[SW140] 05/17/2014 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Rebuilding the Church — Conviction of Sin”
Beloved, unless we publicly convict church members regarding their sin, we will not have victory against Satan, and the Lord will not rebuild us!
Jesus has shown me something in the Book of Nehemiah. It’s about today’s church, and what she must be taught and how she must be exhorted. In Nehemiah, the Lord reveals the necessary steps to rebuilding:
Chapter 1 — Intercession
Chapter 2 — Christ’s provision
Chapters 2 and 3 — His Inspiration and Strength
Chapter 4 — Spiritual Warfare
Chapter 5 — Conviction of sin
Chapter 6 — Discernment
Chapters 8 and 9 — Repentance
Chapter 10 — Consecration
Chapter 13 — Cleansing
First we intercede standing in the gap between a broken church and a God who heals brokenness. Then we seek the provision necessary to rebuild. Then we act upon the inspiration of God, the heart of God which we have sought and got!
But in the midst of the building, the Enemy who is Satan will mock, despise and attack us. How do we defeat him? Spiritual warfare! But we cannot blame Satan for all that has caused the church to become broken down. Lust is at the root of all sin (see James 1:14-15).
What sent Judah into exile? The same thing that sent Samaria into exile — sin.
Ezekiel 22:26-31 describes the spiritual condition of Israel that led to the Babylonian exile of Judah (southern Israel) about a hundred years after Samaria (northern Israel). Judah had sinned greatly against the Lord, and refused to listen to the prophets the Lord sent to them, who warned them to repent. And so God sent them into exile in Babylon for 70 years.
Didn’t their leaders warn them about sin, and remind them of the commandments of the Lord? They did not, but were more interested in gaining the praise of the world and the people than in gaining the praise of their God:
Lamentations 2:14 Your prophets have seen for you
False and foolish visions;
And they have not exposed your iniquity
So as to restore you from captivity,
But they have seen for you false and misleading oracles.
Review of Nehemiah 1-4
Nehemiah interceded for Jerusalem after his countrymen brought him the sad news that the city was in great distress and reproach, with its wall broken down and its gates burned with fire.
He asked the Lord for favor with King Artaxerxes, and reminded the Lord of His promise to return them to Jerusalem if they returned to their God.
He found favor, indeed! The king sent Nehemiah with authority, timber, officers of the army and horsemen to rebuild Jerusalem.
Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, with something God was putting on his heart to do for Jerusalem. After surveying the destruction, he spoke to the people:
— Come, let us rebuild
— The hand of my God has been favorable to me
— The king supports us
The Enemy insulted, threatened and mocked the Jews, because he heard they were rebuilding and repairing (the original Hebrew word means “healing”). He tried to plant doubt and fear in the hearts of the rebuilders. But Nehemiah and others prayed, the people were armed for defense and watchmen were appointed, and the Enemy’s plans were foiled. Praise God!
Enemy attacks aren’t the only threat to rebuilding, though. Sin is also a threat, just as it was for Judah when God sent them into captivity. God will not fight for us if we stubbornly rebel against Him. Sin separates us from God:
Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short
That it cannot save;
Nor is His ear so dull
That it cannot hear.
2 But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
He will not hear the prayers of sinners, even those who are His own people:
John 9:30 The man [born blind and healed by Christ] answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 31 “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.”
Nehemiah knew very well that sin among the people was the cause of their exile, and that God kept the Israelites from having victory at Ai until the sinner had been convicted and the sin cleansed from the camp. When Joshua fell on his face after Israel’s defeats, hear the word of the Lord to him —
Joshua 7:10 So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11 “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. 12 “Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.
What was the sin for which Nehemiah rebuked the people of God? Usury.
God commanded them not to charge interest or make a profit on their fellow Israelites — that is usury. From the New Living Translation —
Leviticus 25:35 “If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you. 36 Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative. 37 Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.”
Famine was still in the land during Nehemiah’s time. Poorer Jews could not afford grain from their richer brothers. So the richer brothers used the law of supply and demand to satisfy their greed, and the poorer ones were driven to mortgage their fields, vineyards, and houses so they may eat. Some of the poor borrowed from the rich, and were charged interest, to the point where they had to sell family members into slavery to pay their debts. Nehemiah and his house did no such thing (Verse 10), but acted in obedience to God, lending without interest. He did not place burdens on the people nor domineer them, but fed them from his own table, for he feared God (Verses 14-18).
When Nehemiah heard the outcry of the poorer Jews, he was very angry with the rich (Verse 6). He contended with them, rebuking them for their sin PUBLICLY, holding a great assembly against them (Verse 7).
For today’s church
God has not changed. There is sin in the camp of the church. We cannot forcefully stop Christians from sinning, but if we faithfully warn and exhort them to ask the Lord to crucify the sin nature they were born with, the Lord will rebuild the church, just as Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt by Nehemiah and the people of Israel who returned from captivity.
Beloved, sin is the elephant in the room in the church. It’s large and it stinks, and yet we simply ignore the fact that it is there!
I know that the sin nature of many is alive and well in the church, or we would not constantly sin against the Lord, striking each other with wicked fists, satisfying our own egos at the expense of others, backbiting, evil speaking, playing power games, always seeking God’s blessing while we disobey Him, doing everything Paul describes:
1Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
We have been set apart (sanctified), we have been justified (forgiven of our past sins because of our faith in Christ), just as Israel was set apart and justified in the eyes of God (and will yet be, when they recognize that their Messiah has already come).
But like the Corinthians, today’s church is full of sin, and again, in some churches they welcome continuous, willful disobedience against God (see 1Corinthians 5)!
Beloved, few leaders of today’s churches preach in the Holy Spirit. If they did, they would preach about sin and its consequences, so as to bring church members to repentance. It is not just those who do not know Christ who need to repent, but also those who are Christians, as Jesus shows us in Revelation 2 and 3, and as Paul and Peter and James and the rest warn the church in their letters to the churches!
Again, when Nehemiah heard the outcry of the poorer Jews, he was very angry with the rich (Nehemiah 5:6). He contended with them, rebuking them for their sin PUBLICLY, holding a great assembly against them (Nehemiah 5:7).
God has not changed. Paul PUBLICLY exhorts the sinning Corinthian church about their sinning brother who is having sex with his father’s wife (1Corinthians 5:1-2, 5). Paul instructs Timothy to publicly exhort (1Timothy 5:20). I exhort the church of today PUBLICLY for having sex with the world!
Will we sell ourselves to the world from which we were delivered (Verses 8 and 9)? I hope to hear the silence that comes before weeping in repentance!
Some pastors will say to their congregations, “Stop sinning,” but not reveal to the poor sinning Christian the way God has provided — a new heart, purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit — because we don’t believe that God can do it!
Church that has stolen the truth from her members, give back to them the inheritance that is theirs — freedom from slavery to sin!
Nehemiah 5:13 I also shook out the front of my garment and said, “Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” And they praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.
Amen! I praise the Lord, for Nehemiah (and a few in the church today) dare to exhort against sin and point to the Way to be set free — Jesus Christ:
John 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered Him, ““We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 “ The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”