When we have fallen away from God, we need to climb the ladder back to where we belong.

Step One

The people who had lost their place in God made the Temple their first priority. We must seek the Lord first. Religious traditions are no substitute for a face-to-face relationship with God. Focused prayer brings us close to His presence. Worship lifts us to where He dwells.

Step Two

Ezra came to teach people to follow the written word God had given. We must pursue truth. God has given us His Word. We must open this letter and read it thoroughly. We must memorize it. We must seek Him in His Word. We must seek His will in the Bible. We must find ourselves in the Scriptures. We will never be free until we know the truth.

Step Three:

Nehemiah came to Jerusalem after the leaders had elevated the Temple and Scripture before the people. He noticed something else had to go up: the walls around the city (1:3, 6:15). Organizing the inhabitants of the city, Nehemiah led them in rebuilding the city walls that had lain in ruins for decades after Babylon broke them open.

Jerusalem did not need walls before the people returned from Babylon. The city needed no walls because there was nothing to protect. Once they built the Temple, however, they needed to protect what they had from enemy invaders.

You need a wall. Before a person gets God in their life, they have nothing to protect. Once you have a relationship with Almighty God, you want to protect that from the devil. We build walls of defense by shutting out the devil’s access to our hearts.

How do I keep the enemy out of my life?

The enemy does not care if you have a relationship with God as long as he can get into your life. He does not mind if you read your Bible either, as long as you leave the TV on. The devil knows that if you have no walls around your life, he can walk in and take over at whatever time he chooses. We put up walls against sin by choosing what we are not going to do. A person may say:

  • I will not go to the bar,
  • I will quit cussing and telling dirty jokes,
  • I will not watch filthy movies,
  • I will block programming on my TV,
  • I will install an Internet filter,
  • I will not sin sexually anymore, and
  • I will stop socializing with sinful friends.

Why are things harder now?

Enemy leaders did nothing while people rebuilt Jerusalem’s Temple, but when Nehemiah showed up they got nasty. They started making fun of the workers saying things like, “If a fox walked on that wall, it would fall down!” They wearied God’s people with their insults. They tried tricking, insulting, and threatening. Nehemiah had to arm the people with swords and spears as they worked, just in case the enemy attacked.

You probably will not get much flak from friends and family when you start going to church. They may not say anything about you reading your Bible. However, when you start building your wall by not participating in the sin around you, the gloves come off. Opposition arises when we change the way we talk, what we wear, what we listen to, whom we hand around. Expect a little rejection, some insults, and maybe threats, too, when you turn your life around.

God calls us to live distinct from the world (I Peter 1:14-16). What safety we find in the wall. You do not have to fear drunkenness when you keep liquor out of your home. You cannot lose your paycheck at the casino if you do not go. You are the temple of God’s Spirit. Defend yourself and prevent the enemy from destroying your walk with God.

Between the Covenants.
God sent the prophet Malachi to his people and afterward, He did not commission anyone to write scripture for a few hundred years. During this time, however, events were lining up for the coming of Christ. Scholars compiled all the inspired books into one volume called the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament). Several religious traditions developed including the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Scribes. We read about these in the New Testament.

Change of Thinking

God sent a messenger to prepare the way of the new covenant. John the Baptizer came to God’s people, preaching repentance (Matthew 3:1-11). He told the people they needed to change their ways and their thinking.

The word Repent, in the language John spoke, means “Change your thinking.” When a person comes to God, they have to change their thinking. This change may come as a shock to a person who suddenly realizes their sins. Repentance occurs in a religious person who realizes they have not followed the truth. For an illustration of this “mind change” experience of repentance, consider the following sentence:

Woman without her man is a savage.

You have two ways of looking at this sentence. One person could read it as meaning “Woman, without her, man is a savage.” Another could read the same sentence and get this impression: “Woman, without her man, is a savage.” Both those sentences mean totally the opposite. Is man or woman the savage?

Coming to God brings us to one of those “wake-up call” moments when we see life differently. Instead of seeing sin as fun, we begin to see the joys of righteousness. Instead of seeing God as being there to serve us, we see we are here to make Him happy.

Change of Action

John did not just want people telling him they had repented. He told them to change their ways if their minds had truly changed. Some people say they love God, but their actions say the opposite. The following imaginary story just might illustrate this for you:

One day, you enter a doctor’s office and sit down to wait your turn. Picking up a National Geographic, you thumb through the glossy pages and come across an article focusing on your favorite sea creatures, lobsters. Everyone knows that you are a lobster fanatic. You love the sauces that go with them. You enjoy the process of prying and digging to get all the meat. You can’t put down your pick until you’ve harvested it all.

So, you turn page after page in the magazine, examining full-page photos of fishing boats, traps, and holding tanks stocked with rubber-banded lobsters. You learn about the lobster’s territory, seasonal cycles, and eating habits.

You learn that the lobster is like a giant insect, crawling around on the ocean floor. You learn that of all the insects on the earth’s surface, the lobster is most akin to the cockroach. Nice. Your stomach turns. You read on to find that boiled cockroaches taste the same as a high-dollar lobster meal. Your stomach turns the other way.

Horrid thoughts fill your mind with millions of lobsters scurrying around on the ocean floor eating the sediment and… other stuff that settles there. Fortunately, a nurse calls your name and distracts you from the terror of your imagination. Whew!

Two days later, you go out to eat with your family at a seafood restaurant. Since you always have eaten lobster, your family orders for you without a second thought. When the waitperson returns with your meal, you look down at the plate. All you can see is a giant cockroach steaming on your plate. You burst out with “Gross!” You hand the plate back to your host and ask for a burger and fries.

Now you have fully repented of your love for lobster (not that this is a moral thing, but only an object of illustration). You both think and act differently now by seeing a lobster as a cockroach and by ordering a burger and fries. True conversion begins in the mind but must involve the actions.

Every repentant sinner will throw something away. Certain music, movies, books, games, magazines, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, occult charms, “adult” products, seductive clothing, or a host of other things need to be burned or otherwise destroyed. A person who shows reluctance in parting with the things of the old lifestyle may not have come to a full commitment yet.

Sinners merely begin repentance when they take their lives to the altar. They complete repentance when they alter their lives

Make an eternal difference. You will only be remembered for your good actions or your evil actions in eternity (Ezekiel 18:20-24). Will you live until a death-bed conversion and only be remembered for six months of your life?

Next time…

Who is Jesus?