THERE’S ONLY ONE WHO CAN SET US FREE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
Some people mistakenly think that getting saved will solve all their problems. All I have to do is to get Jesus in my heart and all my problems will just fly away. Such is often not the case. When people find out that their old hang-ups keep hanging on, they get discouraged, get disappointed with God, and even start doubting their Christian life.
Nehemiah 9:36-38 36 “Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, To eat its fruit and its bounty, Here we are, servants in it! 37 And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, Because of our sins; Also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle At their pleasure; And we are in great distress. 38 “And because of all this, We make a sure covenant and write it; Our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”
Overall Background: The passage we just read is the conclusion of a 6-hour long revival service. We don’t know how the day began; we don’t know how the word got out; we don’t know exactly how many people were gathered. All we know is that a large number of Jewish people gathered together in fasting and brokenness, read from God’s Word, confessed their sins before God and revival came.
What is revival? Revival is not just a series of meetings that follow the homecoming service. Revival is not just some out of town guest speaker preaching fire and brimstone. Revival comes when God’s people see their sinfulness. They see God’s holiness. They are convicted of their sins. They repent and acknowledge that God is God and they are not. They affirm some fundamental truths about God. So far we have seen just that in Nehemiah 9. The people affirmed 6 fundamental truths about God.
This morning we come to Truth #7 – “There is Only One Who Will Set Us Free.”
Listen to verse 36 “Here we are, servants today! (The word “servants” is actually slaves.) And the land that You gave to our fathers, To eat its fruit and its bounty, Here we are, servants (slaves) in it!
Application: This morning’s message is probably the most important sermon in this series for us individually, as a couple, as a family, as a church, and as a nation.
Again, 3 questions come to mind.
I. WHY DID THEY MAKE THIS CONFESSION? BECAUSE SIN HAD DISCOLORED THEIR VIEW OF LIFE
Background: Once again, verse 36, “Here we are, slaves today!” Slaves??? These people were no longer slaves. King Cyrus of Persia had freed them almost 100 years ago. For a century, they were able to come back to their homelands, rebuild their lives, rebuild their temple, and rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. They were not slaves.
What else? Listen to verse 37 “And it (meaning = the land) yields much increase to the kings You have set over us.” Think about that carefully. Can the land decide if it will yield more to the king than to the Jewish people? The land is neutral. As long as you till the land, seed it, fertilize it, water it, you will get a harvest, whether you are a king or a slave. These people were getting a harvest. They were prosperous. If you remember, they gave generously to the building project. Nehemiah 7 tells us, “the heads of the fathers’ houses gave…twenty thousand gold drachmas (400 pounds of gold) besides other stuff…. And the rest of the people gave…twenty thousand gold drachmas (400 pounds of gold) besides other stuff. That’s a lot of wealth for a bunch of slaves!
Why exactly were they referring to themselves as “slaves” and feeling that they were being cheated? Read the last line of verse 37 “Because of our sins;” Meaning: Their sins were making them feel like slaves and failures. Even though they were free, even though they were successful, sin had colored their perspective on life. Even though they were God’s chosen people living in God’s promised land, they were feeling like God forsaken people in a God forsaken land. That’s what sin will do to you.
By the way, what was their sin? Their sin was not just some action or some bad thing they had done. Their sin was their refusal to acknowledge God. That’s why they were making those confessions – You Alone are God; You Alone are the Creator; You Alone can Save us; You Alone have heard our cry; You Alone can Freely Forgive; You Alone can Discipline and Deliver. Sin is not just habit or action or behavior. It is a rejection of God.
When you and I reject God, our successes feel like failures. No matter how much you have, you will always feel like you are empty. No matter how much fun you have in the day, there is a hangover waiting for you at night. No matter how much you do right, you will only remember what you have done wrong.
For e.g. We are celebrating 4th of July in America. We have so much in this nation and so much to be thankful for. Yet, we feel like we are a nation of slaves with an impending doom hanging over our heads. We are slaves to our finances, habits, passions, and lust. We are obsessed with the end of the world. Why? Because God is no longer God.
It’s the same for our individual life, marriage life, family life, and church life. Sin will override your successes in life. Sin will make a freeman or woman feel like a convict. Sin will make a prince feel like a pauper; sin will make a warrior feel like a weakling. Sin will make a victor feel like a victim. You may have everything and yet feel like you are empty. You will constantly fill yourself and yet be empty. Sin will keep you from enjoying the blessings of life.
Application: May I ask you this morning? Are you free or are you a slave? Don’t just answer that question. Think about it. Jesus said in John 8:36 “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Are you enjoying the blessing of being born again? Are you enjoying the blessing of being married? Are you enjoying the blessing of having children? Are you enjoying the blessing of being part of this church family?
II. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A COVENANT? TO BECOME SLAVES OF GOD RATHER THAN SLAVES OF SIN.
Background: Having identified their predicament, how did the Jewish people respond?
– They did not try to ignore their sins. That’s what many Christians do. Just ignore your sins and justify them. Just pretend like nothing is wrong. Just be positive. Just say that everybody does it. That is superficial and temporary. That’s what Satan wants you to do.
– They did not launch once again into repentance. They had already done that. That’s also what many Christians do. They immediately begin the process of self-autopsy. They try to dig deep to locate all their sins. That is a process of utter defeat and discouragement. Again, that’s what Satan wants you to do.
Instead, listen to verse 38 “And because of all this, We make a sure covenant and write it; Our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.” What does that mean? They made a covenant—a binding agreement—with God. They realized that either they can sit back and let sin discolor their lives or they can fall into the hands of God. So they entered into a voluntary agreement with God to acknowledge Him, glorify Him, trust Him, and obey Him. This was no half-hearted promise to do better.
Listen to the covenant in Nehemiah 10:28-29 28 Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding— 29 these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and 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 ordinances and His statutes: Meaning: Either they could be slaves of sin or they could be slaves of God. They made a covenant with God that they would obey Him no matter the cost. They were yielding themselves completely to Him. Sink or swim they were going to obey God.
Application: What are you doing about your sin? Are you simply trying to justify it? Do you sit and mourn and grieve over it day and night? Or Are you willing to enter into a covenant with the Living God to obey Him regardless the cost. You say – “what if I fail?” Then fail trusting Him.
III. HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME? DELIVERANCE FROM SIN COMES WHEN WE OBEY FROM THE HEART.
Many Christians are in the same predicament as those Jewish people. Sin has discolored their lives. It has dampened their enthusiasm. It has stolen their joy. It has left them in guilt and remorse. What is the answer? The Jewish people entered into a covenant with God. What are we as Christians to do? Listen to Romans 6:17 “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” What does it mean to obey from the heart that form of doctrine? It means to receive Christ with no reservation and no stipulation and no conditions. It is all the way. At that very moment, the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell in that person. God makes that person’s spirit a new spirit and that person’s spirit becomes one with God’s spirit. As long as this new believer is obedient to the light that God has given to him/her, the Holy Spirit has access to flow through that life, body, and environment and reproduce the life of Jesus Christ. Why? Because that person obeyed from the heart.
Now this person is going to grow in grace. Now one-by-one the Holy Spirit wants to set this person free. If that person hesitates and breaks that covenant, they are right back to being a slave of sin (not lose their salvation).
For e.g. Manley Beasley would give this illustration – if I owned 40 acres of land and I decided to sell 39 acres and keep one. You could build a house as big as 39 acres but now I own one and you have to give me right of way to my property. I can come back and make him so miserable, confuse him, ridicule him, and defeat him.
Satan does not care if we have given 39 acres to the Lord as long as he can keep 1 acre. He will let you do religious work (sing, bible study, serve) in church but beyond that you have a horrible temper and you act like the devil. The Devil has control over you. All he has to do is wait until he has you in the right place and then push the right button and you act like the Devil.
The Jewish people finally realized that it was time to go all the way.
Invitation: Are you ready to go all the way with God? Are you tired of being a slave to sin? Are you ready to go with Christ all the way?