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If We Don't Build God's House, Who Will?

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 TEXT:  Ezra 2:68-69

TOPIC:  IF WE DON'T BUILD THE CHURCH, WHO WILL?

Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church – Center Point, Alabama

Sunday morning. October 23, 2005

Message and Outline scripted from other resources               

JESUS said, "I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18               

The Bible speaks of the church in two ways.  First, there is what is known as the church universal.  The Universal Church emcompasses all true believers from all over the world since the beginning of the the N.T. church. Yet that often manifests itself as a local church body. We call this the local church.  Local churches like ours here in Center Point, Alabama, we call the First Baptist Church of Center Point.  Throughout God’s universal church, He has placed literally, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of local churches with the intent that the church will be a visable demonstration of His presence and power.               

One woman, who didn’t want to attend a local church body, once said, “I don’t go to any local church.  I belong to the invisible church.”  At which the pastor said, “So when you get sick and go to the hospital, who comes to visit you, the invisible pastor?”                 

The truth is, we all need the church.  Did you know that there are over thirty commands given in the Bible that you cannot obey unless you are a part of a local, visible church body?                 

The word t the bible uses to refer to the church is Ekklesia.”  It means “the called-out ones.”  Called out from what?  Out of sin….out of lostness……out of hopelessness….out of hell we have been called.  Called out not to be invisible but visible.  We are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.                 

Our English word church carries the concept of "belonging to the Lord." It is His church, this fellowship of believers. Each of us as members are spiritual building blocks bought at the price of His redemptive blood.               

We must build the church because everyone desires a church.  Like a child needs a family, people need the church. Like a baseball player needs a team, people need a church!                 

As our beloved Lord is the builder of His spiritual church body, so He proposes to use those purchased by His loving sacrifice to build the church locally here at Center Point. What kind of church are we building?                 

The Old Testament is replete with accounts of various periods when God's people were honored by Him by allowing them to be His agents through which He built His house. We who are blessed to be challenged currently can learn from them.               

One such exciting account in recorded in the book of Ezra.  Zedekiah, Judah's last king, and his people were carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C. Jerusalem was destroyed and the temple burned on July 18, 586 B.C. (II Kings 24). Daniel and Ezekiel were among the captives.                

Then, on October 29, 539 B.C., Babylon fell to the invading armies of the Medes and Persians, led by Cyrus the Great. During the first year of his reign Cyrus issued a decree permitting the Jews to return to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.               

God miraculously delivered His people from bondage in Babylon, and provided them the opportunity to return to their homeland with the priority of building or rebuilding the house of God.                 

Let’s look at how the people, or at least, some of the people responded.  Open your Bible to Ezra 2:68-69a.   Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses, when they came to the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God, to erect it in its place:  69According to their ability,               

What we are going to see is that many of the people in Ezra’s day put the interest of His house ahead of their own housing needs.  It involved several things, first

, - - -I.   THOUGHTFULNESS, Ezra 2:68 They "...offered freely for the house of God, to erect it in its place"(Ezra 2:68b).               

Cyrus, King of Persia, was introduced to the writing of the prophet Isaiah by Daniel. Cyrus was moved by God to voluntarily release the captive people and let them return to build the house of their God. With great joy they assumed their assignment.  However, there is an interesting sidelight. Not all the people who were offered freedom chose to return. They had a spiritual problem. They knew that if they returned they would be called upon to give material goods and support to the project. They were reluctant to give up property they had accumulated during this period of captivity. They chose slavery rather than an occasion for gratitude and generosity. These people were in bondage twice. They were in bondage to Cyrus but even worse, they were in bondage to material greed.                Those stirred and moved to sacrifice for their God did return. Our gifts, like theirs, must be symptoms of a loving, submissive spirit.                 

The refusal of those who didn't give was a symptom also. It was a symptom of a spiritual problem. God had blessed them abundantly with material gifts and they ended up loving the gift more than the Giver.  No one straddled the fence. They either stayed or went.                

There once was a man whose house was found to have been built across the Arkansas-Missouri state line. The courts ruled a person must pay taxes where he or she slept. Officials from both states slipped up to his house and found his bed straddled the  state line.                

Jesus said, "You are either for Me or against Me,” and that "No man can serve two masters."  The more a soul becomes DEVOUT, the more a person can do WITHOUT.        

Their example is commendable:         *   

They offered promptly without delay. No one had to beg them.         *   

They offered spontaneously without restraint.         *    They offered proportionately and liberally.         

There is always one thing two Baptists can agree upon. That is how much a third should give.

         Circumstances of life call upon most persons to make some sacrifice involuntarily. The Persian Gulf War, as all wars, required major sacrifices by many families. However, few are called upon to voluntarily give sacrificially.          

If there is genuine CONSIDERATION of what we have RECEIVED from God, there will be a genuine CALCULATION of what we RETURN to God. *

II.  TOGETHERNESS, Ezra 4:2-3* "Let us build with you...We ourselves together will build"(Ezra 4:2-3).               

It was their responsibility and they knew it. They would not let outsiders build it for them. Likewise, they didn't wait for someone to do it for them.                 

May I tell you some ways our church isn't going to be built. Ed McMahon isn't going to do it for us.  The government of the United States of America isn’t going to do it for us.  Former members and inactive members are not going to do it for us.  If we are to build God’s house, God’s church at Center Point, we must do it.  We must come together, work together, pray together, serve together, share together and build together God’s church.  It’s our responsibility.         

Our RESPONSIBILITY is simply our RESPONSE to God's ABILITY.               

The question for us is not, “Can we build a great church to the glory of God?” The question is, “Can God build a great church through us for His glory?”                   

The truth of the matter is that God could do it alone without us.  He can do whatever He pleases.  But God won’t do it alone.  He has always chosen to work through human instrumentality to accomplish His purposes.                 

But let me show you something else.  Here’s another reason we need one another, we need togetherness.  Our faith, like theirs, is not only stretched by the demands of the task, but by detractors who desire to discourage. Listen to what those who were not allowed to do it their way did:  "Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose..."Ezra 4:4-5a               

There never has been a building project in the name of the Lord that there were not those who directly and/or indirectly tried to "discourage" and "frustrate" the efforts. That has been true of every one of which I have been a part.                

Work on the temple began in 535 B.C. but was halted several times by satanic attacks. During any one of those times of pause people could have said God wasn't in this effort. He was, but so was the devil who knows he can't defeat the Lord, but he does all he can to delay His victories.               

Do you remember what Jesus said back in Matthew 16?  He said, “He would build His church. He said "the gates of hell shall not prevail against Me."                

Now during the Bible days, old cities had walls around them. The elders or wisest men of the city gathered at the city gates to talk about city business. They formed an informal official city counsel. When Jesus said, “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His church, He meant, "let the devil and all the demons of hell get together and plot their strategy of how to stop Me from building My church and they can't. Even if all the counsel of hell confers, they can't prevent Me from building My church."               

I repeat an ageless question: "If God be for us, who can be against us?"           During the time of construction God ministered to His people as others tried to discourage and frustrate them. He had two prophets among His people at the time: Haggai and Zechariah.                

We cannot build the church without God’s appointed leaders.  We need our Haggai(s) and our Zechariah(s).                 

III.        THOROUGHNESS, Ezra 7:16 "With the free-will offering of the people...offered willingly for the house of their God" Ezra 7:16 According to their ability…”Ezra 2:69a               

Why and how did these people give so freely?          *   

They wanted to profess their love for their God.         *   

They were AMBITIOUS to sacrifice to show gratitude.         *   

They DESIRED to help establish His name.         *   

They HOPED to glorify His name.         *   

They wanted to TESTIFY by assembling to worship. 

IV.        THANKFULNESS, Ezra 7:23

*We can learn from the pagan king Artaxerxes who said,  "Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it diligently be done for the house of the God of heaven"Ezra 7:23               

God rarely so honors a person as when He allows that one to be used as His means of His blessings to others. God wants us to prove our faith in His faithfulness to provide through us for the building of His church here at Center Point First Baptist.  If it is done properly it will involve:        

# Prayer         # Faithfulness         # Stewardship                     

On February 3, 516 B.C., work on the temple was completed and it was dedicated (Ezra 6:15).  The people then responded to the Lord's goodness by rejoicing.                

Our prayer ought to be that God would so bless us and use us to build for His glory and His glory alone, a great church!                       

 If we don’t build the church, who will? 

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