God’s Message to Us; Our Message to This City

I – Text: Nehemiah 4; Romans 8:1

II – Theme: As God’s people (those who are “in Christ Jesus”), we naturally desire to partner with God in the work He’s designed for us to perform. But we must expect trouble to come against us and that work, because Satan hates the advancement of God’s kingdom. We must therefore remember the promise of God from Nehemiah 4:20 – “Our God will fight for us.” What does this mean, ultimately, for us, as a new church in Tallahassee, with a biblical mandate to preach and live out the Gospel?

III – Illustrations: I want to tell you three short stories of God’s love and protection of His people. John G. Paton was a Christian missionary from Scotland, to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific, mostly during the 19th century.

Nearly every second of his life was spent in danger or potential danger, as he raised a family, preached, educated, established industry, and worked against slave-trading….

.all for the sake of Southern Pacific natives, who were hostile to the work and mission of both himself and what he represented: The Church.

Paton tells the story of how, one evening, these hostile natives completely surrounded his mission headquarters, intent on burning them out and killing him and his family. Yet, he and his wife prayed all night that God would deliver them. When daylight came, they were pretty amazed to see that, without explanation, the attackers had left! So of course, they thanked God for delivering them. Nevertheless, Paton continued his work on building God’s kingdom, there on the hostile islands.

About a year later, the chief of that same hostile tribe was converted to Christ. Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened that awful night a year before, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief was surprised by his question, asking Paton, “Who were all those men you had with you there?” Paton answered, “It was just me and my wife there that night…there were no men.” But the chief argued back, saying, “We saw hundreds of big men standing guard, dressed in shining garments and swords in their hands, drawn, ready to fight… they seemed to circle the missionary station, so my men were afraid to attack..”

At that moment, both Paton and the chief of the tribe agreed that the only explanation was that God had sent His angels for protection, and thus, answered the prayers of Paton and his wife!

In 2 Kings 6, the king of Aram is frustrated because, as hard as he tries, he can’t gain victory over Israel. His wise men explain to him that it’s because Israel’s prophet, Elisha, is being directly informed by God, Himself, about his plans of attack. They explain it by saying, Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” (2 Kings 6:12)

So when the king of Aram finds out that Elisha is in Dothan, he sends a massive army there to capture the prophet. Elisha’s attendant gets up early the next morning and sees the forces of Aram surrounding the city, and he freaks out, and asks Elisha, “What are we gonna do?”

2 Kings 6:16-23 picks up the story from here and tells of God’s awe-inspiring protection of His people, to deliver them from evil and sin—even when it’s their own evil and sin; such as with Elisha’s servant, who simply didn’t believe or trust God’s promises.

So Elisha answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.”

And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.” So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

19 Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria.

20 When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.”

So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.

21 Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?”

22 He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”

23 So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master….

.And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel.”

Finally, speaking of the Arameans, they are directly descended from Esau. Once you hear this last story, you’ll undoubtedly be able to connect the dots a bit better on why God fought against the Arameans, on behalf of His people, Israel.

Esau is the head of a trail, if you will—a winding path that leads us through 1500 years of God’s protection of His people; nearly right up to the time of Nehemiah. Now, let’s try to do 1500 years in about 7 minutes! Just listen for how God has a fierce and absolutely devoted love for those who are His.

      • (Genesis 25, 36) Esau, Jacob (Israel), birthright, prophecy, and Amalek

      • (Exodus 17; Deuteronomy 25:17-18) Amalek’s descendants attack Israel when she comes out of Egypt

      • (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) God tells Israel to include in His Law to them, to “be watchful…so that they will see the Lord’s vengeance against Amalek for what he did to Israel when she came out from Egypt”

      • (1 Samuel 15) God’s instructions to Israel’s first king, Saul—wipe out the Amalekites; Agag was their king…Saul spared him and lost his kingdom because of it; some Amalekites escaped….

      • (Esther) Haman the Agagite’s plan to eradicate Israel backfires and he and his sons are killed instead; all of Israel then plunders their captors, by the Persian king’s command against his own people!

      • (Malachi 1:1-4) A contemporary, of sorts, of Nehemiah, speaks God’s last words of comfort for His people, and against her enemies, before Jesus comes

IV – Today’s Text: Nehemiah 4, Romans 8:1

A – A word of comfort for those who are God’s people (those who are “in Christ Jesus”), so that we would devote ourselves and continue in doing God’s work:

There can be no doubt, that God has established a definitive history with His people, where we can look back at His treatment of us and conclude, with Paul in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who is against us?”

So, as we look at our text today in Nehemiah 4, what we see unfolding is—God’s people responding to adversity by trusting in what God has promised He would do for them, as well as what they know He has already done for them. That trust (faith) then brings about all the activities involved in that response.

For example:

      • The people of God know the history of His jealous pursuit of them—destroying other nations in order to procure His beloved; that is, they know the reality of the story of Esau, Jacob, Amalek, etc.

      • They also see very clearly that God has sent Nehemiah back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall and the city. Is it anything less than a miracle, that a conquering king would so readily allow Nehemiah to go back to a city that he, himself ravaged?

      • As well, the king paid for the rebuilding of the city he had conquered, and made the huge sacrifice of losing his trusted cupbearer!

      • The people of God, therefore, absolutely see the tangible work of God—and they trust Him for it!

      • But how do God’s people trust Him? Do we just believe in our minds that God will rescue us from adversity and then take us to be with Him forever at the end of these earthly lives? No!

      • Nehemiah 4 is a great example of how our faith responds when we know we belong to God, really…

      • There’s a common motif in Nehemiah 4-6 that goes something like this: God’s enemies make war on God’s people; God’s people pray in response to this adversity; God’s people then get back to work…and this happens over and over again in Nehemiah 4-6…

.and it shows us what it means to actively, tangibly trust God and His promise, that He will fight for us!

      • Therefore, an important principle for us to remember today, is that, the enemies of God’s people are ultimately the same as the enemies of God; and ours’ and God’s ultimate enemy is Satan.

      • Satan, through fallen humans uses an endless array of tactics in his warfare against us—just like he did against Nehemiah and his people.

      • Chief among these tactics is psychological warfare

      • From the text, we see Satan working through Sanballat, Tobiah, and their followers; using psychological warfare, by way of the threat of physical harm, to instill fear in the hearts of God’s people, and by trying to convince them that their efforts for God are useless, and amount to nothing

      • Satan still uses all these tactics on us, today. Psychological warfare is rampant among us (for both believers and unbelievers)—depression; anxiety; ill-placed dependency (addictions); a destructive, driving need to be recognized and significant; selfishness and narcissism fueled by the false notion that, if we don’t look out for ourselves no one else will

      • And even our fear of personal physical harm, is fed by the same selfishness and self-centeredness we just talked about; that is, it shows us that we still have our minds more focused on the now (the temporary), rather than where God tells us to stay focused, which is on the eternal—where all of His promises come to fruition for us! This is why Christ commands us to be ready to lose our life in order to gain it…to die to ourselves daily.

      • So, what was the answer of God’s people in Nehemiah 4, to Satan’s psychological warfare tactics? (v. 20, paraphrased): Let’s come together as God’s people, and fight for one another…and remember that the battle is really the Lord’s: “Our God will fight for us.”

      • And here we are, back to where we began, with stories of how God unfailingly loves and protects His people in the midst of the adversity they face when they partner with Him in the advancement of His kingdom.

B – What’s my point then, of bringing up Romans 8:1? Answer: To give us the most effective weapon against Satan’s psychological warfare

    • First, let’s read it again, and think about what God is really saying:“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

    • Is this a confusing statement from God to us? No.

    • Is there strength for our lives in this wonderful truth? Yes: No matter how much adversity and condemnation comes against us from the world, our flesh, and the devil, God has promised that, if we are in Christ Jesus, we can never be condemned by Him. In fact, not only will He not condemn us—He will proactively fight for us against the adversity and condemnation we experience in this life! But will we ask Him, daily, to fight for us? (prayer)

    • Romans 8:1 is a great reminder that Jesus has defeated the world, our flesh, Satan, and death itself, by His life, death, and resurrection.

    • God then gives us His Spirit, which causes us to believe and trust in that work of Christ, which, in turn, gives us the very empowerment of Christ, in order to conquer our condemning enemies. James reminds us, however, that, “If we have not, it’s because we ask not.”

    • In each of our stories today, God’s people, upon facing the world’s condemnation, turned to God, and asked Him to fight for them.

    • And they knew they could do so, because they knew that, if they belong to God, He would never condemn them, nor forget them, nor let them down. He is a saving God.

    • This is the message of God to us—His people. This is the Gospel: that God does not rely on our good works and morals so He can save us from His wrath. Instead, He chooses us in Christ, who is God, Himself (Ephesians 1:4; John 6:37)…then gives us His Spirit so that we will believe and trust Christ (Ephesians 2:4; John 6:44, 65)…then gives us His Word of Promise (The Bible), so that we can live this life completely connected to God—because this is the primary way in which He speaks to us: through the Bible, and affirmed by His Spirit in us.

    • Therefore, when we read a verse like Romans 8:1, we can know for certain that there are only two kinds of people in the world: Those who have absolutely no condemnation from God; and those who have nothing but condemnation from God.

    • What is our message then, to those who currently have nothing but condemnation from God? That the difference between absolutely no condemnation and nothing but condemnation is Jesus Christ.

    • The difference is not in our good performance!

    • That is good news for this city! That is what we want the lost and unbelieving of this city and our culture to embrace! When the condemning voices come upon them and cause them to wonder how they can make sense of their chaotic lives….when they ask themselves, “What’s this all for?” When they begin to take stock of their lives, and wonder how their sinful selves can please a perfect and holy God, we will answer with the only weapon that can defeat that condemnation: Jesus Christ. In Him, there is now no condemnation. In Him, God is pleased with you, and He is pleased forever.

    • For the Scottish missionary…for Elisha and his servant…for Israel…for Nehemiah and his people: When the psychological warfare of adversity and condemnation struck, they prayed for God to fight for them, then they went back to work, with a “tool” in one hand and a “weapon” in the other. Our weapon today is the same as theirs: No condemnation in Christ Jesus, no matter what condemnation the world threatens. Our God will fight for us!

    • May God bless the advancement of His kingdom through this church, until He returns to take us Home!