028-03b — We Seek God’s Face

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028 Rebuilding Front Page

_This last Sunday, I wasn’t able to preach because of my trip to New Jersey; however, I prepared a small group discussion guide to help the people in my congregation think through what it means to seek God’s face._

Here it is…

# The Challenge

I want to thank those of you who’ve been here for the past few weeks. Our church is facing some rough times, and right now, we are going through a process of spiritual rebuilding. I’ve been teaching messages on some pretty serious and heavy topics, and last week, I challenged you all to confess sin to each other so that we can be a cleansed church. We also recognized that sin isn’t only individual and personal, sin is also corporate. So together, we read some confession statements as a church seeking God’s forgiveness for ways we have fallen short. I want to thank you who’ve been here for the past few weeks. Your presence here last week as we confessed sin was so important for the future of this church, and I thank you.

In our journey, we have been following the pattern set for us by Nehemiah in the first chapter of the book by his name. We’ve seen his heartbreak at the realization that Jerusalem, the city of God, lay in ruins, but we’ve also seen that he did not rush into solving the problem. Instead, he fell to his knees in a season of prayer, fasting, and repentance.

Now I’ve called you to join me in a season of prayer and fasting. Specifically, I’ve challenged you to join me in my personal commitment—30 minutes a day, 3 hours a week, 1 day a month—to set aside time to pray, fast from something desirable in my life for that time, and really seek God’s face individually and in fellowship with others.

Have you taken the challenge?

* How have you felt about this series of messages?
* Have you taken Pastor Jeff up on his challenge? If so, how has it been for you? If not, what have you decided to do?

# If we seek his face…

Let’s look at the next couple of verses in Nehemiah’s prayer to God.

>”Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

>Nehemiah 1:8-9

Nehemiah here is pulling together many promises that God gave to Israel, and he is putting them together into one summary promise that if his people are unfaithful to him, he will dissolve them into the rest of the world, but if they return to him and obey him, then he will restore them. Particularly, Nehemiah is making a reference to Jerusalem because that is the city God chose as a dwelling for his Name. God’s choice was clearly evident on the day when Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem many years before Nehemiah. Let’s take a look at that passage.

>…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

>2 Chronicles 7:14

This passage is often used by churches and Christian groups to emphasize how “prayer will heal our land” or something like that, but there are some important details that are often missed.

* Take a couple minutes to read the passage in its context then share with the group any insights you received while reading.
* In 2 Chronicles 7:14, what does God promise he will do?
* What does “heal their land” mean in the context of 2 Chronicles 7:13?
* What are the prerequisites the people must meet before God keeps his promise?
* What does it mean to seek God’s face?

# The promise is for us

Now, these promises in both Nehemiah and in 2 Chronicles were given originally to the people and nation of Israel, but throughout the New Testament, it is made clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises to Israel, and those who believe in Jesus are heirs with him of all the promises. However, the Old Testament promises about the land and the Temple are much harder to connect with the New Testament reality. Different people have differing interpretations of the Bible on that matter, but here are a few significant passages to consider quickly:

>Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

>1 Corinthians 3:16

>In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

>Ephesians 2:21-22

The temple today is the church! As believers are built together, we collectively are God’s new temple on the earth! Therefore, God’s promises to Israel about the land and the temple are promises that apply today to the church!

* Looking back at Nehemiah and 1 Chronicles 7, where does NWBC fit into the context of those verses?
* 1 Chronicles 7:13 speaks of a time when God removes blessing from the land of Israel, what would that look like when applied to a church?
* What do you think “heal their land” means when applied to NWBC?

# Now What?

We’ve been digging pretty deeply over the past few weeks into our own souls and the state of our church. We have obviously been dealing with some uncomfortable truths because our attendance has been even lower! This is the truth: God has something great in store for us as individuals and God has something great in store for this neighborhood through us together! However, we will not experience this great blessing unless we are who God wants us to be.

The promises of restoration found in the Bible, are always preceded by the command to return wholeheartedly to God, to seek his face, to turn from sin.

* What do you think? How close are we to being the kind of church God wants us to be?
* What will it mean for us as a church to return to God and seek his face?
* What will it mean for you?

# Time to Seek His Face

In your groups, spend some time seeking God’s face through prayer. If there is some confession that still needs to be done, then do it together in your groups. Also, make sure that at least one person prays for each of those who answered the last question.


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