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M: 2/2/20: “20/20 THE ENEMY WITHIN”

Introduction:

If you’re just joining us, we are nearing the end of our first series of the year called 20/20 Vision, where we’ve been following the life of Nehemiah and his vision to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

We kicked off our series by talking about the importance of a vision. When we have a clear vision for our future we are much more likely to reach the end of our lives with a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment because we lived for what should be and not just what could be. In Week 2, Pastor Earl helped us hone our vision by focusing on our holy discontents — areas of our lives that we know need to change. Whether it’s your marriage, your work, or kids — all of us have areas in our lives that make us wanna say, “Nuff awready! No can be like dis no moa! God, give me your vision for this area of my life.” In Week 3, we learned that any vision God originates, He orchestrates. My Dad showed us that, just as in Nehemiah’s day, God is orchestrating an amazing miracle today with our building project. And last week, Pastor Theresa gave an awesome message on what happens when our vision comes under attack. Not only will God give you everything you need to see your vision through, but He will also fight on your behalf when challenges arise. How many of you have been blessed by our series?

Well if you’re ready to continue then take your notes out because today we’re going to be talking about one of the greatest threats to your vision — are you ready? It’s us. God created you for a specific vision that only you can fulfill. But if you don’t do it, nobody will. And God will be faithful to protect you against the attacks of the enemy but what happens when you stop fighting? Today we’re going to talk about The Enemy Within.

When David became King of Israel, God promised to make his name great. He promised to raise up David’s offspring and establish his kingdom. He also promised to cut off all of David’s enemies from before him. In the following chapters David was victorious over all of his enemies — the Philistines, the Arameans, the Moabites, the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Megabytes and even the Mosquito bites (They were bloodthirsty). God gave David victory over all of his enemies except one — himself. It was the enemy within that nearly destroyed his vision.

Samson had a tremendous vision for his life. He was to be the defender of Israel against all of her enemies. He was born with supernatural strength and no army could defeat him. In the end it wasn’t an army that defeated Samson at all. It was himself. The enemy within nearly destroyed Samson’s vision.

In chapter 5 of Nehemiah we see that God has been faithful to protect the people from surrounding armies, but it is the enemy within that nearly destroys their vision.

1Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. [So we’re not talking about external opposition anymore but internal]. 2Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 3Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” 4Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”

At the beginning of Nehemiah chapter 5 we see that progress on the wall has come to a complete halt, the vision has been put on hold, but not because they were being attacked by a physical army — rather, it was the attacks of life that threatened to kill their vision. Most times the Devil won’t launch a full-scale demonic attack against you (that’s too obvious), instead he’ll just wear you down through the daily attacks of life.

The Bible lists several factors that threatened to stop the project. The people were in debt to the land, in debt to their neighbors, and in debt to the king. Why is this happening? What’s going on here? Well, nearly 1000 years earlier during the time of Moses, when the people were first preparing to enter the land, God told them what would happen if they obeyed His commandments or disobeyed.

You can read all about it in Leviticus 26, (essentially) “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees will bear fruit. You will harvest year-round and live in safety. There will be peace. I will remove wild beasts and the sword will not pass through your country. In other words, there will be peace and plenty! On the flip-side He says,

But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever. Your enemies will eat all that you plant. I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you.

So nearly 1000 years earlier, God told them exactly what would happen if they disobeyed Him. And everything happened just as He said. After entering the Promise Land God’s people began worshipping other gods and idols so He sent prophet after prophet to warn them but things only got worse. Fast-forward the tape and the people are now living in exile, there is famine in the land, and their cities lie in ruin. How many know, God lets us choose whether or not we will follow Him, what we don’t get to choose are the consequences. And the people had been living in the consequences of their sin for hundreds of years. (Which way are we going as a nation?)

But Leviticus 26 didn’t end there! After telling them the consequences of their disobedience, God gives them a way back in verse 40, (I’m paraphrasing)

“But if you will confess your sins and unfaithfulness toward me, I will remember my covenant with your forefathers, and I will remember the land. And when you are in the land of your enemies, I will not reject you and destroy you completely. I will remember the covenant I made with your ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God.”

God was saying, when you find yourselves living in the consequences of your sin and disobedience and confess your sins and repent, I will remember my promise to you and be faithful to restore you. That’s what we see happening in Nehemiah — the people are being restored to the land, the temple (and now the wall) are being rebuilt, however, there is still the fallout of their old life all around them.

  1. FIGHT THROUGH THE IN-BETWEEN.

Like in Moses’ day, God gives every one of us a choice to follow Him or not. But whichever direction we choose to go, our lives are going to follow. Some of us have been living our own way for so long our lives have just been sinking further and further this way (down). We’ve been following our own vision, living for ourselves but now all of a sudden God gives us a new vision for our life — His vision. We’re no longer content with the way things are. So we (what the Bible calls ‘repent’) — which means we turn our lives 180 to go in a new direction. But watch this, even though we’re now going this way, which way is everything else still going? This place right here is called the ‘in-between’ and it is where most visions die. Why? Because even though we have a renewed sense of vision and focus on how things should be, our reality hasn’t caught up to our vision yet. You’re trying to go this way but everything around you is still crashing down. The people in Nehemiah’s day had a vision for their city but they were building in the in-between and their current reality hadn’t caught up to their vision yet. There was still famine, they were still in debt, and there were still remnants of their old lives. Listen carefully Church: Don’t give up in the in-between — you have to keep fighting through because eventually your momentum will shift, there’ll be breakthrough, and your reality will catch up to your vision. You have to fight through the in-between.

The problem is the way we define success when it comes to our vision. Success for many of us means this situation has changed. Whether it’s your marriage, or your kids, or work, or a business you want to start. Unless we see change we don’t think we’re successful.

But just because you don’t see the change doesn’t mean the change it isn’t happening. You see, God defines success differently. To God, success is you showing up and being faithful to everything He called you to today. See, you go to bed at night discouraged and defeated because you feel like nothing is changing. But as long as you were faithful to what God called you to, even when nothing seems to be changing, something is changing — you’re changing. You’re becoming the person God needs you to be in order to walk in the vision He’s calling you to fulfill — a person of faith, perseverance, and grit. You’re not a failure for getting knocked down. You’re only a failure if you don’t get back up.

2. A GOD-VISION HAS TO BE BUILT GOD’S WAY.

“When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them,” 

(Nehemiah 5:6-7 NIV).

When Nehemiah discovers why the work on the wall has stopped he is furious. On one hand he’s got foreign enemies threatening to attack but now he has to deal with his own nobles and officials who are charging the people interest on loans and taking their land, homes, and children as collateral. Nehemiah’s saying, “We just won our freedom and now you want to enslave your own people again?” But you know the worst part wasn’t just that they were ripping off their own people — the worst part was that they were directly breaking the laws of God. You go back to Leviticus 25 (The same laws we talked about earlier that got them into this mess) the law of Moses forbade charging interest of another Jew and it forbade slavery for unpaid debts. But because those things were legal in Babylon, they continued doing it even after being set free.

Church, how many things did we pick up in Babylon that we continue to do even after being set free? Nehemiah’s vision from God was nearly destroyed — why? Because even though the people were set free, and could now build the life God intended, they were still operating from a Babylonian mindset. Rather than obey God’s Word, they defaulted to an old operating system. Nehemiah knew, if this didn’t get fixed, poho build the wall. It would be useless. What good is a wall if you don’t have land or a home? What good is a wall with no family to protect? What good is a wall if you’re operating from the same ungodly lifestyle that got the wall torn down in the first place?

Sometimes our vision doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and it’s not because of some external force or attack but it’s because we’re trying to build a God-vision using worldly tools. Rather than obey God’s Word we default to an old operating system but the reality is that a God-vision has to be built God’s way. It was the world’s way that got us here in the first place. So if you want to go where you’ve never gone you have to be willing to do what you’ve never done. We’ve tried the world’s way and where did it get us?

When I was in college I reached the limit of Holy discontent for where my life was going. I remember looking at my life thinking, “Nuff awready! No can be like dis no moa!” But I knew that not only did my circumstances need to change — I needed to change. Sure I could point the finger as to why my life was the way it was but I knew my biggest enemy was the enemy within and until that changed nothing would be as it should. A key verse that everyone should know by know is, “Don’t conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed through the renewing of your mind.” Some of you have a renewed vision, but you’re using old patterns. You want a God-centered relationship? You have to ditch the old playbook and pick up God’s Word. Your marriage isn’t what it should be? Don’t look to Cosmo and Vanity Fair. You don’t need Dr. Phil, you need the Great Physician, Dr. Jesus. A God-vision has to be built His way.

3. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE.

I think Ghandi would’ve liked Nehemiah. I saw this on someone’s license plate cover driving through Mauka the other day next to a sticker that said, “I love my Shi-Tzu”. I thought, “That is so Mauka”. And yes, it does sound very bumper-sticker-ish. But Nehemiah knew, and we should know, that we can’t expect anybody to sacrifice more for our vision than we’re willing to. If we want to see change in our world it has to start with us. If you read the rest of the chapter in Nehemiah 5 you’ll see that Nehemiah was actually able to get the vision back on track by convincing the officials and nobles to return the people’s money, homes, and land so that work could resume on the wall. How was Nehemiah able to influence the other nobles to do the right thing even though it would cost them? The answer is because Nehemiah walked the talk.

“But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land,” (Nehemiah 5:15-16 NIV).

Nehemiah knew that if things were to change then sacrifices would have to be made and it started with him. He did not ask anything of anyone that he himself was not willing to do. If he asked the people to build then he himself was on the wall building. When he asked the nobles and officials to stop taking advantage of the people they listened, why? Because they knew how much he was sacrificing to make the vision happen. Listen, the reason why the wall was able to be completed in 52 days was because Nehemiah was a man of influence. And where did his influence come from — he was a man of action. He walked the talk.

Church, if you want to see change in your life, if you want your reality to catch up to your vision, then it starts with you. You have to be willing to fight through the in-between. Continue being faithful every day to what God is calling you to do. Don’t judge the success of your vision based on what is changing because God is doing a work in you every day you are faithful. Next, you have to commit to building this God-dream God’s way. When you get discouraged or don’t see things changing as you think they should, don’t resort back to the patterns of this world. Keep doing it God’s way. The people would have never finished the wall if they hadn’t repented from their old ways and turned back to the Word of God. And as you continue to be transformed through the renewing of your mind — the enemy within will transform into your greatest ally and the world around you will begin to reflect the new creation within you. This is how our vision will come to pass.

Usually at this time of the service I would have everyone stand and respond in a commitment to the Word we’ve heard. And I don’t doubt that many of you would respond. But at the end of Nehemiah’s appeal to the Nobles and Officials, he calls them to a commitment and he uses an interesting picture.

“Then I called the priests together and made them promise to keep their word. Then I emptied my pockets, turning them inside out, and said, “So may God empty the pockets and house of everyone who doesn’t keep this promise—turned inside out and emptied. Everyone gave a wholehearted “Yes, we’ll do it!” and praised God. And the people did what they promised,” (Nehemiah 5:12-13).

Could you imagine a Pastor today ending his altar call that way? It’s a pretty strong picture but Nehemiah was trying to illustrate the importance of what was at stake. He’s saying think about your vision! Think about what’s at stake. Is it your marriage? Is it your walk with God? Is it your family? What are you fighting for? Are you willing to fight to the end against all odds? Are you wiling to trust in the Lord and do it His way even when the going gets tough? Are you going to be the change you want to see? Because if not we might as well turn our pockets out and call it a day. Let’s just go back to the empty way things used to be. But if you are ready to commit and be all in for Jesus then together let’s give a wholehearted “Yes, we’ll do it!”

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