If We Don't Build the Church, Who Will? (2)
TEXT: Ezra 2:68-69
TOPIC: IF WE DON'T BUILD THE CHURCH, WHO WILL?
Pastor Bobby Earls, Northgate Baptist Church,
Florence, South Carolina
Sunday morning, September 18, 2022
(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.
But the church universal manifests itself as local congregations. We call this the local church. Local churches like ours here in Florence, SC, we call the Northgate Baptist Church.
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 visible demonstration of His presence and power.
One woman, who didn’t want to attend a local church body, 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 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 out. 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, His 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 needs a church. Like a child needs a family, people need the church. Like a football player needs a team, people need a church!
And, as I’ve told you before, if the church at Northgate is to be built, we are ones God has chosen at this time, to build His church.
The question for us that begs an answer is, “Are we building the church at Northgate?”
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 is 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). You might recall that 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.
In this message, I want you to see how some of the people responded.
Open your Bible this morning 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: 69 According 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. This involved several things, first, - - -
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. But 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.
I heard about 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.
If there is genuine CONSIDERATION of what we have RECEIVED from God, there will be a genuine CALCULATION of what we RETURN to God.
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. Publisher Clearing House isn't going to do it for us. The government 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 Northgate, 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. But He also said "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
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."
"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).
Ezra 7:16 "With the free-will offering of the people...offered willingly for the house of their God"
“According to their ability…”Ezra 2:69a
Why 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.
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 Northgate. If it is done properly it will involve:
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!