Ezekiel 36:24-28 (Message)
“For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!”
The dream seemed so real in all of its details. We had purchased a new home. It actually was an older home filled with the lifetime “treasures” of someone else. There was furniture everywhere. There were multiple rooms some didn’t make sense including three kitchens. As I walked through the house surveying where everything would go, the layout and contents kept changing so I would have to change my plans and reorganize everything all over again. The children of the former owner were coming and going still removing things from the home as I tried to begin settling our things in. It was absolute and utter chaos. When I woke up drenched in sweat with my heart pounding in my chest, I was totally relieved to be met with reality. We are not moving. Our home is not for sale and we are not even looking. But I remember when we moved into this home – it was brand new. Much larger than our former home, I began to unpack our lives into a “dream” that seemed too good to be true. I never expected God to do such a work in our life but when He did I had trouble adjusting. For a moment, the feelings in my dream began to align with how I felt when we actually did move so I wonder now if God is telling me through my dreams to prepare for change is once again coming to our life. With the thought, I begin to bristle on high alert.
God requires a change of heart in His People. It is absolutely necessary to live in agreement with the Lord at all times. The very first thing He promises to do in the text today is “I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you all over, and bring you back to your own land.” Well, what if that land is foreign to you and unfamiliar. You will resist such a change in your life as I do the thought of moving to a new home. I love this house. I have grown comfortable here. We have it just the way that we like it. We have plans for the future in this home and ideas of how things should be. But if all of these details are according to our own plan, then it is not the best possible choice for our life. As we seek the Lord and call on His Name, God will do everything in His Power to transplant us to transform us according to His Plan for our life. Our willingness to be transformed is called repentance. We present our life to God to be made in to acceptable sacrifices which is a reasonable service given all that the Lord has done for us. (Romans 12:1-2) To desire all that God and actually receive it requires a change of heart that comes from the Holy Spirit. “I will give you a new heart putting a new spirit in you”. You will never have God’s Best according to your will.
Deuteronomy 10:12-16 (NLT)
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good. “Look, the highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the LORD your God. Yet the LORD chose your ancestors as the objects of his love. And he chose you, their descendants, above all other nations, as is evident today. Therefore, change your hearts and stop being stubborn.”
To know God and call on the Name of Jesus Christ is not enough. The demons of hell tremble before God and the mention of Jesus’ Name. If there is no change of heart, there is no redemption. Repentance requires a change of heart and a new direction. What does God require then? We have heard it over and over but now it is time to heed the Word of the Lord as true and valid applying it to our life in a worthwhile fashion. The Lord requires our fear (respect). You will not respect God if you do not believe that He is exactly who He claims to be. Your life demonstrates the extent of your belief. If you truly believe that judgment is in the Presence of the God, you will most certainly live that way. Yes, only God can judge you. Are you ready for such at time as this? Live in a way that pleases God. We have no excuse. His Word details a life pleasing to the Lord and His Spirit enables us to do so. Love Him. Love is a genuine heart-felt emotion that is unforced. Your heart makes the final decision on whether or not you love someone or something. Serve the Lord with all your heart and soul. There you have it, this is all that God requires of those who are called by His Name and choose to live as Children of God. So what is keeping us from the life we have dreamed of as Kingdom Kids? We refuse to accept change especially when it comes to our heart! “Change your hearts and stop being stubborn.” God is calling out all the religious and compromised people today. He has examined each heart and knows who is for real. (Psalm 17:3) Change is coming. Will you be ready? “The LORD your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!” (Deuteronomy 30:6)
Matthew 21:28-32 (NLT)
“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.
Most of us fall into one of two categories in this parable of the two sons. It is uncomfortable to assess one’s heart and soul but absolutely necessary when it comes to righteousness. We must learn to honestly assess our life according to God’s Word and His Spirit and stop lying to ourselves. Man has taken God’s Word and watered it down so it is tastes good in the flesh and we have locked away the Holy Spirit because He is not to be controlled as we see fit. Crying out to God as a sugar daddy or Santa Claus with a long list of demands we relentlessly pound on Heaven’s door frustrated that He will not let us in. As thieves and robbers, there is no entrance allowed according to His Word. God sees our heart. He knows that we do not respect Him living as we see fit according to religion never wanting a relationship. We want what God has but care nothing for His Heart. With stony, hard, stubborn hearts, we have missed the greatest point of transformation. We know what to do but will not do it. We know how to live but just won’t do it. We want God’s Best but have settled for the bitterness of compromise and complacency. Now we are never content. We blame God rather than looking within to see a rock where our heart should be that is barely beating. Grace allows the first son to consider his actions and choose to obey. The stubborn heart robbed the second son of his inheritance and blessing of the father. Which one are? I must ask myself the same.
Malachi 3:6-7 (NLT)
“I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
“But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’”
The grace that flowed with the Blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross that day did not change God’s Mind about sin or what He desires from His People. It simply made Him accessible once again to those who choose to repent and live in righteousness again. Many so-called Christians who fancy they are following Christ are perplexed in this message because they believe grace has exempted them from respecting God, living a life pleasing to the Lord, loving Him and serving Him with all of their heart and soul. If you are concerned about your heart’s condition, what is your response to the Word of God, “Return to me and I will return to you!” Is it “how can we return when we have never gone away?” This is the response of a hardened heart misguided by the lie of the enemy that God does not care how we live or the condition of our heart and soul. The deeper into the Presence of God we move the more we know that we need to love and trust Him more humbled by His Extravagant Love. You cannot move closer to the Lord unless we meet His Requirements. We must respect God, live for the Lord, and love Him with all our heart and soul!
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
If we will surrender our stubborn, stony hearts to the Lord, He will change us from the inside out to fear Him, serve Him and love Him as we should. Humanly it is impossible. But His Spirit allows us to do what pleases God. Saul is a prime example. (I Samuel 10) As Samuel gives Saul his instructions from God note that there is no change. But the moment Saul turned to walk in obedience, He is filled with the Holy Spirit and is able to carry out God’s Instructions to the letter. (I Samuel 10:9-10) God gave Saul a new responsive heart instantly! He will do the same for you. We have access to the Spirit of God without measure allowing us the freedom to be transformed day by day into the Glorious Image God planned for us to be experiencing all the benefits of Heaven. We must have a new heart! Once the veil of sin and shame are completely removed, righteousness and obedience can become a way of life rather than a lofty aspiration. With a new heart, we can love and trust God when other changes come because of the work that He has done from the inside out. If you are a Child of God, you must expect change. He is making everything new. He is turning every detail of your life into good. You are in the midst of the transforming power of God. It may seem chaotic but with the Lord you will have the peace that passes all understanding if you are willing to make the ultimate exchange and receive a change of heart.
Ezekiel 2:3-7 (Message)
He said, “Son of man, I’m sending you to the family of Israel, a rebellious nation if there ever was one. They and their ancestors have fomented rebellion right up to the present. They’re a hard case, these people to whom I’m sending you—hardened in their sin. Tell them, ‘This is the Message of GOD, the Master.’ They are a defiant bunch. Whether or not they listen, at least they’ll know that a prophet’s been here. But don’t be afraid of them, son of man, and don’t be afraid of anything they say. Don’t be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don’t be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They’re a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They’re hardened rebels.
I do not want God to label me as a hardened rebel. If change is coming, which surely it is, I want it to be to the Glory of God and not because I have turned and rebelled from the Lord. The beauty of this passage is that even though the Lord knows the response of most of the people who hear these words today who will only turn more hard and cold, He is hoping one heart will be broken and receive His New Heart. Lack of respect for the Lord is nothing new. (Jeremiah 5:22-24) He is used to being ignored by those who refuse to listen. (Jeremiah 7:23-24) His Grace makes God relentless in His Pursuit of the one who will harden not his heart and receive this message today. Is that you? Me, too. Too many times we do not repent (turn back to doing things His Way) hoping He will relent! God will not change His Mind. His Word is true! What He promised He will do! But that applies to His Expectation of me and you, too!
Psalm 51:9-11 (NLT)
Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your Presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.