The Church has lost her moral courage to communicate the message of Jesus. Believers today are just as materialistic and promiscuous as unbelievers. At the moment when our generation is desperately asking life's most important questions, Christians aren't standing up to give the answer. We, like the people in Nehemiah's day, need a revival. Join Stephen now to find out how to start one.
Lord Send a Rebible
An anonymous author penned these words last year:
The paradox of our time in history is that…
We spend more, but have less;
We buy more, but enjoy it less
We have bigger houses and smaller families
More conveniences, but less time;
More medicine, but less well-being;
We read too little, watch TV too much, and pray
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced
These are times of steep profits, and shallow relationships.
These are the days of two incomes, and divided families: of custom built houses, but broken homes.
We’ve added years to our lives, not life to our years;
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We’ve learned how to make a living, we’ve forgotten
how to make life worth living.
It is not a coincidence that at the same time these things are now
being documented, the Bible is being denied . . . forgotten.
I read some time ago about a High School teacher quizzing a
group of high school seniors on subjects related to the Bible. He
asked them, “Who wrote the Gospel?” Answer: Mathew, Mark,
Luther and John.
Who was Sodom and Gomorrah?
A married couple.
What was Golgotha? One of the highest GPA students in the
Golgotha was the name of the giant who slew the
One article appeared in Christianity Today with the headline,
“The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy”. He had given similar entrance exams at a Christian College where he taught. On a scale of 100, the average score was 10 – the highest was 34. He wrote this, “The results, in no sense, reflect the intellectual abilities of these students for they are all qualified academically for Bible college. But the results do point to a real crisis in the teaching of the Bible in the church and in the home. – get this – despite all the outward signs, there exists a famine for hearing the word of God.
So what is the church doing about it?
Pollster George Gallup, Jr. detected the same thing as he wrote,
“One of the two dominant trends in society today is the search
for spiritual moorings…surveys have documented the movement
of people who are searching for meaning in life with a new
At the very time when the church of Jesus Christ can step up to the microphone and announce that it has the answer in a personal Redeemer named Jesus Christ, it has, instead, lost it’s voice.
One author compiled a list of clippings and mailings sent out by these churches who, by the way, are often attended by thousands of people:
One pastor commented; There is no fire and brimstone here. No
Bible-thumping. Just practical, witty messages.”
Another said, “Services at our church have an informal feeling. You won’t hear people referred to as sinners. The goal is to make them feel welcome.
And another, “Our answer is God – but we slip Him in at the end, and even then we don’t get heavy. No ranting, or raving. No fire, no brimstone. Our pastor doesn’t even use the h-word. Call it Light Gospel. It has the same salvation as the Old Time Religion, but with a third less guilt.”
Another, “The sermons are relevant, upbeat and best of all, short. You won’t hear a lot of preaching about sin. Preaching here doesn’t sound like preaching. It is sophisticated, urbane, and friendly talk.
So the church of our generation promises that the consumer will be satisfied rather than that God will be satisfied.
If this is true then God is no longer the audience of our worship, the audience has become god. And the church is feverishly trying to make this new god happy and comfortable and satisfied.
I’ve recently heard of one church that has as their motto the words, “It’s all about you.” My friends, church is not all about you and it isn’t all about me – it’s all about God.
Our mandate from God is not selfishness, it is servanthood. It is about selling ourselves to the mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
It’s about becoming passionately committed to the fact that mankind is sinful and on it’s way to hell and the church has the answer in the gospel of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and we communicate that gospel to our world as if we were throwing life preservers to drowning people.
We don’t warm the water to make them more comfortable; we don’t offer lessons on how to float; we don’t give self-help tips on how to manage the water level.
We tell them they’re going to drown if they don’t come to the Savior.
The church has lost the moral courage to communicate that message. It makes people uncomfortable.
The church has lost it’s moral convictions as well. So that in our generation, the materialism of the believer matches the world. The promiscuity and unfaithfulness of the believer mirrors the world. The self-centerdness of the believer mirrors the world. The values and plans of the believer are the same as the worlds.
Ladies and Gentlemen, at the moment of our generations greatest need for an answer, the church in America doesn’t have the answer. It is in need of revival.
The legacy of the word of God has been lost. Praise God for a congregation that considers the truth of God’s word to be their greatest legacy.
I remember one of my seminary professors – Bibles in the closet
With that in mind, I couldn’t help but think back to another nation – and another period in history where the legacy of the word had been lost.
So were the people of Jerusalem. They had finished the walls. They were secure behind gates and gatekeepers.
But their was a spiritual void in Jerusalem. They had everything, but a right relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
I invite your attention to a revival meeting where the word of God is reintroduced into their lives – and the difference it will make.
It’s found in Nehemiah chapter 8.
As we study our way through this chapter, I want to provide you with at least 6 characteristics or ingredients of true revival.
And by the way, revival has nothing to do with unbelievers.
According to Ephesians chapter 2 an unbeliever is dead in their trespasses and sins. In other words, their spirit has not been brought to life by regeneration.
They are spiritually dead. They don’t have a revival because you can’t revive a corpse. You revive a living person who is unconscious; out of it, in a coma, who has been under water or without oxygen for some time. You revive someone who’s heart may have even stopped beating, but the possibility of resuscitation is still there. They can be revived because they are not yet dead.
So revival has nothing to do with winning the unbeliever, revival is warning the believer who is living like an unbeliever.
Their heart for God has stopped beating. They have grown cold in their affections for God. They need resuscitating and reviving.
Like David, we plead with God, “Will you not revive us again?” Can we pray like David, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes . . . give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law and keep it with all my heart . . . revive me according to thy ways.” Psalm 119:33-37
Well, there was a great revival in Nehemiah’s day, and it began with the first ingredient to any revival, 1) A true revival is revealed in a revived appetite for the scripture.
Verse 1. And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.
Did you notice the reappearance of Ezra - by now an old man. He had led a group back years earlier and they had rebuilt the temple.
Ezra will become the preacher, as you’ll see in a moment, reading, translating and applying the text of the law.
But for now, notice what the people of Jerusalem have asked for – for the Book which God gave our nation!
Bring us the Book – this was their unified cry!
Whenever a person or a group of people or a family or a church begin to demand the scriptures, revival is soon to happen.
A native of India, writing to a friend about a revival they were having, wrote in English as he pronounced it in his native tongue – he wrote, “We are having a great rebible here!
What a perfect slip of the pen. A revival is indeed when people are rebibled.
They hunger to hear and read and learn the word of God.
2. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. 3. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 4. Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood . . . [all these other priests whose names I can’t pronounce!]
For 6 hours they listened to Ezra read the first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, the Book of Moses, the Book of the Law.
- Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for
he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
They listened for 6 hours standing up. And by the way, this will continue every day for an entire week. Imagine that kind of hunger to hear the Word of God!
2) The second ingredient of revival is a respectful attitude toward God.
- Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God.
That is, he praised God for who God was – the great, the awesome, the sovereign God.
There is no revival if you have a little god. A small god who can be coerced and bribed. A petty god who exists to do your will and fulfill your every wish. An understandable god who isn’t mysterious or transcendent. A weak god who can barely keep up with his creation.
If you want reviving, you need a great God.
Listen as I read how Isaiah described his great God in chapter 40.
”ISAIAH 40:15. Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. 18. To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? 22. It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. 23. “To whom then will you liken ‘Me that I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. 26. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His
might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing. 28. Do you not
know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the
ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.
29. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.
30. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with
wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become
Now wait a second . . . most of us run to verse 31 first. Okay Lord, give me a shot
from your strength potion for today. NO! Those who wait for the kind of Lord that
Isaiah has just described are the ones who find strength – the word “wait” is a
reference to contemplating or meditating on God’s character; trusting in His attributes,
relying on His power and provision. The believer who is given strength is the believer
who has Isaiah’s perception of God.
Believers who have a small god run out of gas; but those who contemplate the awesome character of God as described in Isaiah 40 have strength for their daily walk.
Revival comes on the heels of an appetite for scripture and an approach toward God based on the great and sovereign God that He is.
And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” Amen, Amen – or so be it; we’re with you Ezra. Everybody was shouting Amen . . . evidently there were Baptists in the Book of Nehemiah. The verse goes on to say, while lifting up their hands – I guess they were really Bapticostals. Then, they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground – I don’t think any denomination does that.
The issue wasn’t how they revealed their respect for God – that will vary from culture to culture and from generation to generation. In a few weeks I will be on a 15 day tour of Africa – preaching 12 times in Nairobi and Johannasburg and Swaziland as well as rally in Zimbabwe.
They’re gonna worship their great God differently than I’m accustomed. I can assure you that they will worship God in those meetings in ways I will not even be capable of trying. I’ll mumble through as best I can and thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. And I’ll tell you all about it when I come back.
The point is the same for people in Africa and France and Romania and America as it was in Nehemiah’s day. The people here in chapter 8 showed respect to God which ultimately for them, like so many people throughout scripture who have an encounter with God, they ended up flat on their faces on the ground.
If you want to say Amen and raise your hands go ahead – are you willing as well to lie flat on your face in the dirt, so moved out of deep respect for your sovereign God that you dare not whisper or even look upward?!
Revival comes from a revived appetite for the scripture and a deep reverential appoach toward God.
The third ingredient of revival is a radical application of Biblical truth.
8. And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.
You ought to underline the word “understood”. It appeared in verse 2 and verse 3 and it will show up again in verse 12.
Why would they need to explain anything?
I’ve illustrated why in your notes. You have Matthew 11:28-30, taken from William Tyndale’s translation of the Greek language. It happens to be the first English translation put into print, in the year 1382.
If you try hard enough, and have it memorized as well, you can make some sense of most of the words.
Approximately 600 years separates us from William Tyndale’s English world. And 600 years have brought a lot of changes to our English vocabulary.
Consider the fact that between the time of Moses writing the Book of the Law and the people of Nehemiah’s day was a span of, not 618 years, but 1,000 years.
Consider also the fact that these people no longer spoke or understood Hebrew. They had Hebrew hearts but Babylonian ears.
They simply needed to know what the words meant.
But that wasn’t all. Notice 13. Then on the second day the heads of fathers’ households of all the people, the priests and the Levites were gathered to Ezra the scribe that they might gain insight into the words of the law.
The word “insight” here is translated from a Hebrew verb that means “to be wise or prudent.” In other words, they wanted to understand the word so that they would have the insight or wisdom in how to apply the word to their lives.
In Mark’s Gospel, the Lord breaks the fishes and loaves and feeds 5,000 plus people. He shows His miraculous ability over the elements of nature by creating fish and bread. A few hours later, the disciples are terrified in a storm. Eventually Jesus walks on the water to where they are and climbs into the boat and the storm ceases and the wind stops. Chapter 6 verse 51 says it all, “And they were greatly astonished for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves.”
They had seen Christ’s power demonstrated earlier, but they hadn’t connected it with how they should live and act because of it.
Some people go to church just about every Sunday, even attend a Bible study and go to a conference or two and nothing of their lives changes.
My friends, there is a vast difference between Biblical input and Biblical insight.
Guess what happened when they gained the insight and applied the meaning of the Bible to the way they were living?
The fourth ingredient of revival takes place – a repentant awareness of sin.
- Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.
They heard the words of God’s standard and they began to mourn and weep.
We avoid the word because the word convicts and challenges us to the very core of our being.
The word of God is alive, it is powerful, it is sharper than any two edged sword – it cuts asunder the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and it discerns the true thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
George Bernard Shaw, the British playwright once had a Bible. Four years before he died in 1950 he sold it to auctioneers who in turn sold it for $50 after Shaw’s death. One of the selling points was an inscription on the flyleaf by the playwright himself: “This book is a most undesirable possession . . . I must get rid of it. I really cannot bear it in my house!”
The Bible is a penetrating sword and he could not stand the guilty verdict that pierced his heart!
Eventually Nehemiah stood and told the people to stop mourning and begin rejoicing - it was the day the Feast of Tabernacles was to begin.
Notice verse 10. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11. So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12. All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
The final ingredient of revival is an attitude of joy.
Matthew Henry wrote a century ago, “Holy joy will be oil to the wheels of our obedience.”
And would you notice how the people of Jerusalem obeyed?
- They found written in the law how the Lord had commanded through Moses that the sons of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. 15. So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” 16. So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. 17. The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing.
God said for them to build little shanties and lean-to’s out of sticks so they could remember their journey in the wilderness.
It doesn’t make much sense – they need to be rebuilding their homes inside the newly constructed city walls.
But God said, “Build a booth” so, we’ll build a booth.
And guess what? There was great rejoicing.
Insight led to obedience and obedience led to joy.
APPLICATION: When rebible occurs, at least four things happen:
1) Excuses are replaced with confession.
READ TEXAS TEXT BOOKS
Last year, 1992, the Texas educational bureaucracy recently reviewed and approved a
new set of textbooks for the public school system. A group of parents, concerned
about the information their children were coming home with, conducted their own
review. They found 231 errors. The textbook reported Napoleon actually winning the
battle of Waterloo, and President Truman dropping the atom bomb on Korea, and
General Douglas MacArthur leading the anti‑communist campaign in the 1950's (it
was actually Senator Joe McCarthy.) When called to account for these errors, the
Texas officials studied the texts again, and found more than the 231 errors the parents
first found. Then the parents found more until the tally stood at 5,200 mistakes in
texts published by Prentice‑Hall, Houghton Mifflin, Rinehart and Winston. How did
the publishers react to this mess? The publisher's spokesperson argued that, “except
for the errors these were the finest textbooks they had ever seen.”
The believer who wants revival throws away the list of favorite excuses for his or her
sin. Excuses are replaced with confession.
2) Selfishness is replaced with servanthood.
3) Compromise is replaced with commitment
You say, I’ve confessed and tried and failed and tried.
Revival doesn’t last. Someone once asked evangelist Billy Sunday in the early 900’s
if revivals lasted. He replied, “No, but neither does a bath, but it’s good to have one
If you want friends you probably ought to bathe every day; if you want fellowship,
you need reviving every day as well.
4) Complacency is replaced with devotion.
Oh, but my love for God ebbs and flows – it seems to come and go. My devotion and
affection for God is affected by my inconsistency and brokeness and sinfulness.
I know. Like the Apostle Paul who said, “The things I want to do, I don’t do and the
things I don’t want to do I seem to ‘do. . .oh wretched man that I am.”
I like the way someone put it and I can’t remember who said or wrote it: I just
remember it: The only way to keep a broken pot filled with water is to keep the
- Approach God with due respect and adoration
- Be willing to apply what you learn
- Repent, repent, and repent some more
- And know that obedience will lead to joy – it’s always in that order.
And stay under the faucet – of God’s word . . . of God’s
Spirit . . . of God’s wisdom . . . and in the company of God’s