|Messages By Ovid Need|
We are looking at the second point of the message we started a couple of weeks ago on the reality of Hell.
We saw that hell is a literal place of torment, lasting forever and forever. It is beyond any type of human description which we can possibly imagine. Our Lord mentions it 70 times, even urging a person to dismember their body if some member would prevent their avoiding this terrible place. It is to be avoided at all cost.
The point we are covering is this: If hell is real, then our responsibility as a Born again believer is to go warn everyone. And we will if we honestly believe this.
We have been made kings and priests to the Most High God, by the blood of Christ. With this privilege comes tremendous responsibility, and one of those responsibilities is to Go preach the Gospel to every Creature.
The privileges that are ours as the children of God are beyond our imagination. We all love to hear about them, but their purchase by the blood of the Lamb places the child of God under great responsibility. And one of those responsibilities is to go preach the gospel.
The Lord did not save us to sit in a pew and listen to the word of God. He save us that we might put that word into practice day and night. Most Christians desire that the Lord be faithful in fulling His part of the covenant, supplying all our needs according to His riches in glory among other things, but we have a hard time working in our part of the responsibility.
Now, there are obviously four parts to His command in Mat. 28:19,20.
2.> preach the gospel of the kingdom of God, the basic part of which is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ in the place of sinners
3.> baptize the new believers
4.> then teach them to observe all of the responsibilities to the covenant God of their salvation.
As we mentioned, there are a great many illustrations of this command throughout the scriptures. One of my favorite and no doubt one of the more important ones, is found in Ezekiel ch. 3.
As we pointed out, the parallels between Ezekiel and us today are striking. Ezekiel was a priest, as we are, made so by the blood of the Lamb. Here in Ch. 3, we have the Lord giving a commission to Ezekiel, sending him to his own people.
We who are the priests of God, which is every believer, have been commissioned by the same Lord as was Ezekiel. Our commission is found in Mt. 28:19, 20. (Most Christians view this as the Great Suggestion.) And, as the Lord told Ezekiel, we do not have to learn a strange language to fulfill this command to go. All we have to do is be willing to obey.
There are several points here in Ezekiel. Let me review quickly the points that we made last week.
I. The passage actually starts with 2:1, which gives us the first and most important point. Son of man...
Here we see that the Lord remembers that we are dust, and makes provision. We cannot emphasize enough today that the Lord will never require more of us than what He will equip us to do for Him.
II. 2:2, This second point is built upon the first. The spirit entered into him. It is the Spirit of God which will enable him to fulfill the command of God, not his own abilities and strength.
III. 2:3, 4. The Lord is going to tell him how they will not listen to him, how they will even persecute him, but the Lord doesn't tell him this until after the Spirit of God enters into him!
It is the Lord and His Spirit that prepares us for the task which lies ahead.
Here the prophet is given great news: "They probably will not pay any attention to you." They are known for their rebellion, for their hardness to the word of God, for their stubbornness in sin.
We would think that God's people, especially, would rejoice at the teaching of God's word. We can expect that the heathen would not appreciate the truth, but God's people!
How many people do we encounter who are like this? But we have no choice but to confront them with the word of God.
V. 2:6. Evil cannot endure under the preaching of the word of God against the evils of the age. The result of the Prophet speaking the word of God to these people who did not want to hear it, is that the people flee from him, persecute him and lie about him.
A pastor who stands against the evils of the age, will not be successful and prosperous in the world's eyes, in fact, he will be despised, 3:7. People who desire to live their own standard will not like to be disturbed, and they will be offended.
And we need to be prepared for people like this when we try to witness to them according to the word of God, and His standards amidst the accepted standards of the world.
IV, and most important for us today. Vs. 7, 8, the response of the people could not determine if he obeyed God or not.
2:8, "Now listen to Me," says the Lord. The Spirit has entered into Ezekiel, he is not required to do anything in his own power or strength, nor of his own will. He is going in the power of God to deliver the message of God. If he doesn't, who will?
If he did not go and speak the words of life as instructed by the Lord, he would not be any better than the rebellious people to whom he was being sent. If he did not go, he faced the same result for rebellion as did the ones who would mock him.
Remember what happened to Moses in the wilderness when the Lord met him at the burning bush? The Lord spoke to him to go. Moses offered many excuses, every one of which the Lord answered. Then the last time the Lord told Moses to go, Moses said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. In other words, Moses said, "You're right Lord, some one needs to go, but not me. Send whoever you would like to send, but not me." Then the next verse.
Ex. 4:14, And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses... God help us. When we refuse to follow His instruction, we can count on His anger.
Now notice these important points for us.
1. We do not take a stand with an unpopular message from the word of God in the face of the standards of the world, because their might be someone receptive to it.
2. We do not go preach the Gospel to every creature because of the prospect that some one might hear us and believe, although we do have the confidence that God has some people out there that want to hear.
We go because we are commanded to go. If we don't go in obedience to our Lord's command, we are in as much rebellion as are those to whom we are sent.
VI. Sixth: Vs. 2:8-3:3. This is one of my favorite parts. He is commanded to eat the word of God. This is his strength. This is the same strength that you and I have, the word of God.
There are some things here worth noting;
he caused me... The natural man does not enjoy the word of God, but the Spirit of God gives the new man the desire to read and study His word.
And I must say here that if the word of God is not sweet to us, there is something desperately wrong with our salvation.
Then, v.3, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat... It is something that the individual must discipline himself to eat (read and meditate on), and act upon. The Spirit of God gives us the desire, but it requires work, discipline and sacrifice to fulfill that desire. The fallen man will fight us all the way.
But once we do cause ourselves to eat the word of God, and do it, we will find sweetness for our souls. We will find the strength of the Spirit of God to fulfill His great commission to us, go and reach the lost for the Saviour, teaching them to obey all things that He has written to us in His word.
VII. Let me make a point about this sweetness of 3:3 as found in 3:14. The word of God is sweet in the study, or in the privacy of our devotions. But the word of God was never meant to remain there. It was meant to give us instructions for living, acting and dealing with sin. It is given that we might know what to do and how to do it. It was given to prepare us for a task, the task of representing the Saviour every where we go.
The solitude of personal study is dangerous. It leads to the temptation to feel we are walking close to the Lord because we enjoy the study of God's word. And maybe He shows us some good things from it. This tempts us to stay there. It offers its lies to us that there is peace to be enjoyed in the study, when actually there is a war to the death going on all around us. There is a battle to join, and many have fallen victim because they:
Have not taken their Christianity into public, believing that their personal walk was all that is needed.
Have not headed their Master's call to go fight the enemy on his grounds.
Have exchanged their means of victory, the wisdom of God, for the world's means, reasoning ability.
Have taken their eyes off of their responsibility to the Lord and His commission. Instead, they are watching people. If people do not respond as they had hoped, they give up.
Have not eaten the word of God that they might have the faith to go on in spite of discouragements and disappointments.
The word of God was sweet to his taste, but was bitter in his spirit. He enjoyed reading and meditating on it, but the message that it contained was a bitter message, one of turn or burn, repent or parish; a message that the fallen nature does not like to hear, deal with or deliver. A message that the devil hates and will do all he can to prevent its delivery.
The requirements are heavy, but they are nothing that we are not equipped for and they must be done... or the sweetness will turn into poison and death.
The strength to carry out a seemingly hopeless charge by our Lord is found from His word, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
VIII. 3:4-9. We are looking at this passage of chapter 2 and 3 in the context of the child of God being commanded to go and speak to others concerning their relationship with the Lord of glory.
A. The context of the passage is Ezekiel being sent to those who profess to be the people of God, so let me hit this first.
This is a terrible incitement against the people of God. They profess to be God's people and followers of the Lamb (as the song says). Yet they are harder than any heathen.
What are they doing that identifies them as being so hardened? God tells Ezekiel that, because they can listen to the message of God pointing out their responsibilities to the God of their redemption, delivered by the man of God, yet remain totally unaffected by it, they are harder than the heathen ever thought of being. And, God warned them that their judgment would be worse than the judgement against the heathen, even at the hands of the heathen.
As we mentioned last time, there is no worse place for a child of God to be, than to be able to read and hear God's word and remain unaffected. This shows us that the judgment of God has set in upon that person or church. Unaffected by God's word is a sure sign of judgment. Any person who can remain unaffected by it, needs to be on their face before God,crying out to Him to move in their spirit.
B. Now, the application which we are using; going to the lost. They will not listen. They do not want to hear the message of repentance and faith toward the living God. Therefore, they will not.
And we will have to say that this is consistent with those hardened in sin, whether saved or unsaved. If they do not want to hear, they will not hear. (God must place the want to in their heart.)
V. 6, but if the message of God went to another people who could not understand your speech, they would listen.
>SEE LETTER FROM NORTH - below.<
And this is what we must say. The great majority which we are sent to in our communities, on our job, even in our families, will not pay us any attention. If we were going to a strange nation, the message we have to deliver would be received. We are hearing of this very thing all over the world. But, we are commanded to go to those of the same nationality and community as are we.
IX. V. 8, the problem is not us. If we were to talk about something which would sooth their conscience as they walk in the way they wish to go, or about some thing that they were interested in, they would welcome us. They would talk all day. The problem is the message. It is the message of God, and man's responsibility to God. This the natural man just does not want to hear.
(This is common as you go door to door. As long as you talk about what they want to talk about, they will talk all day. Let the conversation turn to the Lord, and they suddenly go cold as ice.)
A passage that really caught my attention as I am studying the Book of 1 Corinthians was 1:24. The only ones who will respond to the gospel are them which are called... To these people the gospel of Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. To the ones who are not called, it is no more than a message of foolishness, to be mocked, ridiculed and jeered.
And sad to say, I think that many professed Christians fit into this description also. Many of them see any requirement or responsibility to the word of God, as something to be departed from.
God told Ezekiel here that those in rebellion against God were going to be angry against him when he presented the word of God. He is told that they will be as hard as flint, 3:9 But he could not let this stop him or he would be in the same rebellion as they were. The Lord had provided the grace to obey His word back in 2:2. This made Ezekiel even harder than their flint, as diamond, v. 9.
God's grace will provide whatever is needed to obey His command. We receive our inspiration, not from the receptiveness of the people, but from Heaven as we obey the heavenly calling. If we look for our strength in the effects of our labour for the Kingdom of God's sake, we will soon grow weary. If we seek our strength in the One who sends us, we will not grow weary in well doing.
X. A very important point, v. 11, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God... Never are we allowed to degrade ourselves to the level of the world. Every argument that the natural man might come to us with as to why he should not have to follow the word of God, MUST be met with the word of God. Never are God's messengers allowed to use their own reasoning ability or wisdom. Never are God's people allowed to speak a word of their own, "Here's what I think!"
We must always keep in mind that we are God's messengers, delivering God's message to the ones who are in either intentional or unintentional rebellion against Him.
If we depart from His word in our confrontation, we have departed from the wisdom and power of God. It is the Lord alone who has the power to change the heart. Human wisdom and boldness is appealing, but all of that combined will not change one sinner.
XI. V. 17, our only responsibility is to warn with, and according to, the word of God. We will be held accountable for our faithfulness in this warning, not for their response.
XII. 3:18. And the last we will look at today. To fail to go and warn as the Lord has commanded, is to bear the blood of the wicked upon our hands.
Now, I have not the slightest idea how this blood will be required. I only know that it will be required by a righteous God. And I would not imagine that this requirement will be pleasant.
1. If we really believe that hell is real
2. If we really love others like we claim that we do
3. If we are really concerned about our communities
We will do all we can to reach others with the gospel of Christ.
We will be faithful in our giving of God's money back to Him.
We will give out tracts to everyone.
We will spend the time in prayer.
We will live holy and pure so we can claim the promised blessings of God upon our efforts to reach others.
We will take advantage of every opportunity to witness for the Lord. Actually, we will make time to witness for Him. There are those out there who He is working with. It is our responsibility to live holy and pure, present the gospel to everyone within our reach (even extending our reach), and leave the results up to Him.
We say we are saved.
We say that we believe the Bible.
We say that we believe in a literal heaven and hell.
How much are we doing to reach the lost?
How many hours have we invested in the lost loved one?
How many sleepless nights have we spent in prayer for them?
How many days have we spent in fasting for them?
How much money have we invested in furthering God's kingdom's work here?
You say, "Well, not much!" Then do we really love them? Do we really believe there is a hell?
How much time are we investing in trying to reach the lost co-worker? The lost community around us? If we make the claim with no actions, are we any better than the hypocrite of Christ's day?
God help us to invest the time and money in reaching the lost and dyeing around us.
Will we obey the command by our Lord Jesus Christ?
Would you be willing to commit your self, as the Lord makes possible, to two hours a week in obeying this command? Maybe only for this next month or so?
Letter from ICE (Institute for Christian Economics, Gary North, President, P.O. Box 8000, Tyler, TX. July, 1991).
Dear ICE Subscriber:
An amazing story appeared in a recent Issue of Christianity Today. It reported on the request of Moscow State University to have Christian scholars come there to teach on the meaning of Christianity. The Department of Atheism has been converted (so to speak) into a department of comparative religion. All over the USSR, institutions of higher learning are opening their doors to Christians from the West. They are paying teachers (in rubles, sadly) to come and present the Christian view of society.
Problem: none of the fundamentalist groups can supply such people. Unless the Russians want to hear about 92 reasons for the Rapture in '92, the fundamentalists have nothing to tell them except "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." The liberals and neo-evangelicals are able to supply Ph.D.- holding instructors, but not many can afford to go. Praise the Lord!
So here we are, 1960 years after the death of Jesus Christ, with Eastern Europe and Russia begging for the Western Church to supply them with biblical answers to social and economic problems, and the Western Church is bankrupt. Worse; it is fat, heavily indebted, and knows in its heart that Sir Isaac Newton died for its epistemological sins. It has nothing to say.
This is why I wish blackout on Christian Reconstruction were not in operation. We might be able to get through the hole in the Iron Curtain. One organization, International Institute for Christian Studies, is trying to get teachers to donate a year to go to several formerly Communist nations. It has prepared a large bibliography of Christian books for academic use. Most of these books are decent, in a dozen fields. Of course, in economics there is not one word about the ICE. But at least they recommend a dozen books by Mises and the works of Frederic Bastiat. This is right-wing Enlightenment thought, but it is better than left-wing Enlightenment thought. For information, contact them at P.O. Box 13157, Overland Park, KS 66212.
The Western Church has nothing explicitly biblical to say to the Eastern Church. This is pathetic. It is the fruit of two centuries of baptized humanism. It is time we did better."