Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 Monday, June 26, 2006

"The Kingdom of Heaven”

Lesson #4: "Thy Kingdom Come"
Ezekiel 36:16-36 (NRSV)

Those that are citizens of the kingdom of God should honor God and give Him credit for all that we are and all that we have been given.
Our Nation was originally founded upon the principles and teachings of Almighty God that’s found in the Holy Bible, but now it finds itself in desperate times.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just watch Good Morning America, the nightly news or some of the talk shows.
These are dangerous times, and there’s something that’s making it worse.
It’s that People still believe in God, but they ignore Him and He is of no importance to them; He isn’t even part of their life.
But how did we get to this point?
We got here by emphasizing material things, and by deemphasizing spiritual things and by allowing a minority who hate God to have their way.
People didn’t stand-up for what they believed, and so the result was—
In 1962 and in 1963 our Supreme Court ruled that prayer, Bible reading, and reciting the Lord's Prayer were in direct opposition to our constitution—now our school children can’t pray in their class room.
Later, in 1973, there was the case of Roe vs. Wade, where the same court decided that life was neither valuable nor important, by ruling that a woman could choose to kill the life inside of her if she so desired.
From here it was down hill.

Our nation now allows its filth to penetrate the entire world, through TV and the internet.
When other nations see our movies and TV shows, no wonder they call us evil.
It was a great deal like this in the days of Ezekiel.
In today's text we discover some interesting, but sad events that deal with the nation of Israel.
I’ll read our text now: Ezekiel 36:16-36.
16 Then this further message came to me from the Lord:
17 “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their evil deeds. To me their conduct was as filthy as a bloody rag.
18 They polluted the land with murder and by worshiping idols, so I poured out my fury on them.
19 I scattered them to many lands to punish them for the evil way they had lived.
20 But when they were scattered among the nations, they brought dishonor to my holy name. For the nations said, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and he couldn’t keep them safe in his own land!’
21 Then I was concerned for my holy name, which had been dishonored by my people throughout the world.
22 “Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: I am bringing you back again but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, which you dishonored while you were scattered among the nations.
23 I will show how holy my great name is—the name you dishonored among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign Lord, then the nations will know that I am the Lord.
24 For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols.
26 And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart.
27 And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.
28 “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God.
29 I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior. I will give you good crops, and I will abolish famine in the land.
30 I will give you great harvests from your fruit trees and fields, and never again will the surrounding nations be able to scoff at your land for its famines.
31 Then you will remember your past sins and hate yourselves for all the evil things you did.
32 But remember, says the Sovereign Lord, I am not doing this because you deserve it. O my people of Israel, you should be utterly ashamed of all you have done!
33 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When I cleanse you from your sins, I will bring people to live in your cities, and the ruins will be rebuilt.
34 The fields that used to lie empty and desolate—a shock to all who passed by—will again be farmed.
35 And when I bring you back, people will say, ‘This godforsaken land is now like Eden’s garden! The ruined cities now have strong walls, and they are filled with people!’
36 Then the nations all around—all those still left—will know that I, the Lord, rebuilt the ruins and planted lush crops in the wilderness. For I, the Lord, have promised this, and I will do it.

Israel had been blessed by God and given all they ever needed, but they begin to become prideful and snobbish.
Remember that God had called this people for several reasons:
• First, to Embody His name.
He wanted them to be His representatives on earth, and to tell all the other nations about Him.
But if they’re going to represent God, they must live godly lives, and they must give themselves to Him as living sacrifices.
And there are other things involved, such as obedience, commitment, and trust in God.
Israel couldn’t do any of those things, but the worst part was that they didn’t evangelize; they kept God to themselves.
We are His representatives today, but nothing has changed.
He told us, just before He returned to heaven, to take the gospel to the whole world, and that leads us to the second reason.

He wanted Israel to—
• Embrace His mission.

Jesus completed His mission of reconciling man to God when He died on the Cross.
And then He went back to heaven, and set down at the Father’s right side, and there He continues to work for us by being our mediator with God.
He doesn’t audibly talk directly to people any more, instead, He uses His children—men and women just like you and me.
In a certain sense we are continuing His mission to the world by telling others His story—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

• Finally, He wanted His people to Obey His Word.
They were especially blessed by God.
They were chosen by God and they enjoyed a special relationship with Him that no other nation had or have had since then.
God even made a covenant with them.
He said, “I’ll be your God and you will be My people.”
But they were to do certain things, one of which was to obey Him.
But, unfortunately, they couldn’t do it, and the result was that God turned them over to their enemies.
Throughout their history as a nation there was this cycle that was repeated over-and-over again.
They would turn away from God to worship other Gods.
God would punish them by giving them over to their enemies.
They would cry out to God, who would send a deliver such as Moses, Samson, and Deborah.
He wanted them to embody His name, embrace His mission, and obey His word.
But Israel refused to follow God, which brought dire consequences upon them.

In 587 BC God allowed the sinful nation of Babylon to invade, overwhelm, and take captive the people of Israel.
They were removed from their land and exiled to Babylon.
The nation of Israel was judged for its life of sin and disobedience and found guilty.
Their guilt was not only because of sin’s affect on them, and they were not judged because of their sin’s affect on the nations around them.
They were found guilty because of what their sin had done to the name of Yahweh.
Yahweh’s name had been profaned in the nation and in other nations as well.
The Lord tells how His name was profaned in Amos 2:6-8.

This is what the Lord said just before they were taken captive to Babylonia:
6 The Lord says, “The people of Israel have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave them unpunished anymore. For they have perverted justice by accepting bribes and sold into slavery the poor who can’t repay their debts; they trade them for a pair of shoes. 7 They trample the poor in the dust and kick aside the meek. “And a man and his father defile the same temple girl, corrupting my holy name.
8 At their religious feasts they lounge in clothing stolen from their debtors, and in my own Temple they offer sacrifices of wine they purchased with stolen money.

These verses tell what God’s response was to their misdirected worship.
Since He was not pleased, He sent various forms of punishment designed to bring them to repentance and a proper worship of Him, but to no avail.
God’s chastening had been in the form of famine, drought, a scorching east wind that resulted in mildew, and palmerworms (that would be caterpillars or creeping locusts).
In His punishment of Israel, He devoured the gardens, vineyards, fig trees, and olive trees; it was a plague like those He put on Egypt.

And there was military defeat in which many of their young men were killed or taken captive.
Any one of these catastrophes should have had the effect of causing them to return to God; but the hardness of their hearts kept them from doing it, and we constantly hear God say, “yet they have…not returned unto me.”

I wonder; have we also profaned the name of God?
I believe we have.

1. First, we have allowed sin to invade our spiritual family.

There is sin in the churches today. 
I won’t say much about this; only that I believe that Satan has stopped trying to prevent people from going to some churches, because those churches have stopped preaching the gospel.
They are preaching a social gospel that says what people want to hear.

2. Second, we have allowed progress to replace the power of God. 

I’ll give you one example.
The invention of television is viewed as progress. 
Almost every home in America has one or they may have several. 
There is some good entertainment on TV and there are shows that will teach us something, like cooking shows.
But the down side is that there are some shows that we shouldn’t watch, especially Christians. 
And the time we waste watching TV takes away from our work for the Lord, and the time we could be spending with our family. 

3. Third, we have allowed the cares of the world to rob us of our joy in Christ.

Those that are weighed down with the cares of the world, and with acquiring riches, Christians included, may lose the benefits of their Faith in Christ, because of their lusts for other things.
They have an excessive appetite for those things that are pleasing to the senses or to the imagination.
Today, rich and poor alike are ruined by indulging the desires of the body.
It’s the result of allowing the cares of the world to become more important than following Jesus.
They worry about paying the bills and they do every thing they can to “keep up with the Joneses.”
In the end it steals their joy in Christ.

Now, I want you to think about—Sin's Results and Consequence
As I have already mentioned, the greatest Consequence of our sin is that God's name is profaned.
But our text points out some other consequences of sin.
1.   Israel had become spiritually dirty from impurity and idolatry.

God said, “…Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.”
He is saying that He is going to change Israel.
These false gods had led Israel away from the true God, and now He’s going to bring them back.
Salvation is described here as clean water that will wash away sin.

2.   Israel had allowed their hearts to become like stone, (v, 26)
But God said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
We are blessed because we have been given a new will and a new mind, and because the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us, and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Israel was like the stony ground in the parable Jesus told.
Their hearts had become hard and they refused to obey God’s word.

3.   Israel had broken fellowship with God's precious Spirit. (v. 27)
God said, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
He is making a statement about Israel’s spiritual revival.
God would cleanse them, give them a new heart and a new spirit, and save them from the sin that made them unclean.

4.   Israel had stopped following God's laws and had become a law unto themselves, (v. 27)
They looked around at all the other nations, and they wanted to be like them.
They wanted to worship like them; they wanted the freedom to do what they wanted to do.
Eventually, they turned away from God and worshipped the idols of their neighbors.
Then there came a day when the land had stopped producing fruit and crops because there was a famine in the land (v. 29, 30)
Then God said, “And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations."
His accusation against the Jews was that they had “evil ways and that their deeds…were not good.”
These evil ways were damaging to His name.
In order to vindicate His own name, and not for Israel’s sake, God would restore the people to their homeland.
And then Israel would go through a spiritual rebirth.
God would cleanse them, give them a new heart and a new spirit, and save them from ... uncleanness.
Crops of grain and fruit would be increased, and they would never suffer famine again.
The Lord would do all of this, not because they deserved it, but for the honor of His Name.

Now, the rest of the passage concerns—Getting Our Relationship Back
When a Christians sins, God wants us to come back into a relationship with Him immediately.
As a matter of fact He is always willing to bring us back into a relationship with him, but not for the reason of blessing us or because we deserve it.
We read this earlier: “Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone." (v. 22)
It’s for the sake of God himself that He will restore Israel, and it’s for His sake that He is still calling men and women out of this world and into His wondrous light.
And He will keep His promises even if we refuse to keep ours.

Look at what He promises to do for us.
1.   God promises restoration to His rebellious people, (v. 24)
God said, “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.”
He will bring His people out of Babylon, not for their sakes, but for his own name’s sake, because he will be glorified by doing it.

2. God promises cleansing to those who return to Him. (v. 25)
“God said, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.”
How will He do it?
By washing you clean from all your sin.

3.   God promises to give us a new heart. (v. 26)
God said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
God said it to Israel, but it’s also for us today.
When our Lord was astonished at Nicodemus’s ignorance of the new birth, this passage in Ezekiel is one of the main texts that He expected him, as a teacher in Israel, to know.
All of us received the Holy Spirit, and a new heart, sometimes called a new nature, when we were saved.

4. God promises to place His Spirit within each of us, (v. 27)
God said, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
We must be willing to return to God and to be renewed and revived?
To be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven we must be willing to repent and turn to God.


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