by Eduardo Pierini
The church is not an institution built by man. Jesus built the church. He is both Lord and Shepherd of it. If you have been washed by the Blood of the Lamb then you belong to the worldwide church of Christ - a church that nothing will prevail against. Nevertheless, these days we find ourselves faced with a church that is weak and devoid of power. Have you ever asked yourself what you can do about this?
There was a man of God who, when far from his homeland, heard that the city of God, the very place where the presence of God should be, was going through a time of great affliction.
In the first chapter of Nehemiah we find this written: The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:1-4).
All the cities of old had walls around them. Some of these walls were so wide that a car could be driven on top. These great walls had gates and watchtowers that provided protection from the enemy and separation from the outside.
The church of Christ is made up of men and women. If the church, or an individual life is not surrounded by walls of separation and protection, it's at the mercy of the enemy. We need walls that protect from the enemy, walls that allow you to sleep at night in peace. We need to be within the walls and near to the place of God. If the gates of entrance and exit have been burned with fire the city is at the mercy of the enemy.
Nehemiah received the tragic news that the city of God, Jerusalem, was with its walls down and its gates burned. With this desolate picture before him, he could do nothing more than weep, pray, and fast. Perhaps his thoughts and prayers at this time were, "God, how can I fix this situation? What can I do that my church, that my house, can have its walls raised up again?"
Nehemiah 1:6 describes his feelings: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.
Nehemiah knew the reason why the walls had been broken down: sin. He acknowledged both his sins and the sins of the people. This is an excellent beginning for a revival! No revival begins without true repentance. If you want your church to be filled with the glory of God, and if you want your life to walk in His presence, you will have to pray as Nehemiah did: "Lord, I have sinned against You! Lord, I need You to come to my life!" A prayer of surrender that gives your all - your life, your breathe, your ways.
Some time ago, in a church I was visiting, a woman made her way through the congregation to the front. She was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and when she got to the altar cried out in a loud voice, "Forgive me God, for I have committed murder! I, Lord, have done this!"
This lady and her husband had been attending the church for several years. Before she married she had had an abortion. God was bringing light and conviction to her life and that's why she was able to say what she said, "I am the one responsible for killing the life that was in me!"
She thought that once she had surrendered her life to Christ everything had been fixed. However, when the light of God came she understood that everything had not been fixed and that she needed to confess and ask forgiveness for her sin.
Last year I was in a church in Madrid, Spain. A lady, very broken in spirit, came to the front and asked for the microphone from the pastor. She said, "I want to ask for forgiveness from God and from you. I'm from the region of Extremadura, the place where many of the Spanish Conquistadors, like Fernando Cortes, left for the Americas. In the name of religion they murdered and they robbed and they brought back their victims' riches to Spain. Spain is under judgment. I want to ask God that He forgive me and this nation because we are guilty of murder."
I repeat - repentance is a good beginning for revival. All revivals begin with true repentance. Nehemiah also understood this principle and that's why he prayed, ...both I and my father's house have sinned.
Nehemiah's position in the royal palace was an important one. He was the king's cupbearer. One day, as he was before the throne, the king inquired as to the reason why he was sad. The king was aware that Nehemiah's sadness wasn't the result of any sickness. The king himself declared, ...this is nothing else but sorrow of heart... (Nehemiah 2:2).
The brokenness of heart that God gives doesn't go away in a church service, or with a few hours of weeping. The brokenness that God gives will put an ache in your soul that cannot be removed until God Himself lifts the burden.
Nehemiah's countenance reflected his feelings. Let's read his
...why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? (v3) In true repentance there is a brokenness of heart.
The king then asked Nehemiah what it was that he wanted. Before he responded to the king's question it's recorded, So I prayed to the God of heaven (v4). We are very prone to want to do things for God, but many times we don't even know what it is that God wants us to do. God doesn't accept just anything that occurs to me to do. He doesn't bless every "brilliant" idea that pops into my head. God has specific directions to give us. Nehemiah sought God to see what he should do.
We generally think of revival as multitudes coming to Christ. The Scriptures say that revival begins in the house of God; in other words, true revival begins in the heart of a believer, which then extends to a small group and from there to many more.
The Church was born when a small group of people were praying for the Holy Spirit. Revival begins with a small group that has a desire for God and a desire to surrender their lives so that God can work through them.
God doesn't lack multitudes, He lacks hearts. God wants your heart. He wants to win your heart and your home. Are you willing that He win your heart and your home? Are you prepared to give up all that impedes and all that is worthless? It will be when the answer is "yes, Lord", that the seeds of a true awakening will be planted.
DETERMINATION VERSUS OPPOSITION
...,that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it (v5). We find in Nehemiah a determination. Whenever we feel pain and conviction for sin, and whenever there is a desire that God intervene, there must be prayer and determination. Not just prayer and not just determination, but both. When Nehemiah determined to act upon the conviction God had put in his heart, immediately there arose opposition.
There isn't a work that God begins in a life that doesn't bring opposition. If you have determined to follow God there will be opposition. When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel (v10).
Jesus told us that the enemy comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. The devil likes nothing better than a dead Christian. He wants to kill the life within you. If you go to church you may be tolerated, but if you want to follow Christ with all your heart, you will be hated. You will encounter opposition from family members, and from co-workers, and from whatever circle you move in. Nehemiah was far from being intimidated by opposition and encouraged the people: Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach (v17).
And what happened when Nehemiah encouraged the people? There immediately rose up opposition - those that ridiculed and mocked them. That is what the enemy always does with those that determine to put their lives in order. When the people began to rebuild the walls, and as that work progressed, the opposition became even greater. But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews (Nehemiah 4:1).
The enemy is not going to stand back and allow your life to prosper. But don't forget that Jesus won the war against death on the cross. Way back when sin first entered the world God said that the seed of the woman would bruise Satan's head. Since then the enemy has sought any way to kill the life of God in man.
When opposition breaks out in your life you will have to decide to either continue forward with Christ or retreat. Jesus has invited us to come - ...and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37). If you want to come, His arms are open.
A young man, who from childhood attended church, when he grew up left the church and went his own way. He became a drug addict and was arrested for drug trafficking. He was released from prison and placed in a psychiatric hospital. He couldn't tolerate the hospital, so he was removed from there. His Christian mother, who was single, took him home. She offered him help. She sought a Christian place for him to go for rehabilitation. But, despite all this, the son's response was, "I don't want to have anything to do with the church. I don't want anyone over my life. I want to run my own life!"
This young man chose his course in life. Each one of us has to choose the path he will take. What is the path you have chosen? - to follow Christ half-heartedly? The Lord has told us that if we are lukewarm He will vomit us out of His mouth.
When they had halfway finished the wall it is said of their enemies: They were very wroth, and conspired all of them together to come and fight against Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:7,8).
Because of this fierce opposition it was decided that guards should be strategically positioned on the wall both day and night: Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows (Nehemiah 4:13).
The core of a healthy society is a healthy family. If you had the privilege like me, by the grace of God, of being born into a family with good principles and governed in the fear of the Lord, a great part of the battle of life has already been won. Nehemiah understood how important this was, so he worked with families. He put each family unit to work - to both work and be prepared to fight - to work with one hand while holding a sword in the other. He positioned the families around the wall as a united force.
My marriage isn't perfect. It's made up of a man who is not perfect and a woman who is not perfect. Many times during our 34 years of marriage we have had to obey the command of Ephesians 4:26: let not the sun go down upon your anger. When something rises between us, before we go to bed, we talk, we pray together, and we forgive each other. We don't want to spend the night sleeping next to an enemy.
So many couples have the habit of offending each other and then not being on speaking terms for one or two or three days or even a week. Some even sleep in a different room for a time. I won't even mention those who move back with their parents! If you've done any of these things you're sowing destruction in your own home. God is not interested in who is to blame, He just asks that you forgive and ask that the Blood of Jesus cover you.
And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses (Nehemiah 4:14).
Don't attempt to convert your neighbor when you yourself aren't truly saved. Don't go trying to convert your children when your own life doesn't have much to be desired.
Finally, after all this continual opposition of the enemy, with their diverse tactics employed against the people of God, the wall was rebuilt and the gates were repaired.
He which hath begun a good work will finish it... (Philipians 1:6). He will not fail you. He will not leave you stranded in the middle of the way. He has called you to life. When Jesus said He was going to build a church, He wasn't talking about a great stone temple. He was talking about a living temple made with living stones: Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:5). The temple of God is made up of souls, of lives - yours and mine - and it is eternal.
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