Rebuild: Nehemiah 9:1-17: The Marks Of Genuine Revival, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

In an article entitled “Playing Charades,” from Citation, by Dr. Perry Buffington, he released the findings of his research on the lack of transparency in people during certain circumstances.  He found that the average person puts on airs or acts outwardly differently than he actually feels or thinks inwardly most often in three situations:

1.   When individuals walk into an automobile showroom.  They will hide their true emotions in an attempt to protect themselves from being an easy mark to the salesmen.  They will tend to act unaffected with what they see, even though their heart may be racing.

2.   When individuals walk into the lobby of an upscale hotel.  They will act with an air that is not their true self in an attempt to come across as a person comfortable and at home in lavish surroundings.

3.   When individuals enter a church.  As they take their seat in the sanctuary, they will act with an air that they have nothing to hide from God and fellow worshippers.  They will put on a sacred air in their conversations even though they are uncomfortable with who they know they truly are on the inside.

In other words . . .

We have become skilled

At acting authentic,

Faking our fellowship with God,

Impersonating the saints,

And simulating spirituality.

And do not ever let anybody

See that you do not

Have it all together.

Like the true story of a rather single-minded, self-confident businessman who always seemed to have it together.  Even though he worked seventy-and eighty-hour weeks, he was a man who seemed organized.  The article I read told that he had a cottage built on a nearby lake to use as a weekend retreat.  To make his plan even more efficient, he learned how to fly and kept another car at the airfield nearest the lake, for weekend transport.  But that plan was not quite efficient enough, so he further fine-tuned his plans by fitting his plane with pontoons so that he could land on the lake and actually taxi right up to his newly constructed pier.  On his first trip in the newly rigged plane, he flew, by force of habit, straight to the rural airport and started his descent.  “What are you doing?” His wife suddenly screamed, “There aren’t any wheels on this plane!”  It was just enough time for the man with the plan to pull up before touching down.  Somewhat taken back, he flew on to the lake and made a perfect landing.  As the plane drifted to a stop at the pier, he turned to his wife and said, “I’m sorry dear. I did know what I was doing . . . just lost my thought for a moment there. I should have planned more carefully and had built-in reminders about the change in flight plans.  It won’t happen again.”  Then, he opened his door and hopped confidently out of the plane and directly into the lake!  The moral of the story is to never let anybody see you for who you really are – including your spouse.  You must come across before people, at all times, as having life under control.  For your information, that happens to be a self-centered, naturally depraved philosophy of life. And, it happens to inhibit everyone! 

Another word for Christianity is exposure.  

  • You became a Christian after being exposed as a sinner. 
  • You grow as a Christian after being exposed to the milk and meat of God’s Word.

One of the chief obstacles to revival in our personal lives is that . . .

We are encouraged

By both our culture

And our sinful nature

To cover up, to fake it,

To walk into a church

And put on airs.  And

Most of all, to never

Expose our guilt and sin

To anyone, not even to God.

But suddenly, our lives are intersected with the living Word of God which, according to Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 12, is alive, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword – we read it, and it cuts through and penetrates our true thoughts and true intentions. 

There is no room for charades

When revival comes.

The Word of God

Pulls off our masks,

And demands radical change.

In our study of Nehemiah, chapter 8, we observed the Jewish people hearing, for the first time in their lives, the Law of Moses.  They began to weep and to mourn.  There was no need to fake anything. 

The Law of God’s Word

Was a plumb line; and,

As they held it up to themselves,

They realized how crooked

And how sinful they were.

It was true then, as it is to this day . . .

True revival comes from an

Encounter with God’s revelation;

When God’s Word exposes

Us for who we truly are.

It is a time when you discover

The truth of Scripture and

Radically apply it to your life.

Revival is indeed a time

When a person is literally “re-Bibled.”

In Nehemiah, chapter 8, that process had already begun.

In Nehemiah, chapter 9, something interesting took place that was not a part of the Jewish calendar.  Notice verse 1, “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them.” What strikes me about this action is that it was not prescribed.  It was not commanded by Nehemiah or Ezra.  

It was the outflow of true revival.

What we discover in this chapter is nothing less than a model of confession.  If you want to be real, if you want to stop pretending, if you want to cease the charades, if you want to be “re-Bibled,” there are lessons here to teach you how.  

The people of Israel are God’s show-and-tell.  Do you want to know how to confess?  Do you want to know how to be “re-Bibled?”  God says, “Here, watch them – they will show you how.”  

Nehemiah chapter 8 was

The lesson of revival.

Nehemiah chapter 9 is the

Model of confession

That results from revival.

The first characteristic of true confession is . . .

A Humble Approach To God’s Presence.

Did you notice, in verse 1, that they came clothed in sackcloth and with dirt on their heads and shoulders?  There was no charade of saintliness here; no pretending.  In fact, the dirt was a way of exposing and admitting to God that they knew they were sinners.  The dirt on the outside was an illustration of the dirt on the inside that they were willing to expose to each other and to God.

Notice verse 2, “And the descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.”  By the way, one of the characteristics of true confession is that you do not blame your sin on the sin of your parents. You confess both your actions and your parents’ actions as sinful and admit that both parties have sinned.

The second quality of true confession for us to model is . . .

Complete Admission Of Personal Sinfulness.

Continuing to verse 3, we read, “While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day [three hours]; and for another fourth [three hours] they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God.”  James Montgomery Boice was asked, a few years ago, if he believed America was experiencing revival.  He responded by writing, Whenever I have been asked that question, my answer has always been, “No.”  The reason I say, “No,” is quite simple – there is not national consciousness of sin.  In fact, there is hardly any consciousness of sin.  When revival sweeps over a people, the first evidence is a profound awareness of sin and sorrow for it.” 

In other words, confession includes admission.  And admission is an evidence of revival.  G. K. Chesterton, a famous philosopher and theologian, once read a series of articles entitled, “What’s Wrong with the World?”  Chesterton sent a short letter to the editor which said, “Dear Sir: Regarding your article, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’  I am! Yours truly, G. K. Chesterton.”

1 John, chapter 1, verse 8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Verse 10 states, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”  Right before that in verse 9 John writes, “If we confess our sins . . .”  The word “confess,” is “homologeo” which means, “to say the same thing about our actions as God says; to agree with God.”  He says it is sin, and we agree, “Yes Lord, it is indeed sin.”  The last half of verse 9 declares, “. . . He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

By the way, I believe the most miserable person on planet earth is a believer in sin . . .

He cannot fully enjoy his sin

Because of his guilty conscience,

And

He can no longer enjoy

Fellowship with God either.

Like the story about the preacher who called in sick one Sunday morning and had one of his associates preach for him, but he actually went golfing.  He is out there golfing on Sunday morning, and the angels are watching and so is the Lord.  The Lord said to his angels, “I’m going to make him very unhappy.”  The preacher teed up and knocked a hole in one.  A hole in one!  The angels said, “Lord, that’s misery?” And the Lord said, “Who can he tell?”  

Would you like to hear from the diary of a believer who was caught in the guilt of sin and the misery of refusing for a time to confess?  David writes in Psalm, chapter 32, verses 3 through 5, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord;’ and You forgive the guilt of my sin.” 

Here are the people of Jerusalem, being led by priests who, for three hours, verse 4b says, “. . . they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God.”

The third quality of true confession includes . . .

A Clear Acknowledgement Of God’s Greatness.

The prayer in Nehemiah begins by elevating God, in verses 5b to 6a, “. . . O may Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise!  You alone are the Lord. . .”  This is putting God in His proper place.  He is the God who reigns in the heavens; majestic in splendor; sovereign in all things.  This mirrors the way the Lord taught us to pray, in Matthew, chapter 6, verse 9, when he told us to begin praying by acknowledging the greatness of our God, “Our Father, who art in heaven . . .” 

That is not a

Reference

To His address,

But His attributes.

“In heaven,” literally refers to His elevation above all creation.  He is transcendent; above all; sovereign; majestic.  Although we come to a loving, caring Father, we also acknowledge His greatness.  When you begin your prayer with the words, “Heavenly Father,” you are actually saying, “Majestic, Holy, Sovereign, Creator, Eternal Father.”

True prayer does

Not trivialize God,

It pays tribute to God.

Now notice how this prayer of Ezra, in chapter 9, verses 5 through 38, acknowledges the greatness, goodness, and sovereign power of God . . .

• First, in His superb creation of the universe – Verses 5 through 6.

• Secondly, in His sovereign calling of Abraham – Verses 7 through 8.

• Thirdly, in His supernatural conquest over Egypt – Verses 9 through 12.

• Fourthly, in His scriptural commands from Mount Sinai – Verses 13 through 18.

• Fifthly, in His satisfying covenant with Israel – Verses 19 through 25.

• Lastly, in His steadfast compassion towards His people – Verses 26 through 38.

This prayer reviews the sin and failure of God’s people and the sovereignty and faithfulness of God.  They were blasphemous, stubborn, arrogant, refusing to listen to the Scriptures, stiffening their necks, closing their ears, becoming disobedient, rebellious, scorning the Law, refusing to pay attention to the Law, commandments, and ordinances of God, refusing to serve God, and refusing to repent.  There are no charades here.  In this model of confession, sin is exposed for what it was and God was pled with to be forgiving and gracious once more.

Confession Is A Reminder Of Personal Corruption And Guilt.

The average Christian is in need of revival, because he has learned how to manage his sin rather than confess his sin.  We learn to live with as much sin as our consciences will allow.  We sugarcoat our selfishness, rationalize our disobedience, justify our arrogance, we excuse our lack of obedience to the Law and commandment of God. 

We manage our sin –

We do not confess our sin.

We have forgotten how heartbreaking, how grievous sin, in the life of a believer, is to our Heavenly Father.

A pastor recently sent in a rather interesting article on a problem they were having in a middle school in Oregon.  A number of girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the girls’ bathroom.  After they put on their lipstick, they would press their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of little lip prints.  Finally, the principal decided that something had to be done.  She came up with a rather ingenious plan and told her custodian exactly what to do.  She called the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the school custodian.  She then explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every day.  To demonstrate how difficult it was to clean the mirrors, she then asked the custodian to show the girls how he had been cleaning them.  He took out a long-handled brush, dipped it into one of the nearby commodes, and then scrubbed the mirror.  Since then, the lip prints have disappeared. The pastor then applied the story this way, saying, “Try thinking of this story when you’re tempted to sin” . . . “If you could only see what you’re really kissing up to, you might not be attracted to it after all.”

Confession is the fresh realization that sin is corruption and filth.  You shudder to think what you have been kissing up to.  The justification stops; the rationalizing stops; the believer mourns and pleads to be rescued from sin’s allurement – because it no longer looks appealing.  But if that was all confession was, we would be led to despair. 

Confession is not only a reminder of personal corruption and guilt . . .

Confession Is Also A Reminder Of God’s Character And Grace.

Verse 17b, “. . . But Thou art a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness . . .”  Skip to verse 28b, “. . . and many times Thou didst rescue them according to Thy compassion.”   Now look at verse 30a, “. . . Thou didst bear with them for many years . . .”  Skip again to verse 33, “However, Thou art just in all that has come upon us; for Thou hast dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.” 

Anyone in tune with God

Is struck by his own guilt

And by God’s grace.

Revival . . .

Commences with . . .

The content of Scripture,

As in Nehemiah, chapter 8.  

Revival . . .

Continues with . . .

The confession of sin,

As in Nehemiah, chapter 9.

Revival . . .

Will be confirmed. . .

By the

Commitment of surrender.

Which we will look at next time as we look at Nehemiah, chapter 10.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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