The exclusivity of God’s people just as the Gospel is exclusive. (Nehemiah 13:1-3)

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[otw_shortcode_info_box border_type=”bordered” border_color_class=”otw-black-border” border_style=”bordered” shadow=”shadow-down-right” rounded_corners=”rounded-10″]This sermon is part of our Expository Preaching Collective on the Book of Nehemiah. Follow the link below to know more about What Expository preaching is and Why is it important to us. (Click here)[/otw_shortcode_info_box]

Our text for today is Nehemiah 13:1-3 (Click the text to read)

So far God’s been doing an amazing work in the life of these people and I believe as we are about to finish this book it is true that it has impacted our lives as well. Before I go ahead I want to share some of the specific areas in my life that God has been working through this book.

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  1. The first thing I believe this book has made me understand is the sovereignty of God over our lives, the story of Nehemiah reminds me that it is God who is building his church and just like Nehemiah he has chosen each one of us to be used for His glory and name for this generation. And if we remain faithful to his calling he will satisfy us with all eternal blessings.
  2. The second thing I believe this book reminds me is God’s great love for us. Even though God’s end motive is his glory and his fame his motivation is his great Love for us. He immensely loves us, the one whom he made in his own image. It is His great love that drives him to pursue us till the end just as he did in the lives of these people mentioned in the book.
  3. The third thing I learned from this book is that God expects and desires a response in return, and the response is our heartfelt adoration, worship and an obedience, always trusting in his saving grace and not ability to do it right.

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The passage we are looking at today is one of the responses of the people of Israel. When they read from the Book of Moses they discover a peculiar demand from God that needed attention.

What was that demand?

“No Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God”

This command is found in the book of Deuteronomy 23:3 (Click on the text to read)

Who were these Moabites and Ammonites that God disliked so much?

To understand the origin of Moabites and Ammonites let’s turn to Genesis 19:30-38 (Click on the text to read)

The Moabites and the Ammonites were both tribes related by blood to Abraham as they descend from his nephew (Gen. 19:37–38). They were born out of sin and their generation continued in sin just as their parents did.

These peoples often brought much trouble for Abraham’s children. It was Moab that led Israel into Baal worship on its way into Canaan. In Num. 25:1–3 we read about it.

While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.

There’s another incident where both the Ammonites and the Moabites hired Balaam, a prophet to curse Israel as it journeyed toward the Promised Land. The story is found in Numbers 22-24.

One of the prominent issue we see regarding the Moabites and the Ammonites is that whenever the people of God got closer to them they ended up sinning against God by indulging in sexual immorality and idol worship.

The episode with Balaam also shows that the Ammonites and Moabites always meant harm and destruction to the people of God.

It is therefore clear to us that God’s command to separate them from the assembly of God was nothing to do with race or ethnicity, it had and has everything to do with distinction as the people of God and purity in worship to him.

Now, let’s unfold this thought furthermore.

In that case, what did it meant for the people of God to separate the Moabites and the Ammonites from among them?

  • It meant that they wouldn’t have any influence of these people over their lives in a way that displeases God.
  • It meant that they wouldn’t be persuaded anymore into sexual immorality by their women.
  • It meant that they wouldn’t be led to worship any other gods other than the true and living God Yahweh.
  • It meant that only God alone would be glorified in their midst.

I believe what this text is trying to emphasize and remind us is the exclusivity of God’s people from the world around – just as the Gospel is gloriously exclusive.

How is the Gospel exclusive?

Let’s unfold the exclusivity of the Gospel before we look at the exclusivity of God’s people.

The Gospel is the only one way to be reconciled to God and that is by grace, through faith in the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. That’s exclusive! There are not many ways, there is only one way.

Out of millions and billions of people on this earth God chose to reveal himself to an exclusive bunch of people and through them choose to shine and reveal His glory throughout earth to every tribe and nation and tongue.

And how do we know that this God called Yahweh is the only true God? We know it because every word in these scriptures inspired by God has answers to man’s deepest longings, whether it is for love, peace, fulfilment, joy or any other yearnings.

Ravi Zacharias, an Indian who was born in a hindu family, at the age of 17 tried to commit suicide by swallowing poison. While in the hospital, someone handed a bible to his mother as she read from John 14:19 the very words of Jesus which said “Because I live, you also will live” changed his life forever and became a follower of Jesus. He is now 70 years old and goes around the world proclaiming the good news of Jesus.

He once said

“When you think of it, really there are four fundamental questions of life. You’ve asked them, I’ve asked them, every thinking person asks them. They boil down to this; origin, meaning, morality and destiny. ‘How did I come into being? What brings life meaning? How do I know right from wrong? Where am I headed after I die?’”

He concludes this argument by saying that the answer is found only and only at the feet of Jesus.

He said “Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone.”

The Gospel is exclusive.

Nabeel Qureshi, a devout muslim by birth wrote in his book “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

“While I was wallowing in self-pity, focused on myself, there was a whole world with literally billions of people who had no idea who God is, how amazing He is, and the wonders He has done for us. They are the ones who are really suffering. They don’t know His hope, His peace, and His love that transcends all understanding. They don’t know the message of the gospel. After loving us with the most humble life and the most horrific death, Jesus told us, “As I have loved you, go and love one another.” How could I consider myself a follower of Jesus if I was not willing to live as He lived? To die as He died? To love the unloved and give hope to the hopeless?” 

The good news of the Gospel, the work of Christ on the cross for the redemption of human kind is exclusive. There is not many but one truth.

And here’s an interesting thing. Just as the Gospel is exclusive so are we, the children of the most high God. And here’s what the word of God has to say about us.

John 1:12 – We are children of God.

John 15:15 – I am a friend of Jesus.

Romans 3:24 – I have been justified and redeemed.

Romans 6:6 – My old self was crucified with Christ, and I am no longer a slave to sin.

Romans 8:1 – I will not be condemned by God.

Romas 8:2 – I have been set free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:17 – As a child of God, I am a fellow heir with Christ.

Romans 15:7 – I have been accepted by Christ.

1 Cor 1:2 – I have been called to be a saint.

1 Cor 1:30 – In Christ Jesus, I have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

1 Cor 6:19 – My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me.

2 Cor 2:14 – God leads me in the triumph and knowledge of Christ.

2 Cor 5:17 – I am a new creature in Christ.

Gal 5:1 – I have been set free in Christ.

Eph 1:3 – I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Eph 1:4 – I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God.

Eph 1:7 – I am redeemed and forgiven by the grace of Christ.

Eph 1:11 – I have been predestined by God to obtain an inheritance.

Eph 2:10 – I am God’s workmanship created to produce good works.

Eph 4:24 – My new self is righteous and holy.

Phil 3:20 – I am a citizen of heaven.

Phil 4:7 – The peace of God guards my heart and mind.

Phil 4:19 – God supplies all my needs.

We are an exclusive people of God called to live distinct life for His glory. And anything that comes in the way of God, anything that takes away His glory from us he dislikes them. Just as he disliked the closeness and association of the Ammonites and the Moabites who were among them, infiltrating their minds and distracting them for serving God.

In the light of this text, we need to identify what these Ammonites and the Moabites mean to us in this generation. The ones God hates and wants us to put away with.

First, I thought I will give you a list of things I think are the Ammonite and Moabites in our lives but then I realized that my list could be different to your list. I believe based on our upbringing, our circumstances, our nature, our lifestyle we all have different idols to deal with and it will be unfair if I fail to miss any one of them.

Instead, I want to help you identify them for yourselves.

To help you identify the Ammonites and Moabites in your life I’ve categorized a set of questions into 2 groups.

The first group is “WORSHIP”, it says anything that hinders worship of God in our life needs to be put away. We read in the scriptures how the Ammonites and the Moabites were responsible for distracting the people of God from worshipping him.

The second group is “SERVICE”, it says anything that hinders us from serving God needs to be put away. The Ammonites and Moabites schemed against the people of God by hiring Balaam to curse them and wipe them out from the earth, taking out a whole generation of people called to serve God.

Under worship I’m listing 8 hindrances that keep you from worshipping God – it’s a list by a Puritan preacher and author called Thomas Brooks from 1608. I hope it helps you identify your hindrances to worship.

These Ammonites and Moabites are our enemy and we need to be aware of their schemes.

  1. Anything that makes the world look beautiful, attractive and desirable instead of Christ.

1 John 2:17 says “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever”

Many people profess Christ and see him as desirable for a time. For a while they enjoy private and public worship and do it all with enthusiasm. But before long Satan presents to them worldly things and makes those look more beautiful and desirable than Christ, and many souls are drawn away.

  1. Anything makes you aware of the fact that those who worship the Lord have often faced danger, loss and suffering.

There are many men who would obey the Lord and worship him, except that they fear the consequences. The enemy loves to present the high cost of obedience. This was the case for many in Jesus day: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42).

  1. Anything that make you aware of the difficulty of worshipping well.

The enemy will whisper, “It is difficult to pray well, it is hard to spend time with the Lord and to persevere until he speaks to you through his Word, it isn’t worth the effort of going to church and being warm and friendly and engaging with other Christians.” Whatever God tells you to do, the enemy will present it to you as a great burden or as something you do poorly, and in this way he will keep you from it.

  1. Anything that leads you to wrongly understand the implications of the gospel.

Christ has done everything for you and given everything you need in his death and resurrection. There is nothing left for you to do but rejoice in Christ and to serve him out of the joy of salvation. But the enemy will lead you to make wrong inferences from what Christ has done, encouraging you, for example, to believe Christ has freed you from the need or desire to spend time with him or to gather with other Christians. He will allow you to see the gospel, but do all he can to make you understand it all wrong.

  1. Anything that shows you how many of those who follow Christ with obedience are poor and despised.

The enemy will ensure you see that those who are most interested in worshipping God are the poorest and most despised of all. You can see echoes of this in John 7: “The Pharisees answered them, ‘Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed’.”

  1. Anything that shows you that the majority of the people in the world, along with the great and mighty of the world, do not worship the Lord.

The enemy will ask, “Don’t you see that the great, the rich, the honorable, the intellectual elite, the wise, the most honored, and the sheer majority of people do not trouble themselves with worshipping the Lord? You would be much better off to be like them. After all, why would you think that you, of all people, have this figured out?” To have success here he will intentionally draw your attention away from Exodus 23:2 and many similar passages: “You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice.”

  1. Anything that fills your mind with unimportant and distracting thoughts while you are attempting to worship

He afflicts you with so much distraction and futility that you are tempted to say, “I have no desire to hear from the Lord in his Word, no desire to speak to him in prayer, no desire to spend time with other Christians in worship services.” He crowds out the very thought of worship by the sheer weight of lesser concerns.

  1. Anything that encourages you to take comfort in past performances of your religious duties and in that way he convinces you to stop trying.

He reminds you that in the past you read so much and prayed so much and spent so much time in worship. And having reminded you, he convinces you that you have earned the right to coast for a while. “You already know this. You’ve already done this. You’ve already prayed this. You’ve been to better worship services than this.” And through it all he inclines you to rest from worship.

Under Service, here are the list of items that you need to put away that God would dislike,

  1. Anything that makes you feel undeserving and unworthy in the service of God.
  2. Anything that withholds me from confessing my sins with one another so I can serve God guilt free.
  3. Anything that hinders me from giving myself to prayerful submission to God.
  4. Anything that hinders me from soaking myself in God’s word.

In conclusion, remember we have to put away everything that distracts us from worshipping our God and everything that takes away our joy of serving him.

God bless you.