Truth & Confession
Today is Mother’s Day. This passage reminds me of mothers. Mothers can almost always tell the truth from a lie. Children try to get away with things, but if Mom’s around, forget it. She knows. She can smell deception like a shark scents blood.
When you’re caught by mom, the best thing to do is to admit it right away. Mom’s are patient, you see. They waited 9 months for you to come out, so they out wait any child, anytime. You might think you’re off the hook, that you got away with something, but moms can spring it back on you at any time. Their motivation, of course, is their huge love, their desire to see their children grow and prosper in life.
It is in this way, I think, that moms so closely resemble God. They capture something of God’s heart. God cannot be fooled. You can’t hide deceit from him, he knows right away. God has laid the path out for us, and he wants us to take it. He wants to see his children grow and prosper.
Consider our passage. Nehemiah has gathered them all together, the Book of the Law of the Lord their God was found, and read to them. When they heard it, their hearts broke.
Have you ever wondered what they heard that day? What the teachers explained to them?
What they heard was God’s heart for his people. They heard God’s love, God’s patience, God’s commandments, which, if followed results in growth and prosperity.
What they understood was how far they and their forefathers had moved away from God’s ways. Their sin was put before them. They were caught red handed. They thought they’d been doing well, they were looking pretty good, but when the mirror of God’s law was put before them, they saw their hearts, they saw their lives, they saw their sin. They were not dressed finely, they were in filthy rags. They were not all put together, like they thought, they were ragged and dirty.
They saw the truth. They were not treating each other as they ought. They were holding grudges against one another, they were failing to forgive. They were using their power and position, their influence to have things their own way. They were completely lost. They were totally selfish, totally focused on whatever they could get for themselves, every person for himself, forget others. This showed itself particularly in the usury, the sexual sins, the worshipping of false gods.
They were guilty of a total lack of regard for God and his ways. Now, to be clear, there were some who thought they were regarding God’s ways, but over time, the understanding of God’s ways had been corrupted, changed, modified, and manipulated that it was no longer honouring God, it was honouring themselves.
So when the law was read, when the teachers explained it, they wept. They realised the depth of their depravity. They mourned. They realised that they all deserved to be struck down dead, right there and then.
But like a child who admits his sin, her wrongdoing, who demonstrates true sorrow for their wrongdoing, they expressed their sorrow, they repented. They wept.
You see, the day of the reading was the Sabbath, it was a day of joy, of celebration! They were to bless the Lord, and celebrate his goodness and mercy! This is a supernatural response to sorrow and morning. When you realise you’ve done wrong, but you understand you’ve received forgiveness, there’s celebration.
The people rejoiced because the God who’d saved their ancestors from Egypt was the same God who brought them back from Babylon. He was the same God who protected them as they rebuilt the walls and the gates. They understood that the walls and the gates had been destroyed because of their national sinfulness. But they saw, literally saw around them, the proof of God’s graciousness, forgiveness and love. And so they rejoiced, they rejoiced with the same heart, the same joy that the Israelites had first expressed when they first celebrated the feast in the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership—a joyful abandon that hadn’t been seen in Israel since that first celebration.
What was the status of our hearts coming into this sanctuary, this booth this morning? Maybe it was a huge effort just to get out of bed, just to show up—I’m really glad you came! Maybe you didn’t really want to come, but you were dragged along—again, it’s awesome you’re here. Maybe you came because it’s one of the things you feel obligated to do, as though you were checking off task. There, I did my duty for the day—I’m so happy you’re here, because God offers us so much more!
Maybe you came because it’s mother’s day, and you feel obligated to go to church with mom—I’m glad you’re here because you love your mom so much! Maybe you came because you realise the depth of your sin, and the amazing love of God that has washed you completely clean. Maybe you came here this morning full of joy that God loves you, and you really can’t believe it’s true, you keep pinching yourself, and you’re not dreaming, and yes, Jesus really is in your heart, and you simply want to praise him and thank him for loving you, saving you, and promising a glorious future for you!
Let the Word of God shine in your heart this morning, revealing to you, who you really are before Christ. A sinner, forgiven, made clean, loved, a saint.
Then, after all their singing, after all their praising, after all their rejoicing in God’s abundant mercy and grace, after the celebration was over, they got down to the hard task of confession.
They came to the priests, and they confessed. They admitted their sin, they didn’t make up excuses, they didn’t blame others, they realised that they had done what was wrong in God’s eyes.
They admitted they were wrong, they acknowledged God was good, right and just in his actions against his people. They recognised that the situation they were in, was a result of their disobedience. They made a covenant to turn around. They made a covenant to turn from their sinful ways, ways they’d inherited from their ancestors—their parents, their grandparents, their great-great-great-great grandparents. They heard God’s Word, to love and obey. They heard God’s commandments, and seeing where they were wrong, they changed. They pledged to change.
So how about it? Where are you at? Where am I at? Confronted by God’s Word, how are we doing? Are we following Jesus? Are we taking up our cross? Is being a Christian costing us anything?
I bring this up because a friend asked me to listen to a sermon last week. It is by Perry Noble and it is the first in a series called, “I Love My Church.” The sermon is titled, “It’s Not About Me.” Perry’s church, Newspring Church in South Carolina meets on several different campuses, has seen tens of thousands of people come to know Jesus, and they’ve been around for 15 years. Tens of thousands of people have given their lives to Christ, in 15 years. Cool, eh!
But the theme of his message, “It’s not about me” came about because he’s concerned that after 15 years, his church could become comfortable, could lose focus on what they set out to do, to reach people for Christ. He realised that there’s always a temptation to start thinking, “This is the way we’ve always done it. We’ve never done it that way before. I like such and such, I want it this way, or that way—there’s a temptation to make it all about me.
In reading the scriptures, the people of God realised, it’s not about me. In reading the scriptures, Perry Noble, realised, It’s not about me.”
Perry tells the story about Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, how after she was healed, she got up and served them. Why? Because thankful people serve. Those who have received salvation, give thanks, and serve others. Saved people serve.
Our mission is to Gather, Grow, Serve. It is what drives God’s people, it is the response that shaped our church for most of our 65 years. It’s the direction we’re going. It’s the response that wells up inside of us when we receive God’s love, when we set our hearts on Him, and seek to serve him and others.
All of God’s law is summed up in, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And another is like it, love your neighbour as yourself.” In this life, our only question is, “Who can I serve now?” When we find ourselves asking, “What about me, who is going to give me what I wan’t?” That’s when we know we need to confess.
It goes right back to what Mama taught us, “Share. It’s not about me.” That’s what the Israelites did during the festival of booths, those that had more, gave to those who had less. We have what we have so that we can share it with others!
Take what you have, Jesus Christ, salvation, everlasting life with God, and share it!
Last Sunday I said that we don’t need training to share the gospel. Training can be very helpful. Last week I received a call from Billy Graham Canada. They are offering a discipleship/evangelism training course on Wednesday, May 24, 9:00am - 1:30pm at New City Church, Newmarket. Come on out.
It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about what God is doing in and through us, to seek and save the lost! Amen.