Summary: God desires to create sacred communities who are wholly devoted to Him.
OPENING ILLUSTRATION: ARRIVING TO FIND THINGS MUCH WORSE THAN EXPECTED
INTRODUCTION: As Ezra returns from Babylon to Jerusalem he discovers the people have a serious SIN PROBLEM. Rather than becoming a SACRED COMMUNITY they had become a COMFORTABLE COMMUNITY who had wandered from the words of God written by Moses.
1)A Sacred Community CENTERS AROUND SCRIPTURE (EZRA 7:1-10)
• 7:1 “after this” • 57yrs between ch 6 & 7. Temple completed in 515BC King Darius! His son Xerxes (Esther) ruled 20yrs and his Son Artexerxes ruled.
• Ezra’s lineage traces back to Aaron (the first priest)
• Ezra was a tchr of the law of Moses. Teacher = recorder,scribe,secretary,writer. Scripture refers to him in Jer. 36 as a man who could read and write. BC he was a priest and his ancestry he had authority to teach.
• 7:6 – Skilled/well-versed. Ezra held no position before the king. Priest but common man before the king - earned his respect BC of His devotion to Scripture. What an amazing thought… that others/pagans would respect & bless us bc of our devotion to Scripture.
We think of it the opposite. We have to downplay Scripture around others…
• BLACKABY & WHITE QUOTES
• V10 – “Set his heart” 1)to study Scripture 2) to do it (obey) 3) to teach others
2)A Sacred Community GATHERS TO GO (EZRA 7:25-28)
• V25 – “those who do know… those who do not know…”
• Upward focus… God revealing through Scripture
• Inward focus… those who do know Law of Lord
• Outward focus… those who do not know Law of Lord
• Ezra was a scribe… he loved to study… loved education… one would think he was content to simply teach deep truths to others… debate meaning of law… but he knew that was not all there is…
• We gather for all types of reasons… gather to grow… gather to gossip… gather to give…
• The church has always been committed to gathering… we need to commit ourselves to going! Studies reveal that it takes 42 persons a year to reach a person for Christ and see them baptized.
• Comment on V 28 - HEMPHILL QUOTE
• LUKE 9:23-24 – Christ bids us to come and to die… without life there is no death… our problem has become safety… We play it S.A.F.E.
• SAFE Theology (adapted from Neil Cole)
- Self-Preservation has become our mission (Jeremiah 7 – “temple of the Lord…”
- Avoidance of the world and risk has become “wise”
- Financial security represents a “responsible faith”
- Education = maturity mentality; educated beyond our obedience
• We must be those who GO to communicate word of God to others… the gospel… because ultimately the church is only as effective as the disciples we are making…
3)A Sacred Community CALLS FOR CONFESSION (EZRA 9-10)
• Ezra enters a community that had grown so comfortable… so casual in their faith… they had accepted their willful disobedience and sin as normal…
• Sin is not okay for the person who has been transformed by Christ. We must not be comfortable with sin in our lives nor in God’s church!
• 8:35-36. Made burnt offerings to the Lord. (burnt offerings for forgiveness of sins)
• See ROMANS 2 – Kindness that leads us to repentance