Introduction

Nearly a month ago I began this series of sermons by focusing on the thought of the Lord calling out to mankind with a call of repentance; He desires for us to turn away from wickedness and turn to Him.  I then focused on God’s love and how the Lord is willing to forgive us of our wickedness so that we be with Him.  Last week, we saw the work of reconciliation through Christ and how we can now live in harmony (peace) with Him should we be redeemed through our faith in His only begotten Son.

We rejoice today in the giving of the only begotten Son who became our propitiation to make these things possible for us.  Through the shed blood of the Lamb of God, a new covenant has been made with us by God.  That promise:  whosoever believes in His only begotten Son will not perish but will have everlasting life (John 3:16).  Unfortunately, Christ – His birth, death, and resurrection – is a major stumbling block.  What this then means is that the everlasting promise from God is one that some struggle to accept, do not take seriously, or simply cannot fathom or believe.

Yet, we still have a choice to make today:  Do you believe in the Lord?  Do you believe in what He has promised –  forgiveness, mercy, redemption, and salvation – through His only begotten Son?  The choice is yours: will you believe?  Let’s focus on making the choice and understanding that we will be held accountable (responsible) for the choice that we choose to make in answering this question.

Find God for Yourself

I find that many hesitate when it comes to having faith in the Lord.  I believe this hesitation happens for a couple of reasons with one being that some don’t think they have to believe.  You see, some believe they are so special that faith in God is unnecessary.  This was a major problem for Israel in Old Testament times and for the Jews in New Testament times.

Jesus taught to the Jews that should anyone abide in His word, they would be set free from the bondage of sin.  However, the Jews, after hearing that statement, argued that they did not need to abide in His word because they descended from Abraham; they then lied that they had never been in bondage to anyone (John 8:31-36).  So, the thought here was that they were special and were covered because they descended from Abraham and did not need to believe in Christ – abide in His word.

I reference this to you today because there are many who believe a great deal that they personally do not have to be in fellowship with the Lord in order to be saved.  They believe that because mom, dad, grandmom, granddad or someone else who they may be close to went to church and believed, their faith covers them.  This reminds me of when I was child and felt I didn’t have to pray for myself because my dad was a pastor – I thought I was covered!  Little did I realize that all of us have to have our own personal relationship (fellowship) with the Lord in order to be saved from the guilt of our sins.

To truly be in fellowship with the Lord, one must enjoy their own personal walk in the light of God.  You see, those that are not personally walking in the light are actually walking in darkness, regardless of who they may be close to.  As John said, should one remain walking in darkness, they can be overtaken by darkness with no way out (1 John 1:5-6).  So, the choice is yours:  will you choose to walk in the light or will you choose to remain in darkness? Will you believe?

Hesitating to choose

Again, some remain hesitant to walk in the light of Christ – they are hesitant to believe that they can be saved.  Some hesitate in choosing to believe this because they have it in their heads that they are not worthy of being saved.  Now, I touched on this thought in a previous sermon in this series, but I feel it is important to touch on this thought again today.

The thought that one cannot be saved, I believe, has been perpetuated and put into the hearts of many by Satan.  Someone who hears that they are not worthy to be saved can hear that enough time that it will fester and grow into being reality for them.  Satan desires for you to accept that thought as reality because he wants you to remain bound in the bondage of sin.  

Instead of listening to Satan or to what others have to say about whether or not you can be saved, may I make a suggestion to you?  Jesus said that if you ask, it will be given to you; if you seek, you will find; if you knock, it (the Lord) will be opened to you (Matt. 7:7).  Find God for yourself!  Go to God and hear what He has to say about whether or not you can be saved from the guilt of your sins.

God is Faithful and Just

Now, with that in mind, I want to show you that the Lord has already provided the answer for you so that you can be encouraged.  In Ezekiel 18, we come across a passage of scripture where there had been a false narrative perpetuated by the people about who will live and who will not live.  Now, the people, at that time, were focused on physical living rather than spiritual living but we are going to be talking about spiritual living as we go through this word.  

A false proverb

The false proverb (saying) that the Jews had at that time went as, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2).  Essentially what is being said here is that the parents ate sour grapes and the children ended up getting the sour taste.  So, we would consider this saying to mean a child would suffer the consequences of their parents actions.

Now, let’s think about that thought spiritually for a moment.  If we were to apply this saying spiritually, one would be suggesting that the sinful ways of the parents (or others) would be passed on to a child.  So, the child could be nothing but a sinner and would suffer the same penalty of their parent’s sin.  This was a very unfair way of thinking by the people as it would give few people a chance at living.  So, God had to refute this way of thinking and command Israel to stop using it (Ezek. 18:3).

There are many people who have thought this way for a very long time and used it to undermine and condemn others.  Yes, some things are passed down to us, like our genetics, but such a way of thinking should never be applied spiritually.  It is certainly possible for a child to pick up bad habits from those around them, but at the same time, it is possible for a child to learn not to do those things.

Again, we have to be very careful with tying worldly logic to spiritual wisdom.  This worldly saying brought, and still brings, great harm to many and has prevented, or prevents, many from turning to the Lord.  The reason being because some may feel condemned of their sins before they even have a chance to make a choice to believe they can be saved!

God is faithful and just

I have been talking about the Lord’s judgment quite a bit lately and I feel it is very important for us to understand that the Lord does not judge as man does.  As we see the Lord say in our key verse for today, ”if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.”

So, if you were a sinner and genuinely turned to the Lord, you will be judged as being faithful and will live, spiritually, no matter who you are, where you came from, or who you are surrounded by.  The Lord said through Ezekiel, if a man begets a son who saw all the sins of his father but chose not to do likewise, he (the son) would not die for the iniquity of his father; he would live.  The father, however, because of his iniquity would die (Ezek. 18:14-17).  Again, God is faithful to keep His word and He is just (fair) in His judgment!

The idea of God judging us can be terrifying, however, His refuting of that false narrative shows that God does not think as we do.  For those that may not believe God is both faithful and just, the picture of the Lord not being biased, loving justice, and standing against injustice is shown throughout scripture, especially in the book of Isaiah.

In the opening chapter of Isaiah, the Lord spoke of His displeasure with Israel’s wickedness and told them should they continue to rebel, they would be devoured by the sword (Is. 1:13-20).  By Isaiah 59, the Lord was greatly displeased that nobody stood for justice and put their trust in empty words and the southern kingdom was eventually conquered – this was God’s judgment of the kingdoms of Israel.

Now, on two separate occasions, we see where God’s chosen people were going to be held accountable by God for the choices that they made!  As Paul said, there is no partiality with God (Rom. 2:11).  To the Romans, Paul made it clear that the Lord is, again, both faithful and just.  God, Paul said, will render to each one according to their deeds:  eternal life to those who in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality but to those that are self-seeking and do not obey they will receive indignation and wrath (Rom. 2:8). 

Yet, we will see the Lord’s faithfulness in that He does not give up on mankind.  When no one moved, God put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak (Is. 59:17).  “The Redeemer will come to Zion,” said the Lord, “and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob” (Is. 59:20).  The Lord said to Israel, “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” (Is. 1:19).

Through His judgment, I believe that the Lord is faithful and just and this takes away any reason I would have in hesitating to believe.  God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last – He is the sovereign ruler over all and is able to do anything – this includes passing over your sins.  So, why would He not be capable of forgiving me, or you, of your sins if you have turned to Him?

What to do to be saved

So, one may be considering, what do I have to do in order to be saved?  Through Ezekiel, we will see that the Lord said, “when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive … Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin.  Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezek. 18:27, 30-31).

So, let us note:  we should turn away from wickedness and never seek to abide in it again; we should then do what is lawful and right.  

Now, one may ask, ‘how do I know what is lawful and right?’  What is lawful and right is not hidden from us as the Lord has said what is lawful and right in His eyes.  What is lawful according to the Lord is to love Him (the Lord), to love our neighbors, and to do good by edifying (uplifting) one anotherThe fruit of the spirit, as we know well, is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  As Paul said, “against such there is no law … [so] let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:22-23).  

You and I live in a time where we have received the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life through Christ.  The new heart and new spirit that was spoken of in the day of Ezekiel, we receive through the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In his letter to Titus, Paul spoke of the work that the Holy Spirit does inside of us as the washing of regeneration and renewing (Tit. 3:5).  

You see, by the Holy Spirit the believer is transformed into a new creation that has been created in Christ for good works (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10).  This all happens thanks to the work of reconciliation by Christ who died, was risen, and ascended so that we can receive the Holy Spirit and also have everlasting life (John 16:7).  Again, with God all things are possible!  This even includes you being transformed from the sinful creature into a righteous creature.

The Choice is Yours

But, again, the choice is yours:  will you believe?  Do you believe that the Lord has done all of this just for you?  Do you believe that the Lord, who sits high and looks like, loves you and desires that you be with Him, regardless of who you are or where you come from?

You need to know

This can all be quite a bit to take in for some – the fact the Creator of all things known and unknown loves you.  I felt it necessary to share this series of sermons for a couple of reasons.  First:  because we all need to know that there is a life or death choice that we all have to make, spiritually speaking.  So, it is important that you be made aware of this choice if you have gone unaware of it.

Secondly:  I feel that it is of the utmost importance that you be made aware that you can be saved from death, spiritually, regardless of who you are, who you come from, or your heritage.  Our God is a forgiving God that has had mercy on many who were thought to not be worthy of receiving mercy.  Let me show you the Lord’s mercy.

While Jesus hung on the cross suffering physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, He looked out over the crowd and He prayed.  What did He pray for?  Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those that mocked and celebrated His hanging on the cross (Luke 23:34).  As He hung between two thieves, Jesus forgave the one thief that acknowledged his wrongs and requested to be remembered when Jesus entered into His kingdom (Luke 23:40-43).

Self responsibility

Whatever you choose to do with your life spiritually, let us remember that the Lord said every knee will bow to Him, and every tongue will confess to Him, whether of those in heaven, those on earth, and of those under the earth (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10).  The Lord is going to judge whether or not we turned to walk in the light of Christ, and again, this is a choice we have to make for ourselves.

The Lord made this clear to Ezekiel that every single person will be held accountable.  To Ezekiel, the Lord said, “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father as well as the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4).  What this means for us is that we are responsible and will be held responsible for the choice that we have made.

The promise is that those who choose to believe in the Lord will have everlasting life.  Yet, we often forget what Jesus also included in that promise.  Jesus stated, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

While it is possible to die in the bondage of sin, we must remember that Christ gave His life so that we can have that choice of remaining in bondage or following Him to freedom.  The Lord desires for nobody to die in this bondage!  The Lord said, “I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies.  Therefore turn and live (Ezek. 18:32)!”

All who choose to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Him will save themselves and be redeemed (Matt. 16:24-25)My hope today is that you will turn to the one in whom all things are possible and choose to genuinely believe in Him.

Thought: The Choice is Yours:  Will You Believe?

By Rev. Leo H. McCrary II – April 17, 2022
Responsive Reading – Ezekiel 18:19-32
Key Verse – Ezekiel 18:21

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