In chapter 2, Nehemiah gives us a blueprint for activating contagious faith. Nehemiah’s faith in God and his relationship with the king intersect to open the doors necessary for Nehemiah to accomplish what God has laid on his heart. As he returns to Jerusalem, his great confidence in God spills over to others and helps to strengthen and encourage them for the job at hand.
Nehemiah is a cup bearer for the King in Susa when he hears from some men who have come from Judahwith reports of how the Jews are doing since they were captured. Nehemiah hears that life is not good for the Jews back in Judah because the walls of Jerusalem are torn down. This brings Nehemiah to his knees in tears and and he prays to the Lord. Nehemiah comes before the Lord in prayer seeking His favor and blessing. In his prayer, Nehemiah leaves us a blueprint to follow when we want to see change in our world.
Throughout church history Christians have struggled by, first coming to God by grace through faith, then spending their lives trying to obey by human willpower. Paul begins to expand on the central theme: that we are not only saved by the gospel, it is ultimately the gospel that will complete the work that God began through His Spirit.
The gospel, the good news of Jesus, is not just the way we begin the Christian life, but also the way we grow in the Christian life. As we grow and mature, one of the trademarks and distinguishing characteristics we see is unity. God desires that those who love the gospel not fracture over cultural distinctions or secondary beliefs.
Paul sets the tone for his letter to the Galatians by adamantly insisting that one only needs Jesus to be right and acceptable before God. A false gospel had made its way into the church and Paul calls the believers to fight for the pure gospel as it is the only way to experience the real and transforming power of Jesus.
Throughout the Old Testament, the ancient people of Israel were often referred to as a “vine” or a “vineyard” and were supposed to demonstrate to the world what true human flourishing looked like. Jesus came as the True Vine to connect us to the nature and character of the Father, which causes us to produce the fruit we were designed to give.
When sin entered into the world, death was not far behind and since has been a dire aspect of life. Jesus makes the incredible claim that He is greater than this force that no one has been able to escape. He invites us to step into the reality in which He is greater than death and all of its effects because He is resurrection and life.
These words certainly set Jesus apart from all other religious leaders as do all the ‘I am sayings’ and much else in the New Testament. Jesus definitely claims to be revealing God in a way no other person ever has. By making this statement, He is stating that He is the true temple - the place where God dwells. He is not simply teaching, ‘This is how I think you will find God’, but rather, ‘If you believe in me and follow me you are making God your dwelling place.
The Jewish people knew all about ‘bad shepherds. The Old Testament prophets constantly castigated the rulers of Israel for being bad shepherds who were more interesting in feeding and caring for themselves than God’s people. When Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd’, they knew he was claiming to be the Messiah, the one who lead them to God.