One of the big reasons so many people who call themselves Christians have lost the heart of worship is that they have forgotten. There hearts are far from God because they have failed to remember what God has done for them. They have disregarded what God has done through the ages for his people, they have failed to remember the miracles, and they have forgotten their first love and they have stopped living by His word. Many people work hard and persevere just like the Ephesians but Revelations 2:4 “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” During good and hard times people tend to forget God and focus on their present situation, either loosing all hope or taking credit for their well-being. But don’t loose hope; hang onto God’s word and don’t forget everything we have is from God. Psalm 77:9 “Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” 10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” 13 Your ways, God, are holy.” We cannot forget what God has done for us or for those who have gone before us. Even though you may have never seen a miracle as described in scripture, you must have hope and you must wait. If your situation has turned you away from God then repent and start over. If you are just starting your journey, look to the word to see how life as a Christian is supposed to be and then wait upon God for his counsel. Psalm 106:13 “But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.” They did not trust in God enough to honour Him as holy (Numbers 20).
Yesterday I talked about rituals. It is very easy just to go through the motions and just because you do, does not mean you are honouring God as Holy. You must have a pure heart. Part of participating in a ritual is to remember. As I was reading this morning I read Nehemiah 9. This year during Lent we spent time reading and focusing on Ezra, Nehemiah and Acts. So for 40 days we discussed rebuilding the church. If you want to see that journey this is Day 1 (Rebuilding - Day 1 of a 40-Day Journey ) There is great opposition in returning to the Lord and we faced the same following that journey. I just want to share this part of Nehemiah as it explains much of what is happening in the church today and why we must return to our first love. On day one our directive was to repent. “During this time of Lent we are confessing before God that we are a stubborn and obstinate people. Jeremiah 31 says, “You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God.”19 After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth” Nothing has changed in our day so we must follow this directive given in Nehemiah. As they confessed their sins so must we. Nehemiah 9:2 “They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestor / fathers. 3 They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God.” In their confession they admitted their stubbornness and their refusal to remember. “Our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” 19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them.” You gave them kingdoms and nations. Their sons went in and took possession of the land. 26 “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they turned their backs on your law. They killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. 27 So you delivered them into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight.”
Then they acknowledged the Lord as just. “33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep.” Nothing has changed in our day as the same has been happening. The whole counsel of the word of the Lord is not being followed. Many have selected portions of the bible to follow but not completely. “
1 Kings 17:40 “They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. 41 Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.”
We still serve the same God. The church is in the same position as Israel of the Old Testament. Nehemiah 9:36 goes on to say. ““But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. 37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.” Until we realize that the harvest is not happening the way it should, the church will continue to dwindle. Ezra 9:13 “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this. 14 Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? 15 Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.”
Many people will not hear this, as they do not realize that the power of the Holy Spirit has been removed and that we have been sold into the hands of the enemy. This is hard for people because they see people flocking to some churches and fleeing others. Don’t let the size of a church fool you. Be of noble character and check them out. Acts 17:11 “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The truth of the matter is the power of the Holy Spirit will be present to those who wait upon the Lord and follow God’s word wholeheartedly. The Spirit of the Lord will be poured out in power to those are looking for the narrow gate. If you are selling passes to any other size of gate you are leading people astray, small or large churches. If you are looking for the easy way turn around and run as this path leads you to where the dead are. (Proverbs 1-9)
Nehemiah said they refused to listen and failed to remember. If we would just listen to God’s word, things in the church would be different. But now it continues on just like Samson who did not know the Spirit had left him. If cost him just as it has cost us already. Remember I am talking about the power of the spirit. We must remember by returning to the word of God we can expect the same power to flow in our day as it did in scripture. Do not be deceived into thinking all is well in the church.
Prayer: You Almighty God are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Please have mercy O Lord. Open our eyes and ears once again. Isaiah 61:4 “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations”. Lamentations 5:21 “Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old.”