As a leader of a church I have learned that there are various places of influence that are the responsibility of any community expression of God’s kingdom. The community of God is like a city. In this month’s leadership blogs I am going to look at some gates of the city as found in the book of Nehemiah. The city of God exhibits various gates of influence to the city and because of the city. I am talking about an influence of God upon the community of God and the communities of the world. I believe that these gates of influence can be understood by looking at the reconstruction of the city of God by Nehemiah. The construction of the city of Jerusalem was a type and shadow of the true city of God that comes from above for us all. I am going to look at ten gates described in Nehemiah that portray a spiritual truth of influence to and through the church. In my many years of leading a local church I used these principles as a means of evaluating the health of the church that I was responsible to lead. In our evaluation, the leaders of our church and I would look at the areas of our strength and at our areas of need. We used those annual evaluations to help position us to hear God in leading His church. I believe that any leader of a community expression of God can use these tools to help them hear God in bringing health to their areas of responsibility.
The ‘Sheep Gate’ is the first gate of construction in Nehemiah (Neh. 3:1,32; Neh. 12:39). The sheep gate (Neh. 3:1), can be likened unto the altar built by Israel as recorded in Ezra 3:1-7.
Ezra 3:1-7 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day. Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the LORD. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, although the foundation of the temple of the LORD had not been laid. They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.
The burnt offering is a testimony to the death of Jesus that we might be reconciled to God. It is the basis for our commitment to God and the work of God in and through our lives. All men can come and present their lives to God without condemnation or shame. Jesus came as the Good Shepherd to find the lost sheep of Israel (Lk. 15:16). He came to bring a salvaging to mankind that would wash off their shame and reconnect men and women to a personal relationship with God in Christ. The sheep gate is the entrance to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is not just a one-time entrance, but also a testimony to the continual entrance of God’s voice to the human hearts of men. It is that place of hearing God’s voice (Jn. 10:27). I believe the sheep gate is also revealed as the Shepherd’s care for the flock on a daily basis. The ability of the people to be cared for by the presence of the Good Shepherd among them is depicted in the sheep gate’ (Jn. 10:14). Every local church needs to evaluate their ‘sheep gate’. Are people being connected to the voice of God? Is the care of the Good Shepherd known among them? I believe we can strengthen the ‘sheep gate’ by looking for those who have an anointing in a pastoral way to help the people connect to the voice of the Good Shepherd. The true voice of the Shepherd is not heard through the voice of a man or a woman. It is heard through the voice of the Holy Spirit to the human heart and it even inspires members of His community to express a care for one another. The Sheep Gate is the place where people willingly come and present their bodies as living sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1). It is a place where they are transformed to the thinking of the community of God and are no longer bound to being conformed to the thinking of the world (Rom. 12:2). The Sheep Gate is the entrance of purpose for the life of the believer. It is not just a place of fulfilling their needs as individuals, but a place of discovering what it means to be a sheep born for the purpose of others. The Sheep Gate empowers men and women to hear the voice of God whereby they are empowered to give their lives to God and His purposes in the earth.
The ‘Fish Gate’ is the next mentioned in Nehemiah (Neh. 3:3; 12:39). I believe that this gate implies our ability to become ‘fishers of men’ (Mt. 4:19; Mk. 1:17). I believe this gate has to do with ‘adding to the church’ as is ‘water baptism’ we see new souls identify in being members of the Body of Christ through an act of faith. I believe it has to do with our ability to reach out with the arm of the Lord. It has to do with our ability to cast the net of the kingdom of God (Mt. 13:47) and gather in the peoples of the world to God’s kingdom. The working of this gate can be seen through acts of faith that draw others to the good news of the kingdom. It is the evangelistic hand of the Lord that gathers in the fish of His kingdom (Isa. 59:1). I believe that every local church needs to evaluate their ‘fish gate’. Are they reaching out into the community with the salvation of the kingdom? Are people being gathered in and added to the body of Christ? We need to find those who have an evangelistic anointing upon their lives and seek to facilitate them among us that the ‘fish gate’ might be restored to the community of God. The fish gate was likely named for the fish that were brought through it from the Sea of Galilee. The fish market was likely located at this gate. The way of “Galilee” is the way of salvation to the nations. Jesus came to be a Light unto the Gentiles and a hope unto the way of Galilee (Isa. 9:1).
The next gate of restoration in Nehemiah is the ‘Old Gate” (Neh. 3:6). I believe that this gate can be likened to the preservation of truth, foundations laid, and teaching given as a foundation in the community of God. I believe that the ‘old gate’ also represents a place of sustaining and increasing the inheritances that come from our past. I see the ‘old gate’ as the foundation truths of the Christian faith (Heb. 6:1,2). The old gate exists in the reality of the foundation graces of the Body of Christ. There is a need to keep in those things established as foundational truths, such as water baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, principles of giving, and other foundational truths and skills to the body as God adds new members. Paul told the Thessalonians’ church to stay true to the traditions given to them by the apostles (2 These. 3:6). The ‘old gate’ sets an anchor for a foundation of repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit, keeping in the apostolic teaching, continuing steadfastly in fellowship, continuing in communion, and remaining faithful in prayer (Acts 2:37, 42). Every local church needs to evaluate the condition of the ‘old gate’ in the house. Are people being established in the basic teachings of the Christian faith? We need to activate and facilitate those with teaching graces among the congregation to make the ‘old gate’ strong and functioning in the local community. We need to facilitate a culture that puts to use those things set in the foundation of the faith.
I will continue presenting the gates of the city in this month’s blogs. If you are a leader in the community of God do an evaluation this week of the ‘sheep gate’, the ‘fish gate’, and the ‘old gate’ in your area of influence. How is God directing you to connect people in the pastoral grace of hearing God and presenting their lives as living sacrifices to God with a transformation of their minds that comes through hearing God and living in His way? How are you in your area of community leadership activating a spirit of outreach and connection to those who are being drawn into the net of the kingdom? Are men becoming fishers of men? Are there acts of faith that exhibit a testimony of God’s life to the world around you? How are you as a leader in the community of God facilitating the inherited truths of God and the inheritances of our father’s in the faith? The foundations of the growing community of God are established upon the inheritances of the past.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson