Thursday, October 3, 2013

In One Ear and Out the Other

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! They say of me, ‘Does he not speak parables?’” – Ezekiel 20:49

The Prophets of the Old Testament were a whole other level of faithful to God.  Isaiah went naked and barefoot for three years to warn the people of Egypt and Ethiopia (Isaiah 20:3). Ezekiel was told lay on his left side bound to a couch in public for 390 days, followed by 40 days of laying on his right side.  During that time he was to eat bread that was cooked over cow dung!  And we think we have it hard in serving God?  No, we have it pretty easy!

Yet, we fail.  We have learned a whole new way of serving God that God never intended.  We do “church”.  We go about the business of church, sitting ourselves in the busywork of committees and programs, all the time omitting God’s command, yet feeling accomplished through position and respect within the church.  That is not what God intended.

We are supposed to be at work making other believers, bringing the lost to Him.  We are supposed to be transformed by His word into the same heart as Christ, a heart that desires to do good for others, that will feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, and befriending the lonely.  Yes, I do know that SOME church activity does support God’s work, but not all of it does.  Far too often we occupy ourselves with church work and omit the work we should do that would benefit the lost.  If we put as much energy and time into caring for the lost as we do in caring for the church activities and church building, surely there would be more worshippers of God in this world.

Where have we gone wrong?  We don’t take the word of God personally.  As my grandmother use to say in frustration of things she would tell us and advice she would give, it goes “in one ear and out the other”.  Nothing sticks in our heads, and nothing changes our heart because we assume that God’s word is meant for others.  We don’t take God’s Word personally.

The Prophet Ezekiel was often visited by a group of men from the tribes of Israel, who would ask of him God’s word toward them.  In Ezekiel 20 some of those men who came were told by God that they had no business inquiring of Him because they refused to serve Him. They were worshipping idols instead of worshipping God.  It was as if they thought they could ride the fence, hedging their bets on which god would benefit them most.  But when we choose to not choose God, we cannot expect to receive His full benefits.  When we choose church work over the work of God, we are serving another idol.  Church was not intended to keep us busy doing things of the world, but to be a fellowship of believers who grow stronger in God’s word and Spirit through interaction. 

Ezekiel prophesied to the men what God said.  He spoke to them of the utter destruction to come to them because of their idolatry.  He told of the frustration God felt of their years and years of idolatry even after leading them into the Promised Land.  He told of how they would be scattered, and killed.  He also told that when they returned to Him He would accept them back.  But the men did not take God’s word seriously!  Ezekiel, the poor prophet chained to a couch, is quoted in the last verse of the chapter as saying “Ah, Lord God! They say of me, ‘Does he not speak parables’?”  The men thought Ezekiel’s words were surely for someone else, some sort of enigma that they could not use.

In the introduction to David Platt’s “Follow Me”, Francis Chan writes: “I see a trend in many churches where people are beginning to enjoy convicting sermons.  They walk out feeling broken over their sin.  The distorted part is that they can begin to feel victorious in their sadness.  They boast, “I just heard the most convicting message, and it ruined me!” The focus is on the conviction itself and not the change it is meant to produce – change that doesn’t necessarily follow when we stay focused on conviction.  Guilt is not always a good thing.  It is only good if it leads us past sorrow to the joy of repentance.”

Repentance cannot come if we don’t take God’s word personally.  If it just goes in one ear and out the other, we are not truly serving God by hearing His word.  Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 

This is our REASONABLE service – not some great act to which we should expect reward, but what is reasonable of God to ask of us.  He asks that we not take on the busy work of the world, and its ways and values, but use His Word to change who we are.  He has saved us from ourselves - our own sin.  All He asks in return is that we be TRANSFORMED, sanctified, changed by His Word.  We are to becoming a living sacrifice - our lives given to Him in return for eternal life. 

Consider that.  Is this not a great trade?  Assume our life here reaches even 120 years.  But eternity cannot even be measured in years or any span of time.  It is unending. Is giving our earthly lives to Him such a sacrifice?  Are we not still reaping the benefits of serving Him while on earth?  Is not doing life on earth easier with God’s minute-by-minute grace and favor?

Don’t let God’s word go in one ear and out the other.  Let it resonate in your soul, changing you from the inside out.


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