Saturday 24 October 2020

Nehemiah 8 ,v.1 to 4,  8 to 12  BIBLE SUNDAY

This morning is the day the Church celebrates God giving us the Bible.                                                                                    I want to turn with you to the reading from the Book of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah was a Jew taken into exile by the Babylonians and after they had been defeated by the Persians, he became a cup bearer to the King, and later became civil governor of Jerusalem.  The people of Israel had been taken into captivity and after 70 years were returning to Jerusalem, their spiritual homeland and capital then in ruins, to rebuild their lives and homes. 

The walls of the city had been destroyed and needed to be rebuilt been created.  Nehemiah realised that a nation needs more than material works and wealth, there was a need for a firm spiritual and moral foundation as well as wealth and material things.

Ezra the priest was present and preached the Scriptures to them.   In what is perhaps a new passage of Scripture for you, we have a glorious story of a people who gathered without coercion, devoting themselves to standing for something like five/six hours.

This indicates the tremendous desire of these people for truth. No complaining there if the service went over the hour! Some times when I first visit a Church I ask the Vicar/Minister for guidance as to how long I am expected to preach, and often told well after ten minutes people will begin to shuffle their feet.  (Not so bad in the Free Churches.)

Notice also that the place where they met was by the Water Gate, the seventh gate, a prominent number to the Jews, a number meaning perfection.  There were a series of gates, sheep, fish, east, etc. this gate was the symbol of the Word of God -- the water of the Word. There could have been no more appropriate place for them to assemble.

What a marvellous clear statement of how a church service ought to be conducted! The primary business of Christians is to understand the Word of God so as to think God's thoughts after him -- to learn to think like God. It is not only important to know what the Scripture says, it is even more important to know what it means!

This teaching had such a profound effect upon the people that we are told they wept as they listened. They did so because they realised how their lives had gone astray and they had wrong thoughts and ways.  When God’s people get away from loving and reading and obeying the Word of God they lose the blessing of God upon their lives. The cause of their problems lay in their own thoughts and attitudes. These people saw the holiness of God contrasted against the evil of man. How careful it was made clear what the meaning of Scripture was.

We so desperately need to tell in simple terms how he loves us, wants us to be saved, and for that purpose he sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to show us by word and example how that becomes possible when we obey all that he tells us in that holy book we call the Bible. There are Church members who live knowingly and deliberately against God’s teaching, yet hypocritically carry on doing so. How God must weep when sees people singing hymns of praise in Church, listening to the Bible, (sometimes even preaching it) and then behaving totally in contradiction to what he has laid down.

When the Bible is faithfully preached as it is written, it points out the way are going astray, how far we have wandered from the pureness of Christ in thought word and deeds. God tells us what is wrong in our lives, and corrects us when we do wrong and teaches us what is right. How we all sin most often by mistake or carelessness, and God provided a way of forgiveness in letting Jesus die a cruel death on the Cross so that all who accept Jesus death was for their sins, would be forgiven.  The whole Bible is about God’s offer of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

We need the Bible to have a relationship with God and it brings us into the presence of God.  All true Christian ministry should be based on the Bible, it is our only authority for the Church to exist. The great tragedy of our day is how few churches seem to understand this power of Scripture. Whenever there has been a revival in the Church, at the forefront were men like Charles and John Wesley, or Evan Roberts in the 1904 Welsh revival, men who were boldly preaching the Bible.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the greatest preachers of modern times once stated, ‘the primary task of the Church and Christian Ministers is the preaching of the Word of God.  The decadent times in the history of the Church have always been when such preaching has declined.’ The Church was founded on the teaching of the Apostles and such was authoritative because it came from our Lord Himself, who claimed he was the only way to God. We should not be afraid to state this, for the Bible states ‘we do not have a spirit of timidity, we have the power of God’

It is fair to say Britain is in moral decline. It is like a car parked on a hill when someone releases the brake and it careers downward.  There is so much evil in society, even listening to news broadcasts creates fear. Murder was for so long a rare and major crime, now it is a daily occurrence hardly worthy of more than a passing paragraph in a newspaper. Fraud, theft, corruption stems from top of society to the bottom. 

Of all that is happening today, the most frightening thing is the lack of a sense of sin in society, a total lack of moral values -- but they do not feel they are doing anything wrong.. That is what the Word of God is given to correct. It awakens afresh an awareness of what is causing the wrong.  All the time honoured beliefs of morality and ethics have been abandoned so that nothing is considered immoral or improper by society. What is most alarming is that no one in authority seems to be concerned.

We have allowed secularists, atheists and activists for LGBT lobby to influence society and take over the country, in the process they are trying to silence us and forcing us not only to accept, but approve all they call for. People are free to live as they wish, God gave us free will, but all must be able to express an opinion without being threatened, and to state what the Bible says.

The Church, which is meant to be the conscience of the nation, has in the mainline denominations, conversely called to abandon biblical teaching to meet society’s culture.  Scripture reveals that as individuals, we have turned our backs on God's ways, and ignored his teaching. We have failed the young people who see an institution created by God for the purpose of providing spiritual and moral guidance, failing to point out what are clearly called sins in the Bible, and either incapable or unwilling to offer better. Children are now denied these foundations and are growing up without knowing the country’s religious faith and heritage. 

It is so easy to say that is just being old fashioned and dismiss. Old fashioned we may be, but we didn’t have 1in 2 divorce rate—such anti-social behaviour and juvenile delinquency- the highest abortion rate in Europe-= the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Europe-and the lowest Church attendance, we knew what being a Christian meant.

 The Bible comes to us from God, written over a period of thousands of years, consisting of 66 books, written by a wide variety of authors, each with different characters and occupations, living at different times over the years, most of them not knowing others yet what they wrote was never in contradiction, and was all as God wanted. The most sophisticated computer could not have composed such perfect harmony; the only explanation is the Holy Spirit was the guide and one dictating. The wonder of the Bible is all the writers declare they were writing under God’s inspiration.

Most of the men who wrote the Bible were simple fishermen, shepherds and the like, without a degree amongst them, and were moved by the Spirit of God. If they went before a selection committee for Church ministry, I doubt they would have been chosen.

That may seem hard or even cynical, but it is not meant to be, I say it seriously and being realistic. The teaching of the Apostles would be too fundamental for selectors to accept, for Christian orthodoxy has now been replaced by equality and diversity consideration.  I can say with confidence, preferment in the Church of England is dependent upon accepting not the Bible’s moral and ethical teaching, more on the calls of society’s activists.

The King James Version of the Bible has been described by academics and intellectuals alike as the greatest and most influential book of the ages, containing the most beautiful literature and the most perfect moral code ever devised. Yet a Court in Bristol said it contained words which a criminal offence and fined street preachers for using it.

Men and women have given their lives to take the Bible to the utmost parts of the earth and to live in primitive conditions.  Most could have earned an enormous amount more money with comfortable lives, but chose to serve the Lord. They were mostly well educated and learned people with brilliant minds, who God will richly reward.

It was once custom to have bible in pews and members could follow the readings for themselves as they were being read out, and follow as the sermon was preached. Most Churches had a Bible study class meeting , which is now a rare meeting.

If the churches of this land were faithful to the Bible preaching what it was saying, without amendments, do you think the nation would be in the condition that it is today?  Never has the Bible been more needed than now. 

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