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Do you ever ask yourself, “Where do I belong? Where do I fit in? What’s my purpose in life? Where’s my place in this world?”
Michael W. Smith wrote a song back in 1991 called “Place In This World” that was a huge hit, crossing over into the secular Billboard Hot 100, making it all the way to #6.
It spoke of the angst many people feel as they go through life. “Why am I here?”
“The wind is moving, but I am standing still
A life of pages waiting to be filled
A heart that’s hopeful a head that’s full of dreams
But this becoming is harder than it seems
Feels like I’m…
Looking for a reason,
roaming through the night to find my place in this world, my place in this world.
Not a lot to lean on, I need Your light to help me find My place in this world, My place in this world.
If there are millions down on their knees
Among the many can You still hear me?
Hear me asking where do I belong
Is there a vision that I can call my own?
Show me, I’m…” (chorus)
This song obviously resonated with a generation looking for a reason for being. Every generation, every person, has this heart cry.
We see this restless searching played out in so many ways.
We see it in our world today in the pursuit of elicit relationships, power positions, abundant possessions, & fancy titles.
We see it in the embracing of causes, in the fighting for ideals, in the search for significance.
And while relationships, positions, possessions, and titles are not bad in themselves to pursue, if that is where your identity, your security, and your purpose revolves around, then it’s misplaced and will never, ever be satisfying.
Many folks go through their entire lives never finding that place where they belong. They never truly discover their purpose. They live year after year going through the motions, treading water, doing a lot of activity but getting absolutely no where for all their effort. And at the end of their life they look back with “what ifs” and regrets and “if onlys”.
I don’t want to live my life like that. I don’t want you to live your life like that.
I want to live with no regrets. How about you?
God has an assignment for you and me. God has a place for us. God has a purpose for our existence.
You are wanted and you are needed. Did you know that?
You might say, “God can do whatever He has planned to do without me. He doesn’t need me.”
Can God do anything? Yes. Can He do it without you and me? If He wanted to, sure, He’s God.
BUT HE CHOOSES NOT TO.
God’s plan includes you and me. God’s fulfilled purposes on this earth require as part of His plan our obedience and engagement.
He has a place for you. He has a plan for you. He has a purpose for you being born on this earth in this generation in this place for such a time as this.
He’s placed in you desires and abilities and placed before you opportunities for a reason. And that reason is for you and me to join in fulfilling His master plan.
If you don’t show up, it won’t get done. If you don’t engage, there will be a hole where you didn’t do your part.
Let me say this very clearly today. You are important. Every single one of us are an integral part of the overall effectiveness and impact of the church to the world.
You have a specific assignment and destiny in Christ. You were created on purpose to fulfill a unique assignment that only you can fulfill. And that fulfillment can only be fully realized as you stand in your place before God and never, ever move from it.
Nehemiah 9:3, “The people of God stood in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day (3 hours), and spent another quarter of the day (3 hours) in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God.”
They stood in their place and did three things. These three things, when done in our lives on a regular basis, will keep everything in perspective, our walk, our purpose, our reason for being.
At the end of our lives and when we stand before our Maker, if we do these three things while on the earth on a consistent basis, we’ll have no regrets, because we will have fulfilled our purpose for being, our assignment, as these three things will keep us standing in the place for which God has created us to make the difference we are intended to make on this earth for His glory.
The first thing they did was read aloud His Word.
A Jewish day is divided up into 4 segments of three hours each. It begins at sunrise, or around 6am, and ends at sunset, or around 6pm. The evening is divided up the same way.
This special day was a culmination of an eight day celebration, the Feast of Tabernacles, where the people lived in temporary shelters, feasted, and gave thanks to God for His faithfulness and blessings, all revolving around God’s Word.
The Feast was to be a yearly event, one of seven holy celebrations established by God for His people, this being the last of the year, specifically to give honor to God for His goodness in providing for their needs and redirect their hearts back to Him for the upcoming new year.
This eighth day of the celebration was a solemn assembly, where the people removed themselves from the festival atmosphere and moved into a place of solemn reverence at and around God’s Temple. Nehemiah 9:1-2 says they separated themselves from the world, fasted, and humbly wore sackcloth and ashes as they cried out to God.
There was as a regular activity a morning and an evening sacrifice. An animal acceptable to God would be presented by the priest as a sacrifice at the first watch of the day, between 6-9am, and again at the last watch of the day, between 3-6pm.
The events listed in Nehemiah 9:3 therefore occurred in between these two daily sacrifices, roughly between 9am-3pm.
The people were coming from witnessing the morning sacrifice, being reminded that their sins were being covered by the shedding of the blood of a sacrificial lamb, which was required by God.
In our NT context, this practice is no longer needed, because Jesus took care of that once and for all. His shed blood, His perfect, holy blood, Him being the once and for all sacrificial Lamb for all of mankind’s sin, satisfies God’s holiness.
As born again Believers who have placed our trust in Christ, we are covered by the blood of Jesus. God no longer sees our sin, but only sees the perfect, holy blood of Jesus who has covered our sins and washed us clean.
We are new creations in Jesus Christ.
The challenge we have is that this truth becomes old hat, common place, and not as powerful and special in our lives as it once was or needs to be.
We take for granted the beautiful thing God has done for us. We abuse the grace that was so painfully and horribly and freely provided for us and we cheapen it by our choices, actions, and lifestyles.
His grace, His work, His blood is no less powerful and deserves no less reverence and absolute gratitude than when we first was made known of it and applied it to our hearts.
As we daily re-embrace the work of the cross, as we remind ourselves of it as the people back then were twice reminded of it on a daily basis in the morning and evening sacrifices, it will give traction to the two things we are called to do that will elevate us to God’s purposes and plans for our lives, living with no regret, fulfilling all that He has for us to do.
Through the lenses of His shed blood and our absolute gratitude of His amazing grace, we revolve our lives around God’s precious Word.
Why do this? Why prioritize God’s Word in our lives? What will this do for us? What will this do in us? What will this do around us?
First, let’s just establish this. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed…” Everything in the Bible is from God, not man. The Holy Spirit breathed His Word into and through men.
The Word can be counted on. Psalm 119:89, “Your Word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Jesus, the Word made flesh, said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” You can stake your life on His Word. Deuteronomy 32:46-47 says, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.”
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been at a crossroads in my life only to find an answer in God’s Word. His Word has brought to me strength in times of weakness, guidance when I needed direction, correction when I was straying, clarity in times of confusion, hope in times of discouragement & peace in times of stress.
Throughout my life His Word has been an anchor for me & a solid foundation. I’ve been able to encourage others with His Word, reminding them that His Word trumps circumstances, feelings, or what we think.
There have been times in my life when His Word has been less precious to me & less of a priority. I’ve gotten busy, taken It for granted, and allowed It to become common place.
It’s a lot like a marriage relationship. We get comfortable in it and begin to coast. After a while we ignore the warning signs of inclement weather ahead and begin to loose traction on the slick roads and get in danger of sliding off into a ditch.
The tow truck of God’s powerful Word comes and pulls us out, sets us aright, and instructs us to use precautions going forward.
The people in the days of Nehemiah were in such a ditch. God was pulling them out of the ditch of exile and reestablishing their lives to again revolve around an abiding, ever-growing relationship with God. And as they began to read the Word two more things happened.
The first was a confession of their sins.
His Word exposes our motives, lays bare our shortcomings, and reveals our lack. His Word shows us our inability to live a holy life on our own and our utter lack of being able to earn salvation, while at the same time reminding us of God’s faithfulness, mercy and love revealed to us through Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
As the people listened to the Word being spoken, their hearts were convicted and broken. They realized the error of their ways and how they had strayed. Their only response was to confess their sins to a Holy God.
As we approach God’s Word, whether it be corporately or in our individual quiet times before God, we should do the same.
His Word bypasses our justifications. His Word exposes our compromise. His Word reveals the blindness of our self-deception. His Word gets to the truth. Witnesses may lie, but the evidence never lies.
Our flesh doesn’t like this. Our flesh enjoys justifying, compromising, and living in self-deception. That’s why many run away from the truth of God’s Word, because it challenges our flesh to die.
The Bible warns us in the last days that people will run to where they can get their ears tickled. Modern day interpretation, they’ll go where they’ll hear what they want to hear to justify their lifestyles and surround themselves with people of the same bent as to not live in conviction, but compromise in those areas their flesh wants to embrace.
Our flesh makes a great slave but a horrible master.
Our flesh, when we allow it to rule us, will lead us down all sorts of paths, all, why seeming to start out fun and enjoyable, will eventually lead to sorrow, destruction, and death.
Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
In my years of ministry I’ve seen this happen time and time again. People justify their choices, think they’re exceptions to the rule, rely on God’s mercy and grace to trump His righteous judgment and Holy anger, and think there will be no price to pay for their rebellious choices.
But there’s ALWAYS a price to pay. We will always reap what we’ve sown, in kind and in greater proportion, as we continue down our selfish, fleshly, rebellious paths. It may not happen right away, or even in our lifetime, but one day there will be a price to pay.
We convince ourselves that we’re an exception to the rule. We justify that surely God understands and will give us a pass. He DOES understand, that’s why He’s given us a way of escape, through the blood of Jesus. That is our only pass, as we pass through the blood that cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
Our price was paid only through Jesus blood. All other debt in our lives that we don’t submit to the covering blood of Jesus is a debt we will have to pay with our very souls for all of eternity.
That’s why it’s important to be reminded every day as the folks in Nehemiah’s day were at the morning and evening sacrifices of the cleansing, redeeming, life giving blood of Jesus in our lives, and apply it every day to our hearts, and daily take up our cross and submit to follow Jesus.
And while the fleshly path that seems right at the beginning eventually leads to death, God on the other hand promises to lead us well if we’ll delight in Him. Psalm 37:23-24, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.”
And not only will He make firm our steps and lead us well, He will keep us all the way to glory. Jude 1:24 says , “He is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”
Listen, I don’t know about you, but this is enough to make me want to shout, “Hallelujah, thank You, Jesus, Lord You’re worthy of all the glory, and all the honor and all the praise!”
Think of this sweet deal. Jesus takes our sin and replaces it with His holiness. Jesus takes our curse and gives us blessing. Jesus takes our filthy rags and robes us in His righteousness. Jesus takes our sickness and gives us healing. Jesus takes our lack and gives us His abundance. Jesus takes the sting of death and gives us eternal life.
And all because He loves us! He loves you and me so much that He did this for us without any guarantee that anyone would take Him up on it.
Jesus has given us all we need to live a life of joy, victory, peace, effectiveness, and purpose.
These folks back then realized this as they heard God’s Word. Their confession and repentance led them to the next thing, they worshiped.
They saw their lack and rejoiced in God’s provision. His Word not only exposed their sin which led to confession and repentance, but it caused to flow out of them rivers of rejoicing & thanksgiving through heartfelt worship.
When was the last time you allowed a song to get beyond your mind and absorb into your heart? When was the last time the lyrics of a Holy Spirit inspired worship song moved you to fall to your knees, lift up your hands, raise your voice, bring tears of gratitude to your eyes, & soften your heart?
When was the last time you got lost in His presence?
Music is merely a vehicle to transport us into God’s presence. But worship isn’t only just music. Worship is prayer, worship is an intimate time of loving and thanking Jesus through personal heartfelt expressions. It’s a corporate experience as well as an individual one.
And it’s so necessary in our walk with Christ.
Christian Author David Hunt says, “Worship is not a repetitious exercise of rituals and formulas. These create a veil that actually prevents us from enjoying the presence of the Lord. Worship is the heart poured out in gratitude and awe, expressing our appreciation of who He is and what He has done for us by His grace through Jesus Christ.”
The people in Nehemiah’s day expressed their gratitude and awe for God’s mercy, faithfulness, and love. Their response to God’s Word was one of repentance and worship.
We have a reason to rejoice. We have a reason to be thankful. We have a reason to worship.
This reason gives us purpose. This reason gives us direction. This reason explains why we are here and how we can live with no regrets, because we will have fulfilled our purpose for being, our assignment.
We asked at the beginning of this message, “Where do I belong? Where do I fit in? What’s my purpose in life? Where’s my place in this world?”
The answers- you belong to God. You fit within His master plan. Your purpose is to have relationship with Him and out of that relationship fulfill His plan in and through us. And your place is walking out your God-given purposes with no regrets until He returns.
Let’s live our lives before Christ with no regrets. Let’s live on purpose. No more coasting. No more delays. You have a God-given assignment. Find it, then stand in it and walk it out. THAT’S why you’re hear. It’s a relationship with God that leads to your God-given destiny in Him. That is your place in this world. How about it?