Moving Towards Restoration (Ezra)

In Sermons, The Whole Story, Year 2024 by harvest.admin

Resource by Peter Park

This is a big weekend. Halfway point of TWS! (RP) In the OT for a few more weeks but we’ll be in the NT before you know it. This morning we will be in the book of Ezra. When’s the last time you heard a sermon on Ezra? It’s been a while for me too. 

Ezra – God’s people coming back from exile to rebuild the temple and (companion book) Nehemiah – rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. As they are coming back, they are trying to make sure they don’t get exiled again. They’ve done it once and it was not worth doing again. So they are going to try to do things right with God this time. 

Know: Rebuilding the temple wasn’t just fixing up a building – seeking the presence of God. In our time together, look at the characteristics of a movement of God’s people towards God and restoration.

Text: Ezra 1 1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. … 5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem.

As we’ve seen this first half of the year beginning in Genesis, God is sovereign and he is good. He’s got everything under control even when it looks like nothing is. And he’s working everything out according to his master plan. After sending his people into exile because of their sin, he promised to bring them back out of his mercy, and he is fulfilling that promise here. And he is bringing them back with a mission.

Ezra 3 1 When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. – Rebuild the altar and start work on the temple.

1. Unity – Oneness around the mission. And the people didn’t get to determine what their mission was. Not centered on them. Their mission wasn’t their comfort, it wasn’t just getting settled back into their old neighborhood. Their mission was determined and given by God, to get the altar and temple back up and running so they could follow God’s commands. Everything else, figuring out their lives back in their homeland was secondary. And everyone was in agreement with one heart and one mind.

Here at Harvest – One of the most beautiful things about our church is how many different people call this church home. People from all different countries of the world, from different cultures, speaking different languages, with so many varied church backgrounds. And yet all those differences, while they could divide us, our oneness in Christ, our love for Jesus, unites us. So while it may on the surface seem we have no reason to be here with one another and we have more differences than what we share in common, we have a bond that is deeper than any worldly connection, even biological family, because the blood of Jesus has made us a spiritual and eternal family. And that is a powerful testimony to the world that Jesus is Lord over all.

At the same time, our incredible diversity is also one of the unique challenges God has given to us to steward. Because we are so different, lots of people have lots of different views of what they think the church is, what ministry the church should be doing, and even what the pastor should be doing. And none of them are necessarily wrong. None of those preferences are bad. But even in a church our size, our preferences aren’t always in alignment with one another.


-Worship – genre, volume, which songs, how many songs, instruments, lights-on or dark

-Sermons – Who preaches, what style, length (short vs long: raise hands)

-Kids – Start in the service or not. Programming

-Ministries – Men’s, Women’s, Students, Young Adults, Outreach to our city – What all these should look like

-Location – Where. Move? (All Agree: No one likes SU/TD.)


These are all preferences. And we all have them. (Survey: None alike.)

Let me be clear on one thing: We are not going after uniformity. We are not all trying to be the same. That is not the goal. I would go so far as to say that sameness is unbiblical. The Body of Christ is made up of varied parts and gifts and skills. And those differences are critically important if we are going to function well as a church.

Rather, the goal is unity. Will we lay aside what we prefer and what makes us comfortable for the sake of the mission? And when things change for  the mission and our effectiveness, will we be ok with it? Kyle Mercer – “Healthy things grow and growing things change.” (Kids) By God’s grace we will continue to grow and so things will change. So how we do things here at Harvest will always be subject to change. Because we are not married to how we engage in ministry. Strategies and methods can change with time and context. If something is not working, we’re not going to keep doing it because it’s the way it’s always been. 

Last Members Meeting, the elders shared and asked that the church pray for vision and clarity for the future of this church as we rally behind one unified vision and mission. This is not my church. I don’t get my way with everything. This is not your church and everything the church is and does probably won’t be exactly to your liking. This is Christ’s church. He is the head. He is the cornerstone. And the elders are doing our best to follow the Holy Spirit, follow Christ, in leading this church.

So we will always be committed to what Scripture has made clear and follow the Holy Spirit where there is freedom to contextualize our ministry for maximum effectiveness in our city. Here are a few things we will be about without apology or exception – mission: (x exhaustive)

-Preach the gospel – First importance. No other message has the power to save. Preach Jesus, who he is and what he’s done.

-Reach the lost – Do whatever it takes to reach all lost peoples.

-Make disciples – Small/Community Groups. Worship and Weekend Service. All Ministries – If they don’t help us make mature disciples and advance Christ’s kingdom, we’re not going to do them.

-Sending – “You are loved and sent.” M’s. Planting Churches. 

-Prayer – We’re not going to do anything of significant or eternal impact apart from God moving. Devoted. Calling on him.

These things will not change. Wording. Core to who we are and what we do. If they ever do, you should immediately kick out whoever is in leadership. 

If we are going to pursue God together, we have to be unified around the mission of God.

2. Opposition – Expect it. Ezra 4 1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, … 4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. 6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

You would think, God has called his people to a mission, things would be easy for them. But they’re not. Timeline: God’s people are exiled in BC586. The first wave of Israelites return around BC538 and begin rebuilding the temple around BC536. But then because of the opposition they faced, the temple was not completed, there’s a period of time when the work stopped altogether, for about another 20yrs in BC516!

Two things when it comes to opposition: 1) When we are faithful in engaging in the mission of God, we can expect opposition. And it’s not a reason to get discouraged or stop the mission. Spiritual warfare is real. There is an enemy that is against us, an enemy that does not want us to succeed in reaching people for Jesus. And it can come in many different forms: physical (attacks, health-migraines), spiritual apathy, distraction, love for the things of this world, and a million other ways. I’ll be honest, my family has experienced 1000x more here than what we did in the US. It’s hard but we’re learning to embrace it cause we can sense that God is wanting to do something big. And while I’m not so confident in my ability in spiritual warfare, I am 100% confident in the promises of God: 

-No weapon formed against us shall prevail.

-The gates of hell will not prevail.

-All things are under Jesus’ rule and authority. He’s/We’ve already won.

…2) The victory is guaranteed, an easy path isn’t.

Church, we are not a fan club. We are not a country/social club – happy to be together sitting around holding hands. Our church is an army living on mission together with the goal of Christ’s glory in KL and the world. And our enemy is not people, not flesh and blood. It is spiritual. So we have to Eph. 6, put on the whole armor of God. And we can’t be divided. We have to be united in our objectives and mission standing strong together with Christ as our foundation.

(3. Word of God – Obedience to the truth and ultimate authority.) Ezra 7 6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. … 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10 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.

Many years later, Ezra comes back from exile with another group of people. They got off to a pretty good start with completing the temple work but years have gone by and they don’t have a spiritual leader to teach them God’s word so the people can follow God according to his ways. Third characteristic of a movement toward God…

The people of God obeying the word of God. As you’re reading the OT, do you know how to tell when Israel was faithfully following God or not? It’s whether they kept the laws around sacrifices and the Passover – Ezra 6. Because keeping the Passover wasn’t a matter of keeping a ritual but obeying God’s word. So it is for the church. We are faithful when we have the Word at the center of this church.

So the Bible is our guiding truth and ultimate authority. (Worried. He didn’t mention it earlier! I was saving it.) The bible is not just an old book with good stories and some good advice. It is our very life. Every week, we’re going to open up the Bible and we’re going to be taught and challenged and changed by it. 2 Tim. 3 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. See, you don’t need to hear from me. You need to hear from God and from his Word. Anything I have to say apart from the Word of God is my opinion, and I have lots of them. But they are worthless in comparison to God’s word. And we’re not just going to pick and choose the parts of the Bible we like and ignore the parts that we don’t. We are going to teach and follow all of it.

4. Confession and Putting Away of Sin Ezra 10 1 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. … 10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said.

Dramatic scene – Before the temple. Heavy Rain. People trembling. And Ezra speaks a hard word to the people, that they have sinned against God by marrying foreign wives. Now, this was not an issue of intermarriage between people groups, but a religious one. God did not want his people marrying those who worshiped other gods because he knew his people would follow after other false gods. And they all agree after hearing Ezra, they’ve messed up and have to fix it.

Likewise, if we are going to be a people, a church, on mission for God with any kind of effectiveness, we have to be a people who first, confess our sins to God and one another. (End of Ezra – Public! Imagine – Email) Often we don’t have a problem confessing our sins to God but we have a really hard time confessing our sins to one another. It’s a bit backwards. Why is it that we are more concerned about what people think of us than what God thinks? It has to become normal and safe for us to be able to confess our sins openly so we can have accountability to address our sin. And I’m not so concerned with the people who confess their sins openly as much as I am with the people who seemingly don’t have anything to confess at all because I know there’s something that’s being hidden in the dark. And that’s far more dangerous and devastating than sin that’s been brought into the light.

And secondly, we can’t just confess our sins, we have to make a concerted effort to put it away. And oftentimes, we are going to have to do it at a cost to ourselves and it will require some serious intentionality. Think about the people Ezra was calling out and had intermarried. They had to make the decision to get rid of their wives! (Some of you husbands…Sign me up. Not for you.)

Some of us are too committed, figuratively speaking, married to our sin. You find too much pleasure and comfort so you keep it around and have been unwilling to cut it off. But the alternative of not doing so will be worse. John Owen – “You have to be killing sin or it will be killing you.” It is not an overstatement to say that putting our sin away is a matter of life and death for us. And it will have a negative impact on our body to be effective in our mission work. So do it now. Do it today.

Review: When we have unity around the mission, we obey the Word of God, the confession of sin is normal, despite opposition we will see restoration as we pursue God. We will see God’s kingdom come and his will done here on earth, in KL, as it is in heaven. See, one day there’s an ultimate restoration coming that Jesus will bring. Because Jesus was bought into the Father’s mission to rescue us from sin and death. Satan would try and oppose this plan by tempting Jesus to bypass his suffering. But Jesus, though sinless, was obedient to the will of the Father to die in our place for our sin. And in rising from the dead, Jesus won for us a victory over the grave and the restoration of our souls back to God. And until we are united with Christ for all eternity, we get labor as his ambassadors to make the hope of restoration a reality for the people in our city.

Some of you need to commit to a local church and become members. You need to formally acknowledge that you are a part of the family and linking arms with us in the mission. 

Others of you need to join a serving team. The church is not just a place to come to consume. It’s a family to love and serve. You, as a follower of Christ, need to find a place to use your gifts and serve in the church. This is a non-negotiable for your spiritual growth and growing in Christ-likeness. Connect Table.

Others need to start giving to the church and have your giving show that there’s nothing more important in your life than God’s mission to reach lost people. (It doesn’t go to line my pockets, to get rich. Support raised.) Your giving goes to support all the ministries here at the church. 

Lastly, some of you need to take a step in sharing the gospel. Listen, all of us that we talk about the things that are most important to us. For me, you’re going to hear about guitars, good food, my family, and Jesus. It’s natural because those are the things I love and can’t help but to talk about. You don’t have to be weird about sharing. Your love for Jesus should naturally overflow out of you.

And if any of this offends you or bothers you, I have to be honest, I’m not really sorry. Because it probably means you’re one who needs to hear it and do something about it. The people who are already doing these things and living out their lives in faith and on mission are the ones shaking their heads in agreement. I’m not trying to be mean to you or judge you. But I do want to challenge you to take your next step, whatever it might be, in following Jesus.

If you’re going to follow Jesus, be all in with everything. Don’t hold anything back. “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” – C.T. Studd. Spurgeon – “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus.” Anything less would be poor stewardship of our lives that belong to Jesus.

Close…Climax of the book: Ezra 3 10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

That’s kind of sad. Some are excited about the temple being rebuilt and what it means while others are weeping – maybe because the temple wasn’t going to be as good as the first or maybe because of the devastation their sin had caused. And why should they be fully happy? Sure they’re back home. Sure the temple is being rebuilt. But did they really have God’s presence? Not like it was in the beginning in Gen 1 before sin entered the world. The rebuilt temple would just be a glimpse of what mankind used to have in full. My prayer: We would be discontent with this world, the sin and brokenness, and the lostness. And pursue God together and work to advance Christ’s kingdom and bring restoration to every corner of KL and to the ends of the earth.

If you’re not a follower of Jesus, we’ve got nothing to hide. We want you to have a life changing relationship with Jesus because we’ve experienced the life and joy and restoration Jesus brings.

Right now, you are separated from God because of your sin. But God in his love sent Jesus to take on flesh to be with you. He lived a perfect life, died the death you deserved, and rose from the dead so that you could have eternal life with him, to restore you back to himself. Ro. 10:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. There’s nothing you have to do. Everything necessary to save you has already been done by Jesus. Will you receive him and his finished work of salvation for you?

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