Today's episode of A New Beginning is brought to you by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God.
Learn more at harvest.org. And while you're there, browse our library of free e-books designed to help you grow in your faith. Take care of your character and God will take care of your reputation. The great basketball coach John Wooden said be more concerned with your character than your reputation.
Because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie shows us how to forge a good, strong character, a moral fortitude based on our relationship with God. We'll follow in the footsteps of one of our spiritual forefathers who faced great opposition, but he had the character to stand strong. Well we're looking at the book of Nehemiah in this series that we're calling the rebuilt life. And we're looking at how the people of Israel returned from their captivity in Babylon and built up the walls of Jerusalem that were lying in charred rubble. Here in chapter 6 the task is finally finished and it's been done in 52 days. How did he do it?
Simple answer. He kept his eye on the ball. He kept his eye on the ball. In the first five chapters of Nehemiah we find opposition directed toward the people. But now in chapter 6 it is getting personal. The opposition is directed specifically toward Nehemiah himself. Let's look at our text now.
It is Nehemiah 6. We are going to read two verses. And that brings me to my first point before we read.
Point number one. If you are taking notes don't get sidetracked. Stay focused. Again don't get sidetracked.
Stay focused. Nehemiah 6 verse 1. Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of the enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and no gaps remained though we had not yet set up the doors and the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono.
But I realized they were plotting to harm me. We'll stop there. So the job is almost done but not quite. The doors have not yet been hung. Man if you don't have the doors hung I don't care about how beautiful your walls are. The person can walk right in.
Right. Get those doors hung. Don't stop now. Well you have sort of a door in your life. And if you leave that door open bad things can come in.
You need to start by guarding your mind. You are the air traffic controller of your mind. You decide what plane is going to land. Right. You decide what thought is going to take residence in your mind. Because all kinds of thoughts come to us all of the time. Often they are horrible thoughts. Bad thoughts. Good thoughts. Wonderful thoughts. So you decide this is coming in.
That isn't coming in. That is why we are told over in 2 Corinthians 10, take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Because here is the thing.
If you give the devil an inch he will take a mile. So you have to guard these things. Keep that gate shut. So these enemies of Nehemiah say they just wanted to meet with him in the valley of Ono. Come down to the valley of Ono. Listen. You need to say no to Ono.
Otherwise you are going to be saying oh no. You know the devil is not stupid. He is wicked. He is depraved. He is evil.
But he ain't dumb. Ok. And he knows if he comes to you with this game plan up front most people would never go for it. He is not going to come up to some guy or girl and say why don't you become a drug addict.
It is so cool. Why don't you become an alcoholic and ruin your life completely. Maybe you can lose your career. Again lose your family. Come on.
No. He won't do that. He will say oh come on. Chill a little bit.
You are so rigid. I will go have a drink. I know you have had problems with alcohol in the past but you can handle it. Go for it.
Come down to the plain of Ono. Come on man. You know go ahead and try this drug this one time. It is medicinal marijuana. And you have been kind of depressed lately so go ahead and try it. It is inedible.
It is all right. You see. And well maybe I will just try it one time. Try this. Well you know I am not getting as much of a buzz off that as I used to.
I will try this other thing. And one thing leads to another. Little Peep the 21-year-old rapper was found dead in his tour bus before a scheduled concert. On the day of his death Peep posted on social media an eerie photo from a recent concert with a caption when I die you will love me. And just hours before his death he had an image he posted on Instagram with pills or tabs on his tongue.
You can't really tell. And when his tour manager found out that he had died of probably a drug overdose he said I have been expecting this call for a year. And he just joins a growing number of people who at the top of their game just became addicts or alcoholics and left us. Actors and actresses and rock stars. The list goes on. Prince. Whitney Houston. Heath Ledger.
Philip Seymour Hoffman died with a needle in his arm of an overdose. Amy Winehouse. Chris Farley. River Phoenix.
Go back a few years. Janice Joplin. Jimi Hendrix.
Jim Morrison. The list goes on. Ironically these people were at the top of their game.
And then this happened to them. So this is the devil's strategy. Come on. Just take a taste. Just take a look.
Give it a go. Come down to the plane of Bono and let's talk together. Listen. Don't have any conversations with the devil. Don't have any communication with Satan.
The Bible says resist the devil and he will flee from you. Nehemiah says I am not coming down. I am not coming down from this wall. I am not going to hang out with you guys. I am not going to talk with you guys. I am busy.
Ok. So Sambalat and the gang set a trap for Nehemiah. Look at verse 2. They sent a message.
Just meet us. But he realized they are plotting to harm me. Listen it is not always sinful things that break our focus. Sometimes it is choosing the urgent over the important. Choosing the good over what is best. Choosing the short term over the long term.
So be careful. Hey everybody. What are you doing this weekend? I would like to hang out with you at Harvest at Home. What is Harvest at Home? It is a time of worship and Bible study exclusively designed for people that are viewing in from all over the place so you can be a part of our extended congregation at Harvest at Home.
Join us this weekend Saturday and Sunday for Harvest at Home at Harvest.org. Well Pastor Greg is presenting a message from Nehemiah 6 today called Don't Give Up. His first point, don't get sidetracked. Stay focused. Let's continue. Point number two. Satan hits hardest at the beginning and the end.
Let me say that again. Satan hits us hardest at the beginning and the end. So there was great opposition when they started to build the wall. And now there is great opposition when the wall is finished and they are getting ready to hang the doors. This happened to Jesus.
He faced heavy opposition in the beginning and at the end of His ministry. Remember in the beginning after He is baptized by His cousin John and the Holy Spirit comes upon Him and the Father says from heaven, this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. We read, immediately He went into the desert to be tested and tempted by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights.
Immediately. And actually one of those temptations from Satan was a way for Jesus to skip the cross. Satan showed Christ all the kingdoms of the world and he said, guess what? All this belongs to me. And I can give it to whomever I will. And I will give it to you right now. You can have it Jesus if you will worship me.
You say, well why would that have been even tempting? Because Jesus came to buy back that which was lost in the Garden of Eden. After our first parents ate of the forbidden fruit Satan became the god of this world according to Scripture.
The prince of the power of the air. The spirit that now works and the sons of disobedience. The devil is saying, this is my stuff and you know it is my stuff. And you know if it wasn't true Jesus would have said, no it isn't.
It actually was Satan's. He says, I will give it to you. Here is the deal I am making you Jesus.
I will make you an offer you cannot refuse. You don't have to go to the cross. You don't have to be crucified. You don't have to bear the sin of the world.
I will give it to you. Just worship me. That is all I am asking.
Jesus says, it is written you shall worship the Lord God and Him only shall you serve. So it came hard at the beginning. Fast forward the end of the ministry of our Lord on earth. He is in the Garden of Gethsemane and He is sweating blood.
Dr. Luke says, He sweat as it were great drops of blood. He was under intense pressure. The devil was opposing Him trying to stop Him from completing His mission. And it is true in our life. Often the devil hits us hardest at the beginning and end.
When you first come to Christ oh no you became a Christian. He wants to pull you back down. Remember in the parable of the sower Jesus talked about the sower that threw the seed out and went on the roadside. The birds ate it. It swooped down quickly. Sort of like when you go to McDonald's in an outburger or wherever. And the birds are just waiting. You know they are waiting.
Waiting. And sometimes they will wait for the food to hit the ground. Sometimes they will take it if you look away. This happens.
They get very aggressive these little birds. And that is the idea. Jesus said, these are they that hear the Word of God but Satan comes immediately to snatch away what was in their heart. You remember what it was like when you first became a Christian.
Some of you are new Christians. And you are freaking out. Because you are thinking, why am I getting tempted all the time? Why is all this crazy stuff coming at me? Why are my old friends calling me up wanting to party? Why is this other thing happening? What is going on? The devil is trying to pull you down because you have just started the most amazing journey you will ever be on in life following Christ.
But then fast forward now. You are coming maybe toward the end of your journey. Maybe you are getting a bit older and the devil says, I want to get you now. Because if I get you now I can discredit you for all those years you did good for God's glory.
And so you don't want that to happen to you. He hits you at the beginning and the end. He is persistent.
Look at verse 4. Four times they sent the same message and each time I gave the same reply. These guys are relentless.
They were blowing his phone up. You know constantly text, text, text, text, text, email, email, email, phone call, phone call, right? You know there are certain people that they call you and they won't stop calling you until you call them back. You know what I am talking about? Call, call, call, FaceTime call, call, call. You don't want to talk to them because they are one hour people. You know what I am talking about?
Minimum. No matter what you are talking about it is going to be an hour out of your life. But I have to call them back so they will stop calling me. And so that is what was happening. His phone is blowing up. Well of course he didn't have a phone.
You get what I am saying. He says in verse 3, I replied by sending this message to them. I am engaged in a great work so I can't come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you? Point number 3.
If you are taking notes. Take care of your character and God will take care of your reputation. Take care of your character. Your personal integrity.
And God will take care of your reputation. Now Sanballat challenges the personal motives of Nehemiah. Verse 5.
The fifth time Sanballat's servant came with an open letter in his hand. And this is what it said. There is a rumor among the surrounding nations and Gershom tells me it is true that you and the Jews are planning to rebel. And that is why you are building the wall according to the reports. You plan to be their king. He also reports you have appointed prophets in Jerusalem to proclaim about you. Look. There is a king in Judah. You can be very sure this report will get back to the king. So I suggest you come and talk it over with me. It is interesting.
Another trick and diversion to get Nehemiah off the wall so they could attack. And this time it is slander. It is an open letter. Notice it is an anonymous letter.
We don't know who the author is. Oh but people will post something nowadays that is posted on Facebook or on a blog site or whatever. And here is this thing. This statement. This accusation. Is it true?
We have no idea. But there it is. You know and we love to spread stuff like that. Someone to find gossip as news you have to hurry to tell somebody before you find out it isn't true. You know gossip according to Proverbs is like a tasty little morsel. Or like those little appetizers you might be given at a party. Served you on a little tray. Oh that is so delicious.
Can I have one more? That is a gossip that is like oh this is juicy. Right? Now here is the interesting thing.
Don't miss this. They were accusing Nehemiah of the very thing they were guilty of. Nehemiah wasn't trying to be the king. He was serving the king to the point Nehemiah had been underwritten in this project by the king. He was a close friend and confidant of the king. And the king even sent a bodyguard to protect him. So he was good with the king. But they are saying oh no you want to be the king.
This is all about you. You are on some kind of an ego trip. They were in effect projecting their sin on Nehemiah. And this is exactly what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the speck and the beam in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7 He says, why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye but not consider the beam or the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, oh let me remove the speck from your eye and look there is a plank in your own eye.
Let me update that. How can you get the sawdust out of your brother's eye when you have a telephone pole in your eye? That is what Jesus is saying.
Now this is really interesting. Because the word that He uses for speck and for beam or for plank are of the same substance. Meaning that Jesus is saying the reason some people are so adept at finding fault in others is because they are so familiar with it themselves. Let me say that again. The reason some people are so adept at quickly finding fault in others is because they are so familiar with it themselves. See so here is the thing.
This was their issue and they were trying to make it Nehemiah's issue. Oh listen. We do this too. You know you follow someone on Instagram and you go look at this post.
Look at this image. Why would they post this? This is so wrong. Why do you follow them? So I can monitor them. So you can pass judgment on them each and every day. Maybe this is your problem. Well this is so egotistical. They are so prideful. Maybe they are insecure and that is why they do it and you are the prideful one. See a lot of times I am quick to point it out in your life.
Am I guilty of far worse in my own life? You know sometimes we will see someone steps out to maybe be used by the Lord and we will say they are so arrogant. Sometimes we confuse boldness with arrogance.
Well they want to be the center of attention. Well wait. How do you know?
Are you God? Can you see a human heart now? Because you cannot judge the motive of another person. Yes you can judge their actions even to the point you should make evaluations about actions. But you can't judge the heart. And that is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, Judge not lest you be judged. Or a better translation, Condemn not lest you be condemned. Stop judging the motives of others and just take a long look at yourself.
Make sure you are not doing it. The very thing they were accusing Nehemiah of doing they were personally guilty of. Some very practical insight coming from our studies in Nehemiah. Pastor Greg Laurie with his message today on a new beginning called Don't Give Up.
And there's more to come. And then perhaps you've heard Pastor Greg has just released his brand new book called Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus. Pastor Greg it's very balanced in its look at artists who flamed out and artists whose career caught fire and artists who became on fire for Christ. You mentioned Bob Dylan who released three albums with Christian content but has been sort of an enigma that no one can quite figure out. Yes Bob Dylan is surely an enigma.
He always has been and I suspect he always will be. Dylan is beyond just a musician. Dylan is iconic. He influenced so many other artists most notably the Beatles. John Lennon admitted that a number of the songs he wrote were modeled after Bob Dylan songs. Jimi Hendrix recorded Bob Dylan. The Byrds recorded Bob Dylan. He was such a man of influence and that's why it was such a shock to everyone when Bob Dylan came out with a record that was called Slow Train Coming and spoke boldly about his faith in Jesus Christ. I believe that Bob Dylan had a genuine conversion and for many fans of rock it was the rock version of the conversion of Paul on the Damascus road. Dylan went on to record three beautiful gospel records and I happen to think that Slow Train Coming was some of the finest work he had ever done but anyway in his concerts he started talking about his faith in Jesus Christ. Effectively Dylan was preaching.
I witnessed this firsthand. Kathy my wife and I went down to Santa Monica saw him there in concert. It was not a full room and there were people yelling out at him play the old songs we don't want to hear this and Dylan was actually trying to articulate his faith. So after his third gospel record he just stopped talking about it. So some people concluded he didn't believe it anymore and that he had walked away from it and in fact returned to his Jewish roots because they could not believe that he could be a Jewish man following Jesus Christ. Well I don't see any indication in my deep dive into the life and career of Dylan that would indicate to me that he has abandoned his faith.
One of his more recent records which was a collection of Christmas songs somebody interviewing him said it almost sounds like you believe the words of these songs and the way you sing them and Dylan's response was well I do. So I think that Bob Dylan is what I would call a work in progress. You know there are people that curse God rebel against God never acknowledge God and you can pretty safely say that as a non-believer but they're not beyond hope and you should keep praying for them but then there are some who've made a profession of faith they seem to have had a lapse or they've fallen but don't write them off so quickly.
I call them a work in progress. Then there are others who have made a profession of faith and are still walking with the Lord case in point. Dan DeMucci made a commitment to Christ years ago and he's still walking with Jesus Christ today. Alice Cooper was really addicted to drugs and alcohol and his life was going downhill fast. He could have so easily been another statistic of a rock star dying of an overdose but he made a commitment to Christ.
He got clean and sober and he has been walking with the Lord for well over 30 years now. So I explore many more stories of rock stars and we get into some of the current artists today who've made professions of faith as well like Kanye West and Justin Bieber and others and so we need to be praying for these iconic rock stars who have had so much success and pray that God gets hold of them and also pray that the Lord would cause them to use their massive platforms for his glory and talk about Jesus Christ. But I wrote this book to show you sort of a behind the scenes look at what it's like to have that kind of success also to show you the challenges they face the temptations they have to deal with but also the power of God to transform people that have hit rock bottom. Yeah, yeah it's really a message of hope.
Maybe you know someone who needs that lifeline right now. Maybe a friend or loved one who's going down the same path that some of these music icons have traveled and you want to show them where it leads. We'll send Pastor Greg's new book your way to thank you for your investment so that these daily studies can continue.
Again it's called Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. Ask for it when you make your donation today. Our phone number is 1-800-821-3300 and we can take your call anytime. That's one 800-821-3300.
Or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, California 92514. Or go online to harvest.org. And while you're online with us why not begin receiving Pastor Greg's daily devotions via email every day.
They're free of charge. We'll send them to the email address you provide for us and when they arrive you can read them or with one click listen to the audio version. Sign up today free of charge at harvest.org. Well next time Pastor Greg continues his study in Nehemiah and more great encouragement about persistence and dedication to the task even in the face of opposition. Join us here on A New Beginning with Pastor and Bible teacher Greg Laurie. Hey everybody thanks for listening to this podcast. To learn more about Harvest Ministries follow this show and consider supporting it. Just go to harvest.org and to find out how to know God personally go to harvest.org and click on know God.
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