Kim Jong Un.
And by the way, if a missile were fired from North Korea, from moment of firing the missile to impact, they would have 20 minutes. That's how close they are. So this message went out, and for 37 minutes, people waited. I read some articles about it. Some people were running through the streets screaming. Some parents were putting their children into little storm drains, 'cause there is no emergency shelter in Hawaii, there are no places for people to go if a nuclear weapon were detonated. That is not the kind of news you wanna wake up to in the morning. Thankfully, it was a false alarm. They said someone pushed the wrong button. Really? I mean how does that work? Do they have like three buttons? You push this button for Diet Coke, you push this button for the warning about incoming ballistic missile and this one to fire a nuclear missile. I don't know how it works, but all I know is they gotta fix that system and they gotta fix it soon. Bad news.
Well, we're back in the book of Nehemiah for our final message. And Nehemiah at this stage historically has gone back to Babylon. Remember that story, he was originally serving as the Kings cupbearer when he heard the news that the walls of Jerusalem were lying in burned, charred out rubble. So Nehemiah made the journey to Jerusalem, funded by the King, even with an armed escort and he rallied the people and did the impossible. They rebuilt the walls of the city. They prayed, they dedicated themselves to the Lord, they confessed their sins and a great revival broke out. But now he is given a message that things aren't going well back in Jerusalem, and he needed to return. Reminding us that just because you have a good beginning, it does not guarantee you will have a good finish.
The story is told of when the Constitution of the United States had been signed and America officially became a nation, a crowd of people were standing outside of the meeting room where our founding fathers were waiting to find out what happened. A name by Mrs. Powell, saw Benjamin Franklin and said, "So, Mr. Franklin, what type of government have you and your delegates given us"? And Franklin famously responded, "A republic, Madam, if you can keep it". The idea was okay, we've laid the foundation, now it's up to you to see what you do with it. Well, the foundation was laid in Jerusalem, the walls were rebuilt, the temple was there but they were not keeping it, they were not doing well at all. They started well but they were not finishing well.
Listen, it's great to have a great start and a great finish but you can even have a mediocre start or even a bad start and have a great finish, but here's what's not good, the greatest of starts and a horrible finish. If you're running in a race and you don't finish the race, it doesn't matter if you've held the first place position for nine out of 10 laps. If you don't finish the race, you don't win the prize, and the same is true of the Christian life. We want to finish strong, and you know what? You decide right now, how you are going to do later in life. You don't decide later. The evening of your life is decided by the morning of your life, the end from the beginning.
So here you are, you've been married two years and you say, "I wanna have a strong marriage," 42 years later, okay, great, you decide that right now and every day you do everything you can to strengthen that marriage. Don't wait until you're older. Because when you get older, the problem is you get set in your ways. You like routine, you like predictability, you like to do things the way you've always done them. No, decide now, establish good habit patterns now. You're the one who will decide how it's all going to end up and the same is true of the Christian life. We start out with a bang, but if we put it into cruise control, Houston, we have a problem. The key is maintenance. The Bible says, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. It does not say, work for your own salvation 'cause you can't, no, you work it out. You see, it's given to you as a gift of God. You can work it out. As the apostles John and Paul said, we can work it out.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney, The Beatles, forget it. Obscure cultural reference, okay, you go, what? What verse is that? It's not a verse, it's a song, forget it. Okay, when you have to explain a cultural reference, it didn't work. But we can work it out. So when Paul says, work out your own salvation, it means discover what God is giving you. He uses a word that speaks of being in a mine and pulling the gold out. So it's a lifelong discovery of growing and learning and being transformed. You never reach a plateau where, oh I'm good, I don't need to go to church anymore. I don't need to read the Bible anymore, I have arrived, no, you haven't. I think the one way you know you're growing spiritually is when you realize you need to continue growing spiritually. That's something to keep in mind. And one of the ways you know you're not doing well spiritually is when you think you don't need to keep growing spiritually.
Well, these people, they had turned back and gone back to their old ways. And Nehemiah knew if the walls are burned down once, they could be burned down twice. So let's backtrack a little bit, then we'll kinda get to the conclusion. But let's pick up chronologically where we left off last time. You remember Nehemiah returns, they rebuild the walls. Ezra is brought out of mothballs. He led the first wave of Jews returning to Babylon. He helped to rebuild the temple. He had been largely inactive. They bring him out again. He reads Scripture to the people for three hours, then they confess their sins to God for three hours and there's this great revival that breaks out. And now the people make a series of very significant commitments to the Lord and that's where we pick up.
We're in Nehemiah 10. Point number one if you're taking notes, they surrendered to the word of God. They surrendered to the word of God, Nehemiah 10:28. Then the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers and temple servants and all who had separated themselves from the pagan people of the land in order to obey the law of God, together with their wives, sons, daughters, and all who were old enough to understand, they swore an oath. They bound themselves with an oath, and they swore a curse on themselves if they failed to obey the law of God as issued by his servant Moses. They solemnly promised to carefully follow all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord, our God. We'll stop there, so this is serious.
Now they're signing on the dotted line. You can go look at a car all you want. "I love this car, I might buy this car, I wanna get this car". And one day you say, "I'm going for it". So you go in and you say, "I'm ready to buy the car". And they bring out hundreds of sheets of paper that you have to sign. Sign, sign, sign, sign, and sign. And then they give you the keys to your new car, and you get in it and you drive it off the lot and it drops in value by $3000. Before you even got your first tank of gas, right? Or you sign on the dotted line and say, "I'm gonna buy this home. I'm committing myself to purchase this property". Now you must keep the commitment you've made. That's what they were doing here.
The same is true when you stand in front of a pastor and before your friends and family and state your vows to your husband or your wife to be. You're making a commitment publicly. And that's why I think it's such a great thing to make a public stand for Jesus Christ. You sort of seal the deal. When you're baptized, that's a public commitment. People can see it, they should see it. When you make that first stand in front of your nonbelieving friends at your workplace or on your campus and you say, "I am a Christian," and you know they're going to be watching you like hawks. Why, because they want you to do well? No, because they want you to do really badly so they could say, "Ah, hypocrite"! Right? They don't want you to do well because when you walk closely with the Lord and they see the transformation in your character, it drives them insane because they come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
I love public professions. Have you made a public profession of your faith? Does your family know you're a Christian? All your family, your extended family? Do people in your neighborhood know you're a Christian? Do people in your workplace know you're Christian? Do people on your campus know you're a Christian? Do people that follow you on social media know that you are a Christian? Make your stand for Christ publicly, because Jesus said, if you'll stand up for me, I'll stand up for you. If you'll confess me before people. If you'll confess me before people, Jesus says, I'll confess you before the Father and the angels in heaven. What a deal! You mean if I just stand up in front of a few other human beings, you're gonna stand up for me in heaven? That's right. Okay, I'm all in, okay. So, you make your public stand.
I have a little granddaughter named Allie. And she was at school the other day at lunch time. And, so the kids are all eating their little lunches and Allie says, "Wait everybody, we need to pray and thank Jesus for our food". They're all like, "What planet are you from, Kid"? I love that. Allie told me that story, I said, "Allie, very good. You made your public stand for Jesus," and that's a great thing for all of us to keep in mind. And so, we make that stand, and we stand by that stand that we have made. Now, often we'll say we believe the Bible, we'll say we love the Bible and we will quote the Bible but will we surrender to what the Bible says. This is the big question. Don't just quote it to me, don't just say how much you love it, will you surrender to what the Bible says? Let me restate it, will you surrender to what the Bible says on every single topic? I used to have a little plaque years ago that said, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it". Does that sum up the way you feel? We'll come back to that point in a moment.
Point number two, they separated themselves from ungodly influences. They separated themselves from ungodly influences. Look at verse 28. Then the rest of the people, the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and all who had separated themselves from the pagan people of the land in order to obey the law of the Lord, we promise to not let our daughters marry the pagan people of the land and not let our sons marry their daughters. Note the cause and effect. They separated in order to obey, look at it again, they had separated themselves from the pagan people in order to obey the law of the Lord. Listen to this, if you want to live a godly life, you will need to separate yourself from some things and some people, and in exchange, surround yourself with other things and other people. Someone sums it up perfectly. It says, blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, or stands in the way of sinners or sits in the seat of the scornful.
Notice the words that are used. First this guy is walking, then he's standing, then he's sitting. First he's walking in the counsel of the ungodly, standing in the way of sinners, sitting in the seat of the scornful. It's sort of like, let's say you're on a diet so you have to walk every day, good walk. So you decide to walk right by your favorite donut shop just when they're making the donut fresh in the morning. Mistake, but you do it. And you're walking by, "I'm walking, I'm getting exercise", and you look in the window. First you're walking, now you're standing. Next thing you know, you're sitting, not just at a table, you're in the vat of raw donut dough. You can't wait. That's how sin works, it's a progression. So don't do that, if you want to be a blessed man, a blessed woman or change the word blessed with happy 'cause it's an interchangeable word.
Happy is the man that doesn't walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, sit in the seat of the scornful but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in it does he meditate day and night. Let me paraphrase it, he loves to read the Bible. He loves to hear the Bible preached. He loves to hear songs that have verses from the Bible in them, he loves the word of God, and he meditates, which means he thinks about it, he ponders it, he considers it day and night. So you had to separate from one thing and join yourself to another. A word to you who are single. Quick poll, how many of you are not married? Raise your hand up, raise your hand up, okay. Quite a few of you guys. Here's what I want to say to you. Don't even think about marrying a nonbeliever, okay? Trust me on this, even better trust the word of God on this. You don't want to go there. "Maybe I'll lead them to the Lord". Okay, maybe you will, maybe you won't, and chances are you won't and I'll explain that in a moment. But if you're a single person, you want to look for a godly person.
So maybe you're going out with someone right now and I'd ask you, "Well, are they a Christian"? "Uh, yeah, they say God a lot". Really? Let me restate it. Look for someone that's even more godly than you. Not less so, where there's no question that they're are a follower of Jesus Christ. Listen, the three most important decisions you're gonna make in your life are, number one, what are you gonna do with Jesus Christ? Number two, what are you gonna do with your life? And number three, who are you gonna marry? Three most important decisions. Number one, what are you gonna do with Jesus Christ? Are you going to accept him or reject him? Are you gonna follow him or not follow him? Number two, what are you going to do with your life? What course will your life take? Thirdly, who will you marry?
You can get number one right and mess up two and three and have a really miserable life. Believe in Jesus but then go and marry a nonbeliever, or believe in Jesus and make a bunch of bad choices in your life. You need to get all three of these right. The problem with the Israelites is they had a constant problem with this. They kept getting pulled down by ungodly people. They would intermarry with pagan people and end up doing pagan things, you see. And that's usually what happens when believers marry non-believers. See the problem is generally the believer does not pull the nonbeliever up, but rather the nonbeliever pulls the believer down.
I could illustrate right now by just saying I could pick someone out here in the front row, someone much smaller than me and I could say, "I'm gonna pull you on the platform," and I would take hold of your arm with my considerable strength. I might able to pull you right up here on the stage. But the chances are, even though you're much smaller than me and weigh less than I do, you could probably pull me off this stage more easily than I could pull you on this stage, even if I were stronger than you, why? You have the pull of gravity working for you. So in the same way when I'm with a nonbeliever, it's easier for me to go their way than it is for them to come my way. The only way they're gonna come my way is if they're born again, if they want Jesus. But the way I could go their way is I still have an old nature. I'm still potentially drawn to sinful things.
So this is where the problem begins, and this is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:14, don't be unequally yoked together with nonbelievers for what fellowship does light have with darkness, or righteousness with unrighteousness. Are you ready gonna eat at the table of the Lord and also at the table of the devil? Another translation puts it this way and I like this translation, don't become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That's not partnership, that's war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would even think of setting up pagan idols in God's holy temple? See, when you combine certain things, problems can ensue. You can take nitro and you can add glycerin and you have an explosion. In the same way, you can take bleach and ammonia and they can generate chlorine gas that is both toxic and deadly. And that can potentially happen with a believer and a nonbeliever, it's not a good result because it's going to be detrimental to the believer.
Now, having said that, what I'm saying, don't marry a nonbeliever, I'm not saying don't have contact with nonbelievers, because how are we gonna reach people with the gospel if we don't have contact with them. Separation does that mean isolation. Paul actually wrote about this to the believers in Corinth, and understand Corinth was a really wicked place. When we talk about the Corinthians, we could have just as easily called them the Californians. First and second Californians. Because the issues of Corinth apply to California. A lot of immorality, a lot of crazy stuff going on, so these are Christians living in a super pagan culture surrounded by idol worshipers and all kinds of other things. So when Paul's writing to them, they're dealing with some issues that are similar to what we might deal with today. So Paul writes to the believers in Corinth and he says don't associate with the so-called Christian if they indulge in sexual sin or are greedy or worship idols or are drunk or are a cheat. He took it a step further and says, don't even have a meal with them.
Wow, really? Isn't that being a little judgemental and mean? No, actually it's being loving and at the same time careful. How could avoiding people possibly be loving? Because if you love them enough, you'll them the truth about what the Bible says. So if someone says, "I'm a Christian," and they're living with their boyfriend or girlfriend or doing drugs or getting drunk, you say, "Hold on, you say you're a Christian, why are you doing this, the Bible tells you not to do these things". "Hey man, don't judge my journey". "Really, you're actually saying that"? "Yeah, don't judge my journey". Buddy, I'm gonna judge your journey and you with it. "The Bible says, judge not, judge not, judge not, I don't know any other verse, but judge not".
Yes, the Bible says Jesus speaking, judge not lest you be judged, right? What does it mean? It means condemn not, lest you be condemned. I'm in no position to condemn a person, to say that person's going to hell. I don't know their heart, I don't know everything about them, that's not my role, but I am supposed to judge people, which means evaluate where they're at spiritually. I'm supposed to judge myself, the Bible says. We make evaluations every day about all kinds of things. And does not the Bible even say, judgment begins at the house of God. So if you're a fellow Christian and you're doing things that contradict the Bible, I'm gonna call you out on them not because I want to hurt you, but because I want to help you, because you're on a destructive path and I want you to turn around.
Galatians six, Paul writes, brothers and sisters of another believer is overcome by some sin, you are who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back into the right path and be careful you don't fall into the same temptation yourself. So yes, I want to help them, because the Bible says, faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. That means I came and I love you, and I'ma gonna tell you the truth because I love you and I don't want you to go down this path. Now, having said that, I still need to have contact with nonbelievers because Paul continues on, and he says, no, I'm not saying avoid nonbelievers, 1 Corinthians 5:10 who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy or cheap people. You'd have to leave this world to avoid people like that.
You might be surprised to know that well, I have friendships with nonbelievers and I have friends that don't know the Lord, and we talk and I stand for what I stand for and they know what I believe. But I don't expect nonbelievers to behave as believers. But I do expect Christians to behave as Christians. But if you're ignorant, you don't know what the Bible says about this and that, I'm not going to harp on those things that you happen to be doing as much as I'm gonna try to point you to Christ. Because once you come to Christ, all those other things will get sorted out. So that's my main objective with a nonbeliever, bring them to Christ.
Okay, now point number three. They are invested in God's kingdom. They were invested in God's kingdom. They're making this vow, look at verse 32. In addition, they say we promise to obey the command to pay the annual temple tax of 1/8 of an ounce of silver for the care of the Temple of our God. Verse 35, we promise to bring the first part of every harvest to the Lord's temple year after year whether it be from a crop, the soil or from our fruit trees. This is primarily an agricultural culture, livestock culture, so when they would bring their offerings, it would often be something from the field or something from the flock, etc. Today, we would not do that, we would bring finances but the point and principle is still the same. But you know, a lot of times, we don't want to give God our best. Notice they brought the first fruits, the best. We want to give God leftovers.
The other day, I was with my son Jonathan and his son Christopher, my grandson. And Jonathan gave Christopher a little bag of chips. It was a big bag too. I said little bag, I should have said big bag of chips. So he is eating these chips, enjoying them and Jonathan says, "Hey buddy, can I have a chip"? Christopher said, "No". He says, "Son, could I have a chip? Could Dad have a chip"? Christopher's face is crunching up like he's in pain. "No". "Son, give me a chip, I need a chip. I gave you those chips, now give me a chip back". He's like, he's like in agony. He reaches in and pulls out the most pathetic little chip you've ever, it's just microscopic and it's even hard for him to give it over. He's like turning away, like, "Here, take it". And his dad says, "No, I want a big chip". He's just like. "Give me a big chip, son, give me a good chip". He finally gives him.
I thought this is so much like us and God. God gives us everything. God gave you the bag of chips, man. He gave you your life, He gave you your job, He gave you your health, it's all from God. God says, I'd like you to give back a percentage to me. Aargh, pain, right? That's what this is all about. They were gonna bring their very best to the Lord. God established certain laws for the nation of Israel regarding tithing. The people were to bring 1/10 of their material resources to the temple, and bring the best, not the worst to God. Now, some would say, "Well, tithing is not in the New Testament, therefore, I will give nothing to God ever". Brilliant deduction, I'm being sarcastic by the way. Listen to this, 10% is entry level. That's not where you stop, that's where you start.
Listen to this, in the New Testament, the standards of the Old Testament are always raised, never lowered. Let me say that again. In the New Testament, the standards are never lowered, they're always raised. For instance, Jesus said, you've heard that it has been said you shall not murder, but I say to you, if you look at someone with hatred in your heart, it's like you murdered them. You've heard, speaking of the Old Testament, that it has been said, 10 Commandments, you shall not commit adultery, but I say unto you, if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, it's the same as committing adultery. What did he do, did he lower the bar? No, he actually raises the bar. So it comes down to this. Listen, every believer should give of their finances to the Lord.
Now we say, "I don't like this stuff. Preachers talking about money". Wait a second, what is your discomfort really over? Remember an earlier point, we surrender to the word of God. We love to hear what the Bible says about prayer, about hope, about the return of Christ, about comfort, yeah, amen, amen. And then there's giving, and we're like Christopher with a little chip. We should welcome everything the Bible says about everything and just do it. So what does the Bible say? Paul deals with it extensively in the book of first Corinthians, chapter 16. Here is that we learn and you can write these notes down, look these things up later. Every believer should give systematically, every believer should give systematically. Paul told the believers in Corinth to set aside a sum of money on the first day of every week. For them that would be Sunday.
Christians are to give systematically, not sporadically or when it occurs to them. I think that's why I like electronic giving, is so fantastic, that's how we give in our home. And by the way, we tithe of course but then we give above that. I don't say that to boast. I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do as a Christian and I'm happy to do it. But you can do it electronically and it happens automatically. But however you do it, you should give systematically. Number two, we are to give proportionately. We are to give proportionately. Paul says in first Corinthians 16, everyone should give in keeping with their income. So look, some can give more. Some can give less, but everyone should give something. Number three, we are to give joyfully, joyfully. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:6, remember this, a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop, but the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must decide in your heart how much to give and don't give reluctantly, or in response to pressure for God loves a person who gives cheerfully.
Well say, "Well, I can't give cheerfully, therefore I'll never give again". That'd be like saying, "I can't pray cheerfully so I'll never pray again". I can't read the Bible happily, because I get bored so I'll never read the Bible again". No, change your heart, man, get in sync with God. What did Jesus say? It is more blessed or happy to give than to receive. Do you understand what he's saying? You think keeping your stuff makes you happy, Jesus says, giving your stuff makes you happy. If you want to be happy, do what he says and you watch the blessing that will come your way. One last point, if you follow God's principles about giving you can expect him to meet your needs. If you follow God's principle on giving, you can expect him to meet your needs. 2 Corinthians 9:8, God will give generously and provide all your need, and you'll always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. You see, so God does not promise to supply your greeds but He does promise to meet your needs, according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus.
Listen, this is like a double test. God tests us and we can test God in this rare moment. It's a test of us, Oh, I love Jesus, oh, it's so wonderful. Okay, are you following these principles? It's a test of really your commitment, because where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also. But then we can test God. You see, what are you talking about? The Bible says don't test God. Hold on, one time, God says, test me. Do you know where it is? Malachi, God says, put me to the test on this one. Bring your tithes and your offerings into this store house. Listen, God says and watch this, I will open up the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing so great you will not have room enough to receive it, put me to the test on this one. So it's a double test. Put God to the test, give faithfully to him and see what he does. So the people went back on what they promised. They should've done these things, but no they did not do these things.
And so back to Nehemiah. He's returned to Babylon. "Mission accomplished, awesome, so glad I obeyed the Lord. The walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt and everything is wonderful". There was a revival and someone says, "Hey man, things aren't going well back in Jerusalem. First of all, the people aren't giving. In fact, it's so bad that the Levites have gone home. The priests, they're not being supported and the people are intermarrying all these weird pagan people and they're worshiping their false gods. In fact, their kids don't even know the language of Israel, they're learning these other languages and everything is falling apart, and there is sin there, and so, you gotta go back and do something". As Yogi Berra said, it was like déjà vu all over again. So, Nehemiah says, "All right, I'll return". So he goes back and he finds the situation just as they've described, maybe even a little bit worse. And basically the temple wasn't functioning any longer.
Imagine for a moment what the world would look like if the church were gone. Think about how our city would be if there was no harvest, if there was no any other church here. We've been here well over 40 years, helping people, ministering to people, and even if people don't come to church as often as they like, they know church is there, right? They know there's a service Sunday, they know there's midweek studies, they know there's help. They know if they're having a problem in their marriage they can go in and a pastor will meet with them and help them, and by the way, we've have helped literally thousands of people with their marriages over the years we've been here and we've seen them saved by God's grace. It's true. And we don't charge for it, some churches do. You have to pay to get counseling. We don't charge, when you give here, that goes toward providing this service for people. A lot of times, we're leading people to Christ. And that's a first thing they need to get resolved to have a better marriage.
I talked to a guy after first service. Funny enough, his name is Yogi. I already quoted Yogi Berra, his name is Yogi too. And he was in gangs and was having a lot of trouble with his wife and he came in, he says, "It's saved my marriage, Pastor". So you see, that's just one of many, many stories. So think about what the world would look like if the church were not here. You know when it's time to get married, we're here to offer free premarital counseling which we offer to you, so you can have a strong marriage 'cause it's not just about the wedding, it's about the marriage, and we want it to last. If you have problems, we're there for you as well. If you have problems with your teenagers or any age, you know we have youth ministry here, you know that a youth pastor will take the time to minister to them and help them. You know that when a loved one dies, you can come to the church and we'll be here to comfort you and encourage you and help you with the service.
What if the church was gone? Think about what the world would look like. Thank God for the church. Thank God for this church and the light we've been able to be in this community. That's right. And thank God for you, that are a part of this church, volunteering your time, serving here so faithfully, giving of your finances, God bless you and thank you. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Well, these folks, the Israelites, they're just like us. We're just like them. They went back on their promises, and to sort of show how bad it had gotten, they let Tobiah back in. You remember Tobiah? We learned about him earlier in Nehemiah, Tobiah, Sanballat. This guy was a total creep. By the way, if you're looking for a name for your newborn son, don't name him Tobiah. Don't name him Sanballat, and don't name him Judas. These are not good names, even though they're in the Bible.
Remember that Tobiah, along with Sanballat, tried to stop the rebuilding of the wall 12 years earlier. First, it was a potential military attack against Israel. Then he got involved in a plot to take Nehemiah out personally, and when those efforts failed, he did everything he could to discredit Nehemiah and slander him. Tobiah was trouble with a capital T. So Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem and what does he find? He finds they've given him a guesthouse to Tobiah in the temple, Tobiah is in the temple. He's like, "What, you guys crazy? What are you doing here"? The Fox was in the henhouse. And Nehemiah was seriously and righteously angry, and he took immediate action. Go over to Nehemiah 13, where it says, I became very upset and threw all of Tobiah's belongings out of the room and then I demanded all the rooms be purified and I brought back the articles for God's temple; the grain offerings and the frankincense.
I love that, out with the old, in with the new. When something is dirty, you need to clean it. And Nehemiah says, "Fumigate the place, it still smells like Tobiah". Do you have a Tobiah in your life? Someone that just always gets you going the wrong direction. It might a guy or a girl and you're in a romantic relationship of sorts, or someone else who'd just bring you down. You gotta separate from this. This reminds us of when Jesus went into the temple and cleansed it, remember he overturned the tables? By the way, did you know he did that twice? Isn't it amazing? So first He goes into the temple and then the outer court of the Gentiles, they've set up all these tables with these jacked up prices, ripping people off.
So people come in, they bring their little lamb for the offering, and one of the guys at the tables would say, "That's never gonna pass muster. You can't offer that lamb, but we'll sell you this other lamb at a higher price," and this is horrible. Instead of praying for the people, there were preying on the people. So Jesus came in, literally turned the tables over, drove them out, even used a whip which I love. Raiders of The Lost Ark, whack! But then, a little bit of time passes and someone sets up the first table, then the second, then the third, next thing you know, it's happening again, and he has to drive them out a second time. You've got to stay on top of things because it's very easy to take one step forward and two steps back.
This might be a good time for me to admit a serious addiction I've struggled with for a great part of my life. I've never said this before publicly, but I'm gonna share it now. My addiction, I bite my fingernails. It's the worst habit ever. Does anybody else bite their fingernails? Hold up your pathetic little hand. It's so bad. Usually when I'm under stress, and when you try, when you bite your finger nails, you're very limited. Like if you drop a dime on the floor, forget about it. You can't get it, no nails. Your little nubs are, I'll take a piece of paper, slide it under the dime. You learn little tricks. When you go to scratch yourself, you're just like, no nails, you need the nail, man. Nails are good.
So I have victory, right now my nails have grown out, for now, I'm not making any promises, there is always tomorrow. I'll get under a little stress. That's life, isn't it? I'm doing well, look at my life, everything is together, all my ducks are in a row. Okay, good, then there's tomorrow, and there might be a little problem, and a little problem will turn into a bigger problem, then one thing will lead to another. That's what happened here, but God gave them a chance to repent and they did. Isn't it great that God gives second chances? He'll give you a second chance today if you need one.
Alright, as we come to the end of this message, back to that ominous warning about ballistic missiles headed to Hawaii, look at it again. I mean, imagine. You look at your phone, "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill". I read some articles about what was happening, I already told you, people were panicking, freaking out. But not everybody. We have a friend, her name is Shelley. She has a second home over in Hawaii on the North Shore of Oahu. And so she texted my wife, Kathy after they gave the all clear, was it 37 minutes later? She said I had a neighbor come over to my house, panicking, saying, "What do we do"? Shelley said, "The first thing we do, is we pray". And then she prayed with her neighbor and then she said, "Now, we need to make sure that we know where we're going when we leave this earth".
Everybody needs a neighbor like this. You need to be a neighbor like this. Shelley could have said, "Hey man, I'm freaking out. I don't have time to deal with your drama". No, she took time for her, to help her. Just like Nehemiah left the comfort of the palace in Babylon to go help his people, and we need to do that same, be that neighbor, let me be that neighbor for you right now. One day a real threat will come your way in life. It could be a nuclear threat, more likely it will be a personal one. That unexpected heart attack, car accident. One thing is certain, no one gets out of here alive, and that is where faith and reason come in.
A lot of times people say, Christians are idiots, they're fools, really? Okay, so when the missile is coming, who are you gonna go to? Who's gonna help you? Your computer is not gonna help you. Your new iPhone X isn't gonna help you. Your favorite band isn't gonna help you. Even your friends can't help you. What are you gonna do? You need God and I think you know you need God. And that's why you wanna make sure you're right with God. I thought before, if I was there and I knew I had X amount of minutes before something like this would happen, I would want to share the gospel and I thought, "Could I share the gospel in under three minutes"? What if you were on a plane and all the engines were out and you're going down, could you share the gospel in three minutes?
You say, well great, can you? Okay, I'll take a stab at it, okay? Here's what I would say to people if I had this much time. I'd say first of all, I want to tell you that God loves you and you're separated from God by your sin, but here's the good news. God sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for you 2000 years ago, and if you'll turn from your sin and believe in Jesus, he will forgive you of all of it right now and you can go to heaven. Would you like to pray with me? Pray this prayer, and I would lead them in a prayer. Let's cut to the chase. No opening illustration, no jokes, just straight gospel infusion. You can do that. You can be that neighbor for someone else, but let me ask you, what if you got that message as you left church today and it wasn't a mistake? It wasn't a drill, it was real. Do you know where you're going?
I heard about an inscription on a tombstone. These words are written on it. Pause now stranger as you pass by, as you are now so once was I, as I am now so you will be, so prepare for death and follow me. Someone reading that tombstone was overheard to say, to follow you is not my intent until I know which way you went. So which way will you go? You have two options. When you die, and you will, unless the Lord comes before that and he could, but if you die or when you die, you will either go straight to heaven or you will go ultimately to hell. I don't say that with any pleasure. I just say that because it's gospel truth. And the last thing God wants is for you to go to hell. That's why he sent Jesus to this earth, his one and only beloved son and poured his judgment upon his son.
We deserve the judgment, we've rebelled against God, we've defied God, we've broken the laws of God and yet God took his only son and put that judgment on Jesus, so we didn't have to face it. Man, that's love, and he'll forgive you of any sin you've ever committed. You must say God forgive me. This can happen for you right now. Or if you're one of those people I talked about earlier that you've kind of veered off the path, you say you're a Christian, but you're doing things a Christian should not do, you can come back to Jesus. Let's get that resolved right here, right now. Let's all bow our heads in prayer. Everyone praying:
Father I pray now that you will speak to the heart of every person that's here, every person that's listening and watching wherever they are. If they don't know you yet, Lord, help them become to you. Now we pray.
Now while our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed and we're praying together, how many of you would say today, Greg, I need Jesus Christ. I want to be ready for the afterlife. I want to know that I'll go to heaven when I die, or I need to come back to Jesus because I've been messing up Listen, if that's your desire, if you want Christ to come into your life, if you want him to forgive you of your sin, if you want to know that you'll go to heaven when you die, or you need to come back to the Lord again because you've been living a compromised life, would you raise your hand up right now and let me pray for you. God bless you, raise your hand up high where I can see it, God bless. Hands are going up all over. I hope yours is one of them. This is your wake up call, this is not a drill.
Anybody else? You need Christ in your life right now. You want your sins forgiven. You want to go to heaven when you die, raise your hand up or you need to come back to the Lord, raise your hand up, let me pray for you. God bless all of you. You guys watching on a screen, I can't see you, but the Lord sees you, would you raise your hand as well? Saying yes, I need Jesus. Alright, listen, every one of you that has raise your hand saying you want Jesus Christ, I want you to stand to your feet right now and I'm gonna lead you into prayer. Stand up, stand up wherever you are. Even if you did not raise your hand but you need Christ in your life today, stand up and I'm gonna pray with you.
Wherever you are, you guys watching on the screen, stand up, right there, wherever you are, over at Dos Lagos, stand up in that theater. Over at Woodcrest, stand up, Eastville, stand up, Harvest Orange County, stand up and I'm gonna lead you in a prayer. This is real-time, happening right now. This is not a recording. You can get right with God. I'm gonna wait one more moment. Anybody else that needs to make this commitment or recommitment to Christ, stand to your feet. There might be a few more, and we'll pray together. Alright, all of you that are standing, I want you to pray this prayer out loud after me. Again, as I pray, pray this prayer out loud after me. Pray these words if you would.
Lord Jesus, I know I'm a sinner, but I know you're the savior, who died on the cross for my sin, and rose again from the dead. Jesus come into my life. I choose to follow you from this moment forward as Savior and Lord, as God and friend. Thank you for accepting me and forgiving me in Jesus name, I pray, Amen.