Friday, July 31, 2009

Food for Thought

My husbands grandmother asked him to prepare a devotion for the annual family gathering that's happening this weekend. He was rather nervous about it, but after much thought and prayer, this is what the Lord led him to. I thought it was very good, so I asked him if I could share it here.

Watchman: Called By the King

I am going to start with two stories to illustrate the point I hope to make.

Story One:

The king of a great and mighty city is at war with his arch enemy, so he goes out and finds men and women who trust and believe in him and gives them the job of watching over the walls of the city. Now the job of these watchmen is to warn the city inhabitants of danger if and when the enemy attacks. They roam the walls looking out, and in, for signs of danger and keeping careful watch over the city. Their job is not only to warn the people of the enemy attacking and getting into the city, but also to warn the people if their (the inhabitants) behavior is in any way causing danger to themselves or the city. When they see any of these things, either internal or external, they are called on by the king to give audible warning. They must and do tell the people about the danger, because their King has commanded them to do so.

Story Two:

In another city, the king has also hired watchmen whose job it is to warn the people, these watchmen have the same job and are given the same instructions. However, some of them are paid off by the enemy to remain silent, some are simply afraid that the people will not believe them and some think, “well, ya’ know, one of the others will say something, I don’t wanna make anyone uncomfortable by pointing out the danger they are placing themselves and us in, so maybe, I’ll just wait and see if someone else says something about it, cuz ya know”.

Which city is safer and better cared for when the inevitable attack of the enemy comes?

When Grandma asked me to do this devotion, I was extremely nervous, (still am actually) and wasn’t sure what to talk about. I thought on it, talked with dad about it, prayed about it, thought some more, prayed some more and then…..

One morning while doing my daily reading I came across a passage in Ezekiel that just jumped out and struck a nerve. I spent several days thinking and praying on this subject and believe that the Lord laid it on my heart to share. I have definitely had more work done on me and within my own heart due to this then I suspect you will have, but hopefully there is something here for us all.

I am going to read from my primary passage which is found in Ezekiel 3:16-21

Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die, and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your soul. “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul”

It hit me as I read this: “I can be a watchman, Me, I can do this. I am called to do this.” I believe that as we read this passage there is a lot that we can garner from it, a lot that we can apply. This is a direct command/order to Ezekiel, you must do these things or you will be held responsible. I am not sure that the responsibility for others still lies with us, but we are commanded to spread the gospel. We are called to be watchman and warn those around us of the dangers of living in wickedness and sin. The watchman in this passage is being told that he must warn the wicked, how can the wicked know of his need to repent and change if Ezekiel does not tell him, does not point out to him the ways in which his wickedness is a violation of God’s law and commands and thus sinful. Likewise for the righteous man. I see a lot of this in our society today. People go to church and so think they are doing what God desires of them. They believe themselves to be good people, doing what is right. But their lives look exactly like the world around them. When you see them during the week you have no clue that they are a believer. They are just like the righteous man in this passage who has turned away and is living in iniquity. But once again how are they to know if the “watchmen” of God remain silent. I for one, have remained silent, I have been either afraid to say anything or have been to nervous, or did not know what to say.

So let me start with the non-believer, are we called to say anything to them? Is there any kind of command given to believers in scripture that we are to spread the gospel? Somewhat rhetorical question, but since I am doing the devotion I get to ask.

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” AMEN

Mark 16:15

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

I think that those two passages show us that, yes, we are commanded to preach the gospel. We must be willing and able to share with the testimony of our lives, but also in words what it is that we have that the world needs. The world needs to hear the gospel message as much, if not more, now then ever before in history. How are we to do this, what are we to do? We need to prepare ourselves for the times when opportunity presents itself to witness, by studying, by being with other believers, and we must also prepare ourselves for the times when we are challenged. As Peter said:

I Peter 3:15

Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense (or answer) to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”

This points out the need to not only be ready to speak out on the Lord’s behalf to spread the gospel message, but also shows us that we should be living in such a way as to show others that we are different. The world will attack us and try to tear us down, but if we live our lives in a holy manner when the inevitable attack comes, the one who will be brought to shame will be the attacker.

I believe this is also why it is important to speak out and warn the “righteous” man that his behavior and ways are sinful and wicked. Not only as a necessity for “his” soul but also as a defense of the faith. When the world has the opportunity to say “see look at those hypocrites, they are just like us and then they try to tell us we are wrong,” it creates a problem for the church in our attempts to spread the gospel message. As believers we must be willing to show others who believe themselves to be righteous when they are “backsliding” into the wickedness of the culture around us. I could very easily get on a soapbox about this issue for quite a while, but will refrain and simply say that we are called to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Our citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven and when others look at us they should see something different, we should not look like, act like or be just like everyone else. The standard has been set higher for believers than that.

I Peter 1:13-16

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Peter is taking this right out of the heart of the law. God says this at least 4 times in the book of Leviticus. As he tells them how to be holy, how to live their lives in a holy manner, He then says that “we are to be holy as He is holy.” He does not give the command without giving instruction in how to go about being holy. If you choose to look for yourselves the references are from Lev. 11:44,45, Lev. 19:2, and Lev. 20:7. Right in the middle of giving the law on how to be holy God says “now you know so be holy.”

If we are going to obey his commands and be holy what is it that we must do? If we are going to avoid being hypocrites ourselves then we must confront the sin in our own lives first. We all have some sin issue in our lives that we do not address because it is just to hard, it is who we are, or we are comfortable with it. We like it, it is cute and others think it is funny, or the like. But we are commanded to be holy. What is there in your life today that needs to be addressed and taken to the Lord? That is the only way that we will be able to overcome our personal sin issues. As we do that we must also continue on in our role as watchmen. We cannot wait till we are “perfect” to fulfill that which we are called to as believers in Christ.

I would now like to address just a couple more things very quickly. I said earlier that some of the reasons (read: excuses) that I have, personally, used for not fulfilling this command, are fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, or fear that I will offend the person with whom I am speaking or trying to share. These are things that are addressed by Jesus and by Paul at differing times in the New Testament. To start with the rejection issue:

Jesus said in John 15:18-20

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.

I think that a lot of times we walk on eggshells around non-believers because we do not want to be judged by them or be disliked, hated or possibly even persecuted. Now obviously in this country the persecution that we face does not rise to the same level as that of believers in other countries today, or even the early Christians in the Roman world, but it is real to us, none the less, and we must be willing to accept it just as Christ accepted it. We are not above being hated for the message that we bring to the world. The world does not want to be confronted with its sin any more today than it did in Jesus lifetime. As Paul said in Romans, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who have not believed. It is a stumbling block that cannot be overcome until we, and those we share, with face the necessity of a savior in our lives.

So my questions and challenge for you is this. Do those around you recognize that there is a difference between you and them? Are you living your life in such a way as to be different from the world? Are you prepared to be a watchman, one who warns not only the wicked, but also those who believe themselves to be “righteous?” We live in a world were the mission field is coming to us; we do not have to go looking for it. The society in which we live is, in my opinion, as dark, deceitful, wicked and rebellious as any in history. “We” have exalted man far above his creator and now worship the creation instead of THE CREATOR!!!! What if anything are you (and me, remember I said this was probably more for me than you when I started this) doing for the kingdom of God and against the forces of darkness?

Are we fulfilling our role as watchmen? Are we like the watchmen in the first story who warns others because OUR KING has asked us to do so and we love him and choose to do his will. Or are we like the watchmen in the second story, waiting for someone else to do the job for us? If you had to choose today which would you rather be?



1 comment:

mommyto3duckies said...

Great devotional! Those verses in Ezekiel cry out to me every time I read them.

Enjoy your family reunion.

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