Summary: No one can do everything but everyone can do something.
With all the resources available to us, why are people having such a hard time becoming mature disciples of Jesus? I’m convinced another recent survey (2014 Barna survey) provides the answer to that question. When people were asked what, if anything, helps them to grow in their faith, they offered a variety of answers that we might expect – things like Bible reading, prayer, and even having children. But conspicuous by its absence was the church, which didn’t even make the top 10. So it’s not surprising that in the last two decades the percentage of Americans who are unchurched has risen to 30% to 43%.
So my prayer for us this morning is that Nehemiah chapter 3 will convince all of us that being an active participant in the community of believers that we call the church is absolutely indispensable to our development as mature disciples of Jesus and that as a result we’ll renew our to the body of Christ.
Let’s begin with the overall theme of the chapter that will guide us as we develop various aspects of that principle:
No one can do everything,
but everyone can do something
HOW GOD BUILDS HIS PEOPLE AS WE WORK TOGETHER IN COMMUNITY
1. By making God’s glory the primary focus of the work
In your sermon outline I’ve given you a map that shows the layout of the wall, the gates and some of the other places referred to in this chapter. In the “Connections” time today we’re going to focus in more detail on the important symbolism of these gates. It is really a fascinating study and I hope you’ll stay and join us.
But for now, it is sufficient to note that in the Scriptures, gates are always a means of access and egress. So when we talk about building lives, they represent the ways that we enter in to the lives of others and allow them to enter into our lives.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that the rebuilding of the walls and gates begins in verse 1 with the Sheep Gate and ends in verse 32 with the Sheep Gate. The Sheep Gate was the gate closest to the Temple and it was through that gate that the sheep and lambs that were used in the sacrifices in the Temple were brought into the city. The symbolism here is unmistakable as it points ahead to the Lamb of God, Jesus, who would come to take away the sins of the world. It is an important reminder that the only way we can enter into a relationship with God and a life of discipleship is through faith in Him.
It is also significant that the work there is done by the high priest, Eliashib, and his brothers. As they built the Sheep Gate and the wall all the way to the Tower of Hananel, they consecrated their work to God before the work proceeded any further. By their actions they were demonstrating that this was not just their work – it was God’s work.
The apostle Paul captured the essence of their mindset when he wrote these words about 500 years later:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)
2. By using ordinary people right where they are
While the work began with the priests, for the most part the work was done by ordinary people. In many cases the work was done by families right in the neighborhoods where they lived. To me this shows that in many cases God can use us to build people right where we are.
Perhaps there are some of you here this morning that are waiting for God to change your circumstances before you’re willing to jump in with both feet and serve Him wholeheartedly within the church. Let me encourage you to move beyond that mindset and just serve God the very best you can right where you are. Trust that God has put your right where you are and placed you in the circumstances that you face for a purpose. Trust that He wants to use you right where you are.
When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he addressed those who were waiting for their circumstances to change before they would commit to serving God fully:
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him…So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
(1 Corinthians 7:17, 24 ESV)
3. By uniting diverse people in a common work
Notice the tremendous diversity of people that were involved in this building project:
• Religious leaders like priests (vv. 1, 22, 28) and Levites (v. 17) and skilled craftsmen like goldsmiths (v. 8)and perfumers (v. 8)