Summary: Today we’re going to focus on the impact of the Word on our lives when we read it, study it and act on it. When you allow the word to penetrate your life on a daily basis, it has the power to transform. We see several things the Word can do in your life.
Rejoicing in the WORD
Nehemiah 8: 9-18
A young girl became a Christian in a revival at her church and was baptized the closing Sunday morning. That afternoon she ran through the house singing and dancing. Her grandfather yelled at her, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You just joined the church and you’re singing and dancing on the Lord’s Day!” Crushed by her grandfather’s attitude, the little girl went out to the barn, climbed up on the corral fence, and observed an old mule standing there with a sad, droopy face and bleary eyes. As she reached over and patted the mule sympathetically, she said, “Don’t cry, ole mule. I guess you’ve got the same kind of religion that Grandpa has!”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years. At one point in his life, Justice Holmes explained his choice of a career by saying: "I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers." So where is the joy? Where is the "always" rejoicing in the Lord? Where is the "always" giving praise with joy in our hearts for the great things He has done?
Chapter 8 reflects a major change in the book of Nehemiah. Up to this point, the book has been about re-construction, but now the focus changes to the re-instruction of God’s people. Today we’re going to focus on the impact of the Word on our lives when we read it, study it and act on it. When you allow the word to penetrate your life on a daily basis, it has the power to transform. We see several things the Word can do in your life.
First, it has the power of conviction. When they heard the Book of the Law read, the people began to weep. When you read the word on a daily basis, something begins to happen in your life. You become aware of the brokenness that you weren’t aware of before and that only God could do things that I was truly seeking. Hebrews 4:12 puts it this way: "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword . . ." What’s sharper than a double-edged sword? A scalpel. A sword is used for condemnation and death but a scalpel is used for healing. When I allow the word to be part of my everyday life, it gets to those places that are unresolved inside of me that I’ve repressed and often are not even aware of. Any time you’re not allowing the word to penetrate the core of who you are, you’re practicing "religion" rather than having a radical relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s why so many religious people only go so far in living for God and they appear to be hypocrites. Many religious people are like whitewashed tombs. On the outside they look great and do all of these religious things, appearing very spiritual but on the inside there was nothing but death. And here’s the problem: religion creates self-righteousness. I’m right, you’re wrong. When you’re dealing with religion, you’re always pointing out the splinter that’s in your sister or brother’s eye and you are never dealing with the log that is in your eye. It’s why the Pharisees had such problems with Jesus and why ultimately the religious people crucified Jesus. But when you allow the Word to penetrate your heart and mind, it’s no longer about other people’s sin but yours.
Second, God moves from being a God of condemnation to a God of redemption, healing and forgiveness. While the people were convicted by the word and weeping, Ezra says: "Go enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those that have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." In other words, you have been forgiven. Weeping indicates guilt and confession but the moment that you repent, you can celebrate because God has relieved you of your guilt through His forgiveness. Because of this, all the people went away to eat and drink and to celebrate with great joy. Now they know the God they worship and serve is not one of condemnation but redemption. He has commuted the punishment of their sin and forgiven them, restoring that relationship. When you read the word, the Spirit makes known to you the God you worship, who is not a God of condemnation but one of redemption.
The problem is many people don’t see that and it’s the difference between religion and relationship. If you have a religious interpretation, then you read the Bible as a legal document. If you interpret the Bible relationally, then you see the Bible as a love letter. In religion, you are look at God as judge, but relationally, you see God as a Father. If you come from a legal interpretation, your focus is on commandments, but if you approach the Bible relationally, it’s about covenant of God’s unfailing, unbreakable love. From a legal perspective, it’s about condemning the lost, but from the relational perspective, it’s about saving the lost. We all know the scripture, (put 16 on one screen and 17 on the next) John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." We ought to memorize 17 too. It says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." This is not about punishment. It’s about redemption, salvation and relationship.