Get Things in the Right Order!
Ezekiel 36: 22 – 28.
Ephesians 5: 1 – 2, 15 – 20.
How many of us I wonder are doing our very best to live a good life, are struggling to do what we know we ought to do, are really trying to do what we know very well God wants us to do? I suspect there are a number of us who feel that it is a struggle, and who are waiting for the strength and guidance that Scripture tells us is our gift from God.
The whole point is that if this is the case we have probably got the whole process back to front, turned around the wrong way. We have to get things in the right order. The message from God to Israel that we read in Ezekiel gives us several clues. God was not saying to them I take you back when you deserve it. No! He says I am bringing you back even though you don’t deserve it. The whole message of Salvation is back to front as far as we humans are concerned - it is God’s plan to bring us into fellowship with Him before we deserve it! As a matter of fact no human probably will ever deserve it as we are people of sin and selfishness. But the selflessness of God means that He extends His Grace to us while we were yet sinners. God isn’t waiting for us to get good and serve Him faithfully, He extends His love and saving grace to us even in our worst times and worst behaviour.
Then God tells the Israelites that He will sprinkle them with clean water and will make them clean. This is reminiscent of the passage I often refer to from 1 John 1: 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. How will He do this? He says I will give you a new heart with new and right desires; I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new and obedient heart. Hey, we were wondering why we found it so hard to do the right thing, to do what we know God wants us to do. Here He is saying He will give us a heart of obedience that will make us do the right things. Now this isn’t talking about a medical heart transplant but a Spiritual heart transplant. God does on to say And I will put My Spirit in you so you will obey My laws and do whatever I command. This isn’t making us into Robots that do what God commands because we can’t help it, it is making us into children of God – our Heavenly Father – who do what He wants because we love Him and want to do the right things.
So God rescues us and rewards us with His Spirit. How do we know that He has done so? Often when people have done what God wants He does reward them – they prosper and have all that they need – although not necessarily all that they would want or like. This isn’t always true and often we don’t understand why one should be rewarded and have sufficient, and another seems to be struggling on very little. The point is that physical well being and wealth are not sure signs of God’s approval, and are certainly not the only rewards that come to the Christian. As a matter of fact even 4 thousand years ago it was a trap and a snare. Deuteronomy 8: 1 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; 12 otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them,
13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will
forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The warning is clear – Don’t let comfort fool you into thinking that God is rewarding you for your goodness. Are you comfortably off? Then look for what God wants you to do with what you have. He has given it to you for a reason. Are you comfortable in our Church? Perhaps you aren’t listening closely enough or we are not doing our job properly. Jesus never promised us that life here on Earth would be easy, He did promise that He would be with us and would work with those who love Him to bring about good from everything. And He left the definition of what was Good to God Himself – not necessarily our desires or ideas of what was good for us.
So how are we to obey and do what is required for God? Paul gives us a clue in Galatians 2: 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. It is no longer the old “me” but a new Christ Centred me who willingly does what is necessary. How does this happen? By our faith in Jesus and God the Father. What is faith? Hebrews 11: 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Faith is acting like it is so, even when it is not so, in order that it might be so, just because God said so. Planting a seed is faith _ poppy…..
In Luke 11: 2 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” Their hearts warmed within them as Jesus explained the scriptures. John Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed as he heard the scripture taught. Trying to live a Christian life without a daily dose of Scripture is like trying to run your car on empty, or trying to pay your bills with an empty cheque account.
God’s gift of the Spirit is ours, and when we accept it and rely on His guidance then we will find that obedience and living a life free of deliberate sin is easy where as when we are trying to earn God’s gift by doing it all on our own we have only failure and disappointment. Let Jesus into your heart today, accept God’s gracious gift of the Holy Spirit, and start living for God and walking daily with Jesus. It is yours for the taking.