Summary: In the midst of civil and religious ruin, harsh living conditions and spiritual apathy Ezra is used by God to revive Israel as he demonstrates the basics of being a consecrated believer.
THE BASICS OF BEING A CONSECRATED BELIEVER
EZRA 7:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
Introduction: The Israelites returned to Jerusalem after having been taken into Babylonian captivity for 70 years. Upon returning from captivity they found Jerusalem and the temple lying in ruins. Among those returning in the second wave of refugees was a scribe named Ezra. In the midst of civil and religious ruin, harsh living conditions and spiritual apathy Ezra is used by God to revive Israel as he demonstrates the basics of being a consecrated believer.
I. A desire to know God’s will
A. Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord.
B. Ezra’s motivation to know God’s will and direction was a matter of the heart.
C. Heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as “the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity,” “the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will,” and “the center of a person. The place to which God turns.” – Fan The Flame, J. Stowell, Moody, 1986, p. 13
D. Matthew 15:8 "This people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
E. The reason that we see so little lasting fruit from decisions is that so many decisions are shallow decisions and not decisions made from the depth of the heart.
F. Matthew 6:21 tells us that your heart will always be where your treasure is.
G. What is your desire in life today? Is it wealth? Is it popularity? Is it happiness? Is it family? What you value and desire most in this life will determine the depth of your commitment to Christ.
H. An example of how out of kilter our priorities can get is seen in the story of a person who attended the Super Bowl. Surprised to see an empty seat at the Super Bowl stadium, the diehard fan remarked about it to a woman sitting nearby. “It was my husband’s,” the woman explained, “But he died.” “I’m very sorry,” said the man. “Yet I’m really surprised that another relative, or friend, didn’t jump at the chance to take the seat reserved for him.” “Beats me,” she said. “They all insisted on going to the funeral.” - Coffee Break
I. Philippians 3:8 (paraphrased) …all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything else for me is insignificant rubbish.
J. You can do more through a handful of totally devoted believers than through a churchful of halfhearted ones. - Bill Hybels in Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 3.
K. Give me 100 men who hate nothing but sin and love God with all their hearts and I will shake the world for Christ!” - John Wesley
L. Very few of us [Christians] could say with Paul’s conviction, "For me to live is Christ." If we experienced this as a transforming joy, a life-bearing truth, we would not be so generally passive about it. - John Garvey, quoted by Martin Marty in Context (May 1, 1990). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 12.
II. A determination to do God’s will
A. Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and TO DO IT.
B. Ezra was not only concerned to get knowledge of the will of God, but to put it in practice, to habitually exercise God’s will in his life.
C. Ezra was committed to walk the walk. Too few are willing to make any commitment to Christ.
D. Today, Christianity seems to be less a matter of commitment and more a matter of convenience. How often we hear, “I’ll come to church and gladly serve Christ, but I can’t commit to be in church every Sunday or at every meeting.”
E. What if you told your employer, I intend to work for your company but I can’t commit to be at work every workday? I’ll try to be there on time and as often as possible... that is unless I get company, or there’s a game or concert I want to attend ... or the company down the road is having open house” How long do you really think that you would work for that company?
F. What if a man said to his fiancée – I will make you the most important thing in my life except during football games, hunting season, the World Series, or when my Mom calls? How long do you thing he would be engaged?