(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 4)
This morning, I read a random portion from the book of Nehemiah and I was reminded, that if as Christians, we are not serious about our beliefs, standards and boundaries, the world will be only too eager to accommodate us, WITHOUT THEM.
The boundaries we hold come from the standards we have set and our standards are derived from what we believe and know to be true.
It is good to be mindful of the fact that the world has no regard for our boundaries or standards because the world does not believe in the Christ that we love and serve. The world has rejected God’s testimony of his Son Jesus Christ (although it is true), as declared in his Word, the Bible and so the people in the world operate accordingly.
In light of this fact, the world is only too eager to get us to just go with the flow, to relax our standards and let go of our godly principles. People in the world will always be trying to get us to compromise and join with them in their folly, evil practices and way of life and if we don’t insist on taking a stand for what we believe in, they will have trampled over them with us sadly facilitating them or giving consent with our silence.
People in the world will always look to us to see whether we are serious (not just by what we claim to hold dear) but by our actions and unless we are resolute about enforcing our beliefs, standards and boundaries, determined that nothing to the contrary be allowed to infiltrate, undermine or lead us down the path of compromise, they will treat with us as if those beliefs, standards and boundaries do not exist and we are no different from the rest of people in the world.
This fact was demonstrated in Nehemiah 13.
In the Old Testament times, the Israelites, God’s chosen people under the Old Covenant were given the command that they were to keep the sabbath day holy. In Exodus 20:8-11, along with other commandments, God told the Israelites (of which the children of Judah was one of the twelve tribes):
- “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it THOU SHALT NOT DO ANY WORK, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, NOR THY STRANGER THAT IS WITHIN THY GATES: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
This command was therefore given to the Israelites, not the rest of the world (Gentiles). It was applicable under the Old Testament before Jesus Christ came and established the New Testament, to only Israelites or any non-Israelite that was living or physically present within their gates.
It is no longer applicable today, Jesus Christ having come and taken away the Old Covenant and replaced it with the New. The Church (which today includes mainly Gentiles but also Israelites who believe in Jesus’ resurrection and have confessed with their mouth that he is Lord) therefore now operate under the New Covenant, as given in the New Testament and the law having been abolished, the Church has not been given the sabbath as a New Testament command.
Nevertheless, under the Old Covenant and in Old Testament times, this was a commandment given to the Israelites. The children of Judah therefore knew that this was their standard and that as God’s chosen people, they were supposed to not do work on the sabbath day or to buy and sell on that day. Yet, they slighted this command and were living in disobedience to it and the world was only too happy to accommodate them.
People who were non-Israelites and not living among them were primarily concerned with commerce and so had developed the habit of bringing their wares and goods to sell to the children of Judah, who facilitated them by purchasing their items.
It was not the selling of the goods that was the problem but the children of Judah permitted them to come on the sabbath day and gave them money on that day, in exchange for their goods.
Given that the children of Judah did not see it fit to point out and insist upon the standard that they were supposed to uphold, which is that no work was to be done on the sabbath day, including no buying and selling, the non-Israelites who were engaged in commerce, would bring their items on the sabbath day and sell.
In fact, so used were they to this complete disregard of the Israelites’ sabbath, that when Nehemiah found out and intervened to put a stop to it by commanding that the gates be shut from the night before until after the sabbath, these merchants did not stop coming on the sabbath day.
Some bad habits take time to break and similarly, when we have entertained the ungodly or lowered our standards to facilitate them, when we make an about turn, they may not immediately disappear. It may take some time for them to get the message that we have re-erected that fence and that we insist on keeping anything opposed to God’s will for our lives and our standards, out of it.
In the case of the children of Judah, given that the people of the world were previously allowed to come on the sabbath day and do their trade without protest or opposition from God’s people, even after the gates were shut, they still came and made their lodging on the walls, waiting until the gates were opened.
It was only after Nehemiah confronted them and insisted upon enforcing the standard of the children of Judah, that these merchants, realizing that he was serious, that they could not get him to change his mind, back down or give in and that he would no longer allow them to profane the Lord’s sabbath, stopped coming on the sabbath day to sell.
The devil is persistent and when we lower our standards, compromise our beliefs and let go of our boundaries, we give him a foothold to operate. Even when we have come to our senses and seek to shut the gates to our hearts and minds, getting rid of his destructive influence is not easy or immediate.
Think of a stray cat as an analogy. If you feed a stray cat for a few days, if you suddenly decide you are not going to do it anymore, this will not make that cat immediately go away. It will meow for a day, two, three or even four days on your property because it has gotten used to being fed by you and now expects you to continue the habit.
It is only when, you, determined not to give in despite its cries and to not feed it for a consistent period of time, that the cat will realize that you are serious about your decision, will finally get the message that there is no more food to be had at your location and will move on to some other area. If you make the mistake though of giving in on any occasion and throw it even as much as crumbs, this will prolong its stay even further. It will take it as a cue to not leave and it will be even more difficult to get rid of it.
The scripture reads:
- “In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals.
- There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
- And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I COMMANDED THAT THE GATES BE SHUT, AND CHARGED THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE OPENED TILL AFTER THE SABBATH: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day.
- So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware LODGED WITHOUT JERUSALEM ONCE OR TWICE. Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. FROM THAT TIME FORTH CAME THEY NO MORE ON THE SABBATH.
- And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day…”
Similarly with the Christian, in this world that we live in, if we don’t insist on upholding our standards, beliefs and boundaries, people from the world will come with all sorts of wiles, hoping and expecting us to give in. They will come in the form of a person posing as a love interest, a friend, a work colleague, a Supervisor, a work system or even a brother or sister in the Lord.
Everyday, we will be faced with so-called ‘opportunities’ to just disregard what we believe, to lower our standards and to just give in and do what the rest of the world is doing and consider to be normal. We must take a stand and refuse to give in, even if the one who wants us to let go of our boundaries, operates under the guise of ‘Christian’ and tries to convince us that our boundaries are not important and that we can make an exception in a particular situation or circumstance.
We must always be on our guard and cling to truth, no matter what or who is coming with something that is contrary to what we believe and the standards and boundaries we have set and know are God-approved.
A person may be well-respected in Christian circles, greatly esteemed, considered to be super-spiritual, super-influential, super-popular and blessed. HOWEVER, if what such a person wants us to do or the direction he or she wants us to take, when measured against THE YARDSTICK OF GOD’S WORD, stands contrary to God’s purpose and will for our lives, we must STAND AGAINST that person and instead, cling to God’s truth and will.
For, unlike man, God is no respecter of persons and His Word is greater than personalities, popularity, prominence and prestige. His Word (which remains unchanging) is always THE ULTIMATE authority on every matter, not any man or woman. If our boundaries, standards and beliefs are based on his Word, then we stand upon good authority, divine authority and should let go of them for NO ONE.
That we must take our stand against EVERYTHING and EVERY ONE that seeks to undermine the Word of God, even if some persons are well-intentioned and well-meaning is a sobering truth because sometimes, the enemy will use those from right inside our own camp (like in the Church or in our family) to get us to lower our standards, relax our boundaries and even let go of our precious beliefs. In short, the enemy will sometimes use who we least expect, like a family member, a Church sister or brother, a parent or a spouse, to get us to disobey God.
Believe it or not, I was once advised by a lady old enough to be my mother, respected and accepted as a sister in the Lord by my Church denomination, that I should go outside the Church and look for a husband from the world and bring him into the Church. This ‘sister’, wanting to see me married and perhaps disillusioned by how things had turned out for her daughter whose marriage had not gone well, told me, that sometimes the men from the world treat you better than the men in the Church.
I did not respond verbally to what she told me but I knew it was a lie from the devil. In my mind, I therefore said, even as Job told his wife when she uttered folly: “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh.”
I have also had other experiences, where well-respected people, who are considered to be members of the household of faith, have given me advice that went against the Word of God (like encouraging me to walk by what I see and not by faith and to not separate from that which God was impressing upon my heart, over and over again, to separate from (like a job), for the sake of continuing to collect a large salary).
In every situation, I have learned to hold fast to God’s Word and to wield it against the enemy’s wiles, given that it is the Sword of the Spirit. In Jeremiah 23:29, God stated through the Prophet: “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?“
When the so-called elder ‘sister’ in the Lord encouraged me to choose my husband from the world therefore, 2 Corinthians 6:14 came to mind. It states, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?“
When I was encouraged (as if God could not take care of me and had forsaken me), to disregard my beliefs and standards, to not act in faith and to just go the path of compromise, so that my hefty monthly income would not cease and the enemy stirred up much noise, criticism, attack, bad-mouthing and gossip around me, due to my firm resolve to obey God and leave, I remembered the verses that said:
- “For we walk by faith, not by sight…” (2 Corinthians 5:7);
- “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17);
- “Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us. For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let HIM be your fear, and let HIM be your dread”;
Irrespective of who or what tries to lead me astray and how well-intentioned they may purport themseves to be, I am ever mindful of Deuteronomy 13:1-5, where Moses, instructing the Israelites, told them:
- “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt NOT hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
- Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear HIM, and keep HIS commandments, and obey HIS voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
- And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.”
Similarly, when a well-respected married brother, old enough to be my father and separated for years from his wife, started phoning me on seemingly harmless spiritual matters and to discuss biblical matters at an hour I deemed to be too late in the night and that went against my boundaries, I respectfully informed him of this and insisted that he cease and desist. When he kept insisting that I open up my WhatsApp video, as he liked to chat with people on video, I refused, letting him know respectfully but firmly, that irrespective of who he was and despite his repeated request, I would never do so and that he would never be able to change my mind.
He was quite offended, thinking that I should know who he was and that he did not have any ulterior motive. Yet, I have learned to put nothing past man and this flesh. Mindful of Jeremiah 17:9 which I believe is true of myself and of all mankind and which states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”, I reminded him of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 which states: “Abstain from ALL appearance of evil.”
Even if he meant nothing therefore (and I could not guarantee or vouch for that), it was important to me that even that which appears to be improper, be avoided. It wasn’t therefore about not wounding someone’s ego or offending his pride. It wasn’t about him at all. It was about being wise and removing my foot from the very potential for evil.
Proverbs 4:27 reminds me, “Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”
Needless to say, to my relief, after insisting on what I insisted upon and that my boundaries and standards would be enforced and not disregarded (which he seemed intent on doing), all phone calls from that person, which I found to be awkward and prayed to the Lord about, have stopped. Thank you Lord.
Sometimes, we will be tested because the world and even some people who have professed faith in Christ, want to see if we are really serious about what we say we believe. Like Joseph, we must not give in and instead must say, “…how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).
If, like the children of Judah, we may have lapsed in the past, given in to the world’s wiles and accommodated them or a fellow professer of faith, in their disrespect of our beliefs, standards and boundaries, we must repent and return to God.
This change is expected to be met with some resistance, like the merchants who kept on coming on the sabbath day, although Nehemiah had seen to it that the gates were shut. Nevertheless, we must take our stand, let them know that we are serious and that what we hold dear, will be enforced.
James 4:7 tells us “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
The same holds true of our dealings with those in the world and even of those who claim to be in the household of faith who want to lead us down the path of compromise, sometimes through subtle means.
We must be clear on what we believe and on our standards and boundaries, which stem from those beliefs. When people (whoever they may be), try to come to get us to lower our standards, let go of our boundaries and ignore what we believe and know to be true, we must resist, even as Nehemiah did.
Once they realize that we mean business (no pun intended) are serious about submitting our everything to God and putting up resistance to ANY and EVERYTHING that goes against his Word, they will flee.
Verse 20 states of Nehemiah’s dealing with the merchants and sellers:
- “So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.“
Like Nehemiah, we must be firm, even when the enemy is lodging about the wall, looking for a way in. We must not be double-minded as that will only render us unstable. We must be resolute, unchanging, determined that we have decided to follow Jesus and there will be no turning back, no turning back.
James1:8 tells us that “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 4:8 commands us, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Also, in 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah asked the people of God, “…How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.”
Similarly, Joshua told them earlier on in Joshua 24:15:
- “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: BUT AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.”
Standing for what pertains to the things of God is no laughing matter and not to be taken lightly. It is not about pleasing personalities. It is not about pleasing those we care about or even ourselves. It is about pleasing God.
When the people of the world and even some professers who seek to derail us from our purpose, realize that we will NOT change our minds and that we are serious about this vocation wherewith we have been called, they will back off, for they realize that trying to get us to just go with the flow or do what they want us to do is a lost cause.
Failure in the past is no excuse to allow the enemy to continue to trample our God-given beliefs and high standards. We must get beyond those failures through repentance and confession and once we have done that, we must move forward, determined to NEVER let go of our precious beliefs, standards and boundaries ever again, for anyone or anything.
We must stand guard as watchmen, about the gates of our lives, as the enemy is subtle and will try to get to us in deceptive ways. We must do this, so as to keep what we hold dear and prevent the enemy from infiltrating our lives, undermining our testimony and derailing our purpose in Christ Jesus.
When those seeking to get us to compromise, realize that we are serious, that we are no longer lapse and cavalier as we may have once been about the things of God but as we grow in His knowledge and His grace, we are determined to cling to truth, no matter the cost and to never EVER let go, they will turn back. Like the one who commissioned them to come after us in the first place, they will flee.
Sometimes though, we read the verse that says to resist the devil and he will flee, thinking, that once we put up one single act of resistance, the devil will immediately flee. Yet, this may not necessarily be the case as was illustrated in the example given with the stray cat and also evident in the situation with the children of Judah and the merchants. The latter stubbornly returned even after the gates had been shut.
The lesson is this: If we have let our guard down in the past and given the enemy a foothold, sometimes even when we now shut the gate and firmly so, the enemy may not immediately flee as we may expect or hope, in response to this one act of resistance. No. Our resistance may need to be not just a one-off act but a series of continuous acts of resistance, which consistently demonstrate, that we are determined to put away the things that displease God. It is only after resisting over and over again, that the enemy may conclude that we are serious about our resolve and only then that he may flee.
(Written on 22nd November, 2021)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, edifying or beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following:
- Note 151 – ‘What Is God Calling You To Cast Out Of Your Life?’
- Note 200 – ‘No Turning Back, No Turning Back’
Additionally, under the ‘BROKEN Daughters of God’ Page:
- Note 10 – ‘How God Wants Us To Treat With Our Idols’