Introduction to Nehemiah

Nehemiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:20
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As we close out this chapter this morning, we are really continuing on from where we began last week.
Last week we studied verses 14-16 together where Paul encouraged us to live in harmony with one another.
To bless those who persecute.
To feel each others emotions.
The ultimate purpose in all of this being to present ourselves as a living sacrifice.
To exalt Christ in our bodies, whether by life or by death.
Our desire should be that our enemy would come to know the same mercy and grace that we have found in Jesus ourselves.
A wrong response to being wronged is not something that is okay.
And I am not just saying that.
It is recorded in scripture. God is the one who says that.
This is something that we will see as Paul continues on this theme in our verses for today.
In Romans 12:17-21, Paul teaches that…
The Christian response to being wronged is to do right toward your enemy, leaving all vengeance with God.
Romans 12:17–21 ESV
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Again as I mentioned last week, while persecution is not something we have experienced to an extreme as others, we still face it.
We all experience evils done against us in some form though not to the extremes of our brothers and sisters in countries where there is open hostility toward the gospel.
John Piper (“Do not Avenge Yourselves, but Give Place to Wrath,” on tells the story of the martyrdom of Graham Staines (missionary to India) and his two sons:
In January, 1999 Graham Staines and his two sons, Phillip (10) and Timothy (6) were mobbed by radical Hindus, trapped inside their vehicle in … India, and burned alive. The three charred bodies were recovered clinging to each other. Graham Staines had spent 34 years serving the people of India in the name of Jesus. He was the director of the Leprosy Mission in Baripada, Orissa.
He left behind his widow Gladys and daughter Esther. … Her response was in every paper in India to the glory of Christ. She said, a few days after the martyrdom of her husband and sons, “I have only one message for the people of India. I’m not bitter. Neither am I angry. But I have one great desire: that each citizen of this country should establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who gave his life for their sins … let us burn hatred and spread the flame of Christ’s love.”
Everyone thought she would move back to Australia. No. She said God had called them to India, and she would not leave. She said, “My husband and our children have sacrificed their lives for this nation; India is my home. I hope to be here and continue to serve the needy.” Then, perhaps most remarkable of all—listen to this all you who are teenagers—her daughter Esther was asked how she felt about the murder of her dad, and the thirteen year old, said, “I praise the Lord that He found my father worthy to die for Him.”
What a response.
I have also mentioned in the past the story of Elizabeth Elliot, hers and the other wives response when their husbands were killed by the auca people.
Persecution and evil.
Their response is a God thing.
It is solely God at work in their lives.
That’s the high biblical standard that we’re called to!
This is what Paul is calling you and I to do.
I’m not going to tell you that I could respond as those godly widows did
God would have to give me the strength and grace to be able to do so.
We need to know this, and to most importantly, understand how God wants us to respond when we are wronged, whether in a minor or in a major way.
We need to practice with the minor wrongs that we suffer so that we’ll be prepared for the major wrongs.
Romans 12:17 ESV
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
When we hear the word repay, we understand the concept.
Giving something back that is owed.
Paul is saying though don’t give back evil, when you have been given evil.
Paul is talking about things here that
The way the Greek language is structured, often the emphasis is placed at the beginning of phrases and sentences.
In this case verse 17 begins with the word no one.
In the way Paul has written this verse, he is saying that there is no limit, there is no extenuating circumstances, that allow you to repay evil with evil.
It carries the idea of meeting

to meet a contractual or other obligation

The word means literally to give back, implying that there is a debt and conveying the idea of an obligation and a responsibility that is not optional.
This is where our feeling for a need for justice comes in.
When someone does wrong.
There is an obligation created.
In this context the idea is to compensate the person in a bad sense, to "reward" them back for what they gave us.
It's that spirit of "I'm going to get even no matter what."
That spirit though is the exact opposite of what Jesus teaches.
Jesus declared
Matthew 5:43 ESV
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
Matthew 5:44 ESV
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
In regards to retaliation a few verses prior to this Jesus said
Matthew 5:38–42 ESV
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Retaliation was strongly condemned by Jesus in His sermon on the mount…
All of us have experienced this strong urge to "get back", of repaying in kind or of giving someone what they "deserve".
When we respond in this manner, we are simply lowering ourselves to the level of the person who irritates us.
Paul makes it very clear that getting even is NEVER the answer.
John Calvin rightly said that ''Revenge is a passion unbecoming the children of God."
If we are not to act in such a way as to get revenge, how ought we act.
Romans 12:17 ESV
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
If you are reading in the NASB this verse looks a bit different.
Romans 12:17 (NASB 95)
17 Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
The word in the Greek

to give careful thought to, take thought for, take into consideration, have regard for

You can see where the word respect comes in to play.
The idea is to think about something ahead of time, giving it careful thought and consideration, with the implication that one can then respond appropriately.
You need to be thinking now about how you will respond in certain situations before you are in them.
Otherwise your fallen nature kicks in and leads the way.

Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.

When Paul says that we should take thought for what is right in the sight of all people, he does not mean that we should determine our behavior by public opinion.
Public opinion may run contrary to God’s Word. Rather, he means that we should think about our testimony to a watching world.
What idea of the Christian faith will the world form when it sees or hears about how we responded to the wrong that was done to us?
If we react with rage, we’re not being a good witness.
If we stop to think about our witness, we can then respond in a Christlike manner.
Watchman Nee who was a Chinese man who became a Christian at the age of 17 and was eventually arrested and put in prison for his faith until his death.
He told as story of two Chinese terrace farmers.
The farmer whose field was higher up the hill was a Christian.
He would get up early and work hard to pump water by hand for his crops.
But his shifty neighbor below him would cut a path through his upper neighbor’s dikes and let the water flow down to his lower field.
This happened more than once and the Christian farmer was quite irritated with his lazy neighbor.
But rather than going down and yelling at his neighbor, the Christian farmer started pumping water first for his neighbor’s field and then for his own.
In the story, the lazy neighbor came under conviction, went to the Christian and apologized, and then listened to the Christian’s witness about Christ and came to faith in Christ himself.
That story is exactly the example that we are called to provide.
If you are a professing Christian, you are being watched.
Do you know that?
We are being watched?
The way you and I respond to persecution is being watched by others.
The way you and I respond to difficulties in our family relationships.
The way we talk to, with, and about others is being evaluated by people around us.
In the sight of all men there is a certain responsibility that we have in our character that is very important to understand.
Are you seeking to honor God in your response?
You may wonder, what should I do if I’ve already blown it?
Maybe you didn’t stop to think about how you should respond and so you exploded in anger at a difficult neighbor or family member.
You pretty much ruined your testimony.
Now what?
The answer is, humble yourself, go to the person you wronged, and ask forgiveness.
Don’t try to use your apology to witness to that person, because they will think you’re just apologizing so that you can give them a religious pitch.
Just ask forgiveness, and live your faith out in front of them.
Leave it with them to ask about your faith.
Do what Paul says in the next verse.
Romans 12:18 ESV
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Verse 18 really shows us the quintessential responsibility we each have within any conflict we are in.
Sometimes in spite of all that we do, the other person does not want to make peace.
Perhaps they are mad at God and you represent God to them.
Perhaps they feel so hurt at this point in time that they don’t know how to respond.
Paul’s point is, don’t provoke a quarrel by your obnoxious behavior and then claim that you’re being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Stop what you are doing!
Bend over backwards to make peace.
Let the difficult person know that you want to be on friendly terms.
If they reject it, at least it’s not your fault.
You are making, and continuing to make the effort to be friendly towards them.
A big part of that is not taking revenge.
Paul says in
Romans 12:19 ESV
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
In this verse, Paul is citing
Deuteronomy 32:35 ESV
35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’
This verse is included in what is called the song of Moses.
Deuteronomy 32:44–47 ESV
44 Moses came and recited all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he and Joshua the son of Nun. 45 And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
God knows all things, sees all things, and has all power.
He is a perfectly just God, who will not ultimately allow evil to go unpunished.
We can therefore trust him to avenge any evil that people may do to us.
We are to “leave room for God’s wrath.”
If we try to exact revenge ourselves, we transgress onto territory that God has reserved for himself.
God is calling us to do what is right.


Rather than responding with evil for the purpose of revenge.
Romans 12:20 (ESV)
20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink;
Feeding your enemy or giving him a drink represents all kind deeds that you can do to meet your enemy’s needs.
Deeds often speak louder than words.
Think back to the story I told a little earlier that Watchmen Nee recounted of the Chinese farmers.
The lower farmer needed water.
So rather than yelling at him and continuing to have to rebuild his own dykes.
He watered the lower man’s field.
This does as Paul finishes that verse with.
Romans 12:20 (ESV)
20 for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Providing for an enemy’s hunger and thirst is similar to the actions Jesus requires of us in response to an enemy:
turning the other cheek, giving our shirts to those who ask for our coats, and giving to those who beg from us (Luke 6:29–30).
Paul here is quoting Proverbs 25.
Proverbs 25:21–22 (ESV)
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head,
Most of us are familiar with this language.
It has passed into our Christian thinking as a way of encouraging believers to do good to those who are nasty to us.
The thought of hot coals on someones head brings up in our minds picture of pain.
What is usually implied is that our responding to evil with good will cause people to become ashamed of their actions and perhaps seek reconciliation with the Lord.
Which is the example we see played out in the story of the farmers.
Some commentators feel heaping burning coals refers to the practice of lending coals from a fire
In Bible times a person needed to keep his hearth fire going all the time in order to insure fire for cooking and warmth.
If it went out, he could either take the time to relight it himself or go to a neighbor for some live coals of fire.
Some would carry these coals on their head in a container, back to their home.
The person who would give him some live coals would be meeting his desperate need and showing him an outstanding kindness.
If he would heap the container with coals, the man would be sure of getting some home still burning.
The one injured would be returning kindness for injury, the only thing a Christian is allowed to give back to the one who has injured him.
This act of kindness God could use to soften the heart of the person and lead him on to repentance and the offering of a recompense for the injury sustained.
In this way the Christian would overcome evil with good.
It reminds one of the phrase "Killing them with kindness."
Their is a dual action at work I think we can see based upon these two ideas.
A provision of something helpful, and a burning within the individual that they might do right.
What if that farmer hand’t acted in that way.
Done the opposite of what Paul says in verse 21 and was overcome by evil towards his neighbor.
He certainly would not have seen Christ expressed in a loving way.
When someone does you wrong or me, what are we to do?
Do what's right -- love them even as our Lord loved even Judas to the bitter end of his betrayal.
"Overcome evil with good".
How is this possible?
In our strength it's not possible.
But each of these "tests" is another opportunity to keep entrusting ourselves to the One Who judges righteously.
Philippians 4:13 ESV
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This is not a sports verse.
This is a verse for all of life's difficult situations.
Thomas Fuller - The noblest revenge is to forgive.
Thomas Watson had similar advice noting that "It is more honour to bury an injury than to revenge it."
Proverbs 20:22 ESV
22 Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
Dr. Richard C. Halverson (Chaplain for the US Senate) wrote a weekly devotional letter for business and professional men called Perspective for a number of years during his life.
He wrote one that I feel sums up quite nicely this passage.
"There are many ways to fight....You may fight with your fists...but what does it prove--even if you win? It certainly doesn't prove you are just proves you have more muscle, or can duck better...or maybe you've got a harder skull. In fact, chances are the guy who uses his fists knows he's wrong--that's why he resorts to muscle instead of brains...he bluffs his way through life with a strong arm instead of intelligence. "A man may fight with words...even win the argument. But what does that prove? Except that he is smarter with the king's English--more adept at language. Or maybe it just proves that he is a loud mouth! "Love is a way to fight, too! Love is a mighty force--the mightiest force in history! This does not mean that love never loses--it often loses on the short-term basis...but it always wins ultimately! Jesus loved...and they put Him on a cross--crucified Him like a common criminal.
The man who fights with love must be prepared to lose--temporarily! He'll be invincible in the long run--but he must be willing to suffer setbacks. That's why only strong men can fight with love. Weak men don't love--love requires strength, courage, fortitude! Weaklings must use fists--or arguments--or guns. But they are no match for love! 'Love outlasts anything.'"
We have taken the last few weeks and looked together at this 12th chapter of Romans.
I pray that you have taken the time to really let Paul’s words sink in to your life.
Why not now - present your body as a living sacrifice to God.
Give him your whole self, each and every day, in all that you do.
Know that you represent him no matter where you are or what you are doing.
Why not now - use the gifts God has given you here in the body of Christ.
God has gifted you, I guarantee it.
How can you use it?
If you have no clue, let’s talk?
We can find a way.
If you are on the fence still thinking about it, jump of that fence and get moving.
Why not now, love one another, serve one another, show hospitality.
Why not live in harmony with one another.
Live peaceably with all.
The ultimate truth is, none of what we have been talking about these past weeks in this book is possible without Jesus.
Each and every one of us is dead in our sins.
You are dead in your sin, I am dead in my sin.
That is why Jesus came.
That is why we need Jesus.
If you haven’t made that commitment.
If you haven’t given your life the Christ.
If you don’t see spiritual fruit and growth in your life.
Why not now?
Beloved, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!
Trust in Christ!
We have been sing this song each week as we have gone through this chapter of Romans.
The chorus is really our hope and our prayer
For all of my days, I will live for Your glory Running with courage and faith The prize of my journey, the joy of salvation To meet my King face to face
Each verse reminds us to trust in Christ every step I take
Let’s sing this song once again with a renewed vigor for Christ.
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