Lord, Help Us be Authentic!

Ezra 7 and 8

Well, good morning, Saylorville! If you brought a copy of Scripture with you this morning, or even if you didn’t, it’ll be up on the screen. Either way, you can find Ezra, chapter seven as we continue in our series, God Help Us. In this case, God help us to be… authentic.

Let me just get something out of the way, right away. Yes, I do have a cold. But if my mom was here, she’d take care of it for me. She’d slather me with Vicks VapoRub. This is my mom. (A picture is being shown on the screen.) It’s my favorite picture of my parents. It really captures their effervescence, their love of life and love for one another. My mother was incredibly affectionate, very submissive, and she was a stickler for manners. She was also a wordsmith. (And did I tell you she was a stickler for manners?) She had a large vocabulary. Any vocabulary that I have was built into me by my mother. She was also very self-controlled, (although, I must say, I found ways to crack it from time to time.) She was also a great encourager. Of the plethora of quotes on motherhood, (and there are many) I came across this one the other day. It says,

“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”

I like that. That gives us hope. That gives you hope, moms, whoever you are. One of the best ways you can be an encourager and a good mother is to encourage your kids to be authentic by being authentic, matching your works with your words, even as James told us in…

James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only…”

And John sort of buttresses that when he says in 1 John 3,

1 John 3:18, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

With that in mind, let me just pray over all of you moms. If you’re a mom, a grandma or a great grandma, stand up. Look at all those moms. Let’s give them a round of applause, shall we? Stay standing (audience applauding) as I pray.

Father, we love you and thank you for motherhood. It is true what Abraham Lincoln said.

“The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”  Abraham Lincoln

And I pray, Lord, that these mothers would be raising up game changers, children who would see their own authenticity and come to know and live for Jesus. Bless these moms. On this, we have set aside as their special day. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen. You may be seated. Thanks, moms!

So today, as we get back into Ezra, chapter seven, we meet Ezra for the very first time. He hasn’t even been around even though he wrote the book. There are 60 years between chapter six and chapter seven. If you like to write in your Bibles, you can write “Esther” right before chapter seven, because that’s where the book of Esther takes place between those two. In fact, we showed you a very simple outline a couple of weeks ago of the book of Ezra.

Ezra 1-6 – first return. Zerubbabel.

Temple foundation laid – 536 B.C.

Ezra 7-10 – second return. Ezra.

Spiritual life restored – 458 B.C.

The first six chapters is the first return of 50,000 Israelites from Babylon back to Jerusalem having been taken captive for 70 years, and they laid the foundation of the temple. The year is 536 BC. The last half of Ezra, which we’re just starting now, is the second return under Ezra himself. There’ll be a third return, not in this book but in Nehemiah, 10 years later. This is the spiritual life of the people restored. Notice again, you numerology, nerds, it’s 458 BC. With that in mind, the very first verse tells us the king is Artaxerxes [referred to as Ahasuerus in Esther, the  Hebrew name for Artaxerxes.] You see the last part of his name, Xerxes? That’s the name you’re familiar with in the book of Esther. It’s Xerxes who married Esther. And this Artaxerxes is a successor to that one. This might also, by the way, help us understand the sympathies that these kings had toward the Jews because of all that was happening around those times. We are now talking about the second return of the Jews 60 years later. There were not nearly as many people… only 1500+ men plus women and children, probably four or five thousand [total], on this journey. Ezra, Chapter 8 lays all that out. That’s a far cry from the 50,000 – 60,000 years earlier. Ezra now comes after the temple is actually made and closer to the one when the wall is built, which is what Nehemiah is famous for. Ezra and Nehemiah are contemporaries. Nehemiah is younger, but they were in the same timeframe. Ezra wasn’t about (listen to this,) building buildings for God. He was about building people, the people of God. That’s what he was doing. (By the way, if the transformation of our property doesn’t translate into transformed people, we’re wasting a lot of time and money. Can I get an ‘Amen’ for that?) My task today to show you that Ezra is a portrait of authenticity that we can emulate, that we can follow as he followed the Lord. So Ezra… a portrait of authenticity.

There were several great things about Ezra. He had a great upbringing. The first five verses tell us,

Ezra 7:1-5, “1 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2 son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3 son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4 son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5 son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest—…”

There are really two names I want to focus on here in these first five verses, Zadok and Phinehas. Zadok was David’s chief priest. In fact, the line of Zadok literally ruled the high priesthood for hundreds of years, right up to like 171 BC. For hundreds of years, the Zadok clan ruled the high priesthood. I point this out because many in Israel were praying that Israel would experience revival under a Zadokite type of priesthood. They were the godliest of all the priests. So Ezra comes from really spiritual, godly stock here. The other one is Phinehas. You remember that name? There’s a bad Phinehas in the Bible in the Old Testament [1 Samuel 4], but I’m not talking about him. I’m talking about the good Phinehas who’s lauded, and we’ll come back to him. Here’s the bottom line. Ezra had a great pedigree, and he lived up to it.

I was reminded of a Chicago bank that requested a recommendation from an investment house in Boston, Massachusetts for a certain guy who had applied for a position at the bank in Chicago. The Bostonians replied to the Chicago bank by listing the lineage of this man, that he had come from amazing financial stock. They could trust him because of all of his forefathers. The Chicago bank rejected the Bostonian investment house’s recommendation replying, “We are not using the young man for breeding purposes.” (audience laughing)

So if you’re trusted in your lineage, stop it right now. Be thankful for it. Be inspired by it, and so you should. But in the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 14.

Romans 14:10b, ”For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;”

[2 Corinthians 5:10-11, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”]

Some of you have generations to look back on and inspire you in your walk with God. Jerrod Leonard, one of our own elders, can go back generations!  It’s amazing the God-like things that have taken place in their lives! Just the other day, someone came with a history of Saylorville Baptist Church right up to 1998 when I came. Nobody’s written one since. (I guess we’re kind of writing it now, but…) I was enamored with it! It was very thick, over 100 pages, about great men and great women who made great sacrifices for what God has brought here! It caused me to pray, “Oh God, give me their faith!” as we ought to pray.  A great upbringing.

Ezra had great faith. Look at chapter 7 and go to verse 6 where we’re told,

Ezra 7:6, “…this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled (remember that word “skilled.” I’ll come back to it later.) in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”

Go all the way down to verse 18. Ezra is leading this group of 1500 men plus their women and children from Babylon back to Jerusalem. It’s a 900 mile trip. It’s a dangerous trip. The king gives him a bonafide letter saying you can do this and have a bunch of stuff to go along with it.                

Ezra 7:18, “Whatever things It seems good (this is the king writing to Ezra) to you and your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold. You may do according to the will of your God.

In other words, keep the change, Ezra. I’m giving you a bunch of stuff. Just keep the change. Do what you want.

Ezra 7:19-20, “The vessels that have been given you for the service of the house of your God, you shall deliver before the God of Jerusalem. 20 And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury.”

In other words, don’t just keep the change, use my credit card. I mean, king Artaxerxes, has given basically carte blanche in this context. He loads up Ezra with gold and silver and wheat and wine and salt and oil. Again, he’s got all of this stuff for the temple back in Jerusalem, which has now been built. He has given all of this to him, but what he didn’t give him was protection. The 900 mile trip from Babylon to Jerusalem would have been fraught with thieves. Ezra’s faith is exhibited by not only trusting the Lord God, but he also made it clear to the king, himself, they were trusting God on this venture. In fact, go to chapter 8 and look at verse 21. It says,

Ezra 8:21-22, “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, (Ahava means love) that we might humble ourselves before our God to see from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, all our goods. (now watch this,) 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.”

I think it’s fascinating because Ezra made himself accountable to the king that he was trusting the Lord by not getting any protection from the king. If you read Nehemiah, (don’t go there now, but…) Nehemiah is basically given an almost identical carte blanche in the third wave 10 years later. The difference is, Ezra refused to seek protection from the king, but Nehemiah said, ‘I’ll take it…’ and he got protection from the king. He got soldiers and people to protect him on the 900 mile trip.

A lot of us are like the woman that was on a passenger ship on the sea during a violent storm. The ship was being tossed to and fro. She went up to the captain and said, “Is there any hope, Captain?” to which the captain replied, “Our only hope is in God,” to which the woman replied, “Are things really that bad?” The humor in that is the truth within! Is it not? It’s only when we get tossed and turned and our lives are going to get flipped around when we put our hope in God. Last I checked, I think that’s supposed to be a daily thing… Right?

Well, was Ezra right, or was Nehemiah right? Was Ezra right by trusting the Lord only without protection, or was Nehemiah right, trusting the Lord with protection? I think they were both right, but there are times (and this was one of them) where faith needs to take on flesh.

Years ago, I was in the very first building campaign I ever conducted at Holmes Baptist Church in the early 90s. I studied the word of God on finance, particularly on borrowing, and came up with four principles that I brought here to Saylorville.

The four principles I learned on borrowing were these:

  1. Borrowing is never encouraged in Scripture. Did you know that?
  2. Borrowing is always discouraged in Scripture. Did you know that?
  3. Here’s the loophole. (You’re just waiting for it!) Borrowing is not outrightly prohibited in Scripture. And that gives way to the “therefore,” the fourth principle.
  4. Therefore, borrowing is not a matter of sin. It’s a test of faith.

This is powerfully illustrated right here. [Here at Saylorville Church], we have chosen to trust God without borrowing, without going to the soldiers and all the people that protect us from outside. We’re trusting God with it. Does that make us more spiritual? Maybe… and maybe NOT! But it keeps us from condemning those who do borrow. Amen? We don’t ever want to get smug in our walk with God. Remember the fourth principle, borrowing isn’t a matter of sin. It’s a test of faith.

My faith [was certainly] tested in 1994! When we were building, a building was going to cost $250,000, a drop in the bucket compared to today. It might as well have been $3 million for our country church! We raised about half of it, and we had one more offering to go. Our people were giving sacrificially, but at the end of the offering, we still would have owed about $120,000 to $130,000 if we were ever going to launch this campaign. I was so discouraged because we had no more plans to raise money, and our people were already tapped out. They’d given so faithfully. They’d given so sacrificially. I remember going into my office that Monday wondering how I was going to communicate with them, because we were not going to be able to go forward as we had planned, but… there on my desk was a letter. (I still have it!) I walked in and picked up the letter. It was from one of the leading men in our church, and he said, (and I paraphrase) ‘Pastor, thank you for leading us in this venture. Myself and about a half a dozen other men have met secretly, and we believe we can come up with the resources to cover three fourths of what we need to complete this. Let’s do it!’ I remember what that did for my faith! My faith was tested. I was wavering. I’ll be the first to confess. But, man, did it soar then!

By the way, now 25 years later, just the other day out of the blue [I was talking] with the pastor of that church and God is doing great things there again! They’re building on again and they’re not borrowing any money. They’re keeping that philosophy going. To God be the glory!

Here at Saylorville Church, we have spent multiple millions of dollars purchasing property to the south, the north, the east. We’ve doubled in size and we do it all to the glory of God, because His good hand has been on us! Amen?

James 1:17 (ESV), “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

But God, give us greater faith, and thus be more authentic in our walk with God.

Thirdly, He had great humility. Look down to chapter 8, verse 21. He says,

Ezra 8:21, “Then I proclaimed a fast…”

They’re on their way back. After three days, they realized they didn’t have any priests with them, so they sent some people back to get some. In the meantime, they’re just super humble about what’s going on here. They proclaimed a fast there…

Ezra 8:21b, “…at the River Ahava that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.”

…and He goes on. There is great humility here and throughout the life of Ezra. I would just say to you that boldness and humility are not like oil and water. They should be one. We can be humble and bold at the same time, and we should be. If you look at chapter nine, when Ezra finds out that the believers are marrying and intermarrying with unbelievers, (Boy, am I glad that doesn’t take place anymore! (Said facetiously) Sheesh…There’s nothing new under the sun here…) what does he do? Verse 3:

Ezra 9:3, “As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God…

Wow! That’s demonstrative! There’s great boldness and great humility woven together here.

If you interviewed Ezra on his successes, (which were many) he wouldn’t talk about his charisma, his demonstrative behavior. He wouldn’t talk about his giftedness or his determination to apply all these wildly successful principles. He hadn’t read “From Good to Great” [“Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap And Others Don’t” by Jim Collins.] His answer would be simple. His answer would be humble, and his answer would be repeated. He said this along with Nehemiah… eight times! And here it is:

[References not stated.] “The good hand of the Lord was upon me.”

There it is. The good hand of the Lord was upon me. That’s even better than ‘Better than I deserve.’ And that’s not even out of scripture. I like that line, but I like that it’s humble. It’s greatly humble. That was Ezra. An authentic life is a humble life that realizes that our blessings come from God. Without him, we can do nothing. [John 15:5] Amen?

Then there’s great gratitude. Back to chapter 7 in verse 27, notice what it says.

Ezra 7:27-28, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king,” (He’s talking about Artaxerxes) “to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the King and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers.”

Great gratitude. Authentic Christianity is filled with gratitude, no matter what is happening in your life. One of the greatest tests of whether you are a true, fervent follower of Jesus is when you can show real gratitude in hard times.

This isn’t necessarily a hard time, but just the other day, one of our faithful deacons who was tasked to give a report in our meeting about his life, his ministry, and what God was doing in his life, did just that. He shared some really deep burdens about his life, burdens that we needed to pray over. But he did so by infolding those burdens in just great gratitude, thanking all of us for who we were, what we meant to him, for what his church means to him, for what God means to him and what the gospel means to him. In fact, by the time he got done, I was thinking “Does he have a burden here?!’ He really did have a burden, but he didn’t let his gratitude get lost in the burden. When we’re hurting and we can bless the Lord in our hurt, that is one of the greatest praises. That’s one of the greatest evidences that you are a real follower of Jesus. When someone says, ‘How’re you doing?’ … and you say, ‘I’m blessed,’ you don’t just mean ‘Things are going great… swimmingly!’ No… You mean, ‘I’m blessed of God.’ You might even have to say, ‘…in spite of the difficulties that are happening in my life, I’m blessed.’

When the children of Israel came back, they were so grateful!

Psalm 126:1-3, “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

we were like those who dream. (They were like in a dream, coming back!)

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then they said among the nations, (These are other people talking about them.)

“The LORD has done great things for them.” (And how did they reply? Yes, he has!)

The LORD has done great things for us; (And we are what?)

We are glad.”

They were grateful! Ezra was authentic in his gratitude.

… And also in his courage. He had great courage! It shows in the next line that follows in chapter 7, verse 28, that because of this…

Ezra 7:28b, “…I took courage…”

When God does things in our lives, does that not encourage us? Does that not infuse us with strength? By the way, that’s what “to encourage” someone means literally. EN means “inside.” It means to put courage in somebody. God will do it through circumstances, and when He encourages us, we respond.

Remember who was in Ezra’s ancestry? Zadok and (who else?) Phinehas. You guys remember Phinehas? I want to remind you of who Phinehas was as only Eugene Peterson in his “Message“ translation can describe it. Numbers 25:1-6. Here’s what it says.

Numbers 25:1-6, “Israel was camped at Shittim (Acacia Grove), the men began to have sex with other Moabite women. It started when the women invited men to their sex-and-religion worship. They ate together and then worshipped their gods. Israel ended up joining in the worship of Baal of Peor. God was furious! His anger was blazing out against Israel. God said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of Israel and kill them by hanging, leaving them publicly exposed in order to turn God’s anger away from Israel.” Moses issued orders to the judges of Israel. (These are the orders.) Each of you must execute the men under your jurisdiction who joined in the worship of Baal Peor. Just then, while everyone was weeping in penitence at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, an Israelite man, flaunting his behavior in front of Moses and the whole assembly, paraded a Midianite woman into his family tent. Phinehas, (that’s our man!) son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw what he was doing, grabbed his spear and followed them into the tent. With one thrust he drove the spear through the two of them, the man of Israel and the woman, right through their midsections. That stopped the plague from continuing among the people of Israel. But 24, 000 had already died.”

He shish kabobbed them! In the very end, that stopped the plague from continuing among the people of Israel, even though a lot of them died.

(By the way, every once in a while, some kids come up to me after I get done preaching. They draw me a picture from what I…Don’t draw this picture, okay?! (audience laughing)

But this is the line that Ezra descended from, the line of Phinehas.

It stopped the plague! Some of you are probably saying, ‘Oh my goodness! God actually honors such a thing?!’ One of the Psalms that goes through the history of Israel puts it like this;

Psalm 106:30-31, “Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,

and the plague was stayed.

31 And that was counted to him as righteousness

from generation to generation forever.”

I’d say God blessed that… Wouldn’t you?!

I was with some young ministers just the other day and we were talking about the difference between miracles and the miraculous. Is there a difference between a miracle and the miraculous? I’m going to suggest to you, yes, there is. Just because something isn’t technically a miracle doesn’t mean it isn’t miraculous. When David killed Goliath, was that a miracle? Go like this. No, it wasn’t. It was very accurate, but it wasn’t a miracle. Was it miraculous? …Dang right, it was! He killed him! They won the battle! It was amazing! Listen… God does the miraculous when there is either a great need that we cry out to Him for, or there is great courage that is exhibited in the moment. When I look at Scripture and I study either the miracles or the miraculous, I see God doing so. Somebody said the other day, “I’d sure like to  see more miracles happening.” I thought, “I don’t think he’s going to give YOU a miracle.” Look at your life. You love Jesus, but you’re not doing anything to exhibit any courage. You don’t have any great needs. And when I see this, I see God coming through miraculously when there is a great need from God’s people, or when we exhibit great courage. Then he comes through… big time!

Ezra was a chip off the old block. I don’t have to tell any of you here that our nation is in great trouble right now. And if you don’t see it, you’re blind. And I pray that God would raise up Phinehases in our time to stop the plague of filth that’s flooding the country and seeping into the church. And by the way, I don’t mean literally. I don’t want you to go out there and look for a spear here… Okay? The word of God will do. Amen? That cuts both ways. Right?

Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Use the sword of the spirit! That’ll shish kebob ‘em… for Jesus! But that takes great courage. I think that’s when God acts, when we show great courage.

Finally, he was a great doer. This is a passage many have memorized. Maybe even you have. verse 10,

Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to (What? Say it, everyone…) do it.” (That’s the difference maker… to do it) “… and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

He was a full man. He was a completely balanced man. He was a well-rounded man. I also noticed from this passage that great doers, have tender hearts. He set it in his heart. Remember Daniel? He was a contemporary of Zerubbabel whose been gone by now. Daniel has died. We’re told when Daniel was younger, he purposed in his heart not to defile himself for the portion of the King’s meat. Have you ever read that? That’s where it begins, in your heart. Get your heart right with God. Some of your hearts are not right with God. You don’t even know him. That’s where it begins. Peter said, “Set apart Christ as Lord in your heart and be ready always to give an answer to every man of the hope, the reason of the hope that’s in you with meekness and fear.”

[1 Peter 3:15, (ESV) “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”]

Great doers have tender hearts. Great doers have sharp minds. He set it in his heart to study. In verse 6,

Ezra 7:6, “…this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses …”

There’s that word “skilled.” The Hebrew word “skilled” is a really cool word. It literally means to be quick, to be speedy. It’s sort of the opposite of being cumbersome. Have you ever heard somebody teach the Bible where you’re just going, ‘Oh… this is painful!’ That’s NOT Ezra! He’s making sense. It’s super clear. And 10 years later, this very same Ezra will show up after the third wave comes back under Nehemiah. The walls are built, the choir comes up, Ezra steps onto a platform in chapter eight of Nehemiah, and he begins to preach all around him. There’re 13 men on the platform with him, and 13 Levites amongst the thousands. These 26 are going around and explaining what Ezra is preaching! Here’s how Nehemiah puts it.

Nehemiah 8:8, “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”

Just the other day, I’m at a coffee shop with three of the guys that I work with, (brand new Christians, but really growing in the Lord) and they brought a friend. (I hope their friend is going to be here today. He’s investigating Christianity.) It was a great conversation… very tenderhearted! We’re openly talking, and they sort of teed me up… you know, “Share the gospel with them, Pastor!’ which I did. When I got done, I’m thinking, ‘That pretty much did it. He’s got to get it now!’  Right? And one by one, those three guys with me chimed in and gave “the sense,” explaining things that I thought I’d already explained thoroughly, but apparently not well enough. And you could just see the light coming on!

If you’re a doer of the word, you not only have a tender heart, you’ll have a sharp mind, and realize your limitations, that you need others. This is why we have community groups. This is why we have Bible studies because all of the teaching that emanates doesn’t just come from this pulpit. Amen? It better be right. It better be accurate, but we need people all around, giving “the sense.”

Authentic followers need more than truth, but they don’t need less. Doers study. Remember this old Awana verse?

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV), “Study to shew thyself (What?) approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Then great doers have great wills. This is the line. He did all this to “do” what he was teaching. If you didn’t have that phrase “to do,” then this is just like a hundred other verses in the Bible. But this is what makes him the well-rounded man that he was. The problem with some of us is, we have big heads rather than burning hearts. Remember those two guys that Jesus met on the road to Emmaus? After he rose from the dead, Jesus taught the Word of God. Remember all that? Then when he finally disappeared, they said,

Luke 24:32, (ESV) “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

‘Now, let’s go have “hearts burning conferences” all over the place!’ Is that what they said? No! Their hearts burned, and then they went and told everybody that he was risen! And that’s what a well-rounded, authentic follower of Jesus Christ does. You take the Word of God. You understand the Word of God. You articulate the Word of God and then you do the Word of God… because you’re a doer of the Word, not a hearer only!

It wasn’t enough that Ezra was a great student. He was a great change agent. Scholars don’t change the world. They inform it, and that’s good. God is looking for men and women, well-rounded in their knowledge and with the guts to put their knowledge to practice. The best teachers make the best doers. Amen? And it’s not enough that we have godly men. We need gospel men. It’s assumed that if you love God in your part of this church, you are a godly person and you’re pursuing godliness. But if you do that, then the gospel must be infused in your life and coming out of your pores. Total authenticity… well-rounded ministry… seeking… doing… teaching.

By the way, when James says,

James 1:22, “… be doers of the word, and not hearers only…”

…he follows it by saying that he will be a blessing “in” his doing. Have you ever read that? God doesn’t bless us for what we know. He blesses us for what we do with what we know. So here’s the question. Are you authentic, or are you a fake? I don’t think Donald Trump coined the word “fake news” but made it a household phrase, didn’t he? Some of us are just fake.

I remember at the eve of building the first building project I had, the one I referred to earlier back at Holmes, we had an influx of Hispanic.  They came up from Mexico because a wealthy entrepreneur had moved into our area and was building all kinds of chicken places and egg factories. And he was employing hundreds of Hispanics, but he was paying them just enough to keep them from starving. We led Vehelio and Melisa to Christ. In fact, they would be the first ones baptized in that new facility, but they were just struggling to make ends meet. I went and met with that wealthy entrepreneur, because he claimed to be a Christian. He told me how he’d prayed a prayer, he’d trusted Jesus and gone forward in a revival. I said, “Then why all these complaints?” He said, “I don’t know. I’m giving them money.” I went back to Vehelio and Melisa. I explained to them that this wealthy entrepreneur was a born again Christian. I’ll never forget Melisa, who barely knew a lick of English, looked at me and she said, “Pastor, I do not believe it.”

Are you authentic? And when someone looks at your life, will they say, ‘I believe you are a Christian,’ or will they say ‘You are not a Christian’?

God, help us to be authentic. I pray for those who are here who do not really know Jesus. They know Him and they give Him lip service, but they have never exercised true faith. And I pray that if that’s you, dear friend, that you would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ today. And for those of us who do know Him, oh God, like Ezra, make us authentic. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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