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Saying No to Neglect (Part 4 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 9, 2023 3:00 am

Saying No to Neglect (Part 4 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 9, 2023 3:00 am

In Nehemiah’s day, the Israelites vowed not to neglect God’s house. What did that vow entail? They completely realigned their focus! Study along with Alistair Begg on Truth For Life to find out how you can similarly demonstrate God’s work in your life.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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In Nehemiah's day, God's people vowed that they would not neglect the house of God.

What exactly did that vow entail? Today on Truth for Life, we'll see how God's people had to completely realign their focus. And we'll see how we demonstrate God's work in our lives as well.

We continue our study in the book of Nehemiah. But today, Alistair Begg begins with a verse from another major prophet, the prophet Jeremiah. This is what the Lord Almighty says, Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you. They fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. This is Jeremiah 23 verse 17.

Now, loved ones, this is a very important point of discrimination. Whenever you hear somebody or read a book or see a television program, when you see this stuff that is guaranteed to intrigue and to mystify and to draw in, a fundamental question is this. Does this prophet call for repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ?

If the answer to that question is no, then they are irrelevant and they are wrong. Jesus said, I'm going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also. Lord, we don't know where you're going. And how can we know the way?

Watch inside edition. No! I am the way, the truth, and the life.

No one comes to the Father but by me. Now, you say, well, you're a bit of a dimwit. We've known that for a while. Your mind does not run in scientific lines.

You're strange in that respect. I know all of that. I'm just trying to save you a lot of silly reading. Save you a lot of stupid conversations.

Save you a lot of lying in your bed and looking up at the ceiling and wondering. These prophets speak, but they don't turn people from their evil ways and from their evil deeds. I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name.

Well, what do they say? They say, I had a dream. I had a dream.

Isn't that it? Have you ever seen so much about dream therapy in all your life as in the last four or five years? You could live in absolute purity with your children and end up in jail in this crazy world in which we live. All that needs to happen is that your daughter goes slightly doolally at one point in her life, goes to see one of these individuals who track her back through her dreams, real or imagined, and explain the fact that she drives up the wrong side of the street on the basis of the fact that somehow or another she was abused when she was a child. They say, I had a dream. I had a dream. How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. In other words, this is devilish.

This is satanic. And the activities of these people, witting or unwitting, under the guise of religion and spirituality, is not to draw people to the one true living God, but it is to draw them away from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in a great quest for spiritual fulfillment. Now look at verse 38.

Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what a straw to do with grain, declares the LORD, is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces. You see, there is no greater privilege in all of the earth than to be given the opportunity to teach from this book.

Because it is alive and it is active. It cuts through it, exposes attitudes and the judgments of hearts. It is able to correct and to rebuke and to train and to teach and to build up and to equip in righteousness.

And it is vastly different from the spiritual rhetoric of false prophets 600 BC and 2000 AD. You see, loved ones, don't assume that we're going to be able to pass this baton of faith into the hands of our children and our grandchildren just too easily. And we may make it through unscathed and be caught up to glory and go on to heaven. But there's a generation coming behind us right now, as you know.

Therefore, it is imperative that we understand, we obey, we apply the Word of God. Now, this is what'll happen. People will tell you that you are a bigot.

If you can't cope with that, you'll never manage this. People will tell you that you are conceited. We are conceited if it isn't true. If it is true, we're just being honest. You see, there is no falsity in our day. There are no false prophets and true prophets, for there is no standard by which we may gauge falsity. There are just prophets.

And every idea is as relevant as the next. And preachers are just individuals who speak with greater forcefulness and emphasis than others do, but we may as well set their words aside. Well, that was the great danger in the days of Jeremiah.

It's the danger today, and it was the danger in Nehemiah's day. And in every generation, when the people of God are stirred to ask the question, How then shall we live?, it is to the Scriptures that we look for answers. In verse 39 of chapter 9, the people made a binding agreement. They put it in writing. By the 29th verse of chapter 10, they amplify the nature of the agreement, whereby they're going to obey carefully all the commands and regulations and decrees of the Lord our God. And there's a summary statement at the end of chapter 10 which provides us with a succinct expression of what this binding agreement's really about.

And there you find it in the final sentence in quotation marks. There in verse 39 of chapter 10, we will not neglect the house of our God. Well, we need to ask, What did it mean in their day in practical terms, in the day-to-day operation of their lives, what did it mean for them to make this kind of affirmation?

And what will it mean for us to say, We will not neglect the house of our God? Well, let me answer that in three ways, and then we'll just tackle the first of these as we have time. For them to determine that they were going to say no to neglect meant, first of all, the realigning of their focus. It meant, secondly, the redirection of their families. And it meant, thirdly, the reconstructing of their finances.

The realigning of their focus, the redirection of their families, and the reconstructing of their finances. We will always be able to tell when God is at work within our lives as a result of a number of tests, but one of the first tests is, Where are you looking and where are you heading? The second test will be, And how's it going in your bed at home and around your breakfast table at home, and at night when you finally close things up for the day?

How's it going in your family? And the third test will be, Excuse me, could I borrow your checkbook? Not because we want to write checks.

We just want to see the stubs. Because it will be by the stubs of my checkbook that you will be able to determine a tremendous amount about my priorities and I yours. It will be around my dining room table that you will be able to determine a tremendous amount about my faith and I yours. And it will be directly in relationship to my focus that you will be able to determine a great deal about what it means to say no to neglect. Well, let's just lead into this first one in terms of focus. Realigning our focus will have one point remaining, and it goes like this.

Obeying God from the heart will realign our focus. In our recent trip to Europe, we flew a fair number of legs—I can't remember all of them now, but—in one from Amsterdam to Lyon. We were on a very nice, brand-new KLM Fokker 100 jet.

It seats, I think, about 140 or something like that. It's quite small but fast. My colleague, Jeff, sort of barnstormed his way into the cockpit at one point in this short flight. The door was open, and he went in—he's a friendly sort like that—and introduced himself to the pilot and the co-pilot.

He had gone, I thought, to the small room adjacent to the cockpit, but he clearly wasn't there. And after a while, he came back all beaming and explaining that he knew everything about this plane and made me horribly jealous. And so he said, Do you think you would like to go? And I said, Well, yeah.

I said, you know, it would be nice. So he went back up, and he said, Can my friend come? You know, we're like a couple of school kids on this plane. And he said, Do you mind if my friend comes up? Well, so I went up, and determined to outdo him a little, I resolved that if at all possible, I would get these cockpit gentlemen—that's the pilots, called by another name—to close the door and let me sit in there with them for the rest of the flight and actually to land on the runway at Lyon in the cockpit, which is exactly what happened. And Mills never saw me again until the end of the flight, but as the gentleman was very nice, he said, Perhaps you would like to sit here?

He was from Alabama, you will be able to guess. And so I sat down on the seat with him, and he began to explain everything. I had flown on automatic pilot from a thousand feet off the runway, and he was pointing out that it only took very small adjustments to make major significant changes, because the plane was going at some 500 miles an hour.

So a very small matter of alignment made a huge change. And at one point, for example, he said, If I take it off automatic pilot, and I go like this, whoa, and he banked the plane in the middle of the flight, and I knew Mills was back there going, He's flying it now! He's flying the plane!

And he said, No, I don't do this. He put it back on, put it on automatic pilot again, and he explained to me in such a way that by the time the thing landed, I had actually conjured up in my own mind that although I was in the middle and wasn't holding anything, that I was really flying the plane. And God, seeing the rising pride in my heart, made it such that when I tried to disengage the jump seat, I dropped it flat on the floor and ended up flat on my bottom with the door open and everyone in the plane looking down and saying, Who's the idiot lying on the floor?

So that was me. But really, it's no different from what you find when you learn how to ride your bicycle. Because when you start to teach your children to ride the bike, the great temptation is to make these elaborate moves. You say to them, You don't have to turn the handlebars like that. Just a little movement will keep you on line. Or in golf. Alignment is everything.

You can hit the ball three hundred yards, but if you're not lined upright, you're hitting over your neighbor's houses. Alignment is everything. And what happened was that when these people got serious about the Bible, it realigned their focus. What did that mean? It meant this.

Number one, note these down and we're through. Number one, they began to think in terms of God's purposes as opposed to their preferences. God's purposes as opposed to their preferences. Back in verse 13 of chapter 8, when they had opened the book and had it explained to them, they found out that they were supposed to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in all of Jerusalem.

That was enough for them. They said it's perhaps not necessarily what we would prefer to do this afternoon. We had a number of things planned.

It's not necessarily what we hoped for in the next few weeks. We had our agenda written out, but God's word has said it, therefore we will do it. So we will go and gather sticks, we will build booths, we will build them on our roof, and we will face the scorn of the surrounding neighborhood, but God said it, and his purpose matters more than my preference. I don't want to anticipate all the rest of my message. But God's purpose for you in marriage, in terms of marrying within the faith and marrying a believer if you profess faith in Jesus Christ, matters more than your preferences. Oh, but I met this girl, and she's gorgeous, and she's so kind, and her mother likes me.

Well, that's all good. But are you prepared to bring your preference and submit it to God's purpose? Well, I think if I only just—I don't have to actually lie to get this job. I just have to kind of lie.

And I think once I get it, I'll be able to witness, you know, mm-mm. God's purpose is absolute truthfulness. We don't have to sacrifice his purpose on the basis of our preference, and the degree to which we do takes us in the bypassed meadow. They realigned their focus and began to think in terms of God's purpose as opposed to their preference.

They began to think in terms of their responsibilities as opposed to their rights. In chapter 10 and verse 32, we read the phrase, We assume the responsibility. Verse 35, We also assume responsibility. And in verse 34, in a wonderful picture, they cast lots to determine when each of the families would bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar of the Lord our God as it is written in the law. In the most intensely practical terms, since they carried out sacrifices every day, you can't have a sacrifice that burns without a fire that has a flame. You can't have a fire with a flame unless you have wood for the fire. You can't have wood on the fire unless someone brings the wood. And nobody will bring the wood if it's everybody's business.

It'll be nobody's business, and everyone will be looking around saying, I'm sure somebody's getting the wood. Now, Amaya was too smart to go for that, so he assigned it, This will be your day to keep the fire burning. And so the families would awake in the morning, and Father would say, Today we get the food to keep the fire burning in the house of God. Wood to God that fathers would have just that kind of perspective when we think in terms of worship, when we think in terms of witness, when we think in terms of service, when we think in terms of filling the nursery, when we think of doing the car park attendance, when we think of the ushering, when we think of making of the coffee. What are we doing?

We're essentially bringing the wood to keep the fire burning. Every person accepting their limitations and assuming their responsibilities. In realigning their focus, they began to think in terms of God's purposes as opposed to their preferences.

They began to think in terms of responsibilities as opposed to rights. And finally, they began to think in terms of the long-term effects as opposed to the short-term enjoyments. I don't think it's possible to do anything in life, in love, in business, or in church when you only think short-term.

Sure, there must be short-term goals, but the only thing that sustains you is that you have a long-term focus. You see, if you think, for example, about coming to church this morning, and now the message is almost over, we're gonna sing a song and it's done, you say to yourself, you know what, I didn't really like this one as much as last week. I didn't, you know, I didn't, I don't know what it was, I just, you know, I didn't get anything, you know, I was just… Therefore, I'm ticked!

I was in there for an hour and a half between parking and sitting down, and good night! So what did you want? A rush of blood to your heat? To be impressed? To be excited? When the people of God come to terms with the Word of God, they will understand that the long-term implications, the strategic plan over the long haul, for life and for love and for home and for future and for destiny, is of far greater significance than any immediate satisfaction, enjoyment, or absence of it that may be immediately obvious. So the challenge is this. Okay, let's bring out the book.

What happens when we bring out the book? We get our focus realigned. If our focus is realigned, and we have every right to ask people, and this happens all the time when you're standing on the T, someone will say to you, which way are you pointing? Or better still, they say, where do you think you're pointing?

That's what they always say to me. Where do you think you're pointing? I say, I think I'm pointing to that exit sign. They say, no, you're pointing to that exit sign. And if you don't turn around, you're in trouble. That's the one-anothers of the Christian life.

I teach this. I don't know the ins and outs of your life, but somebody does. You need to go away and say to one another, which way do you think you're pointing? Are you pointing in such a way that God's purposes take precedence over my preferences? That my commitment to my responsibilities matter more than the enjoyment of my rights? And that the long-term implications of what it means to follow Christ matter more than any short-term buzz that I may enjoy?

Those people got it right for a while. God grant that we may do also. You're listening to Bible teacher Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Alistair has titled today's message, Saying No to Neglect. I hope you're encouraged by the practical lessons in this study from the book of Nehemiah. If you missed any of the messages in this series, you can catch up easily online. All of Alistair's teaching can be listened to or watched or shared for free using our mobile app or on our website at truthforlife.org.

This series is simply titled A Study in Nehemiah. You're probably aware that retail stores are already preparing for Christmas. So are you preparing for a Christ-centered Christmas? Let me recommend to you a newly released Advent devotional called O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. It presents a personal time of worship as you get ready for the Christmas season. This is a book that contains 40 daily readings that anticipate Christ's coming. And if you enjoy reading historical authors, particularly the writings of the Puritans, you'll love this devotional. All of the daily entries feature prayers written by Christian authors from throughout history going all the way back to the third century. Each day's devotion begins with a call to worship, followed by prayers of adoration, confession, pardon, and praise.

The sequence of the prayers each day is the same, but the prayers themselves are different. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is a book you'll come back to over and over again, each Advent. Ask for your copy when you donate to Truth for Life today. You can give a one-time gift at truthforlife.org slash donate. Or you can arrange to set up automatic monthly donations when you visit truthforlife.org slash truthpartner. Or you can give us a call.

Our number is 888-588-7884. In addition to the meaningful content of the Advent devotional O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, the beautiful design of this book makes it a great gift for your pastor or for family members, for friends. It's cloth covered with gold embossing.

It comes in a keepsake box. So if you request the book with a donation and you'd like to purchase additional copies to give as gifts, they're available at our cost of just $7 in our online store at truthforlife.org slash store. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. If a Christian is supposed to stand out from the surrounding culture, tomorrow we'll find out how this all starts in the home. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-09 05:34:00 / 2023-11-09 05:42:38 / 9

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