Michael Youssef - Rebuilding Our Broken Walls - Part 8
An authentic faith brings an authentic change of heart, and that is a far cry from what we hear from some pulpits today of presuming on God's grace, of taking God's grace for granted, of using God's grace as a license to continue in sin, of baptizing people in their sin. Living in and with an unconfessed sin is a huge problem. Let me tell you why, because an unconfessed sin weighs us down. It takes away our joy from us. It's neutralizes our effectiveness for Christ. But even when we confess to whom we wronged, God not only restores us, he will restore our joy.
Back in the early days of the Ford Motor Company, there was a machinist who worked in a Detroit plant. And one day this machinist became a believer in Jesus Christ and got baptized. And not only that he repented of his sins to the Lord, but he clearly wanted to make, all the wrong things that he did, he wanted to right them. Well, there were many wrong things, including that for a number of years, he has been stealing tools and parts from the Ford Motor Company and taking them home. He just put them in his lunch bag, one at a time, and he takes 'em home, and he accumulated large amount of tools and parts that were stolen.
And so, when the Lord came into his life, he wanted to do the right thing, so he collected all the stolen parts and the tools and he came to his boss one morning. They're all in one bag, and he put them on his desk, and he told his boss what had happened, that he's been stealing all this. But now that he's a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, he could not be an authentic witness for Jesus Christ while he's still holding on to these goods, stolen goods, knowing full well that his boss literally can fire him on the spot, anticipated that. Not only that he returned the stolen goods, he asked his boss, "Will you please forgive me? My Father in heaven forgave me, I want you to forgive me".
Well, the boss didn't know what to do. He called his boss, who called the head of the company, who tried to call Mr. Ford himself. Well, Henry Ford was not there. He was inspecting some European plant, was over in Europe. And they didn't know what to do, how to handle this. They had just never had anything like this before. And so, they decided to send Mr. Ford a cable, explaining. Long cable explaining what happened. And so, Mr. Ford gets that cable and immediately he returns a cable back with the following words. Listen carefully. "Dam up the Detroit River and baptize the entire city".
This is a man who knew a good deal when he see one. Beloved, an authentic faith brings an authentic change of heart, and that is a far cry from what we hear from some pulpits today of presuming on God's grace, of taking God's grace for granted, of using God's grace as a license to continue in sin, of baptizing people in their sin. Why did this man not only confess his sins, but he had to make the wrong things right? Because he did not want to be one of those hypocrites, phonies, who claim to be a Christian but then his life has never reflected the Christ that he claimed. Please hear me right on this one. Living in and with an unconfessed sin is a huge problem. Let me tell you why, because an unconfessed sin weighs us down. It takes away our joy from us. It neutralizes our effectiveness for Christ. It diminishes our witness.
But even when we confess to whom we wronged, when we confess to the Lord, God not only restores us, he will restore our joy. He will not only restore our joy, he will empower us for godly living. He will empower us for effectiveness in our Christian life. I hope you're ready to turn with me to Nehemiah chapter 9. Did you know that Nehemiah chapter 9 is really the longest prayer of confession recorded in the Bible? But there's something very important here that you need to know about confession before I get to the text. Confessing, and confession, and making restitution is a cleansing act. It is a purifying act. It is a restoring act. And when the people of God came in confession after the walls were built, and if you're visiting with us, we've been going through the book of Nehemiah about rebuilding the broken walls.
Your broken walls could be personal. It could be in your family. It could be in your community. It could be in your church. Whatever it may be, God wants us in these last days to begin to rebuild. And when God's people came to God in confession and repentance, when they came in fasting and in humility, when they came in brokenness and in sincerity, God heard their prayer. In the New Testament, no one can receive salvation from the hand of Jesus Christ until they recognize and acknowledge his lostness and her lostness apart from Christ. Once you confess that we can never save ourselves, that we could never meet God's standard of righteousness, that we cannot fix ourselves by our own efforts, then an only then, when we surrender to him, will he save us, redeem us, forgive us, and restores us. And I pray, if there's a single person here today who has never given their life to Jesus Christ, this will be the day.
You see, until we come in brokenness and humility, not demanding or presuming on his grace. You see, David, until he cried, "Have mercy on me, Lord," until that happens, salvation will not take place. Do not mistaken brokenness for weakness. In fact, I can tell you it is only a broken spirit receives strength from the Lord. God is near to those who are crushed in spirit. But even once we are saved, we keep on coming back. We don't stop. We keep on coming back in humility, we keep on coming back in repentance, we keep on coming back in brokenness. We keep on coming back to him for confession and repentance of our sins, even more so than before we came to Christ because we now become acutely aware of his grace and our sinfulness.
And in Nehemiah chapter 9, these people of God meant business with God. Oh, that God will give us this spirit. They not only confessed, they repented and they promised to completely alter their priorities and the priorities of their lives. They signed their names on the dotted line, as it were, just like this machinist in the Ford Motor Company. You know, today, we hear this politically correct crowd, you know, they're telling us about all these phobia. And I'm telling you, these are words manufactured to silence those who believe the truth. Here's the truth. Today, there is a phobia that the media will never tell you about. There is a phobia that is creeping across the churches in America today, and it's called commitment-phobe.
Our generation fears commitment, and therefore they take their commitments very lightly. Oh yes, I made a commitment at the altar that I would be faithful to my spouse as long as we both shall live. Oh, but that was then, this is now. Today, many vows are being rewritten. They no longer say, "As long as we both shall live". It says, "All long as we both shall love". We make commitment to our church, but the moment we don't like something, that commitment ends. We shop for churches the way we shop for cars. If it's not entertaining enough, and if it's focusing on me enough, and if it's not focusing on my needs enough, or not focusing on what I want enough, never mind whether that church is upholding the authority of the Word of God or not. If the sermon is convicting of sin, I go and find one that is not gonna convict me of sin. Trade it in for another model.
So that's why so many churches today, in order to accommodate to the spirit of the age, they are marketing the gospel as if it is a product to be sold. Instead of challenging our culture, we're accommodating to it. Instead of backing the trend, we are reflecting its insipid values. No wonder we are, as a nation, in the trouble we're in, because the church is in trouble. And the reason God's people, in Nehemiah chapter 9, had sackcloths and ashes was because they have experienced the death of their culture. You see, they had seen Israel decay to the point where God, literally, they forced his hand in order to use the wicked Babylon to get their attention. Sadly, God may have to do that in our society to get our attention and the attention of his people.
Look at Nehemiah's prayer of confession and commitment. It starts with acknowledging the faithfulness of God. That's where it starts, and their unfaithfulness. They recount God's past mercies and blessings. Look at verses 9 to 25. It's just a constant recounting of the cycles of God's blessings and their defection from God. All of the Lord's mercies in Egypt, all of the Lord's mercies in the wilderness, all of the Lord's mercy getting them to cross the Jordan River, all of the Lord's mercy giving them the Promised Land, with every inch of it, with all these mercies were met by presumption on God's grace, taking God's grace for granted, and they lived in disobedience. And after all of that, after all of that, and that's the amazing part, God still have mercy on them yet again. God still forgives them yet again. God still blesses them yet again.
God's ready to provide for them yet again. God is ready to sustain them yet again. Beloved, here is the truth that you must never, never, never doubt. God's character is never-changing. Did you hear that? God's character is never-changing. The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. That same God who forgave Israel again, and again, and again is the same God who sent his Son from the splendor of heaven to come and die on the cross so that he may forgive us and redeem us once and for all. So what do you take from this? What do we take from this? Listen carefully.
Regardless of where you are, only you and God know where you are. Regardless of how far you've wandered away from God, regardless of how low you got yourself down to, regardless of how unfaithful you have been to the Lord, God is calling you back. God is calling you again. Welcome back. Come back. Come back in confession. Come back in repentance. Come back in restoration. He has his arms open wide for you today. Then in verses 26 all the way to 31, the people are blessing God for being a just and holy God. Listen, our God is faithful, our God is mighty, our God is gracious, our God is forgiving and pardoning God, but we must never forget that he's also a holy God. He is a holy God.
You say, "What does that mean? What does it mean for God to be a holy God"? It means that he loves you too much to allow you to wallow in sin. God does not want to afflict us, but if we insist in our rebellion and running away from him, he will let us taste the consequences of our rebellion so that he may draw us back to himself. Look at the prayer again of recounting how, time, after time, after time, God called him back, got their attention, got them back. And after tasting the consequences of their wanting to be independent of God and run after other gods, when they cry to God, he restores 'em again and he forgives 'em.
Look at verse 31. "But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God". You would think that God's people would respond positively to all this overwhelming love, and forgiveness, and mercy, and grace, but no. No, once God answered their prayer, they ran into their own normal life. Once God answered their prayer, God is forgotten. Beloved, that's what we do. We cry to God when we need something. The moment he answers, we run off. God is watching, and God is not mocked. God is seeing this and it grieves his heart. And somebody said to me, they said, "Well, that's just natural". Yes, but the Bible said that we have been given a supernatural, divine nature, and we must not give in to the natural.
It's like the postal worker in Washington D.C. who said, you know, before Christmas, they get thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of cards and letters from kids asking Santa for all kinds of toys and things. And he said, after Christmas, there may be one or possibly two cards, "Thank you, Santa". I'm not promoting Santa, I'm just telling you how human nature, the way it is. Don't be in haste to say, "Oh, those people of the Old Testament, my goodness". Don't be quick to condemn them. Don't be quick to condemn them.
Look back at your own history and mark down the times when you have taken God's grace, and God's mercy, and God's favor, and God's blessings for granted. Wherever you are today, make this to be a day of confession, a day of repentance, and a day of rededication and commitment. In fact, we have a great opportunity. An altar call is gonna be issued in a few moments. Make this to be your personal altar call as you come down those aisles and recommitted, by confessing and repenting. You know, I praise God all the time that he never says to me, "I've had enough of you. You keep on coming back. You keep on coming back. I'm just tired of you, Michael". No, I am so grateful to the Lord, he never says that.
I want to help everyone who has been convicted of the Holy Spirit today. I wanna help you by showing you, from the Scripture, the four cornerstones of confession. I wanna show it to you. Don't panic. This is not a four point sermon. I'm coming toward the end now and this is my conclusion, the four things I wanna share with you. I know and you know sometimes when God does not give us what we're asking for in a timely fashion in the times we want, we get tempted to doubt God. I understand. I understand. I've been there. But look at these people in the time of Nehemiah. Instead of expecting God to serve them, they came humbling themselves before him.
And this prayer in Nehemiah 9 is far from being self-centered prayer. It's far from being human-centered prayer. It is a God-centered prayer. It's focused not on, "Give me, God," but "What can I give you, God"? It's not, "What have you done for me lately, God"? but "How I can put everything on the altar"? The focus on serving and blessing the Lord for his faithfulness, verses 32 to 38. See, the people understood that when they sin against God, they are breaking a sacred trust relationship. Did you know that? Every time we rebel against God and go our own way, we are breaking that sacred trust. When a husband betrays his marriage vows, he's breaking that sacred trust.
Now, that person does not cease to be a Christian, but it undermines his or her effectiveness for God. Listen to the words of King David, Psalms 32:3-4, "When I kept silent," that's from confession, "my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer". Unconfessed sin is gonna haunt you, is gonna cost you sleep, is going to break that sweet fellowship you have with the Father. But you can put an end to it today. Some of you might need to go and make some phone calls. You might ask somebody for forgiveness. You might give somebody forgiveness that have been withholding it from him or her. You can end all that today.
So, what are these four cornerstones of confession, prayer of confession? Number one, acknowledging your personal responsibility for sin. Don't blame your spouse. Don't blame your parents. Don't blame other people. Make no excuses. Don't blame others. Don't blame your surroundings. "Oh, I was in such situation and I couldn't", no, no, no, no. Accept full responsibility, whatever that sin may be. Secondly, acknowledge God's justice. Confess that god is holy and just. That means that it is his prerogative to be disappointed with my sin. We have no right to demand mercy. We can only plead for mercy.
Thirdly, ask him for forgiveness in the name of Jesus. The only reason we are even qualified to come to the throne room of God is because Jesus already paid the penalty of our sins on the cross, and we can only be forgiven in the name of Jesus. Fourthly, cling to God's promises of forgiveness. I know somebody said, "Well, I know God forgave me, but I just can't forgive myself. And I know", now, whoa, whoa. If God forgave you, who are you not to forgive yourself? Once you have truly confessed, don't fall in Satan's ploy of making you doubt God's forgiveness. You need to let the past sins that have been confessed and forgiven to be in the past. Every time Satan or others might remind you of your sin, you remind 'em of the promises of God.
And here are some of those promises. Jeremiah 31:34, "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more". Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east from the west, as far God removed our transgressions from us". Isaiah 1:18, "'Come now, let's reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they will be like wool.'" And the verse I quote on a regular basis, 1 John 1:9, "If we confess". Can you say that with me? "If we confess, God is faithful and just to forgive us all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
Then you must be willing to accept the freedom and the joy that comes from confession and forgiveness. Don't be morbid and dwell on your past sins. Gone. Don't say, "Well, I know God forgave me, but", there's no but. Move forward with joy. Amen? And let's prepare our hearts to this altar call where everyone who knows the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is welcome, regardless of church or denomination that you belong to.
Father God, what a great God. We have been reveling in you through song, and prayer, and praise, and in the Word of God. Father God, cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Let this be a new moment in our lives, a turning moment, that we will experience the joy that's unspeakable because of confession of sin. For we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.