Skip HeitzigSkip Heitzig

Skip's Teachings > ...but God > We’ve Failed...but God

Message:

SHORT URL: http://SkipHeitzig.com/4309 Copy to Clipboard
BUY: Buy CD

We’ve Failed...but God - Nehemiah 9

Taught on | Topic: Repentance | Keywords: confession, covenant, fasting, forgiveness, grace, mercy, pardon, pray, remorse, repent, sin, surrender, unconditional

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.

Date Title   WatchListenNotes Share SaveBuy
5/6/2018
completed
resume  
We’ve Failed...but God
Nehemiah 9
Skip Heitzig
Info
Message Summary
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.
Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Outline
Detailed Notes
Study Guide
Transcript
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD

Series Description

Show expand

...but God

...but God

All of us experience times of desperation, but as James Montgomery Boice said, "If you understand those two words, 'But God,' they will save your soul. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely." In this series, Skip Heitzig explores the "but God" moments of David, Jonah, Moses, and other biblical figures, encouraging us to let the Lord turn our personal periods into pivot points.

Buy series | Buy audiobook

Outline

    Open as Word Doc Open as Word Doc    Copy Copy to Clipboard    Print icon    Hide contract


  1. Failure Is Our Problem (vv. 16, 17a, 18, 26, 28, 33)

  2. Forgiveness Is Our Provision (v. 17)

  3. Faithfulness Is Our Promise (vv. 18-21, 30-31)

  4. Following Is Our Priority (vv. 36, 38)

Study Guide

    Open as Word Doc Open as Word Doc    Copy Copy to Clipboard    Print icon    Hide contract

Connect Recap Notes: Sunday, May 6, 2018
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "We've Failed…but God"
Text: Nehemiah 9

Path

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.
  1. Failure Is Our Problem (vv. 16, 17a, 18, 26, 28, 33)
  2. Forgiveness Is Our Provision (v. 17)
  3. Faithfulness Is Our Promise (vv. 18-21, 30-31)
  4. Following Is Our Priority (vv. 36, 38)
Points

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)
  • 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?
Practice

Connect 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.

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.

Detailed Notes

    Open as Word Doc Open as Word Doc    Copy Copy to Clipboard    Print icon    Hide contract

  1. Introduction
    1. Mourning is a sign of maturity
      1. Acknowledging failure demonstrates spiritual progress
      2. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn" (Matthew 5:4); blessed means happy
      3. Confession brings comfort (see Proverbs 28:13)
    2. Nehemiah 9 is a worship service
      1. Very long, filled with confession: a record of fasting, repentance, and prayer followed by a covenant
      2. Several hours reading the Word, several hours confessing (see v. 2)
      3. Longest recorded prayer in the Bible
      4. Illustrates that "godly sorrow produces repentance" (2 Corinthians 7:10)
    3. Failure doesn't need to be the end of your story
      1. You can have a bright future in spite of a dark failure
      2. God meets our failures with His forgiveness and faithfulness
  1. Failure Is Our Problem (vv. 16, 17a, 18, 26, 28, 33)
    1. Ezra prayed historically from creation to captivity, recounting the Israelites' history of rebellion against God
    2. Israelites' problem was sin and failure
    3. Humanity's problem is sin and failure (see Romans 3:23)
      1. Hamartia is the Greek word for sin: to miss the mark
      2. Bible records history of sin, a journal of human failure (see Romans 5:12)
      3. Sin is mentioned 629 times in Scripture; sin is our nature (see Ephesians 2:3)
      4. Without accepting this basic truth, the world makes no sense (see Jeremiah 17:9)
  1. Forgiveness Is Our Provision (v. 17)
    1. "But you are God " is the but God moment
    2. Our failure meets His forgiveness; our penchant for sin meets His pardon for sin
    3. God is so much bigger than our failure
      1. He expected and anticipated our failure (see Deuteronomy 28-29; 1 Kings 8:27-52)
      2. Your sin and failure never surprise God
    4. Jesus' first words on the cross were "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34)
      1. Forgiveness is our greatest need
      2. Even the secular world acknowledges the benefits of confession
    5. To confess does not mean to admit; it means to say the same thing about my sin and failure as God says about it
      1. To confess means to agree with God and implies turning away from sin
      2. God is ready to pardon—are you ready to confess? (see 1 John 1:9)
    6. Grace and mercy: two related but different attributes of God
      1. Grace is getting what you don't deserve; mercy is not getting what you deserve
      2. In grace, God adds the blessing you don't deserve; in mercy, God withholds the judgment you deserve
      3. The cross satisfies God's justice to enable the outpouring of His grace and mercy
  1. Faithfulness Is Our Promise (vv. 18-21, 30-31)
    1. God's love is so different than any other love
    2. God's love is unstoppable, unrelenting, unconditional (see 1 John 3:1)
      1. We keep running, God keeps chasing
      2. Hosea's ministry to his unfaithful wife demonstrated this kind of love
        1. Hosea is like God; Gomer is like Israel
        2. We are like Israel, continually going astray (see Isaiah 53:6)
    3. You might worry you've exhausted God's patience
      1. God's patience does have a limit (see Genesis 6:3)
      2. Your concern shows there's hope
      3. There is no dam that sin can erect that God's grace cannot flow over and flood (see Romans 5:20)
    4. God's nature is love (see John 3:16)
      1. Human love is object-oriented
      2. Divine love is subject-oriented and based on God's character
        1. God loves you because He is God and God is love
        2. His love pursues us, but we can move away from or hide from His love (see Jude 1:21)
  1. Following Is Our Priority (vv. 36, 38)
    1. Our response to our failure met by His forgiveness and His faithfulness is to follow
      1. Romans 12 has a similar format (see Romans 12:1)
      2. The Israelites didn't just feel bad about their past; they committed to follow Him into the future
    2. The covenant indicates repentance
    3. Don't confuse remorse with repentance
      1. Remorse is a feeling and sensation
      2. Repentance is a change and a decision
  1. Closing
    1. Today might be the day you need to finally surrender your life completely to the lordship of Jesus Christ
    2. He knows your failures, but He pursues you anyway
Figures referenced: Malcolm Muggeridge, Leonard Ravenhill

Cross references: Genesis 6:3; Deuteronomy 28-29; 1 Kings 8:27-52; Proverbs 28:13; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Hosea; Matthew 5:4; Luke 23:34; John 3:16; Romans 3:23; 5:12, 20; 12:1; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Ephesians 2:3; 1 John 1:9; 3:1; Jude 1:21

Greek words: hamartia

Transcript

Open as Word Doc Open as Word Doc    Copy Copy to Clipboard    Print icon    Show expand

We’ve Failed...but God - Nehemiah 9 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Father, we pause to talk to you about what you're going to speak to us through the pages of holy scripture. We believe that the book we are considering, the Bible, is not like any other piece of literature. It has to be understood as a record of your faithfulness, in spite of our failure.

And Father, we pray that our hearts would rejoice in the truths that are uncovered that could change your lives. Help us to grasp what your spirit is saying in Jesus' name. Amen.

Mourning is a sign of maturity. There's something about acknowledging failure that demonstrates spiritual progress. Jesus said it this way. Blessed are those who mourn. They will be comforted. When I first read that, it sounded to me like a contradiction almost. It just didn't make sense. Blessed are those who mourn?

Because blessed, I found out, means oh, how happy. So it does sound like a contradiction. Happy are the unhappy. But there is something greatly comforting when you make a confession. In Proverbs 28 Solomon said, "he who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses them and forsakes them will find mercy."

There's something comforting, even cathartic, about admitting need and admitting guilt in order to be cleansed from it. That's what confession essentially is. There's a man who was dying and he brought his wife to the bedside. He said, sweetheart, I'm dying, but I need to confess something to you. I have not been as faithful to you in this marriage as I should have been.

And through her tears she said I know. That's why I poisoned you.

[LAUGHTER]

Kind of serves him right. He should have confessed that years before and he could have seen forgiveness and restoration, but he didn't. Well, Nehemiah Chapter 9 is essentially a worship service. It is very untypical of a worship service. First of all, it's very long. It's probably one that would not be tolerated today. It's very long, you'll see in a moment. And it is filled with confession.

Essentially, it is a record of fasting, repentance, and prayer, followed by a covenant. And that covenant is made in chapter 10. Let's just look at the first few verses to get the setting. Nehemiah chapter 9, verse one says, "now on the 24th day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting and sackcloth with dust on their heads. Verse three-- "and they stood in their place and read from the book of the law, of the Lord their God--" watch this-- "for one fourth of the day."

"And for another fourth they confessed and they worshipped their God." So just try to imagine this-- standing three hours as the word of God is being read, and after the scriptures are read, another third of the day confessing sin and worshipping God. By the way, this is the longest recorded prayer in all of the Bible.

There are many recorded prayers, but of all of them, this is the longest. It may have even been longer, but this is what is recorded. I counted the words-- 1177 words in this prayer. You can thank the Lord that we're only going to look at a few. It's a long prayer.

But this prayer illustrates a truth found in Second Corinthians 7 where Paul said, "godly sorrow produces repentance-- godly sorrow produces repentance." You're going to hear the godly sorrow that fills the voice of the one who utters this prayer that has brought repentance to the nation.

When my wife was at the stage of conversion-- she grew up in an atheistic home-- didn't know anything about God-- was never told about God. And so, when she was coming to faith, she came across a tract that showed that you put God on the throne of your life, and the way she read it, everything sort of falls into place.

So she assumed if I asked God to sit on the throne of my life, I'm going to get what I always wanted. That's about all she knew conversion was. So she prayed this simple prayer, really not knowing what she was doing. About a week or so later, she was in a church service, and the whole time she felt convicted. She felt something wasn't right-- something was desperately wrong.

So at the end of the service, she walked forward to the prayer room of that particular church and said to a pastor, look, I said this thing, and I guess I believe, but I'm very confused. And the pastor who was in the prayer room at the time, a buddy of mine from England, said to her in that great English accent, have you repented of your sins?

And she said, have I what of my what? She had never-- like what-- I never head-- what is repent? I've never even pented, let alone repented. She knew none of that. So he explained what repentance and faith is all about. That mourning over sin, that recognition, that faith is turning from something to someone-- that is the salvation process.

Leonard Ravenhill once said, "the self-sufficient do not pray. The self satisfied will not pray. The self righteous cannot pray." This prayer is the opposite of all of those things. It is filled with remorse, humility, and hope, all at the same time. And we learned something from this prayer that we're going to lightly examine. And the main lesson is that failure doesn't have to be the end of your story.

This prayer shows us that you can have a bright future, in spite of a dark failure, or to put it in the television commercial language, you've fallen, but you can get up. This prayer shows us that. God meets our failures with his forgiveness and his faithfulness.

And so, there are four words that have emerged from this prayer, as I studied them, that I want to share with you, because they take us through the stages of the human condition and the divine solution. And those words are failure, forgiveness, faithfulness, and then following, which is our response. We're going to begin with the first, and that is a recurrent theme in this prayer. And that is simple-- failure is our problem. Failure is our problem.

We don't have time to go through it all. But if you look at verse 15-- oh, and by the way, we don't know who's praying this prayer. The text does not say. But there is one translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint version, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew into Greek. And in that version, it says Ezra said these words. So that's the only clue we may have. So I'm going to take it that Ezra wrote this, or said it, and Nehemiah wrote it down.

So I'm going to have you begin in verse 15-- Ezra speaking, perhaps.

"You gave them God. You gave them, them being his own people, the Jews, you gave them bread from heaven for their hunger. And you brought them water out of the rock for their thirst. And you told them to go in and possess the land which you had sworn to give them."

Something noteworthy-- as Ezra is making this prayer, he is praying historically. He essentially covers just about every period of history up to that point, from creation to captivity. And he's obviously speaking here about the wilderness wanderings for 40 years in the desert.

"So you provided for them during that time--" verse 16-- "but they, and our fathers, acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed your commandments. They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of your wonders that you did among them. But they hardened their necks. And in their rebellion, they appointed a leader to return to their bondage."

Verse 26 takes them to another period of their history. "Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. Cast your law behind their backs, and killed your prophets who testified against them, and turned them to yourself-- to turn them to yourself. And they worked great provocations."

Look at the 28 verse. This is after they're now in the land of Canaan. "But after they had rest, they again did evil before you. Therefore, you left them in the hand of their enemies so that they had dominion over them. Yet, when they returned and cried out to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies."

Over and over again, and there are many more verses that point this out, the theme is the same. Ezra in his prayer is saying there's one thing we've been really good at God and that is sinning. We are really good sinners. Over and over and over again we keep blowing it.

Well, what he mentions here, happens to be the problem of all generations of all human beings. The human landscape is littered, scarred by, marked by failure. Summed up in one little verse in Romans 3, verse 23-- "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

All have sinned. Not some, not a few-- all have sinned. That is our problem. Our problem is failure, or as the Bible calls it sin. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

Some of you even know that in the New Testament that word sin is the Greek word hamartia, which means to miss a mark or a standard. It was a term, among other things, used in archery for missing the target. So, think of it this way, you've got 20 arrows. I've got 20 arrows. You fire off those arrows, and 19 of them-- you're such a good shot-- 19 go right in the bull's eye.

But the 2oth arrow-- and I'm looking at somebody who's a hunter with arrows-- the 20th one goes into the bushes. Guess what? You're a sinner. You missed the mark. You missed the mark. I have 20 arrows. I fire 19 of them in all directions because I can't aim very well, but I happened to hit the last one, the 20th arrow, right in the bull's eye. I too have missed the mark. I too am a sinner. I'm a better sinner than you are, because I missed the mark more times than you have. But all have sinned-- missed the mark, missed the standard, fallen short of the glory of God.

That's the history of humanity. The history of humanity is the history of sin. The Bible records sin entering and then spreading out in all directions. In fact, though your Bible, if you have a real Bible, probably says Holy Bible on it. It could just as easily say the history of sin. Sin that begins in Genesis and then culminates in Revelation. The Bible is essentially a journal of human failure.

Paul-- he's good at something these great themes up-- in Romans 5 said, "by one man sin entered the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all have sinned." In other words, sin entered through Adam, and it's been hanging around ever since. Adam is like the kid who can't help himself when he goes up to a pristine lake in the mountains, showing that perfect reflection of the mountains on the other side. He can't help himself. I did this once.

He took the rock and he throws it on there to skip the stone and the image is marred on the surface of the mirrored lake. Adam was the kid in history who threw the first rock. And ever since that moment, the image of God became distorted in every single human being. If you try to avoid the concept of sin-- if you really want to avoid that concept, you must never read your Bible.

I know people don't like the word. They try to marginalize the idea of sin. It is not popular in too many circles. But you cannot read the Bible without coming across the word. In fact, the word sin, in all of its forms, sin, sinners, sinning, sins, shows up no less than 629 times in the pages of scripture. Because the Bible knows the reality that is our history. We have a nature of sin.

Paul put it in Ephesians 3, "we were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." or we all have a sinful nature. You may have heard of the tale of the scorpion and the turtle. Scorpions can't swim, but one very clever scorpion was wanting to get across a pond so he found a very unsuspecting turtle, and he said, Mr. Turtle, would you give me a ride across the pond? The turtle said, you've got to be kidding, right? You're a scorpion. You're going to be on my back, and I'm going to make it part way across, and you're going to sting me, and I'm going to drown. I'll die.

And the Scorpion said well, there's not much logic in that. If I were to sting you and kill you and you drown, I'm on your back-- I'm going down with you. And the turtle said, well, you've got a point there. Hop on. So that turtle started venturing across the pond, about halfway across, that scorpion reared that tail and zapped the turtle right in the neck.

As a turtle started losing muscular control and felt the poison going through its body and started sinking down into the pond, drowning, he reared its head back and said, do you mind if I ask you a question? The scorpion said, go ahead. He said, didn't you just say that there's no logic in stinging me. So why did you do it? And the Scorpion said, it has nothing to do with logic, dear turtle, it's just my nature.

This is the nature of humanity. We were by nature the children of wrath, or the objects of God's wrath, even as others. We were born with an evil nature. It's important to grasp that. I know it's a basic truth. If we don't grasp that, the world doesn't make sense to us.

Once we grasp that, the world makes more sense. I mean, why is it that after thousands of years, we still have so many of the same problems plaguing the human race? How come with all of our advancements in technology and education, we haven't been able to solve basic problems on earth? Who do we blame for that? Do we blame the liberal media or the Democratic Party or the Republican Party or--

We all like to do that, but the real problem is all of us are to blame. We've been infected with the sin nature. Jeremiah said, "the heart is deceitful, above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it." so our problem is failure. This prayer brings that grand truth to the surface.

There's a second lesson, and that is, that may be true, failure is our problem, but forgiveness is our provision. God has a solution for that. Look at verse 17. Ezra praying again, "says of his people and their failure they refuse to obey. They were not mindful of your wonders that you did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return back to their bondage. But you are God."

There's the pivot. There is the but God moment, but because it's in the first person, "but you are God," ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them. Now, our failure meets God's forgiveness. And that's where the solution is. Our failure meets God's forgiveness.

Our penchant for sin meets his pardon for sin. But you are God. We are failures, but you are God. We have sinned, but you are God. We've blown it over and over and over again in all of our history, but you are God. And as God, he is so much bigger than your failure.

In fact, get this, he anticipated your failure. You know, God has never once stood in heaven with his hand over his mouth when he sees people on earth do something, go-- [GASP] I can't believe what I just saw. Don't you know that he expected and anticipated that his own people would fail the times that they did. Here's how I know that.

Years before this, when Moses gave the law from Mount Sinai, he gave a list of blessings and cursings. There's two chapters, Deuteronomy 28 and 29, filled with things like, "if you obey me, says the Lord, here's all the blessings that are going to follow. But if you disobey me, here's all the cursing that are going to follow."

And the cursings, by the way, are a chapter and a half of those two chapters. There's more bad things that are going to happen if you blow it and disobey him, than the good things. That's what it looks like. So blessings and cursings-- at the end of that little section on the cursings, God says this. "When all these things come upon you--" when what things? All the curses-- not if, when. So he says, if you obey me, this will happen. If you disobey me, that'll happen. And when all these things come upon you, and you return, I will bring you back.

So God knew from the beginning what they were going to do. Not only that, but fast forward some years, when Solomon builds a temple in Jerusalem. And he also has a public prayer with the people gathered around First Kings, chapter 8. Now listen to what he says. "And when they sin against you, for there is no one who does not sin, and you become angry with them, and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive into his own land, far away or near, then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause, and forgive your people who have sinned against you."

See, God knew, even Solomon knew, and in his prayer reflects that knowledge. When they blow it. Now they've blown it. And now they're back from the captivity that was predicted. And Ezra is standing there in this prayer. All of that to say this, your sin and your failure never surprises God. He's ready for it.

He's ready for it in this verse. "But you are God--" now look at the description-- "ready to pardon or forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger--" we covered that last week in another passage-- "abundant in kindness, and it did not forsake them."

The very first words uttered by Jesus when he was put on the cross, were Father forgive them. They don't know what they're doing. Of all the things he could have said, why those words? Because forgiveness is our greatest need. Father forgive them. You could take the word them, in fact, you should, and substitute your name. Father forgive Skip. Father forgive Jerry, or Sue, or whatever your name-- put your name there. Personalize it. Father forgive them.

So Ezra is making confession. It's been said by so many people-- you've heard this saying, confession is good for the soul. Right? Do you know that every psychiatrist or psychologist, worth his or her salt, will say the same thing. Even a secular world acknowledges that when we do something wrong, and we feel bad about a thought or a word or an action, when we make confession that the burden is lifted. And especially, when you make the confession to God, because he can do something about it in cleansing us.

First John chapter 1, John says, "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. And the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Something about confession-- confess means more than admit. It's more than, OK, I did something wrong. I admit it.

The word confess means to say the same thing about sin. The idea is, I'm saying the same thing about my failure as God says about my failure. That's confession. Sometimes, people say, well, Lord, if I have sinned, I'm sorry. If? Because if you're not sure, why are you talking to God about it in the first place?

To confess means more than temporarily feeling bad. It implies, I say the same thing about it, which includes my turning from it. Remember, repentance is turning from something and turning to someone. So God is ready to pardon your sin. He's ready to part. The question is, are you ready to confess your sin?

Look at the next two words that describe him. Not only are you ready to pardon, but gracious and merciful. I want to touch on those two attributes. These are two attributes of God, grace and mercy, that sound similar. They sound like they're related, and they are, but they're very different from one another.

Grace is getting what you don't deserve. But mercy is not getting what you do deserve. So in mercy, God withholds the judgment you do deserve. In grace, God adds the blessing you don't deserve. Now, I have a question for you. Last week, we talked about God's justice and his judgment. God is just, therefore he must judge.

Here's the question. How can God be just, while at the same time being gracious and merciful? The answer-- the cross. The cross. A perfect sinless human being, who is also God, taking all of the punishment for guilt, of a guilty party, on himself so that justice is satisfied, so that grace and mercy can be extended.

So let's say, you drive down the street, and just for sake of illustration, you're doing 30 miles over the speed limit. I'm not going to ask you if you've ever done it, because I know you have. OK-- maybe not that much-- maybe more. You get pulled over. The police officer has it right there on the little speed gun. This is how fast you were going.

Now, what would the just thing be? What would justice be? You get a ticket, you pay for it. That's justice. Mercy would be the officer saying, you know, you were doing 30 miles over the speed limit. I got you. You're here, on the gun. You're nailed. But consider this a warning. I'm not going to give you a ticket, but slow down. Now that's mercy. He's not giving you what you deserve. You deserve the ticket. He's going to withhold that.

Grace, would be-- and you really have to stretch your imagination-- the officer pulling out his wallet, giving you $20 bucks to go get a nice meal. Ain't never going to happen on this earth. Now, let's say, the police officer says, you were going 30 miles over the speed limit. He writes the ticket. Hands it to you. Before you even get your hand on the ticket, he takes it back, and he goes, I'm going to pay the fine for you.

Now, that's justice. Justice is meted out. A crime has been committed. A citation has been made. He takes that punishment, withholds judgment from you, and gives you $20 bucks. Now there's justice, and mercy, and grace. And that's what Jesus did. He took the ticket. All of our tickets on himself, so that justice was done, and he can extend you grace, and mercy. You're ready to pardon. You are gracious. You are merciful.

Let me take you to a third word and that is faithfulness. From failure to forgiveness to faithfulness. Faithfulness is our promise. And here's what's amazing about this prayer. Ezra figures this out. That God's love is so different than anything we could ever know, in that, even though we blow it over and over and over again, he keeps-- God keeps pursuing us, keeps following us, keeps forgiving us.

So look at verse 18. "Even when they made a molded calf for themselves-- that's idolatry, the height of it-- and said this is your God that brought you up out of Egypt, and were great provocations. Yet, in your manifold mercies, you did not forsake them in the wilderness.

The pillar of cloud did not depart from them by day to lead them on the road, nor the pillar of fire by night to show them light and the way they should go. You also gave your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. 40 years you sustained them in the wilderness. They lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out. Their feet did not swell."

Verse 30-- "Yet for many years, you had patients with them, and testified against them by your spirit in your prophets. Yet, they would not listen. Therefore, you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in your great mercy, you did not utterly consume them nor forsake them, for you are God, gracious and merciful.

Here's the truth of that. God's love is unstoppable. God's love is unrelenting, unending, unconditional. It keeps going. It keeps pursuing. Even when they ran from you, Ezra would say, even when they rebelled against you, even when they repeatedly replaced you with idols, even when they settled in the land of Canaan, and kept rejecting you, you sent them into captivity, but you listened, and you brought them back.

I was reading this and a verse in the New Testament popped into my mind. It's from First John, chapter 3, where the apostle says, "behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us." That's a way of saying, what kind of love is this? What kind of foreign love is this? Who loves like that? Only God. Only God.

Now there's somebody in the Bible who actually is an example of this kind of a love. His name is Hosea. He's a prophet in the Old Testament. A lot of people don't know a lot about him. But Hosea had a ministry that I don't think any of us would like. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute. He says, as you marry this girl and you settle down in your home with her, you're going to love her, and at first she's going to love you. But she's going to get restless, and she's going to leave the marriage, and sleep around town with a whole bunch of other guys.

And what you are to do, is while she walks out on that marriage, is you are to pursue her, and give gifts to her through her lovers so she is provided for in her harlotry. And then after she is gone all around town, you bring her back and restore her to the marriage, and reconcile the relationship. Who would want that ministry? It was to be a pageant. It was to be a play.

Hosea, God would say, you're playing the part of God. Your wife, the prostitute, she's playing the part of the nation of Israel, because this nation keeps walking out on me, walking out on me, walking out on me. But I keep pursuing them to restore them.

By the way, I have a couple friends in real life that I know who were very similar to that story of Hosea. She was a gal that I knew years ago-- worked with her. Her husband and her were married for a period of years and he left the marriage, he walked out, hooked up with another gal, had an affair with her, moved in with her. And for months, this gal, Kathy, this Christian gal, was saying, I believe God's going to restore our marriage. I believe God's going to restore our marriage.

Well, months turned into more months-- turned into a year or two. And I remember her faith. And I remember just saying, you know, you may want to give up on this idea that, that's ever going to happen-- doesn't look like it's going to happen. He's long gone. Ah, but God-- God is going to do something. God's going to do something. She had more faith than I had.

She got a call one day from him. He said, I'd like to come back if you'll take me. I'm so sorry for what I did. I want to restore our relationship. She said, I've been waiting for this call. I am so ready to reconcile. And I will forgive you. He said, well, there is a complication. This girl is pregnant. She doesn't want the child. He said-- she said, you tell her to have that baby. I will raise that child as if that baby were mine.

I had the privilege of doing a second marriage ceremony for them as they reconciled their relationship and raised that child in the fear of God. That was a pageant. That was a picture to me, like Hosea, of the pursuing love of God, the unrelenting love of God.

Malcolm Muggeridge used to refer to God as the hound of heaven. I've always liked that term. The hound of heaven is after you, chasing you, loving you. Sometimes, I hear people say I'm searching for God. News flash-- he's not lost. You are. The truth of the matter is he has been searching for you. "All we like sheep, Isaiah said, have gone astray."

Maybe you've been running from God. Maybe you find yourself doing the same thing, the same bad behavior over and over again, and maybe you even feel like you've reached the end of God's patience. Like a message we talked about last week where God said, my spirit will not strive forever with mankind. I will be patient only up to a limit, then I will judge. And maybe you feel you've reached that limit.

Hey, just the fact that you may even be concerned about that, shows there is hope. If you had no concern whatsoever, that's where the problem lies. The fact that you may be worried that you've reached that point, shows that there's hope. Here's what I want you to know.

Romans chapter 5, Paul said, "where sin abound, grace abounds much more." or you could say, "where sin reached the high water mark, grace completely flooded over." There is no damn that sin can erect that God's grace cannot flow over and flood.

Trouble is, we don't know this kind of faithfulness. It's foreign to us. Behold what manner of love-- who loves like that? It's certainly not like human love. Human love is object oriented. We love an object based on the object. We see a cute girl and we go, oh, I like that girl. We see a cute guy, and think, I like that guy. And then, you get to know them-- I really like-- I love that person. You're loving the object. You see a car. I like that car. It's object oriented.

God's love is vastly different. It is subject oriented. It is not based on the worth or value or beauty of the object, it is based on the character of the subject. God loves you not because you're irresistible. God can't live without you because you're just so awesome. God loves you because he's God. And God is love. And God's love therefore, is a pursuing, unrelenting, unstoppable love.

God's love is like the sun. You can't stop the sun from shining, but you can get out of the sunshine. You could put up an umbrella of sin that stops you from enjoying the feeling of that sunlight. In the New Testament, Jude said, "keep yourselves in the love of God." Most misunderstand that verse, as if it says, keep yourself in a place where God can love you. It doesn't say that. It doesn't mean that.

Keep yourselves in the love of God means stay in the sunshine of God's love, enjoying his love, because he loves you no matter what. But keep yourself in a place where you're feeling the effects of that. So our failure is met by God's forgiveness and God's faithfulness which demands a response from us.

And the fourth word is following. That's the response from us. Following is our priority. In verse 32, just quickly look down and notice, he uses the word now, therefore. Now, therefore, I prayed all this. I acknowledged all this. Now therefore-- and let me take you to verse 36, where he says, here we are servants today.

"And the land that you gave to our fathers to eat its fruit in its bounty, here we are servants in it, 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 cattle at their pleasure. And we are in great distress. And because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it, our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it."

Then, the next chapter, which we will not look at, is all the details of the covenant that they make and sign before God. So this section is like the Romans 12 of Ezra's prayer. Remember Romans 12? It's basically the same format as what we've just read. Paul has told him in all these chapters about God's mercies and grace and the human condition and divine solution, then he says this.

"I beseech you, therefore, by the mercies of God, that you present yourselves, your bodies, as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." This is the Romans 12 of Ezra's prayer. He is saying our failure was met by your forgiveness, and your faithfulness, and our response is to follow you. We are making a covenant with you to follow you.

So it's not like, well, we just feel bad about our past, but we're going to follow you into our future-- into the future. That's repentance. A lot of people mistake, and confuse remorse and repentance. They are two very different things. One is a feeling. One is change. One is a sensation. The other is a decision.

I heard about a man who wrote the IRS a very interesting letter. He said I haven't been able to get good sleep since 1970, he said, in this letter. This is a few years back. I haven't been able to get a good night's sleep since 1970, he said. I haven't paid all my income taxes. So in the letter he included five crisp $100 bills, in the letter. He's paying the IRS back. And then he said, and if I still can't sleep, I will send the rest.

[LAUGHTER]

I owe you money. I'm going to pay enough to get a good night's sleep. If that didn't work, I'm going to pay up. I'm going to pay everything I owe you. I'll pay the rest. Today is the day some of you need to pay the rest-- the day you need to step up and finally surrender your life in totality, completely, to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

It's the therefore. Here we are, Lord. Here we stand. We give you our life. Let's pray for that.

Father, you know what we're made of. You know our failures. How grateful we are for your forgiveness, your pardon. You are ready to pardon. You are gracious and merciful. And you have pursued us, and here we are today in your presence. I pray that some would make the all important choice of a decision, not just to come to church, but to come to Christ personally.

And with our heads bowed, as we're closing the service, I want to give you an opportunity to make a commitment, a choice, a decision to follow Christ. If you've come here this morning, and you've never given your life to Jesus yet, personally-- you may have gone to a church your whole life, but you've not personalized salvation to you, you've not said yes to Him-- I want to give you that opportunity.

Some of you maybe wandered away from Him, and you need to come back home. But if you want to know that your sins are forgiven, that your names are written in the Lamb's book of life, that when you die, you're going to go to heaven-- you want that assurance-- I what you to simply raise your hand, just so I can see it.

I love to pray for you, but I want to know who I'm praying for. God bless you, to my left, and again to my left. Anybody else? Just raise that hand. In the back, to my left-- I see your hand. Who else? Make the acknowledgment. To my right-- yes. And again, right in the middle, to my right. In the balcony-- god bless you-- all of you guys. Anyone else? If you're outside, raise your hand. somebody is there to acknowledge you. They'll shout it out.

Father, we pray for these-- I specifically pray for those, not hands, but the people who are behind those hands, because behind those hands is a heart, a story, a life that you love. You've been a long time pursuing them. Thank you, Lord. They're here. Thank you. They're responding. Strengthen them. In Jesus' name. Amen. That's all stand, please, to our feet.

We're going to quickly close with this last song. And if you raised your hand, I'm going to ask you to do one final thing. It won't take but a moment. Get up from where you're standing, find the nearest aisle, come stand in front of this platform where I'm going to lead you in a prayer to receive Christ the savior and his Lord.

This is the time you make your covenant relationship with God solid. You say yes to that new covenant, in the blood of Christ. Get up and come. If you raised your hand, we'll wait for you. Here in the balcony, quickly come down those stairs. Here in the family room, come through the door, and just stand right up here in the front. Come now. Come quickly.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

(SINGING) All who are broken Lift up your face. Wandering come home You're not too far

Take just a moment.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Lay down your pain. Lay down your heart you're as you are.

I'm going to lead you to prayer. OK? I'm going to ask you to save these words, out loud, after me, say them from your heart, mean them, cause you're giving your life to Jesus. Let's do business with him. Say Lord, I give you my life.

I admit I'm a sinner.

I admit I'm a sinner.

Please forgive me.

Please forgive me.

I believe in Jesus.

I believe in Jesus.

That he died on a cross for me.

That he died on a cross for me.

That he rose from the dead.

That he rose from the dead.

That he's alive right now.

That he's alive right now.

I turn from my sin.

I turn from my sin.

I turn to Jesus as my Savior.

I turn to Jesus as my Savior.

Help me to follow him as my Lord.

Help me to follow him as my Lord.

In his name I pray.

In his name I pray.

Amen. Amen.

Amen. Amen.

[APPLAUSE]

We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at myStory@aCalvarynm.Church.

And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at Calvarynm.Church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary church.

Additional Messages in this Series

Show expand

 
Date Title   Watch Listen Notes Share Save Buy
4/1/2018
completed
resume  
Jesus Died...but God
Skip Heitzig
  Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Study GuideTranscript Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD
4/15/2018
completed
resume  
Haters Hate…but God
1 Samuel 23:14-18
Skip Heitzig
Info
Message Summary
I want to help you today to view the circumstances of your life correctly; I’d like to clear up your spiritual vision. This week and next, we will examine the lives of two well-known characters in Scripture who were attacked by people close to them, but God changed the outcome. Their evil hatred couldn’t stop the great plans that a good God had set in motion. Today, a five-verse pericope gives rich principles that clear up our vision.
Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Outline
Detailed Notes
Study GuideTranscript
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD
4/22/2018
completed
resume  
Evil Happens…but God
Genesis 50:15-21
Skip Heitzig
Info
Message Summary
The story of Joseph is one of the Bible’s most compelling tales. And the most gripping feature is the difference between Joseph’s outlook and that of his eleven brothers. After all the intrigue, the ups and downs of Joseph’s life and career, and the years of deception and selfishness by Joseph’s brothers, the finale comes after their father, Jacob, dies. This is one of the Bible’s best but God moments,as forgiveness eclipses failure. Let’s consider Joseph’s brothers as they approach him one last time.
Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Outline
Detailed Notes
Study GuideTranscript
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD
4/29/2018
completed
resume  
Judgment Is Coming…but God
Genesis 6-8
Skip Heitzig
Info
Message Summary
The two worst days of the human race are days of destruction. A near total annihilation happened in the distant past and will happen again in the future. Both are directly the result of God’s judgment. Just as certain as the sun will shine tomorrow, judgment is coming eventually—but God has a better alternative. As we examine His past judgment on the earth, we will be able to better understand His future judgment and how we can find purpose in His plans for His world.
Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Outline
Detailed Notes
Study GuideTranscript
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD
5/27/2018
completed
resume  
You Can Run…but God
Jonah 1-2
Skip Heitzig
Info
Message Summary
I’ll bet you played hide-and-seek as a kid (or as a parent with your kids). After a while, you get really creative in finding places to hide. But can you imagine actually trying to hide from God? This is the story of a prophet of God who found out that you can run but you can’t hide. As Jonah runs from the call of God, God pursues him. In this scene we discover three principles every one of us should remember.
Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Outline
Detailed Notes
Study GuideTranscript
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD
6/3/2018
completed
resume  
Families Are Dysfunctional...but God
Genesis 31
Skip Heitzig
Info
Message Summary
One of the most used (if not overused) terms of our culture is the term dysfunctional. It has become the chic descriptor of flawed and broken people and especially families. Too often this expression is used as an excuse to justify bad behaviors in other people. But this story of Jacob and Laban yields much insight into human behavior as well as divine intervention. Here we discover three levels of relational interaction and family dynamics.
Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Outline
Detailed Notes
Study GuideTranscript
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD
6/24/2018
completed
resume  
Death Is Certain...but God
Psalm 49
Skip Heitzig
Info
Message Summary
We have all heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quip, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Given death’s sure nature, why is it that most people try to avoid talking about it? And why do most people place all their energy and stock in this life alone? Death is the enemy of us all (see 1 Corinthians 15:26), and it is the assured fate of us all. But God changes this enemy into a friend and provides confidence to face it.
Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Outline
Study GuideTranscript
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD
7/8/2018
completed
resume  
The Future Looks Uncertain...but God
Daniel 2
Skip Heitzig
Info
Message Summary
Prognosticators and forecasters abound all around us, from weather reporters to psychics. Even the National Geographic Channel hosts programs about aliens who are trying to tell us poor earthlings a thing or two about the future. And everyone seems amazed that someone as distant as Nostradamus could’ve predicted life in our modern culture—or did he? The future is shrouded in mystery for us all but God specializes in knowing and predicting the future. To what end? What is the purpose of God showing us today what will happen tomorrow?
Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Outline
Study GuideTranscript
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD
7/15/2018
completed
resume  
You Were Dead…but God
Ephesians 2:1-10
Skip Heitzig
Info
Message Summary
This is the tenth and final study in our series ...but God, and today we get most personal. Rather than considering Joseph, David, Nehemiah, Isaac, or Daniel, we focus on our own story. Four simple phrases describe for us the spiritual journey all believers take through this life on our way to heaven. If you are a believer, all four of these things should happen. Unfortunately, too many stop with the first two and never successfully engage the last two. Let’s look at each one and evaluate how our lives can be lived to the full potential.
Message Trailer
Watch
Watch and take notes
Listen - Mini Player
Listen and Take Notes
Listen in Spanish
Outline
Study GuideTranscript
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Video (MP4)
Audio (MP3)
Spanish (MP3)
Buy CD
There are 9 additional messages in this series.