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Syndication

“Renew”

Sermon Series: Ezra

Ephesians 2:8-10

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Williams, Interim Pastor

 10:45 AM Sermon August 30, 2020

 

Good morning. 

I’m so glad that you're here and that you have chosen to worship with us today. If you have your Bible, you can turn to Ezra chapter seven as her chapter seven. We'll be there in just a few moments before we jump in, though, I felt like I needed to give just a little bit of a disclaimer. I'm sure those of you that were here last week are more excited about what I'm wearing today than what I wore last week. And I have to admit that I turned on my Facebook earlier in the week. You know, in sometimes during the week they put like little clips of whatever we talked about. And when I turned that clip on, when it popped up and all I saw was that that Bama shirt that's like just staring just really just boldly at me. I thought that's probably not fair for people that weren't there that don't know the context. I think what an arrogant jerk, that guy is wearing a Bama shirt in the middle of Louisiana. So, I made my own personal commitment. I'll share it with you that I won't ever speak on this stage ever again with Bama attire. So I know some of you will come back now, wait at the clap,  that wasn't really necessary, but anyways, but I'm just so thankful for just what God is doing through our college students and what a great time that was last week to be able to celebrate with them, tons of them that were in our 11 o'clock service. And so, thank you just for the way that you love and support college students in our area. Just an amazing, amazing opportunity for us as a church to be able to minister to just the next generation. Yesterday. I did a, a wedding for a couple in our church and it was in Kentwood, Louisiana. That's the first time I've ever been to Kentwood, but was a, just a great experience, but it actually wasn’t, their wedding ceremony. It was their, the renewing of their vows. Now I I've done renewal of vows, you know, for five years and for 10 years and for 15 years and for 20 and 25 and even for 50 years, but I've never done a vow renewal for a couple of this, been married for five months. All right. But that's what we did yesterday. And the reason was, is because their wedding was originally scheduled about four or five weeks after COVID just exploded. And so, they had to shut down the big ceremony and we just did a backyard wedding five months ago. And so yesterday we did the vow renewal in front of all their family and friends was just a great experience them. And so, like Monday when the light, the storm is starting to roll in, I'm thinking, oh my goodness, if this, this couple, if their wedding got messed up and then their, the renewal got messed up because of the storm. So, I was thankful that they were able to do it, but it was just a great time together. But within that, I started thinking this week is we're looking at the word renewal. That's the focus for our time together today. I begin to think about when you do that, whether it's at five months or whether it's at 50 years, there's a purpose while people renew their vows, it is a recommitment or a reminder of exactly what they started with with a vow that they made before, but between one another before God, I want you to think about that concept renewal today, as it relates to your relationship with God.

So, first of all, let's think about what that word means. The word renews simply means to resume after an interruption to give fresh life or strength to. I like the end of that for many of us, when it comes to spiritual renewal, what we have to remember is that many times there's an interruption in terms of our passion for God, right? There's something that happens that distracts us or gets us off track. And we're not as passionate about Jesus maybe we once were. And so, we have a renewal. It means that we decide that we're going to resume that, we decide that we're going to get back on track. We decide that we're going to change some things in our life in order to give back to where we know God wants us to be. And what happens when we do that, then it gives fresh or strength. It gives you something that you did not have before. It renews that thing in your life that was missing. And I don't know about you, but I've been through periods of time in my life to where there was just a going through the motions you ever been there or mean there was things that you were trying to ignore as we talked about the last couple of weeks that, you know, you needed to deal with, but you just didn't. And you just come to that point in life where you say enough is enough, tired of playing games. I'm tired of going through the motions. I'm tired of ignoring it, just, just surviving day in and day out. I want that passion to be renewed. I want that in my life again. I want that fresh life. I want that strength that comes from being exactly where God wants us to be.

Okay. So within that concept, I want you to think about it. A couple of things related to this idea of renewal, first of all, is this is that renewal begins with an acknowledgement. That change is necessary, that if you're going to renew you yourself, you have to begin with the idea or the concept that you say, you know what? There is change that is necessary in my life. And so for every single one of us on a day like today is we're going to participate, Lord’s Supper in just a few moments that as we do that, it is a reminder. And we'll talk more about this in a minute, but there is a reminder of the fact that there's change that is necessary in my life. The Bible describes in First Corinthians that anytime you take the Lord's supper, that what you are to first do is to examine yourself, to see if there's anything in you that is unworthy of partaking of the body and the blood of Christ. So within this concept of renewal, it begins with you recognizing there's something in my life that's not the way It should be. So the question You want to be asking yourself throughout this morning is what is that for you? What is that thing? Or what is that issue or what is that relationship that just needs to change in your life? Now let's take it another step forward. As it relates to a specifically spiritual renewal, that spiritual renewal involves a movement toward Jesus. All right. In my attitude, my priority, in my actions. It makes a conscious effort in your heart and mind just as I I've moved away from where Jesus, Jesus didn't move, right. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. But what happens oftentimes is that we move away. We, we drift, or we're distracted. And so, what spiritual renewal is, if you make the decision today that I need to renew, whether it's my attitude, my priorities, or my actions, I want to make a step towards Jesus. And we're going to talk about, and just a few moments about what that looks like. So when we look, at the book of Ezra, that was the purpose of Ezra. Now we finally, this is the last week of the series, and we're finally getting to the, the, the Ezra, the man, right? We've been looking at the book of Ezra, but now he enters the scene in chapter seven. And when he enters the scene, the King who was Artaxerxes decided that he was going to send him back. This is the second wave of people that return to Israel. And as they're returning, everything has been rebuilt in terms of the temple, in terms of the city, things are beginning to happen, but there's all of these interruptions that have been going on.

We talked last week about between Chapter Four and Chapter Five, that there was a 16-year period of time where the wall stopped being built. Then we see that begins again. We looked at that last week and when we get to the end of Chapter Six, there's another 60 to 70-year period of time between Chapter Six and Chapter Seven. Now, what’s interesting is that earlier in the year, we studied the book of Esther, right? The book of Esther, all the things that we studied happens right there between chapter six and chapter seven. So, on the end of everything we studied in Esther, we find King Artaxerxes he sends, he sends Ezra back to Israel with another group of people. And the focus of this is the renewal. It is the idea that there needs to be renewal amongst the people. That's why God led the King to do that. That's why as is returning Ezra was a scribe Ezra, basically when we look at the New Testament and we think about Pharisees and scribes, that Ezra was the part of the foundation of what that became. They were the religious leaders. They were the ones that knew the word. They were the ones that their heart was supposed to be focused on leading the people towards God. So Ezra, as he returns, we see this in Chapter Seven and Chapter Eight, that he, he leads the leaders of this group into a time of prayer and fasting for the people for the will of God and what he desires for them to do. And then as he returns, there's something interesting that happens in Chapters Nine and Chapter Ten, that as Ezra as he returns, he identifies that many of the Jewish people had intermarried with other people that had been displaced to Jerusalem. And what he sees is that people were intermarrying with people of other faiths, of other religious people that were pagans that were not fearers of God. And so, he does something that's very odd. He does something that seems strange in light of what we know that scripture teaches us related to the issue of divorce and he challenges them. And he calls on them to leave their, their wives and the children that were not of the Jewish faith that were not fearers and followers of God. He's, he calls them to divorce them. And basically, to start all over again. Now, when you read that, that can be confusing, right? It can be confusing because it seems to go against everything that we know that God's Word teaches us about scripture.  listen for, if we were just to be honest, and that there's times in scripture, that we read things that we're not sure completely how to wrap our minds around it. We're not sure that we completely understand them. And so I want to give you just a couple of things to think about when you come to those times as you're reading scripture is that anytime you come to a passage of scripture that is confusing to you, or that you have trouble wrapping your minds around, understand this, that you never build what you believe or your theology around the things that you don't understand, you always interpret what you don't understand in light of what is very clear that you do understand.

And here's, what's clear in scripture. It is clear in scripture; you look at the book of Malachi. It says that God hates divorce. So this is obviously not God's ultimate desire or God's ultimate plan is a divorce is not something that God desires. You can't take the book of Ezra and begin to build a theology that says, well, the person that I am married to is not a strong follower of Jesus, or they're not a follower of Jesus. And so I want to be with this person. And so Ezra gives me the right to divorce them and go over here.

You can't do that because the reality is, is that the scripture is clear that God hates divorce. Scripture is also clear in the New Testament. We can look at the book of Matthew. You can look at the book of First Corinthians and it describes the times that God allows divorce. But even in those allowances, he ultimately says that God's desire is for man and woman to stay together. Now, I don't want us to get off on all that means and what that looks like, but here's what I want you to see is that we can look at the book of Ezra and build our theology on what Ezra leads the people to do about the way that we live our lives, because there are other things in scripture that are very, very clear about what God feet, how God feels and what God desires as it relates to the issue of divorce.

So what do we learn from this passage then? Right? Ezra is basically giving us the history of what took place and why was he leading them to do that? And that's the thing that we need to emphasize. As we look at that at this section of scripture, the reason that Ezra was calling them to divorce and to make sure that purity remain among the Jewish people is he was trying to protect, look at this, don't miss this. He's trying to protect the lineage that the Messiah was going to come through. You see, God had been promising for generations, that the Messiah was going to come through the Jewish people, that through the people of Israel, the Messiah that was God's chosen people, he had set everything up for the world to see that what God desired is for them to follow him. And so he set up his own people that he was going to have favor upon that he was going to lead and protect and guide, and the whole purpose of that was so that eventually, and ultimately that the whole world would come to be followers of Jesus, simply because they recognize that God was the only true God and that he was in control.

So within this passage of scripture, what we see is Ezra protecting the purity of the Jewish people, because it was the way that Jesus, the Messiah, was going to come. So basically, here's the way that we have to view that, that in essence, what we see in Ezra Chapter Seven through Chapter Ten is God showing us through scripture, a description of what he did at a specific place in time. It is the history of what happened. It's a history of the story of God. And what happens is oftentimes is we take the things in scripture, or we take the things in life that are meant to be descriptive, and we make them prescriptive, which means that we take the things that God is describing a point in history where God did a certain thing in a certain way. And we try to make that about us and about the way that we make decisions. And scripture is very clear about the reality that is sometimes they're describing what God did in a series of time.

And then other times he's giving us specific instructions about what we are to do. Think about that in light of the church, that oftentimes here's what churches do. churches hear about the story of what God is doing somewhere else, right? And God just doing some amazing things through lots of different churches of different styles, with different leadership. I mean, just, there's just some amazing things that God is doing literally all over the world. But the problem is that when churches and leaders in the church, when they see what God is doing somewhere else, and then they try to go and copy that for what God is doing right here. And the reality is, is that just because God does something as a certain way, somewhere else doesn't mean that's the way that he wants to do it here. It’s a description of what God is doing at a specific place at a specific point in time. But we cannot relate that and say, well, then we must copy what they did, because if God did it there, that he wants to do it here, because the reality is that every church is different.

Every circumstance is different. Every leadership is different. All the things about a specific church are different. It also can relate to us as an individual body of believers. In January, we celebrated a hundred years of Istrouma as a church. Doesn't that seem like that was like a hundred years ago. I mean, I can't, it's hard to believe that was just a few months ago, but we celebrated the story of what God has done. And the, one of the worst things we could do is to, is to begin to think in our minds, well that for the next hundred years, it has to look exactly like it did for the first a hundred years, because the reality is, is that the story of the first hundred years was about how God used this church at different points along the way, because of who we were because of where we were because of the community around us to do things at that season in time.

So For the next hundred years, we're in a transition for the last several weeks. We've heard just testimonies and videos of from our pastor search team that we're in that moment or in that time of looking for what the story is going to look like as we go forward. And then it'll be something that all of us should be excited about and should we should be praying about, but the reality is, is that what God desires to do? We don't know yet, because the reality is that God is working in God, uses his own story as a part of what he wants to do in and through us about the larger picture of who God is and what he's doing.

But the emphasis of that passage is not just the issue of divorce. The emphasis of that passage is on Ezra, leading the people towards spiritual renewal. You say, well, Jeff, how does all that fit together? I mean, I just gave you a ton of information, sorry about just throwing all that on you one time. But the way that all that fits together is that when we think about the story that God has placed us in,  that throughout that story, you look at the people in Israel, how many times that they had to go through spiritual renewal because they got distracted or they got off track. And you think about how God used spiritual renewal to show himself, to be glorious, to show himself, to be powerful over and over and over again. So then for us today, as we think about where we are, and we think about praying for the next step in our journey, and we think about us individually, and as a body of believers, the times that we get distracted or we get, get off track or whatever it might be that today, the emphasis is we see Ezra’s model is for us to come to a place of spiritual renewal of saying today as a part of what God wants to do in my life and the life of this church, I want to make a move towards Jesus in my attitude, my priority in my actions. That that sounds good. Right? So how do we do that? Well, I want us to look at just one verse of scripture and Ezra Chapter Seven, that shows how Ezra led the people towards this place of spiritual renewal. And so remember everything I just shared with you about his challenge for the people and about them being pure about an essence, what they were doing is socially distancing from the rest of the world. It wasn't that they thought they were better than them, but there was something that God wanted them to do, that they needed to be seen as separate. They needed to be seen as different. And so in Ezra Chapter Seven and verse Ten, it describes exactly what Ezra did, for Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. That was his vision. He was returning to have this, this movement of spiritual renewal. And this is the vision of what Ezra said. This is the reason why I'm returning. This is what God has placed in my heart. These are the things that I'm going to do. And if you and I are going to experience spiritual renewal, if we're going to be a part of God's story and our life at this point in time, here's the three things that God wants us to do. They all revolve around this idea of renewal. We're going to look past this next passage of scripture when it come back to it. And just a moment, but let's look at those three things that God calls us to do as it, as we see in this passage, first of all, we've seen that renewal is Bible centered. What we see from Ezra in Ezra Chapter Seven, verse Ten is first of all, is that renewal is Bible centered. Look back at what he says there. And as her Chapter Seven and verse Ten, it says there, I can't see, because I don't have my glasses on. Can we put it back up on the screen as we're chapter seven, verse 10, it says for Ezra had set his heart to do what what's that next word say, study, to study the law of the Lord. That if you and I are going to be renewed, we have to understand that it has to be centered in the Bible. This spiritual renewal is not about emotion. Spiritual renewal is not about a feeling. It's not about the right set of circumstances that at the center of spiritual renewal, we must understand that the study of the word of God must be priority. Think about what Romans 12 says, Romans 12. It says, I appeal to you, therefore brothers, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice Holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. This is the idea of renewal, right? And then he tells you how to do that. He says, do not be conformed to this world. That's exactly what Ezra was saying to the people of Israel. When he returned, he says, Hey, listen, we need to be seen as separate. It's not an arrogance that we're better than everyone else, but it means that we don't live life based on the principles and the standards of the world around us, that we are to be seen as separate and different.

Not in our mindset towards people. We love everyone, but we're to be seen as separate in the way that we make decisions in life. And it says that we are to be transformed. Look at this by the renewing or by the renewal of our, what, Minds.You see, it begins with the word of God, because the word of God must get into our hearts and our minds. It must be something that we study. Notice it. Doesn't say, just read I in the essence of what God wants you to do is to recognize that even what happens in this room on Sunday mornings, if this is the only time that you open the word of God, if this is the only time that you are receiving anything from the word, and then you are missing out on the, the biggest part of what God wants you to be, to be a part of God gave you his word, and God gave you the Holy Spirit so that you can have a daily relationship with him. And if you're going to be renewed in terms of within your spirit, if you're going to begin that journey of moving towards Jesus, it begins about you renewing your mind. It begins by you studying in and immersing yourself in who God wants you to be. And the only way that you can find that ultimately is through the word of God. We take it for granted though. Don't we. Probably got Bibles all over your house, right? That are just sitting there collecting dust. We have all kinds of technology that at any moment at any time, probably most of you in the room have an app on your phone that has the Bible on it is everywhere around this, but yet how often we just take it for granted. And we re we don't recognize the reality that the lack of the scripture being in our minds, the, the lack of studying the Word of God is the reason that we struggle with making those moves towards Jesus.

I would say that for most of us in this room, if I were to ask you today, you say, man, I love Jesus. And I want to serve Him, and I want to follow Him, but I just can't seem to get over this. Or I just can't seem to get past this, or I just can't seem to stop doing this, or I just can't seem to change my mind. I just, all of us have those things that we're constantly struggling with. And the reason is, is that we are trying to move towards Jesus in our own efforts, with our own minds, with our own strength and what we need to recognize and understand that the power for every single one of us is in the Word of God. Get in there. If you don't know what to do in terms of where to start, what I would challenge you to do is just start with the gospel of John. Just start reading it every single day and to listen. What I challenged people to do is take the first chapter and read it every day. This week. If you can't read it every day, if you say, man, I don't know if I could do that. Just at least try four or five times this week just to read through John chapter one. And when you read it, you say, well, I don't know what I'm looking for. Well, this, and that's the reason why God gave us the Holy Spirit that you pray and say, God, would you teach me something from your word? And you just stay in it. Listen. It's like anything else that we do, there must be a commitment. There must be something that you're willing to do day in and day out. And here's, what's amazing. That happens is that over time, if you will make a commitment to the word of God, that what God will do is God will use the Holy Spirit and he will make the word come alive in your life. But it begins with renewal can happen in your life. You're not going to make that move towards Jesus without the Word of God.  renewal is Bible centered. number two, renewal is application centered. Renewal is application centered. Look back again at Ezra Chapter Seven, Ezra Chapter Seven. It says there that Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and then what, to do it. I mean, that's pretty simple, right? I don't know how much more I need to expound on that. And you're thinking, I hope you don't right, but there's really not much else to say about that, but you just got to do it, because think about, go back to Romans Chapter 12 for just a minute. Verse two, look at verse two, do not be conformed to this world, but be look at that next word to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You see for many people, they love to study the word because they can't wait for somebody to ask them a Bible trivia question, because they're going to have the answer or they know all those Kings and all those different things in the Old Testament, because they've been studying the word. But here's what happens is that many times people get stuck in. They want to know the facts of the word, but God did not give you this word for information. God gave you his word because he wants it to be something that transforms your life. So as, as much as we need to make sure that we are constantly immersing ourselves in the word of God, we need to make sure that the things that we know that God's word teaches us to do that we're applying them and actually doing them. You see, because it doesn't do us any good to have all this information in our heads, if we all follow it. So renewal, first of all, this Bible centered, but second of all, it is application oriented, driven. You have got to find yourself in a situation where you understand that I need to apply the word of God to my life. You say, well, Jeff, there's just things in there. I don't understand yet. Let me ask you this simple question. All the things that you do understand are you being obedient, and all those areas just start there. listen. If we all just started by being obedient in the areas that we already understand, we got plenty of work to do this week, right? I mean, we got plenty of work to do for the rest of 2020, and then beyond, because the reality is, is there things that are clear in scripture that we all know that at times that we're just not being obedient to. So if you want to make that move towards Jesus, you need to recognize that what God desires is for you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

And then finally, what we see in this passage is that renewal is contagious. Renewal is contagious. You say, I don't understand why you would say that. Well, look back one more time. But as we're chapter seven, this is for Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it and look at this and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel, that what God wants to do in your heart and life God's not doing that just for you. God's doing that as a part of his bigger story of what he wants to do in our community, and what he wants to do in the world. So what we see in Ezra is that he studied the law of the Lord. He began to apply it and he let the word, transform him, but then he began to invest that and others, you know what, that's a picture of. That's a picture of the great commission, right? That's exactly what Jesus taught his disciples to do is to understand, Hey, listen to what I'm telling you, put it into action and then go and make disciples.

You see, because that's the desire of the way that God wants the gospel to go forth is by you and I making a move towards Jesus and what that looks like his studying of the word, applying it to our lives, and then doing everything we can to influence and invest that word, to invest that, that gospel and to the people that are around us. You see, God has a plan for the people of Israel. And we see that story played out in the Old Testament. God had a plan for his disciples into the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus. And we see that in the early church and over and over again, both in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, we see time and time again, where people had to take stock of where they were. They had to take a deep breath and they had to make the ultimate decision. There are things in my life. That just aren't right. And I need the word of God. I need the application in order for me to make a move towards Jesus. And then as I made that move towards him, what God is going to do is to use me to influence those around me. They're going to see the light of the gospel in my life. But for many of us we've been there before, right? and we've renewed our faith in Jesus. We know we've recommitted, and we've grown up Baptist. We rededicated our lives to the Lord, right? And after a while, for many of us, we just get tired of doing that. We feel like such a failure because we just seem to not be able just to get it all together. But can I encourage you today with the simple reality that God knows that God knew long before you were ever born, that you were going to struggle.

God knew long before you ever existed, that you were going to see it. And they were going to be areas of your life that you were just going to need that constant renewal, that constant reminder. And so God gives us different things in his word. He gives us different instructions about things that we need to do to be reminded of who he is, what he's done for us. And what is planned is for our life. One of those is the Lord's Supper. You see Jesus told his disciples, as often as you do this, do this in remembrance of Me. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of what matters don't we sometimes we just need to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember all ultimately what matters in life. That's the reason why we do the Lord's Supper. that’s the reason why we do that? Because the bottom line at the end of the day is that all the other stuff that you're worried about, and then being distracted by, and you've gotten off track because of all of those things they’ve paled in comparison to who Jesus is, what he's done for you and the way he feels about you. God loves you. God has not given up on you and God desires for you to live his life in his life. According to scripture is an abundant life. So this morning, as we take a few moments and just stop and we take a deep breath and we remember who Jesus is, and we remember what Jesus did for us. I pray that God will use this as the catalyst for all of us to make a step towards Jesus. So here's what we're going to start. I'm going to ask you if you would just to bow your heads and close your eyes Because you see this time begins with us, examining our hearts and lives. What area of your life do you need to confess to him?

The Bible says that if you will confess your sins, that he is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, just talk to him right now, prepare your heart for this time. Be encouraged that his grace is sufficient for you,

Lord. This is your time. God, I don't know what all the needs are in this one, But I do know that Our ultimate need for all of us, regardless of the circumstances of life is you. God forgive us where we failed. You Forgive us where our lives just haven't measured up. God, forgive us for not taking you and your words seriously for just ignoring you or setting you on the shelf.  Forgive us for trying to live lives that are our own efforts. Forgive us for the decisions that we've made. That just don't honor. You God, thank you that your grace and your mercy overflow into our lives. Give us your peace right now to know that as we confess our sins, that you are faithful and just To forgive us, God cleanse us right now, allow us to receive from you in a way that brings you honor and encourages and Bolsters are heart

I’d ask if you would to take the elements that you received when you came in and if there's any of you that did not receive it, if you just raise your hand, one of our men will bring those to you, someone right down here looking to see if there's anyone else. So once you received that, if you take out the bread that's on one side of that I just want you to hold that in your hand for a minute. And I want you to think about what this bread represents; this bread represents the body of Christ. Why is that so significant? Well, to me, and this is what I want you to focus on today. That is significant because it represents how much God wants you, Jesus, God, in the flesh, the Bible describes that he came to this earth and he lived a perfect life, but he did it as just a regular, ordinary, not a King, but just a man. And that he went through all types of things throughout his life, all of the emotions and all of the struggles and all of the temptations that the Bible says that everything that you and I. He did that because he loves you. And the Bible says that at the end of his life, that is, he was arrested. He was beaten. When you read scripture, you find that his body was beaten to the point that it couldn't even be recognized. And at any point he could have stopped it, but he did because he loves you And Jesus.

The perfect spotless Son of God allowed his own body to be placed on a cross. That was meant for the worst of the worst. And he died and excruciating death, not because he had to because he loves you. And when Jesus was on that cross, he knew every sin you were ever going to commit. He knew everything you were ever going to do, but yet he died for you anyway. You know why? Because he loves you. And so as we take this bread today, no matter who you are or what you're facing or how discouraged you are, or what have you been living for or anything else in your life, be reminded that the God of Heaven who loves you with all His heart. The Bible says that Jesus took the bread and he blessed it and he broke it and he gave it to the disciples, and he says, take and eat this is my body.

The cup represents the blood of Christ. The Bible describes that the shedding of blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins. We see that in the Old Testament, with sacrifices that were made. And so when Jesus died on the cross, as the only person who ever lived a perfect sinless life, God in the flesh that when his blood was shed, when he died, that he gave you and I, the opportunity to have a relationship with him both now and for all of eternity in heaven. And so, one of the things I think is so crucial about us being renewed and coming to a place where we're reminded of what Jesus did for us is to go back to the time and the place when we began a relationship with Him. Cause I'm going to ask you to do this before we partake of the cup. I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes just one more time. And I want you to think about the day that you've surrendered your life to Jesus. The day that Jesus came and took over your life. Would you just thank Him? The Bible says that Jesus took the cup and he blessed it. And he gave it to the disciples. It says, this is my blood, which was shed for many, for the forgiveness of sins.

I'm going to ask you if you want to stand with me. As you stand, we're just going to simply sing together today as we close. And as we do this, be reminded, God loves you. And he has given you everything you need to live the life he wants you to live. So let's focus this week on studying the word of God, applying it to our lives, and then doing everything we can to disciple others and lead him towards the God that loves them too.

Category:Ezra -- posted at: 12:00pm EST