Assessment for Restoration
Preached at the Laurel Church of Christ
On February 16, 2002
I. Joe Wright is the minister of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, He was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer stirred controversy, and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer. The controversy didn’t end there. Later that year in the Colorado house, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wright’s prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest. Paul Harvey got a hold of the prayer and read it on his program. He got more requests for copies of it than any other thing he had ever done. Here’s what he prayed.
”Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that: We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word and called it pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternate lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it a choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the airwaves with profanity and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will…Amen”
II. Mr. Wright hit the nail on the head with this prayer to the Kansas State House.
A. We are in a time that needs spiritual renewal.
B. We need to be reminded just who we are and how we are to be
C. With being in such a time, it only makes since to study God’s plans for restoration.
III. Some may ask why Ezra, matter of fact, many have probably never heard sermons from the book of Ezra.
A. We may have studied it and passed right over the significance, but no more…
B. We are find real application in the book through God’s restoration plan
IV. One of the steps in first aid training the continually discuss the notion of assessing the situation.
A. For Example: someone is being electrocuted by a live wire: begin by assessing the situation; Or your in the wilderness a half an hour from civilization and a party member is bitten by a poisonous snake: assess the situation.
B. Proper assessment of one’s spiritual life will provide directions in preparation for restoration.
C. Ezra gives us insight on how to assess the situation.
I. Step 1: Recognize the Need for Returning to God (1:1-4)
A. God is a god of comfort – He wants you to return
1. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
2. Isaiah 40:1 “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”
3. God wants to comfort those who have strayed from them.
B. Look around and see the signs the so-called “Christians” of the world are divided, bickering and hypocrites across the world.
1. Against the very words of Jesus hope for His followers
2. The real issue that must be confronted is this question, “Which church is God’s church?”
3. Matthew 16:16-18 “Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
4. He doesn’t say he will build my churches, but my church.
5. There is one church to which do you belong.
C. The idea that multiple churches can fit within the body of Christ is down-right nuts.
1. How can the world or we accept such things.
2. It is time that we see the difference in such technicalities.
3. (Show chart of the denominational viewpoint)
4. Show the biblical viewpoint
D. It is time that “Christians” around the world return to God through the restoration of his people.
E. Bottom Line: We Need To Return To God
II. Step 2: Return Everything to God (1:7-11)
A. Mark 8:34-35 “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
B. Do we not understand the implications of the words of Jesus.
1. Sure this is a paradoxical statement, meaning that both statements seem to conflict one another, but Jesus says that if you will give your life to me, I will give you real life.
2. Life not encompassed by sin, but by godly living
3. Life that is not in debt, but paid in full.
C. What are you hanging onto that is really God’s
D. A gentleman in the Lord’s church told the preacher and elders that the new van that he bought was bought in the name of the Lord
1. What he meant is that the van would be used to support the Lord’s church?
2. When it came down to test that statement of faith, he could not follow through.
3. Our world wants us to think that we have got to have the nicest things and best things we deserve no matter the cost.
4. Have you bought into such a notion?
5. It is time to give it back to God..
6. The money you have, the time, the shirt on your back, the car sitting in the parking lot, the home you live in.
7. All of these things are items God has blessed you with..
8. Who are we to say, “God give me another month or two and I will be obedient and faithful. The time you are spending is God’s gift to you in the first place.”
E. Ezra says we need to return everything to God
III. Step 3: Find the faithful remnant (2:1-67)
A. Welcome to the most boring chapter in the Bible only surpassed by the genealogy in the first part of 1 Chronicles.
1. It would be very easy to want to skip such a chapter, but you could really miss some important information.
2. Here it is the listing of those names who return home
B. Ezra 2:1-67 “Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, in company with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah): The list of the men of the people of Israel …The whole company numbered 42,360, besides their 7,337 menservants and maidservants; and they also had 200 men and women singers. They had 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys. “
C. What is the remnant
1. Isaiah 10:20 “In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. Though your people, O Israel, be like the sand by the sea, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous.”
2. Haggai 1:12 “Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD.”
3. Romans 9:27 “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.”
4. Acts 15:17 “that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’”
5. Romans 11:5 “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.”
6. The remnant obviously has went through a progression of understanding
7. It is this, the remnant are those individuals who are few that are faithful to God.
D. Can there be a remnant of faithful today
1. There has always been a remnant of faithful Christians since the first century.
2. I though, like many others, the history books at some point lose track of the faithful remnant.
3. It is a true statement that we will be surprised by who is in heaven as well as surprised by who is not in heaven.
4. When need to be obedient to 1 Peter 3:15 and listen to the great elder give advice.
5. 1 Peter 3:15 “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…”
E. How is it that we can find the faithful remnant?
1. It will be those who are not rapped up in their own traditions, and follow the Bible
2. It will be those who are practicing Christians and not word only Christians.
3. It will be those teaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ
F. Step 3: Find the faithful remnant
IV. Step 4: Identify the center of Worship (2:68-70)
A. Ezra 2:68-70 “When they arrived at the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site. According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 drachmas of gold, 5,000 minas of silver and 100 priestly garments. The priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns.”
B. Recount the information from Ezra 2:68-70
1. They first viewed the temple of God, His place of worship
2. So where is our center of worship
C. Acts 8:1-3 “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.”
1. Is our place of worship this building.
2. Where is the church found?
3. Is a church a building?
D. Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
1. Worship happens within the heart, and God has prescribed his followers to assemble on the first day of the week to express heartfelt worship according to his precepts.
2. That means many things.
3. We pray, sing, read and study God’s word, Lord’s Supper, giving
4. More important than the acts of worship is the condition of your heart at worship.
5. Notice 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”
E. Although not a building and it happens within your heart, the NT still calls for Christians to meet together. To have an assembly of worship.
1. Hebrews 10:24-27 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
2. Christians met together daily to spur one another on.
3. How is that we struggle to come together three times a week?
4. Who told you that all God wants you to do is be here on Sunday morning?
5. You tell yourself that is everything is fine, but before you know it you have lost some understanding and begin to do things you shouldn’t
6. It doesn’t matter. Who ever told you God didn’t want you to meet with your brothers and sisters in Christ
7. Just think about and break it down. Is one hour of worship teaching your children how to live Christianly?
F. We can’t discuss the weightier matters of the New Testament living, because we are not ready as a church to leave the milk.
1. We need to begin by restoring ourselves to new testament ideals.
2. I was once told by a wise man, “If we would act like the church of the New Testament, we would not even have to talk about evangelism; because people would be banging down the doors to be part of such a fellowship.”
I. It is time for personal assessment
A. Step 1: Recognize the need for returning to God
1. Malachi 1:13 “And you say, ’What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously," says the LORD Almighty. "When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" says the LORD.”
2. Oh how burdensome it is to come when the Saints meet together.
B. Step 2: Return everything to God
C. Step 3: Find the faithful remnant
D. Step 4: Identify the center of worship
II. So where are you? Are you ready to be restored? Or are you just ready to begin being faithful?