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Rise & Build: Part XIV (2)

Nehemiah 9:38-10:39  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

In a certain church, there was a man who always ended his prayers with, “And, Lord, clean the cobwebs out of my life! Clean the cobwebs out of my life!”
The story may be apocryphal, but it illustrates the point that this chapter makes. In a certain church, there was a man who always ended his prayers with, “And, Lord, clean the cobwebs out of my life! Clean the cobwebs out of my life!”
One of the members of the church became weary of hearing this same insincere request week after week, because he saw no change in the petitioner’s life. So, the next time he heard the man pray, “Lord, clean the cobwebs out of my life!” he interrupted with, “And while you’re at it, Lord, kill the spider!”
This man was passionate about confession, but no so keen on obedience.
He saw what needed to change, but was unwilling to make changes.
In chapters 8-9 we have seen the people of God convicted by God’s Word. In chapter 8 we saw that they were convicted by God’s Word, insomuch that they built booths in observing the Feast of the Tabernacles, which had been neglected since the days of Joshua.
Then in chapter 9 we saw once again the remorse over their sin. The right disposition in their attitude, and then a prayer of recognition in understanding who God was, how they had failed Him, and how faithful He was.
But the question is this, “What happens after they say Amen?” What happens after this prayer of confession? What happens after they recognize their failure and faltering?
Sadly, there is a great disconnect that often occurs between knowing what’s right, acknowledging what is right, and then actually doing what is right.
Just because you are confessing what is wrong does not mean you are obeying in what is right.
These Israelites made a great confession. They knew that things needed to change. After “amen” was said, they did something about it.
Right off the bat, I want to challenge us this morning with what this entire chapter is about. It is all about making commitments to the Lord.
We’re coming off a great revival week, where if you attended any service, the Lord no doubt spoke to your heart. Maybe God convicted you of things that needed to change.
Maybe some failures were pointed out in your life. Maybe some things you’ve been doing wrong that have needed to change are still a part of your life. Can I challenge you to make a covenant with God today?
To truly display a heart dedicated to God.
This morning we will see Three Evidences of someone who truly means business with the Lord where confession leads to covenant.
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It’s one thing to offer the Lord a passionate prayer of confession, such as we have in chapter 9, and quite something else to live an obedient life after we say “Amen.” But the people in the assembly were serious about their praying and were determined, by God’s grace, to make a new beginning and live to please the Lord.
Jude 24 KJV 1900
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
Psalm 37:23–24 KJV 1900
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: And he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

A Covenant Declared (9:38)

In this chapter we have seen God’s people respond to the Word of God.

A Submission to God’s Word

In verse 38 of chapter 9, we find that the people act upon the prayer they give to the Lord:
Nehemiah 9:38 KJV 1900
And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.
Because of all of this, the fact that God was faithful when they were not. The fact that God had worked through their people even when they turned their back on Him. The fact that God was gracious and merciful when they least deserved it.
Nehemiah 9:39
These were all reasons why they were making a sure covenant. Let me just say that there is great reason for you and I to be committed to the Lord and His Word this morning. There is great reason that we should submit to and obey God.
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Romans 12:1 KJV 1900
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Romans 12:2
The commitment that these people were being called to was not unreasonable. Did you see why? Look at how good God had been to them. Look at His faithfulness and His love. Because of all of this, they would make a covenant.
A lot of people think, “Well, this is my life and I’ll do whatever I want. I don’t want to be nailed down by rules. I don’t want to be too extreme in following Jesus. As long as it’s convenient for me, I’ll obey the commitment.”
I’d remind you this morning that if you’ve been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, that you should not live for yourself. That life should not be all about what pleases you. Rather you should live unto God. And obey Him.
The Apostle Paul gives us motive in realizing why it is our reasonable service to submit to God and His Word:
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2 Corinthians 5:13–15 KJV 1900
For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
2 Corinthians 5:12–15 KJV 1900
For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
If you are saved, the love of Christ should constrain you, or compel you to live for Him. When you truly get a hold of the salvation that God has given to you, you start to understand that this life is not about what you want.
It’s not about fulfilling your selfish desires. It’s not about getting your way. It’s about letting God’s love constrain you in every area of your life! When you let the love of Christ be your motivator in serving God, making commitments and keeping covenants, will not be a burden.
Let me just say, if you are here today without Jesus Christ, understand that He loves you. His love was displayed on the cross of Calvary. There Jesus bore your sin, my sin, and the sins of the world so that through His sacrifice, and later His resurrection, we can be saved.
If you will recognize that you have sinned against God. Recognize the fact that you deserve His judgment upon you because of that sin, but then in turn realize that when He died, He died for you.
And put your faith in His goodness and not your own, the Bible says, “whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Because of all this, a covenant was made. Now, before we go too deep into the sermon, a good question would be this, “What is a covenant?”
The term in Hebrew for making a covenant is ‘to cut a covenant’. The corpse of an animal is cut in half and both parties making the covenant would pass through the two halves of the carcass. Each of them having a hand in it.
of an animal is cut in half and both parties making the covenant would pass through the two halves of the carcass. Each of them having a hand in it.
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Thus a covenant relationship is not merely a mutual acquaintance but a commitment to responsibility and action. A key word in Scripture to describe that commitment is “faithfulness,” acted out in a context of abiding friendship.

So here it is, the covenant on the people’s part, meant that they were now going to commit to doing what was right. They were going to make some changes immediately in their nation.
And in turn, they were going to be faithful to God, instead of living by their own standard. In essence they were declaring that they would reciprocate faithfulness on their part to the Lord.
So the bulk of chapter 10 is a list of names of people who sign their names in black and white, to this covenant, starting with the leader Nehemiah. So in verses 1-27 we have specific names of people who signed the document.
While for some of them, the names mentioned are rarely, if ever again, mentioned in God’s Word, they were known for at least one thing, they were willing to answer the call of commitment.
Then in verse 28 in the first part we have a “catch all” verse that mentioned that the rest of people made this covenant as well.
I would direct your attention, though as to why this covenant is being made in the first place. What caused these people to see the necessity of entering into this covenant to begin with? What causes us to see the importance of making commitments to the Lord in our own lives?
It all has to do with a submission to God’s Word. In chapter 8 we see that they observed the Feast of Tabernacles. During that feast, it was custom that the priest read the book of Deuteronomy.
As they listened to the history of their people, how God had been good to them, and how they had been unfaithful to Him. The Israelites in chapter 9 saw their own shortcomings. So they weep. They pray. They worship. Then they respond to the Word of God.
Where did they get the idea of making a covenant with the Lord? In , they would have heard Ezra declare these words:
Deuteronomy 29:10–13 KJV 1900
Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Nehemiah 10:30 KJV 1900
And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons:
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Deuteronomy 29:10–13 KJV 1900
Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
The people and God had made a covenant in Moses’ day. And the people had gone back on their word. So now, they enter into this covenant, submitting to the Word of God, so that once again they could walk in God’s Word.
Look at verse 29 of chapter 10:
Look at verse 29 of chapter 10:
Nehemiah 10:29 KJV 1900
They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes;
Simply put, they enter into this covenant, showing their commitment to walk in God’s Word. Just as their forefathers saw the importance of making covenant with the Lord and walking in His ways, they saw the importance of doing that in their own nation as well.
I would submit to you that we as well should submit to the Word of God and be willing to commit ourselves to walking in His way.
There may be things from today, even from last week, that the Lord has pointed out in your life that needs to change. That you need to commit to Him. But you’re holding back from surrender.
Could I challenge you to let the love of Christ constrain you this morning to commit those things to God? Those things you’re holding onto, would you let them go?
Would you make a commitment today, just as these people did, to walk in the law of God? They submitted to God’s Word. But then they get specific in this covenant, as they separate from the world.
Deuteronomy 29:10–13 KJV 1900
Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Let me point out a problem some people have in making commitments to God. Someone might say this, “God, I want to commit to living for you. I am going to change and be closer to you.”
That sounds really good, but what does that mean? Or a better question would be this, “what does that look like?” When we make a commitment to the Lord, we ought not be vague in that commitment.
We need to be committed to obeying the Word of God. But for each and every one of us, I think if we would allow God to search our hearts, there would be specific things that we need to address in our lives.
For the Israelites, this was the reality as well. So they go from vague to specific.
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A Separation from the World (v. 28)

Warren Wiersbe gives a great definition to what this separation entails as he said:
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Separation is simply total devotion to God, no matter what the cost. -Warren Wiersbe
In verses 30-31 we find what they are separating themselves from. Really, it boiled down to two items, marriage and the Sabbath.
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Separation is simply total devotion to God, no matter what the cost. -Warren Wiersbe
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Separation Regarding Spouses (v. 30)

The obvious reason that the people made this covenant with God was because of what God’s Word said regarding the Jewish people marrying those of different nations:
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Exodus 34:10–17 KJV 1900
And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee. Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
Exodus 34:10 KJV 1900
And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.
God was not being prejudiced or racists of the other nations, rather He knew that if His people married those from other nations, the people would have their affection stolen from the one true God.
Exodus 34:11–17 KJV 1900
Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
Of course, the people broke this covenant with God, married those from other nations, and exactly that happened. They worshipped other gods instead of Jehovah God.
So in this verse, they make a covenant to separate from those who would drag them into idolatry. I think from this verse we learn the power of the influence that others have upon our lives.
For the Israelites to marry someone of a different nationality that believed in other gods, would make them even more susceptible to embracing the paganism and idolatry of the day.
So God commanded that they separate themselves from that association. May I challenge you this morning with this fact, who you associate with is a big deal. Who you are close to is a very important issue.
We often think the topic of friendships and relationships only applies to young people. But I would point you to the Israelites today, who allowed sinful associations to take place in their nation, and it dragged them down spiritually.
In fact, in a couple chapters we’re going to see these people go back on the very covenant they make with God in this chapter.
The point I’m trying to make this morning is this, if you associate with the wrong crowd, you’re probably going to end up doing the wrong things. If you associate with a godly crowd, you’re more likely to do godly things.
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Proverbs 13:20 KJV 1900
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: But a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
You are who you associate yourself with.
These people recognized the dangers of intermarrying with other nations, and they chose to separate themselves from that danger. They wanted to be totally devoted to God.
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Separation Regarding the Sabbath (v. 31)

There’s a few different things that are dealt with specifically in this verse regarding the sabbath.
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First of all the Sabbath Day is mentioned. The Sabbath day followed the pattern of God after He created the world, on the seventh day He rested.
For the Jewish people, they were to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. It was to be a day of rest. This verse indicates to us though, that these people were buying and selling items on this day with the other nations, instead of resting.
So in this covenant they would cease from making trades, getting money, gaining items for themselves, and instead of observe the Sabbath day and reflect on the Lord.
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Also, reference is made to the seventh year. Every seven years was referred to as a sabbatical year. On the seventh year the people were to let the crop of the field take a rest, and plant nothing the whole year.
So in this covenant they were once again recognizing what God had already said in His Word, and they were determined to do it.
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Then we also see reference to the year of Jubilee. The year of Jubilee would happen every fiftieth year. During this year they would restore land that was loaned to its original owner . Then during this year, the rest of the crops would be doubled, and so two years they would plant no crops.
So what does all of this mean? By the people observing the Sabbath, whether it was the day, the sabbatical year, the year of jubilee, all of this signified a trust in the Lord in His provision for them.
They wouldn’t be able to have an extra day of selling and trading anymore to make money. They wouldn’t be able to have the security of a crop producing food on the seventh year, as it was to rest on the sabbatical year.
In the case of a field or slave being put up for collateral, that would be released every fiftieth year and the debt would be forgiven, regardless if it was paid in full or not. And for another year, they would have to trust God to provide for their needs as the crop was put to rest.
The covenant they were entering into with God was that of trusting in Him. They believed that if they obeyed His Word, and observed His law, that God would bless them in return.
It didn’t make complete sense to them how taking a break from their crop every seven years would allow for them to have enough to live on, but God would provide for them, as they trusted in Him.
They no doubt were scratching their heads, wondering how God was going to provide for them as they took that Sabbath day off instead of selling and trading like they previously had done. But God would bless their obedience.
This was a step of faith that they were taking in this verse. I’ll be honest with you, not everything God commands or asks of us to do makes complete sense. But if it always made complete sense, it wouldn’t be of faith that we are doing it.
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Hebrews 11:1 KJV 1900
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
They may not have known how God was going to provide, but they knew that God would provide. They acted out in faith.
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Matthew 6:33 KJV 1900
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
We need not to worry about how things are going to work out or fall into place when we are seeking first the kingdom of God.
The evidence of these people’s sincere hearts was evidenced by their Submission to God’s Word, their Separation from the World, and now we see lastly, their Support of God’s Work.
When a man and woman get married, they separate themselves from all other possi- ble mates and give themselves completely to each other. It is total commitment motivated by love, and it is a balanced decision: We separate from others to the one who is to be our life’s mate.
Two special areas of concern were mentioned: mar- riage and the Sabbath. The danger in mixed marriages was the loss of faith on the part of the Jewish mate (). How could a Jew, married to a Gentile, observe the dietary laws or celebrate the annual festi- vals? He or she would be continually ceremonially unclean. Between the husband and wife there would be constant conflict, then occasional compromise, and finally complete conformity, and the Jewish mate would have abandoned his or her spiritual heritage.
Why would Jews want to marry pagan Gentiles in the first place? Apart from affection, which should have been controlled at the outset, perhaps they would marry for social status () or to get ahead in business. Like some believers today who marry unbelievers, these Jews may have argued that marriage would give them opportunity to convert their mate to the true faith, although it is usually the other way around. God had a great purpose for Israel to fulfill, and the Jews’ compromise with sin polluted the nation ().
The observance of the Sabbath was a distinctively Jewish practice (; ; ); the Gentiles around Jerusalem would treat the seventh day of the week like any other day and want to socialize and do business. While the Jewish Sabbath was not to be a day of bondage and misery, it was a day devoted to rest and contemplation of things spiritual. It was a weekly reminder to the nation that they were Jews and had a special calling in the world. Some of the Jewish merchants would be especially interested in getting business from the Gentiles, and to close up business on a day when people were shopping seemed a waste.
The solemn affirmation of faith reported in this chapter also included observing the Sabbatical Year (, ; ). Every seventh year, the Jews were to let the land lie idle so that it might restore itself, an excellent principle of ecology. Of course, the people would need a great deal of faith to trust God for food for two years, but God prom- ised to care for them. After seven Sabbatical Years, they were to celebrate the fiftieth year as a “Year of Jubilee” (.), and this meant trusting God for food for three years.
The evidence is that the nation had not faithfully celebrated these special Sabbatical observances. This was one reason why God sent them into captivity (), that He might give the land seventy years of rest (). This would compensate for some 500 years of disobedience on the part of the nation (7 x 70), one year for each neglected Sabbatical Year or Year of Jubilee.
For the Jewish remnant to promise to commemorate the Sabbatical Year was a great step of faith, for many of the people were poor and the nation faced repeated agricultural and economic depression. Not to have extra produce for a whole year would certainly affect their business with the Gentiles around them. The people’s willingness to obey this law is a beautiful illustration of .
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A Support of God’s Work (v. 32)

Previous to this point the temple tax was a half a shekel instead of a third. The reason for it being less now was due to the economic downfall that had occurred. But as you look at the sincerity of the people, I don’t believe God was displeased with them “paying” less.
They gave in accordance to what they were given. Let me just say that if God declared that we were to give 90% instead of a tithe, 10% of our income, He would be just in doing so.
But God demands a very small percentage of what actually all belongs to Him, to be given back to Him. So a third part of a shekel was to be given.
Nehemiah 10:33–34 KJV 1900
For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law:
Nehemiah 10:33
So we find that this tax would be used to further the work in the house of God and sacrifices made to Him.
Nehemiah 10:35
Nehemiah 10:35–39 KJV 1900
And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the Lord: Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God: And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage. And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house. For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God.
So in the closing verses of this chapter we find the importance of the tithe in their day. They declared that they would give to the Lord.
I find it interesting, that as the people got their hearts right with the Lord, and they continued to listen to the Word, and continued to obey the Word that was given to them, they get to a point where they want to give to the Lord.
Someone once said that there are three levels of giving, 1. You have to (law) 2. You ought to (obligation) 3. You want to (grace).
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2 Corinthians 9:7 KJV 1900
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
When we start submitting to the Word, and separating ourselves from the world, we start to get interested in supporting the work of God!
This is a biblical principle
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Matthew 6:20–21 KJV 1900
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6:24 KJV 1900
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Matthew 6:
Matthew
Matthew 6:
What we are investing in the most, that is an indication of where our heart is. These people and their heart was for God, and it was evident through their commitments physically, financially, and spiritually.

Conclusion

“Will you please tell me in a word,” said a Christian woman to a minister, “what your idea of consecration is?”

Holding out a blank sheet of paper the pastor replied, “It is to sign your name at the bottom of this blank sheet, and to let God fill it in as He will.”

A true commitment to Christ has no strings attached, has no holds, no keeping back, rather, as Wiersbe said, it is a total dedication to Christ. What is it you are unwilling to sign over today to the Lord?

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

What covenant would you be unwilling to make with God? Will you submit to the Word, separate from the world, and support the work of God?

Conclusion

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