Monday, April 27, 2009

Scripture of the Week- Ezekiel 3:16-21

16 And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: 17 "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18 If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. 20 Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul."

This scripture has always inspired great fear of the Lord within me. It is so deeply mysterious, yet at the same time very straightforward. This is one of those golden threads that weaves thru all of the bible and is consistently present in all of the tapestry of God’s Word. Namely, it is not good enough to be hearers of God’s Word…. We must also be doers of God’s Word in order to be saved.
How fearful of a thing it is to know that, when we ignore or disobey the Lord’s instructions to us, “the blood” of others will be “required at our hands”. There are a great many scholars who would say that these words were meant specifically for Ezekiel, but I believe that they are words for all of God’s children. What does it mean for us that, even when we commit a sin of omission- of negligence, that the consequences for ourselves and for others will be severe?

Yes, by all means, we are washed by the blood of Jesus and when we confess with our mouths and believe with our hearts that Jesus is Lord, the promise is that we will inherit the Kingdom of God. This act of divine grace is purely God’s great work of mercy towards all who would receive Him.

Revelation speaks about those who will pass thru the fire of God’s judgement naked and those who will pass thru, along with their works which were done to the glory of God and are of eternal value in God’s Kingdom. I think about this so often…..
As I have mentioned in this blog before, I have become captivated by the Eastern Orthodox theological concept of synergy. That is that the process of salvation and sanctification is a dance between divine grace and the human free will. Yes, there must always be that initial surrender to God and to all that Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. There must always be that initial surrender when we come to the ends of ourselves and realize that we can never reach God thru our own efforts. There must always be that initial, God given, awareness that we are literally drowning in our sins and that only God can save us. And yet, even then, there are those who choose to walk away from Jesus and those who choose to love Him for the rest of their lives.

Synergy is a dance that begins between 2 partners. Yes, God invites and initiates but it is we who must accept and join Him. It is we who choose to continue with Him or stop dancing. As long as we continue to dance, He makes us more perfectly into the image of His Son. This is the Glory of God, revealed by God in the lives of His children.

And Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. “

Once again, how fearful an echo of Ezekiel...

And in John 14 Jesus says, 21 "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." 23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."

How fearful a thing... To know that we are responsible to the living God to live lives of holiness and to continue to walk with Him all of the days of our lives. And yet, He gives us the strength and the grace to do this, if we ask Him.

Even the demons confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. They know who He is. That is not sufficient for their salvation.

I think that all of the literature that has been written on assurance of salvation, without sanctification and holiness, is a very dangerous thing. It is literally eternity that hangs in the balance. What an accomplishment for satan when he is able to convince those who come to knowledge of and surrender to the Lord that no further effort is required on their part. And yet, God promises to bring the good works that He has begun to completion.

I guess, in summary, what I am trying to say is that this is a deeply mysterious issue. God is all powerful and only He could have ever accomplished what was necessary for our salvation. However, I also think that salvation and sanctification require constant effort, in blood, sweat and tears, on our part. I think that salvation and sanctification is a dance between divine grace and the human free will. I think that this dance must continue for all eternity, once a person comes to believe in Jesus Christ and accepts His invitation to the dance. This dance is no easy thing. Yet, it is wonderful beyond anything else in the cosmos.


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