Ezekiel 19-21, Psalm 37
When I reflect back on just how slow my own process of sanctification has been, which is so far from complete and will not be complete until one day when I enter heaven, it amazes me. Accepting Christ's offer of salvation is one thing but purging ourselves of everything which was our former selves is quite another. It was years before I finally recognized how God dishonoring all of the music I grew up with and was still singing along to in the car and finally chose to stop listening to. It was years before I chose to stop seeing certain movies or watching certain television shows. When I finally stopped, years after coming into a relationship with Christ, it wasn't because I had to, I didn't want to anymore. I saw the same thing in the life of my son when he came into a relationship with Christ. Step by step he gave up his former ways, from a life of promiscuity, to his various aspects of partying , to hanging around with his old friends. Like myself, the process for him is still ongoing. Billy Graham said, "Have you ever had a weed in your yard that you chopped down and thought was gone-only to have it spring up again? Its roots, you discovered, were still alive, and they might even have spread. Sinful thoughts can be like that. When we come to Christ, He begins to change our thinking, and new thoughts begin to take root in our mind-thoughts about God's love for us and His will for our life. Don't be surprised when old ways of thinking crop up-but don't let them linger. When they come, immediately turn to God and ask Him to help you get rid of them-just as you pull weeds out of your garden." The answer to our dilemma we see in Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly".
We read in Ezekiel 20:5-8, "Say to them, "Thus says the Lord God:, 'On the day when I chose Israel and raised My hand in an oath to the descendants of the house of Jacob, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt...On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, flowing with milk and honey',...Then I said to them, 'Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.' But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt...". The Promised Land was only an 11 day journey by direct route from Egypt, yet, God led them in a circuitous route which took one year to make. God knew that it was easier to remove Israel from Egypt (which is always a picture of the world) than it was to remove Egypt from the hearts of the Israelites. Due to their continued disobedience this one year journey turned into a forty year wilderness journey.
We are not much different than the Israelites from long ago. Like them He chose us and has given us a ticket to the Promised Land (for us, heaven). Like them we all still struggle and stumble along our path. Paul stated in Romans 6:6, 12-14, "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin...Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." Part of the answer to this struggle that we all face is stated in Ezekiel 20:43, "And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed." We are not to romanticize or fantasize about "the good old days". The "good old days" were often our old sinful days and must be seen for the ugliness that they were being apart from God. Jesus described what our reaction to this should be in Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted". The people being described here after becoming poor in spirit and giving up their prideful ways in Matthew 5:3, see their lives of sin for what they were and mourn over it. May we all move forward daily in the freedom of the life that God makes available to all of us.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: