Bridge: March 2, 2016

March 2, 2016

Past

“Measuring Stick”

Nehemiah 8:9-12

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

Impossible standards. The world is full of them and it constantly confronts us with our shortcomings. No matter how well you do, it never seems to be good enough. No matter what you do, there will be people that don’t like it. We all know that no one is perfect and that people need time to grow and learn, but it often seems as though the expectations placed upon us disregard that knowledge. That struggle is not limited to external sources either, as we also often struggle with the standards that we hold ourselves to.

It is impossible to find peace and contentment in the standards of the world. So we turn to God and His standards, only to find what we perceive to be an even stricter set of measurements! That is exactly where the Jewish people were in Nehemiah 8:9 after Ezra had read to them from the Law. They had been clearly presented with God’s holy standard and found themselves greatly wanting in comparison. Their response is natural and to be expected: “all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.” Yet Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites urged them to stop weeping and instead to consider the holy day and rejoice. They were not being calloused to the circumstances and merely adhering to some rigid tradition mindlessly. They were, rather, doing just the opposite!

They were urging the people to think about all the previous acts of God’s salvation of His people and the clear aspects of His character that had been revealed through those acts. As God Himself proclaimed in Exodus, He is “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” As they thought less about who they were and more about who God is, they found Nehemiah to be true when he said “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

The Law certainly reveals His holiness and how far we are from it, but that is not the complete picture of who God is. Grace, mercy, love; these are all overriding elements of God’s character. They were in the days previous to Nehemiah 8, they were on the first day of the seventh month in Nehemiah 8, and they are now. We cannot measure up to the holy standard of God through any efforts we can muster, but because of the manifestation of His grace, mercy, and love in the person of Jesus Christ, we don’t have to. Jesus measures up for us! We strive to serve Him not because we seek to earn our place in His kingdom, but because He has already earned it for us.

You may not be enough for this world. You may never be good enough. You may never “measure up.” But you don’t have to.

The cross is our measuring stick.

  • What are some of the standards that you struggle to measure up to?
  • How can we help each other use proper, biblical standards and to make the joy of the Lord our strength?
  • Are there practices in modern Christianity that present a set of standards to the world for being a Christian that are contradictory to what the Word actually declares? How can we adjust this without completely disregarding the pursuit of personal holiness?

Present

  • Are there any unrelated struggles that you are facing this week? (At home, at work, etc.)
  • What does Scripture say about the issue?
  • How can I implement the fulfillment of Scripture regarding this issue?

Future

Sunday’s Text:

Nehemiah 8:13-18

Supplemental Text:

James 1:22-27

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Discussion/Consideration:

  • When is “religion” more harmful than helpful? When is it necessary and helpful?

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