Ezekiel 13-15, Psalm 35
Everyone must ask themselves what really is in their heart concerning God? What is most important to us? What would it take to make a change from our current path? As a whole most people have a comfort in not changing. They follow the traditions of their parents and grandparents and follow a set of arbitrary guidelines that they feel are the "right" things to do even if they know full well that their hearts and the hearts of their children remain far away. Leaders of large prosperity churches like Joel Osteen maintain large congregations by continually avoiding the topics of sin and repentance. When interviewed he has failed to openly state that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Pope Francis recently told Catholics to refrain reaching out to the Jewish people since "Jews don't need to convert for salvation, in an unfathomable mystery". The Episcopal Church ordained its first openly gay bishop in 2003, and has been a strong proponent of inclusion of same-sex marriages. One patient of mine who was a lifelong Episcopalian though bothered by this position was resistant to leave because this is where her family always went. One of my patients who is Catholic had no interest in reading the Bible but was terribly bothered when one of her relatives failed to baptize their child.
As we read these pages in Ezekiel though the names of the leaders, those in the congregation, and the the denominations have changed the falseness of those leading and the insincerity of those in the congregation haven't changed at all. We read in Ezekiel 13:2-3, "Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, 'Hear the word of the Lord!' " Thus says the Lord God: "Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!" In 13:15-16, God describes how these prophets would be the recipients of His wrath. Jesus makes similar statements to the false teachers of His day in Matthew 23, for example, 23:13, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." The people also completely mirror our current generation, as we read in Ezekiel 14:3, "Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?" God's formula has never changed as we read in 14:6, "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations."
The Gospel message calls each of us to repent. This does not mean telling God, "I'm sorry", but instead it means that we must all rethink our past and present and agree that God's ways are right and our ways are wrong. Only then can we begin to enter into a relationship with Him. Change and acknowledgment is required, not the traditions of our relatives and respectfully maintaining the status quo. We will all one day answer for ourselves and how we chose to interact with those around us. Have we acted like the false prophets and made those around us feel guilty for questioning the false teachings of the religion they were raised in? Have we ignored the false comments of our leaders so as not make a "big deal"? When we strong-arm those around us not to change, we have also become those same false prophets from the time of Ezekiel. Do we honor our families over God? People tattoo their bodies with the dates of their departed loved ones, place memorials in their car windows, etc, but unless these departed loved ones have repented, accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior and made Him Lord of their lives before they breathed their last, then difficult as it might be to fathom, their eternity is not where we would like it to be. There is nothing wrong with honoring their memories, but if they were on the wrong path, it's time for each of us to choose a different path for ourselves and lead those we love onto that new path also. There is only one way to heaven, and it is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: