Connect Recap Notes: Sunday, May 6, 2018
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "We've Failed…but God
Text: Nehemiah 9Path
Most all of us know that we are not what we should be or could be. Sin has scarred our lives. We are aware of personal failures. The really good news is that we may fail but God
forgives. The whole reason for the atoning death of Christ was to provide clemency for transgressions and mercy for our offenses. Nehemiah knew the history of his people, and after gathering them back in the land after the captivity, he prays on their behalf. We learn four vital lessons in this prayer about the human condition and the divine solution.
- Failure Is Our Problem (vv. 16, 17a, 18, 26, 28, 33)
- Forgiveness Is Our Provision (v. 17)
- Faithfulness Is Our Promise (vv. 18-21, 30-31)
- Following Is Our Priority (vv. 36, 38)
Failure Is Our Problem (vv. 16, 17a, 18, 26, 28, 33)
- Mourning is a sign of maturity. Acknowledging failure demonstrates spiritual development. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). Blessed means happy.
- Nehemiah 9 is the longest recorded prayer in Scripture. Ezra's prayer acknowledged failure with cries of confession. It is a record of fasting, repentance, and prayer followed by a covenant.
- Godly sorrow produces repentance (see 2 Corinthians 7:10). Failure doesn't need to be the end of the story; you can have a bright future despite dark failure.
- Ezra prayed historically from creation through captivity, showing that the human landscape is marked by failure (see Romans 3:23).
- The story of humanity is the story of sin (see Romans 5:12-21). Sin is in our very nature (see Ephesians 2:1-3). We sin both by nature and by choice.
- Probe: Share a time when you failed. How did you respond to your failure? Did you conceal it or confess it?
Forgiveness Is Our Provision (v. 17)
- "But you are God…" is where failure meets forgiveness. Our penchant for sin meets His pardon for sin.
- God is much bigger than our failures. He anticipated them (see Deuteronomy 28-29; 1 Kings 8:27-52).
- As Savior, Jesus is ready to pardon our sin. His first words on the cross were, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34).
- Ezra's prayer was one of confession. To confess is more than to admit something; confession is saying the same thing God says about sin. That leads to repentance.
- Read 1 John 1:8-9. God is ready to pardon your sin. Are you ready to confess it?
- Notice the words gracious and merciful. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. In mercy, God withholds the judgment you deserve. Grace is getting what you don't deserve. In grace, God adds the blessing you don't deserve.
- Probe: Forgiveness is essential to the Christian life. We receive it from the Lord and we are to give it to others. Read Matthew 18:22. Jesus said we are to forgive abundantly. What does seventy-seven times mean? Why is forgiving difficult for some Christians?
Faithfulness Is Our Promise (vv. 18-21, 30-31)
- God's grace pursues us. God's love is unstoppable, unconditional, unrelenting, and unending.
- When Israel ran from God leading them into captivity, God listened when they cried. When Israel departed from God, God pursued them (see Hosea, a pageant of God's love in the face of Israel's persistent unfaithfulness).
- We all sin but God still loves us. "Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more" (Romans 5:20). When sin reaches a high-water mark, grace floods. Sin cannot erect a dam so high that grace cannot overflow.
- Human love is object-oriented. Divine love is subject-oriented and based on God's character.
- Probe: Unconditional means not subject to any conditions, wholehearted, complete, and unrestricted. How are God's love and forgiveness unconditional toward His people? Share a personal story about God's unconditional love and mercy.
Following Is Our Priority (vv. 32, 36-38)
PracticeConnect Up: "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy" (Psalm 103:8). How does this summarize God's actions toward people? Share a time He has been merciful and gracious to you.
- Notice "Now therefore…" (v. 32). Ezra's prayer mimics Romans 12. Both describe the human condition, acknowledge God's provision, then present a decision to be made.
- Our failure is met by God's forgiveness and faithfulness. Our response is to follow Him.
- Israel didn't just feel badly about their past, they followed God into their future. Do not confuse remorse with repentance. Remorse is a feeling and sensation, but repentance is a change and decision.
- Probe: The Greek word for repent is metanoeo. Strong's Concordance defines it as "the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life."1 Forgiveness is essential but so is repentance. Why is repentance often the first step toward forgiveness?
Connect In: Christians should be people of forgiveness. On what basis do we forgive? "Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). How is our forgiveness based in His forgiveness?
Connect Out: A prominent oncologist noted the refusal to forgive makes people sick."2 What other benefits does forgiveness offer that you might share with someone struggling with an unforgiving heart? Consider these factors noted by the Mayo Clinic:
- Healthier relationships
- Improved mental health
- Less anxiety, stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Improved self-esteem3
1Bible Hub, "Metanoia," 2016, biblehub.com/str/greek/3134.htm, accessed 5/7/18.
2Lorie Johnson, "The Deadly Consequences of Unforgiveness," June, 22, 2015, www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2015/june/the-deadly-consequences-of-unforgiveness, accessed 5/6/18.
3Mayo Clinic Staff, "Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness," November 4, 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692, accessed 5/6/18.