Consider Your Ways.

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Consider Your Ways!

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 10th March, 2019

I’ve been contemplating many things regarding my message this morning.  As you know, the cry of my heart and my greatest prayer as we come to Sunday morning, is that we all hear together the heart of the Father – and the promptings of the Holy Spirit… for this exact moment in time.

I know God is speaking to us about coming back to the foundations of why we are here as a church – to simplify our vision and mission…  and to turn our focus outward.  

Last week I brought a message about basically doing whatever it takes to love and serve those who are yet to discover Jesus.  Paul says that he became all things to all men.  In other words, whatever it took to reach people, whatever it took to come alongside them and draw them to Jesus – that’s what he would do – stopping short of course of doing anything that would conflict with Him loving and honouring God and His Word.

I thought it was a pretty challenging sermon – well for those who really listened and received it as a Word from God – I think it was challenging.   I think some of you were very challenged.  Others said I could have been ever more forthright and bold…  because people’s eternal lives depend upon it.

I want to bring a word this morning that might very well go beyond “challenging.”  I want to take us back to the time when God’s people returned to Jerusalem from their 70 year exile in Babylon.  This is just over 500 years before Jesus was born.   But it has a message for the church today that is as relevant now as it was then.

Firstly though, overriding all this is what I believe is a strong call – like a clarion call – a trumpet call – for the church to step up more and more into its apostolic mission.

You’re probably wondering – what on earth does that mean?  

I’ll tell you what it means to me.  An Apostolic Church is one that continually pushes forward – takes new territory – breaks new ground – expands and establishes new borders.  An apostolic church reproduces itself.  It enters and reclaims foreign territory – and when you think about that spiritually – it’a about taking back ground that has been held by the enemy.  So it’s all those things.

But there’s one thing that I believe stands out above all of that.  An apostolic church carries and demonstrates the Father Heart of God.  It demonstrates the cry of the Father’s heart for His children – particularly His lost children.  

And so – when we as a church carry and demonstrate the Father’s heart to our world – we are aligning ourselves with His mission.  The love of the Father – the sacrificial servant heart of the Father – the single, pure motive of reaching our world with the message of salvation in Jesus Christ alone – when that message is proclaimed even in the face of a world that shouts opposition, and delights in persecution, and would want to try to shut the mouths of Christians through legislation and vilification… when we stand strong and courageous and push forward in the face of all those things, that’s when we are truly apostolic.

So, with that in mind…

I want to remind you of what happened to the people of God back in the 6th century BC.

The Babylonians overran Jerusalem and just about all of the Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon.  The beautiful and exquisite temple at Jerusalem was totally destroyed.  It was a time of major crisis and devastation for God’s people.  

But 70 years later, the Persian King Cyrus, captured Babylon.  And Cyrus then released the Jews and allowed them to return to their own land – and their holy city.

Many see Trump as a modern day Cyrus.  He’s done some extraordinary things in relation to abortion, recognising Israel, etc.  But I scratch my head at just about everything else he says and does.  

Anyway – this message is not about Donald Trump.

Cyrus made a way for Jerusalem, it’s walls, houses and the temple itself to be rebuilt.

In fact, the temple was foremost on Cyrus’ mind…  and he gave the people back all the gold and silver and precious things, plus more…  that had been stolen from the original temple by the Babylonians.  It was an incredible and miraculous restoration. 

Prophets, including Zerubbabel and Haggai, were amongst those given responsibility in overseeing the rebuilding.  Prophetic declarations and fulfilment of prophecy were all part of the whole process.  Which speaks even to us now…  the apostolic and the prophetic are meant to work hand in hand…  not in any way opposing one another – but upholding and encouraging one another.

It all started out well, and the foundations were laid.

Ezra 3:10-11,  “When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord , according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord , because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.”

It was an incredible celebration.  A new foundation had been laid – and it was symbolic of the new foundations for the the very lives and future of the Jewish people back in their home land.

But who knows…  just when things seem to be going wonderfully, opposition starts to rise up…

And this is exactly what happened.  Opposition came in various forms.  Resistance came through other people groups opposed to the rebuilding…  God’s people became discouraged…  accusations came…  the details aren’t the issue…  but the themes of discouragement, false accusations, opposition from various places…  it’s just the enemy’s same old, same old tactics to try and hinder and stop the work of God.

It wasn’t until 16 years later that the work recommenced.  And many believe that the leaders and the people came under the negativity – they gave in instead of rising up with courage and boldness.  It was t what God had in mind.

But the new and emboldened zeal came about because fresh and powerful prophetic words stirred the hearts of the people.  They finally tuned in to God’s heart again.

And here is the word that I feel has a hidden message for the church today – not just Seacoast Church – but for the church in general.  It’s a message about focus – and about hearing again the heart of the Father.  It’s a message about pushing through the obstacles – not being robbed of the vision God has given us. 

It’s about continuing to build the house of God…  and I don’t mean the physical building…  and this is not a call for money…  it’s much bigger than that.  It’s a call for hearts to be turned again towards the apostolic call of the church to partner with God as He builds not only His church – but His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

And I want to be part of that.  You should want to be part of that.  But He needs us to have His heart in it.

This is the word that stirred and convicted the people’s hearts.

Haggai 1:2-11,  “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” 

The people don’t always get it right, do they?  The people said it’s not time…  

They thought it wasn’t time, because it was hard…  there was opposition…  there was discouragement…

But God was about to throw a spanner right through what the people thought and said!

“Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “ Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “ You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

Here’s the thing.  God provided everything that the people needed to build the temple.  And God desired to see His glory established in His house again.

They had the stone blocks, the cedar, the precious stones, the gold…  everything.

But this scripture suggests that instead of using the cedar in the temple, the people used it to line their own houses – that’s what it’s talking about when it says they dwelt in their own paneled houses.  Bible commentators say they used what was sacred and holy to God for their own purposes.  

Cyrus had paid for and provided all the cedar that was required to build the temple.  So why, after 16 years, did the people have to go to the mountains again to obtain cedar?  It appears the reason is because they used it in the panels of their houses.

What is that saying to us right now?  

I believe – and what I am convicted about – is that God has given us so many gifts and talents and callings – He has already provided all the resources we need – with the primary purpose of reaching our world for Christ – extending and building and establishing His kingdom on earth.  We have the riches of heaven already at our disposal…

But we get so caught up in taking care of ourselves, looking inward, making sure we’re all good, before we start wondering how we might serve God and our generation.

We hold back from serving and reaching out to the lost, not like Paul did – when he said he would be all things to all men…  We resist getting our hands dirty, being inconvenienced.  

We use our gifts and our talents to build our own lives.

I’m talking about the church overall…  I know many of you personally give everything you’ve got to ministry.  But there are gaps.  

This word is really a call to stewardship.  Stewardship of every part of our lives.  

Do we really believe that (Galatians 2:20), “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

And this: (1 John 3:16,18),  “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

One thing we can be sure about – it’s not a time or a season for fluffy, superficial sermons.  It’s not a time for feel good, self inspiring, self satisfying messages.   

We all need to have our hearts and minds realigned with the Word of God – and the commission to reach our world for Christ.

So getting back to the main story…  the prophet says, consider your ways..  the temple lies in ruins…  

Well our temple – our physical building – doesn’t lie in ruins…  but I guess you could say that the church in the 21st century has taken some big hits…  parts of the church are in crisis… The world around us is in ruins – spiritually, morally, relationally, economically…

I just wonder – if we really set our hearts on giving our lives more and more to building the kingdom through serving others with our gifts, making ourselves more available for God’s plans and purposes in the world around us, determining to push through the obstacles, hinderances, accusations, all that stuff the enemy loves to try and make us trip over…  if we even made a slight shift toward putting Kingdom purposes before our own…  how might that release the hand of God and His blessing then in our own household, in our own family, in our own business, in our own financial circumstances???  

I wonder if there might be a promise in all of this that the curses of sowing much and bringing in little, eating and not being satisfied, earning wages that just seem to go into a bag with holes in it…  would we see God’s hand move more freely if we had things in right order – seeking His kingdom first – with every other thing being added, just as Jesus Himself says, in His own words:  

Matthew 6:31-33,  “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Surely there is a principle here that God is wanting us to recognise.  In fact I believe this is speaking prophetically to us right now – Consider your ways…

Let this word breathe upon us – it’s meant to be the beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit’s conviction working in our hearts.  Don’t reject it.  Be blessed by it.

We need to be asking ourselves – what is driving me?  What are my motivations?  What do I carry on the inside that I have been withholding – maybe using for my own paneled house?

Am I using the cedar that God has given me for my own purposes rather than His?

One of the other things that I’ve been contemplating is how we view and approach evangelism.  

And I think we need to clarify that our primary goal is to lead people into a relationship with Jesus.

I know we all know that…  but it’s so easy to have a mindset that complicates things, and takes us to a place where we think it’s all just too hard…  we feel intimidated, we fear persecution, we think we’ll do a bad job at it, we pressure ourselves to get people through the front door of the church…

But let’s come back to the apostle Paul’s example.

I mean…  he was the architect of theology and doctrine…  he had wisdom and insight into all things “God.”

But when it came down to it, he lived his life as a man who was all things to all men.

He came alongside others…  he walked with them, shared with them, tried to understand them…  He served them with his time and his life!

He brought the simple message of the gospel, that Jesus Christ died for our sins…  He took the punishment for us so that we could have life – eternal life – life full of hope…  and whether we’re alive in this earthly body or we die – we have eternal life because of Jesus.  And He rose from the dead to show us that resurrection life overrides death.  Death has no sting for those who are in Christ.

Nothing is more powerful than knowing Jesus and what He has done for us.

Romans 1:16,  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…”

Let the power of the gospel do its work in people’s lives…

Look for that opportunity to come alongside people…  tell them how the love of Jesus has strengthened you and brought you through your tough times.  

You know all this…  but I guess my message is about coming out from our own houses – our safe places – and taking one bit of cedar at a time…  one precious jewel at a time…  and placing them into the lives of those God has called us to.  

This is building His house…  His temple…  His kingdom…   

It’s no longer about physical buildings – as wonderful as they are as a place to gather and a resource to reach others…

People are now God’s temple.  We ourselves are the temple of God.  But as a body, we’re not complete.  There are multitudes of others that are meant to be part of this spiritual building…

We have to stay on track…  We have to keep listening to the prophetic stirrings…  We can’t take our focus off the apostolic call to break into new territory.  

It’s not all about what I say – what’s the Holy Spirit saying to you right now?  As your family and your friends face traumatic circumstances and personal suffering – don’t we need to bring some hope?  Something greater and beyond this world’s limitations?

You are an ambassador for Christ!  A disciple – and a disciple maker!  

Take all that I say to the Father.  I believe you already know it to be true.

Let’s consider our ways – and bring a shift to our lives and our culture.

Let this temple be something that brings pleasure to God and glory to His name!

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