Grace is getting something we don't deserve (like eternal life), or not receiving what we deserve (like a punishment). Therefore, it is similar to forgiveness. And Jesus Christ prayed 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'
This prayer is, in the first place, for the people who were executing Jesus and for those who urged Pontius Pilate to sentence to death. By praying for their forgiveness Jesus shows the size of God's grace. Also, the recipient of this prayer is extended to everyone who has sin. And we are included.
Although Jesus had the power to forgive, he prayed to God instead of declaring forgiveness. And the reason is because the recipients did not come to Jesus with faith. God's grace is open to everyone but at the same time, it is applicable to those who have faith. That's why Jesus did not declare their forgiveness. It requires us to have faith in Jesus.
And they needed to be forgiven because they were guilty for not knowing Jesus, despite of all the proofs. Their unbelief didn't come from their inability to understand, but it came from their rejection of faith. As we wait for Easter, let us carefully exam our hearts whether we are reluctant to know more and more about God or not.
1. This Friday we will sing a special song at the prayer night service.
2. Next Sunday is Easter and we will have corporate worship service at 11:00am.
In a journey of Christian faith, there are high moments and low moments. And in order for us to fight the good fight in these moments, it is helpful to remember one famous quote of Yogi Berra. "It ain't over till it's over."
In this last chapter of Nehemiah, we can learn three things that help us to fight the good fight. First is having the Word as our only standard! After the dedication ceremony people of Israel gathered again to listen to the Word. And they obeyed the Word, even though it was a hard decision.
When people experience a big event like a flood or a terror, it influences to every aspect of their lives. And I believe our faith is supposed to have that kind of influence in our lives. It is true when we look at Jesus' ministry. His preaching and ministry was not bound to religious matters. We see his life as an example of life instead of an example of religion.
When the people of Israel dedicate their wall of Jerusalem, their ceremony was mainly three parts. Purification, Marching, Sacrifices. And they purified the walls and gates which means the expansion of their faith to the living area. When they give sacrifices, their faith impacted to their financial area. We see these expansion in chapter 11 as well. The people of Israel were relocated not to achieve their certain goal, but to keep their faith.
They expanded their faith by focusing on people, by going beyond their obligation, and by devoting what they have. And their expanded faith brought joy to them.
The people of Israel gathered together on 24th day of the month (v.1). It was shortly after the feast. There, they repented their sins. It was initiated by the Word of God. What makes us to repent is nothing but the Word of God. Also, the Word must be preached to the humble and softened heart. Otherwise, people not repent but rebel. So in order for us to truly repent, we need to receive the Word with humble heart.
And this repent changes lives immediately. They separated themselves from the foreigners (v.2). It meant they intentionally broke the relationship with those who serve other gods, even thought it was costly. Then, they turned to God to worship.
Moreover, they made a covenant (v.38). And they made an oath, even binding themselves with a curse (10:29). Their repent wasn't a single event, but became a life-style. And true repentance must be continued throughout the life. It is not because our sins get bigger, but our awareness of our sin grows. And we become more desperate for the forgiveness of God, as we draw near to God.