The Nehemiah Project (Sermon Notes)
(by Pastor Jerry Ingalls)
“Recognizing the Need!”
September 11, 2016
Transition with a one-minute short invitation to “introduce yourself to the people in the rows immediately around you; this is your ‘Worship Neighborhood.’” Over the next 10 weeks, we want you to get to know your neighbor and love them as yourself.
With over 106 years of ministry in New Castle, we, the First Baptist Church, are following the leadership of the Holy Spirit to kick off a new era of our life and ministry. We are calling this initiative “The Nehemiah Project” and it officially kicks off today.
This initiative is founded on faith in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We will move forward together through the Word of God; specifically, gleaning principles from the great Old Testament book of Nehemiah. I invite you to join us by studying God’s
Word every day, being a part of a small group or Sunday School class, and consider how you can discuss and apply what we are learning together.
I am going to give you a quick overview of The Nehemiah Project by answering three questions:
First, why the word “project”?
According to the dictionary, a “project” is a, “collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim.” By that definition, we could see the Church of Jesus Christ as one big project with our unique particular aim being the mission of FBC—the transformation of people’s stories through the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be a people built on Christ alone and directed by our common mission for God’s glory!
It is the hope of this project that people will feel invited to fully participate on this journey and collaborate together to achieve God’s purposes in our community. Throughout these 10 weeks, everyone will be given many invitations to get more involved, not only with this specific Nehemiah Project, but more importantly with the overall project of being the covenant people in whom His Spirit dwells, His Church on earth—the witnesses and ambassadors of Jesus Christ, proclaimers of grace, witnesses of the gospel!
We are the Church, the ekklesia, those called out and chosen by God, to be a dwelling place of His Name through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. We take the name of Christ on ourselves and are known as Christians because we belong to Him and represent Him, through the shedding of Christ’s blood, the eternal seal of God’s covenant between God and humanity.
Second, why the book of Nehemiah?
The Nehemiah Project’s theme passage is Nehemiah 1:8-9 states, “Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’”
From the very beginning of Nehemiah, God reminds His people of His covenant relationship with them and that there are consequences (good and bad) for how we keep our end of the covenant. Yes, we are chosen by grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor, there is nothing you can do to cause you to be worthy of His choosing and love freely bestowed upon you. We are saved by grace into the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. We are covenant people! God has granted you relationship and what is at stake in this covenant is not your eternal salvation (that is a gift so that no man should boost!), but what is at stake is your ministry of representing Christ to your family, school, work place, neighbors, community, nations.
Listen to the context of our Nehemiah Project theme passage, Nehemiah 1:5-6, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep His commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.”
The book of Nehemiah is a call to repentance and renewal to God’s people by God, who worked through a man—a man named Nehemiah who was called by God as a leader of God’s people.
- Nehemiah is the son of Hacaliah (1) –a real person with real faith in real history
- Nehemiah, exiled from Jerusalem (the place of God in that time) was the cupbearer of the Persian King Artaxerxes in Babylon (11).
- Nehemiah, the man who “sat down and wept and mourned for days, and continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” for 4 months upon hearing of the broken state of God’s dwelling place (4).
- Nehemiah’s broken heart for not only his own sin, but also the sin of his father’s house, moved him to action—to call the people of God into repentance and back into covenant faithfulness. The book of Nehemiah is the first “Nehemiah project” and teaches us the principles to follow to experience the same revival today. God has not changed and He still cries out to His people for covenant obedience for those called by grace to Himself.
God is using the book of Nehemiah the same way today with us! Throughout this series we believe the Holy Spirit is going to call FBC as individuals, and as a whole, to search our hearts, acknowledge past and present sin, confess those sins and repent of them.
Why? Because acknowledgement, confession, and repentance are the prerequisites for covenant renewal! And God is calling FBC to renew our covenant as God’s people, His Church. We are not only called to do this in 2016, but God is calling us to move into the future as a people who regularly search our hearts, confess, repent, and renew our covenant with God and one another. We are entering a new season…
Third, why us and why now?
God is calling His Church to repent and renew the ancient covenant of God, as the people of God, so that He may use us right now, in our communities. God is wanting to reach the lost. God is calling not just our local communities and families back to Himse
lf, God is calling nations and people groups back to Himself.
Look at what moved Nehemiah into prayer and fasting. Nehemiah 1:3 describes the situation of God’s people, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
Nehemiah was heartbroken by 3 facts: 1) the remnant is in great trouble; 2) the remnant is living in shame; and 3) the remnant is living without security!
Today, the Church of Jesus Christ is in a very similar state—a state of danger and disrepair as many churches are leaving the security of the authority of Scripture as their plan of how to live, and the salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone as their foundation for this life and security for the next.
Specifically, here at FBC, we believe we have 6 specific areas we need to acknowledge, confess, and repent of from the last 106 years, including the nearly 7 years I have been serving as your pastor. I am not without guilt and culpability myself.
- We have not believed in every word of the Bible as inspired from God, as the true and rightful authority. This disbelief has led to disobedience and rebellion form God’s rightful authority over our lives and our church.
- The leaders and leadership structure have not always been established by God or by God’s Word and have misled the church at times and abused their authority at others. We have allowed worldly influences and ways of leadership and governance into the church rather than seeking God’s ways of leadership through service, authority through anointing, influence through relationship, and direction through the Bible.
- The congregation has not always submitted to the leadership or treated their leadership as from God or cared for them as they should the stewards and messengers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- We have not loved one another as Christ first loved us, upholding the unity of our fellowship, protecting the witness of the gospel, and sharing one another’s burdens. We have allowed gossip, division, and dissension in our own ranks leading to pain and destruction, mistrust and power struggles, brokenness and ongoing ineffectiveness in the ministry of reconciliation.
- We have misallocated our resources (people power, time, finances, material resources & buildings) away from the work of Heaven and focused it on the work of man. We have not made every effort to pursue the lost in our community, care for the poor in our midst, seek justice for the marginalized, and work for God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. This has caused confusion in the community on who the Church is and what the Church is about.
- We have been satisfied with Jesus being prominent at FBC rather than His rightful place as the Preeminent One. This has led to our church putting our name to the community as important or noteworthy. We repent by casting down our name and lift up the one Name of Jesus. We have put our own plans and internal issues above the high calling of proclaiming Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. This has caused FBC to live in shame and not be the ambassadors of Christ—the witnesses of grace we have been saved and called to be as the one body of Christ.
Because we believe this a collaborative project—that means all of us are in this—we want to hear from you. In your notes, there is a 7th point which says, “What is God telling you?” Please pray and let us know…
During this Nehemiah Project, we are being called to recommit ourselves to the Bible as God’s Word and Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.
Does your heart break for not only the state of the Church throughout America, but throughout our community…does not your heart break for us, right here at FBC?
Do you & I, we, recognize the need/danger/urgency of our situation at this time and in this place?
NEHEMIAH DID—Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed…
God’s aim is bigger than us, but it must begin in us and then move through us. So, the question is not, “Why FBC?” Rather, it is “Why not FBC?” We can’t delay any longer; we can’t set the stage any longer, we have been praying and fasting and the time is now to heed the call of God on our congregation. We each and collectively are called to get right with God and with one another; to answer God’s call to be His Church for the sake of our community. The only hope for this lost and dying world is found in the Church of Jesus Christ. That is who we are, this is the situation we find ourselves in today, and we have a choice.
We are God’s people, this is God’s timing, and we are called to come together as the one body of Christ. We are God’s collaborative enterprise on earth that is being led by the Holy Spirit to carefully plan and design the achievement of God’s purposes on earth. We are to work together to build the Church to the glory of Jesus Christ!
This is “The Nehemiah Project” and it is the beginning of a new day for God’s people. Why can’t it begin right here in New Castle, Indiana for the sake of the nations to the glory of God?!?
Our call us to action for this week is to ask God to show us the need. We must recognize the dire situation before we will come to Jesus desperate for Him to save: You are being invite ask God to show you the truth—to break your heart as He broke Nehemiah’s heart.
Will you accept God’s call to faith and action today?
To read more about the Nehemiah Project, click HERE.
On September 18th Pastor Jerry Ingalls will be preaching on Nehemiah 2: Rise Up!