What are we to do when faced with the tremendous movement of our culture away from biblical values and behaviors and with the rise of the mixed church in America? The strategy which Nehemiah followed to bring revival to his nation provides us with a clear illustration of how to respond in such a day as ours.
His story begins about 140 years after the ruin of Jerusalem and the scattering of Israel’s families because of their apostasy and sin. Even though Zerubbabel and Haggai had led more than 50,000 committed people back seventy years earlier to begin to rebuild what sin has ruined, they were not successful because they pursued a flawed strategy. They tried to rebuild their lives and nation around God’s Word without rebuilding an enforceable wall around their jurisdictions.
In contrast, Nehemiah and the people’s rebuilding of the wall around their families and city allowed the revival that followed. This wall allowed God’s Word to be reestablished as the basis of their lives. The strategy of the mixed church in America is to tear down the separating walls of distinction between God’s people and the world. They aggressively oppose wall-building. To understand how to rebuild what sin has ruined, we must be clear about God’s methods. Nehemiah began by leading the people to rebuild an enforceable wall around their jurisdictions.
THE THREE REQUIREMENTS FOR REBUILDING
The book of Nehemiah helps us to see that rebuilding to God’s glory requires 1) incurable idealists, 2) the control of our jurisdictions, and 3) the honoring of God’s Word as the basis for all of life. Let’s look at each of these:
An incurable idealist is someone who never gives up working for what should be. God is an idealist. Even in the face of sin and the ruin of His perfect creation, He did not stop pursuing His ideals: what should be. Even though the cost to Him was great, He never has and never will be anything but an incurable idealist.
“…and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throng said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” – Revelation 21:4-5
A Christian idealist is a believer who has an unwavering God and an absolute Bible. God will always be holy. His Word will always be true and unalterable. An incurable idealist never gives up these things in the face of sin’s temporary triumph. He cannot. Is an idealist very practical when it comes to living in a secular culture, faced with a mixed church? Usually not.
Nehemiah could have stayed in exile and let someone else tackle the job of rebuilding a ruined nation. But he was an incurable idealist.
“The remnant there…are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” – Nehemiah 1:3
“Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that we may no longer be a reproach.” – Nehemiah 2:17
Idealistic men and women are needed now. God is raising up in our day those who will stand in contrast to the secular culture and the mixed church and pursue God’s ideals regardless of the situation of opposition for a lifetime. Are you one of these incurable idealists?
CONTROL OF OUR JURISDICTION
The second element required for rebuilding our families and churches is control of our jurisdiction, whether it be our souls, our marriages, our families, or our churches. Establishing such control is illustrated by the great effort Nehemiah made to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah understood why the incurable idealists that returned to Jerusalem before him had failed. They tried to live for God in the midst of a godless people without enforceable walls that allowed the nation to love and serve God as He directed them. Until the walls were in place, they could not teach the Scriptures unopposed and live their lives according to them the Scriptures . The first thing Nehemiah did was to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and gates, and then he proceeded to reestablish God’s Word as the basis for life within Jerusalem. Until the wall is in place, our efforts will not bear lasting fruit.
We must rebuild the walls around our churches just as many believers rebuilt the walls around their families in response to the drift of our culture to godlessness. We must now respond to the devastating strategy of the mixed church to tear down the walls of distinction between God’s people and the world by rebuilding these walls around our churches. Enforceable walls allow a believer to remove godless influences when necessary. They allow the principles of God’s Word to be taught and applied.
REESTABLISHING GOD’S WORD
Rebuilding the wall did not produce the revival in Jerusalem. It made the revival possible. It allowed Nehemiah to shut the gates to those influences that opposed God’s people and His ways. It allowed him to put out those who would prevent God’s people from serving God as His Word directed. It allowed the world to see God at work in the lives of His people. It allowed God’s people to invite others in and to go out to win souls. It allowed their young people to learn God’s Word and ways of life and to become godly people. It allowed them to shine in their dark world.
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
The mixed church does not shine in the darkness. It cannot. It has mixed biblical elements with the world’s. The mixed church has torn down its walls and allows the Sanballats and Tobiahs of our day to come and go as they please. Until we rebuild the walls around our churches, we cannot silence Sanballat and Tobiah (Titus 1:10-11). We cannot have a revival like they had in Jerusalem.
“Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dirt upon them. And the descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshipped the Lord their God.” – Nehemiah 9:1-3
Rebuilding our lives around the principles of God’s Word is our duty in light of our salvation (see Romans 12:1-2) and becomes the basis of any effective ministry for Christ in this fallen world. But it cannot be done without learning and applying the principles of God’s Word.