The Seriousness of Sin and ways to deal with it. (Nehemiah 9:1-5)

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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 the 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 this morning is form the book of Nehemiah 9:1-5 (Click verse to read).

The walls of Jerusalem is now re-built, people are protected from their enemy nations, no fear of the enemy nation invading and destroying their homes and killing their people.

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But most importantly they have arrived at a place of rest, where God is their Savior and Keeper. God has gathered them together to re-establish His worship.

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In chapter 8 we saw that the first thing they do is to go back to the Law of God, the Law of God was read out in the open assembly. When the Law was read they wept and mourned out of conviction of their Sins – and conviction lead them to repentance – True Repentance.

The leaders than explain the meaning of the words spoken in the Law and they end up rejoicing in the Lord.
Last Sunday we saw how they celebrates the festival of the Booths, also called as the Festival of the Tabernacle. They celebrate this particular festival as a reminder of what God did for them when He brought them out slavery in Egypt. They remembers the goodness and the blessings of God over their lives and rejoices and praises God for His great work in their lives.

In chapter 9, especially in the verses 1-5 we see a seriousness in their actions while dealing with their Sins.
Just when we think that they are done with the reading of the Law, repenting of their Sins and reminding themselves of God’s goodness in their lives, on the 24th day of the month the Israelite again assemble and this time they are fasting, wearing sackcloth, and put had put dust on their heads.

Wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads were done in the Old testament times as a symbol of mourning and repentance. Someone wanting to show their grief and repented heart would often wear a sackcloth. Sackcloth was a coarse material usually made of black goats hair, making it quite uncomfortable to wear.

They even separate themselves from all foreigners, stand and confess their sins and the guilt of their fathers and end up worshiping God even more.

Why do you think they went back to God again, repenting of their sins?
What do their actions teach us?

The first thing we learn from them is that are damn serious about dealing with sin, not just their sins but even for the sins of the fathers.

Their actions are a good trigger for us to ask some serious questions about ourselves.

  • How serious are we in regards to dealing with the remaining sins in our lives?
    Are we too casual about them?
  • Do we feel happy with the fact that God has forgiven our sins for eternity and therefore use that freedom as licence to continue sinning?
  • Are we happy by just confessing our sins once twice and then go back again when everything seems normal?
  • Has sin become a pattern in our lives and it pricks no more, feels no more?
  • What is the state of your heart right now?

Imitating Christ

We all have heroes. We all have people we want to be like. One of the most startling realization I came to as a father is that my sons wants to be like me. They follow me; they watch me; they imitate me. Overtime, I see my strengths reflected in them, and far worse I see my weakness reflected in them. I even see an imitation of my most annoying habits, like repeating the same sentences again & again till I annoy Jane to get my point across.

Meanwhile, I can also think back to my own childhood and remember all the ways I attempted to imitate my own father to please him by just being like him.

In the same way, do you know that when we gave our lives to God that he gave us both the responsibility and the desire to be like Christ – to be more like him than anyone else.

Romans 8:29 says

“For those He for knew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son”

God saved us so we could be confirmed to the likeness of Christ. So we can imitate him and be like him.

We need to be conformed to his image in our thoughts, in our emotions, in our intellect, in our behavior – in Every way.

We should desire to see how he lived and live like him. We should want to see what he valued and value those things.

We should want to see what he hated and hate those things, We should want to see how he responded to life’s events and respond in the same way.

But let’s be honest here. We are long, long away from our goal, we behave badly, we respond badly, we are a sinner. We are marred and marked by sin, and therefore Christlike-ness is far far away from us.

  • How can we pursue such life?
  • How can we become like Christ?

In the Old Testament the people would go into fasting and mourning, separate themselves from ungodly things and ungodly people, put sackcloth, offer sacrifices to God in the form of grain, animals etc.

But today, we been in the new covenant relationship with God, how can we eradicate sin and imitate Christ?

I can’t tell you to offer such and such sacrifice for the kind of sin you have committed. In case one of you comes and tells me that you stole your neighbors cow and is guilty of sinning against him, I can’t give a solution saying go offer 2 chicken on the alter and your guilt will be washed away.

Because as you know that a perfect sacrifice for all our past, present and future sins have already been offered to God. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that HE gave HIS only begotten son (as a sacrifice), that whoever believes in HIM will perish but have eternal life”

Jesus died for our sins and a perfect sacrifice and no other sacrifice will ever please God anymore.

And the truth is that today in this new convenient relationship all I can do is to point you to the perfect sacrifice and encourage you to put your trust in him and his finished work by which he has eradicated all our sins and put it to death.

Therefore my first encouragement to you today to help you pursue holiness and imitate Christ is

1. Stop playing dead when you are alive in Christ

John 11 tells the story of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus. As this passage begins, we see a group of people coming to Jesus to tell him that Lazarus is sick and nearly dead. Jesus makes his way to his friends hometown, but by the time he gets there, Lazarus has already died. Everyone is sad and mourning and quietly accusing Jesus “You know, if only you had gotten here a little bit sooner, you could have saved him. After all, you are the miracle man”. But Jesus wasn’t in a hurry because He already knew how this story would end. He had something he needed to show everyone, and a lesson he needed to teach them.

In Lazarus, we see an amazing picture of what happened to us when we became Christian. When Christ saved us, he brought from death to life – spiritual death to spiritual life. Our heart and soul had been dead to God, lifeless and rooting. And suddenly God brought life, just like he brought life to the body of Lazarus.

Jesus called out to Lazarus and with a word brought life to this dead man wrapped in strips of linen like a mummy and Jesus said, “Take off those grave clothes”. People ran and started peeling them off. They took off the clothes that marked him a dead man. It would be absurd to leave him wearing the clothes of a dead man when he was alive.

You see, living people don’t act like dead people, and dead people don’t act like living people.

It was time for this living man to behave like a living man. It was time for this man to stop acting like a dead man or a woman.

Colossians 3:1-11 (Click the verse to read)

When we sin we are literally behaving like a dead man, trying to get in a dead man’s clothes.

Now, is it possible for us to stop playing dead while we are alive?

Yes, of course!

Romans 6:18 says “We have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”

Before we became a believer sin was our master, we did what our sinful mortal bodies required us to do. But the day we gave our life to Christ we became slaves to righteousness. Sin does not have any hold over us as it did before. We now belong to God and do what the Holy spirit leads us to do.

Moreover in Philippians 4:13 Paul says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens us”.

It wasn’t possible earlier with all our good works and acts of righteousness because we were slaves to sin. But in Christ it is possible.

Lets the visuals from the example of Lazarus remind us that whenever we sin we are trying to wear a dead man’s clothes.

My second encouragement to you is

2. Give yourself 100% towards sanctification

When God saved us, he immediately justified us. We were declared innocent.

Romans 4:5 – “But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness”

But remember God was not finished with us in that moment. There is still the matter of sanctification – of growing holiness.

We read that in Romans 6:22 – “But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification – and the end is eternal life”

How it is that we are Sanctified?

The primary way God sanctifies us is through the truth of his word. In John 17:17 Jesus is praying for his disciples saying “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth”.

It is through the word of God that we are sanctified. When the truth of God enlightens our hearts and minds and our response is heartfelt repentance and turning around from sins that’s when sanctification takes place.

And therefore it is important that we immerse ourselves in the word of God day in and day out.

Some practical things you can do is

i) Pick up a daily bible reading plan that suits you and make it a habit to read your bible daily. I use a bible reading plan called “Read Scripture” by Crazy Love which is available in an app.
ii) Read spiritual books that enlighten you with the word of God. I tell you it is such a blessing.
iii) Encourage one another with the word of God as often as possible instead of just talking about the weather and sports.

We also find another clue in Colossians 3:5-10, it says

“Put to death therefore what is earthy in you”
“Put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge after the image of its creator”

In the knowledge after the image of its creator – The knowledge of God revealed in his word and his works.

In practice the putting off of the old self and putting on of the new self happens when we genuinely repent of our sins as the word of God convicts us.

As we already discussed the 6 ingredients of True repentance which is

I] Sight of Sin
II] Sorrow over sin
III] Confessions of sin
IV] Shame of sin
V] Hatred of sin
VI] Turning away from sin

Let today’s passage from Nehemiah 9:1-5 remind and encourage you to seriously deal with your sins, imitate Christ and live in the light of God’s glory at all times.