Does this phrase sound familiar? You reap what you sow. That was Sam’s talk from Proverbs last week. Just an awesome talk. We reap what we sow in this life and in eternity. Remember the words of Jesus that Sam gave us? Jesus said this.
21 Knowing the correct password – saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance – isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience – doing what my Father wills. 22 I can see it now – at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ 23 And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ MSG Matthew 7:21-23
It was a great talk because it dealt with the reality of life. Here it is, you will stand before God someday. And on that day, you will look back and be very grateful that you walked with God. Or, you will look back and wish that you made the choice to go after God. Jesus’ words should awaken us. They should lead us to make real choices in our lives to walk with God.
My favorite comment that Sam made was saying ‘Yes’ to God as your Lord and Savior without life change is actually saying ‘No’ to God. It was a powerful talk.
You reap what you sow in this life and in eternity.
It’s a perfect setup for my talk this week. Let’s jump back into Proverbs.
Evil people do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand everything. GWT Proverbs 28:5
Same verse, different translation.
Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully. NIV Proverbs 28:5
Same verse, different translation.
Justice makes no sense to the evil-minded; those who seek God know it inside and out. MSG Proverbs 28:5
What does that verse mean? People who go after God understand what is right. This leads to my questions for today. How do we prepare to meet with God? How do we go after God? How do we live a life that shows change today? To try to answer these questions, I want to go back to the Old Testament, specifically, Ezekiel. To understand what we are about to read, I need to give you context.
After Solomon, the country split into two. The northern country was Israel. The southern country was Judah. Because Israel and Judah fell into idol worship, God allowed both countries to be overthrown. Assyria defeated Israel first. Then Babylon, about 100 years later, defeated Judah. That’s when God begins to talk through Ezekiel.
Understand, Judah is defeated. The people are humiliated. They have lost everything. Jerusalem, the city of David, is destroyed. They are forced into captivity and there is no way possible that they can do anything about their situation. It is hopeless. Then Ezekiel has this experience with God.
1-2 God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them – a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain – dry bones, bleached by the sun.
3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Master God, only you know that.”4 He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’”
5-6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!” MSG Ezekiel 37:1-6
What is happening? The dry bones represent Judah’s condition. They are completely destroyed with no hope of saving themselves. Why? After years of not focusing on God and worshiping other gods, it’s caught up with them. After years of living comfortable lives and not taking God seriously, it’s caught up with them. Because of their sin and their pursuit of other gods, God removed His hand of protection allowing Babylon to come and destroy them. It reveals to them, the foundation of their lives was God. It reveals to them that everything they looked to, other gods, was empty.
Their situation now is hopeless. Like dry bones scattered in the valley with no hope of living, they have absolutely no ability to restore their lives. It’s at this point God asks Judah, “Can these bones live?” The obvious answer is no. They’re dried out. They’re scattered. They are buried in the valley. There is no possible way the bones will come back to life.
What’s the prophecy? “Dry bones, listen to the Message of God – I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you will come to life.” What is that about? God is telling Judah, because of your sins, you are living in captivity. Right now, you have no strength to free yourself. Right now, you have no hope of ever living in comfort again. But I am God. Only I can breathe new life into you. Only I can redeem you. Only I can bring you comfort. Only I can rewrite your story. I am the foundation of your life.
Now let’s stop for a second. Think about your life. What areas of your life are like dried-up, sun-bleached bones in the valley? I ask you today, “Can these bones live? Can God rewrite your story?” Look at your life. Are there areas in your life that you feel are dead and defeated? Relationships? Finances? Unforgiveness? Health? Healing of emotional wounds? Are you a victim in life? Depression? Fear? Anxiety? Addictions? Failure? What is it that you look at in your life and you are completely overwhelmed and defeated? What area in your life is filled with dried-up, sun-bleached bones?
Here is God’s message for your life filled with dry bones, and defeat. “Dry bones, listen to the Message of God – I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you will come to life.” That’s awesome -right? But, please hear me, where that is true, you must go after God. This is true for you, but you must seek after God. Remember Sam’s talk last week? You reap what you sow. You reap what you sow in this life and in eternity. We have to stop turning the things of this world and turn to God.
Why? Because God is the foundation of your life. God and only God can be God. God and only God can do God things in your life. God and only God can bring what is dead to life. We go after God like our life depends on it because it does. We go after God in complete trust that He will rescue us.
Do you see it? We go after God because He is God. God is the only one who can bring those dead areas back to life. We go after God because only God can be God in us. We go after God because God is our only hope for life, freedom, and courage. We go after God because we have no ability to make things happen in our human strength. We go after God because only God can be God in our spiritual family called Church.
But something is wrong. How many people do you know who go after God? When we are invited to go after God, we settle don’t we? Do you know what I mean? We are invited to be in a relationship with God and we think, I don’t have time for that. Or, the whole idea of being with God seems like another thing we must add to our already busy to-do list. It’s the one thing we can eliminate from what we have to do, and let’s be honest, no one will know. I’ll mow the yard because everyone will notice, but I won’t be with God because no one, we think, will notice. We take a beautiful invitation to walk with God and turn it into a religious requirement that takes from us. We think it takes our time, money, and energy. And we wonder, why am I not seeing any spiritual changes in my life?
Have you ever wondered why people, in general, just don’t pursue God? Why is that? I think there are a couple of reasons. First, I don’t think it was modeled for people so it’s not normal. Let me ask you, did your father model for you what it looks like to pursue God? You see, people over time tend to do what their parents did unless they make intentional wise choices as we see in Proverbs.
Secondly, we just don’t see our need for God. In South Central Pa, bad things happen in our world but not in our neighborhood. Some bad things happen in our community but they are not as bad or as much as in the world. We continue to push our way through life half numb to the reality of how much we need God. We can fill our calendars with activities and events and that helps keep us numb to our spiritual condition. Let’s ask a quick question. Did you wake up this morning and did you see your need for God?
Third, we would rather work for God than trust God. That means we would rather do things for God than personally go after God. We are more comfortable showing up to Church now and then. We are more comfortable serving now and then. We are more comfortable doing good things now and then. But we struggle to pursue God. We want to accomplish tasks more than enjoy God. Remember Jesus’ words?
22 I can see it now – at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ 23 And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ MSG Matthew 7:21-23
Here are our questions for today. How do we prepare to meet with God? How do we go after God? How do we have life change?
It begins when we recognize how badly we need God. If we don’t understand that we need God for our next breath, we don’t see how badly we need God. If we don’t recognize that we need God as much as those dried-up bones in Ezekiel, we don’t understand our need for God.
In scripture, God has a message to one of the seven Churches. God said this.
14 Write to Laodicea, to the Angel of the church. God’s Yes, the Faithful and Accurate Witness, the First of God’s creation, says:
15-17 “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot – far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.
18 “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see.
19 “The people I love, I call to account- prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! MSG Revelations 3:14-19
The people in the church of Laodicea thought, we are good, we don’t desperately need God. Our Christianity can be a lukewarm experience. We can play games with God. We can have one foot in the world and one in the Church. We don’t have to go after God. We can complacently coast. We don’t need to make any changes. What was their true spiritual condition? God said, “…you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.”
Why couldn’t they see themselves accurately? Because they were secure and comfortable. And because they were comfortable, they assumed, we are good we don’t need God. To not see our need for God is a major red flag. To assume we can coast through life with no passion for God is a major red flag.
We are in desperate need of God. Every day you wake up, you must realize you need God as badly as those dry bones. Just because you are comfortable doesn’t mean you don’t need God.
Do you want to be ready to meet with God? Be with God today. Pursue God today. That way, the day you stand before God, it’s not a surprise.
How do you live a life that shows change today? Make the choice to surrender your life today and then every day after that.
How do we go after God? Make the choice to seek God today. And go after God like you need God. Like the bones needed God to bring them to life.
Proverbs 28:5 in three translations.
Evil people do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand everything. GWT
Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully. NIV
Justice makes no sense to the evil-minded; those who seek God know it inside and out. MSG
What does that mean? People who go after God understand what is right. God brings them to life.