Pastor Aaron Preaching John 14
Swift Cantrel Preaching
This morning we will look at a topical lesson at our purposes in evangelism. Please turn to Ezekiel 33, actually start in Jeremiah 23. Next week we will start Nehemiah 1, which is the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile. What major structure was rebuilt in Zechariah and Haggai? The Temple, this was also rebuilt after the Babylonian exile and the destruction of Jerusalem.
I realized as I was looking at Nehemiah 1 that I didn't do a very good job of explaining to you why Jerusalem was destroyed and Israel sold into captivity by God. This exile happened from 605~535BC. The sin of Israel was great, it started partly in her prophets, who preached "Peace!" when in fact there was no peace, neither peace with Babylon, nor peace with God. Prophets who were godly who warned beforehand were Isaiah and Micah, prophets who were godly who preached during the exile were Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. Prophets who were godly after the exile were Zechariah, Haggai, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Let's let a prophet tell us why God is so furious with false preachers then and now and why he sent Israel into captivity then, and the church today.
Jeremiah 23:9-32 Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and because of his holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. "Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. 12 Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the LORD. In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah." Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: "Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land." Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, 'It shall be well with you'; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No disaster shall come upon you.'" For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly. "I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds. "Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, 'declares the LORD.' Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD.
This passage perfectly sums up why Israel was taken into captivity, because they rejected God, substituted an idol, chased after their sin, and then found preachers who would tell them that God had no wrath and was not angry and did not require them to repent. These false prophets became a burden both to God and to the people, and so God sent them both from his presence in Jerusalem into far away lands, and also from his spiritual presence into everlasting pain. Besides lying prophets, Israel had a problem with prophets who wouldn't tell people about sin or the consequences of sin,
Isaiah 56:10 His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all dumb dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.
A lying or lazy prophet will reek havoc on a people spiritually, and we see this today in a myriad of preachers who say, "It will go well with you," or "No disaster shall come upon you," or "Live your best life now," or "I'm ok and you're ok," or any such thing pretending that God is not angry. Let me start out by saying because of our sin, you and I are in grave danger from the God of Heaven.
Hebrews 10:31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
There is but one hope, it is listed throughout the Bible, but my favorite is in
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
We are in Christ, not because we do good works, but by faith, but if we are in Christ, then we will do good works. If you have not been changed, not born-again, not seeking to the will of your Father who is in Heaven, then beloved, the chances that you still stand in condemnation are great. This message is a painful one, and one which is not popular today just as it was not popular then, check out Jeremiah's response when he preached this message, people HATED him for it, and though he preached for at least 50 years, he never so much as reaped one convert, because the people were so sinful:
Jeremiah 20:8-10 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my close friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him."
So now, let's go to our application. Every person who speaks for God is a prophet, if we speak of the true and living God, then we are true prophets, if we say we speak for God but we preach a different god, then we are false prophets. We do not receive new revelation, for in these latter days God speaks through his Word, but this revelation is more than sufficient and it is the Word of Faith which we are to proclaim. Let's read two verses to support this:
Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Romans 10:8 "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)...
Beloved, here is where it gets personal; you may say, I don't want the office of a prophet, I don't want the derision of Jeremiah, I don't want to be persecuted, so I will not speak for God and therefore will not have this responsibility. But just by your affiliation with a Christian church, you have a reputation as a Christian, and if you do not speak then you fall into the camp of the lazy and hungry dumb dog of Isaiah, and you tell the world that the message of Christ is not worth proclaiming.
I don't say this simply to scare you, but to impress upon you the huge responsibility and privilege you have in being called out of the darkness into the light of Christ, that we cannot waste this life nor this Word we have been given, not just to avoid punishment, but there is a threat of punishment,
Luke 12:47-48 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Not just to avoid punishment, but for the great reward of both the glory of Christ, and to be welcomed home as a faithful witness,
Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'
It has taken us a while to get to Ezekiel 33, but here we are. Ezekiel was a great sinner, sent away from the presence of God in the Babylonian exile, but who was called to be a prophet in Ezekiel 2. He was instantly changed and declared the Word of God to many and converted some and angered others. In chapter 3 he is given a command which he heeds, which is again reiterated in chapter 33. This is reiterated for a purpose, to assure us that the office of prophet is not a one-time command, but extends over our entire lifetime. So let's read
Ezekiel 33:1-9 The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. "So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
The picture here is of a watchman set in a high tower to watch for danger. His job is simple, it is not to defend the people against an army, it is simply to see an army coming and sound a trumpet saying, "There is danger coming, brace yourself!" This is his one and only job.
He can fail in this job one of two ways. First by seeing the advancing army and not caring. Or two by falling asleep and missing the advancing aggressor, or by seeing the aggressor and being too lazy to do anything to warn the people.
Either way, this failed prophet/watchman will answer for his sin to God.
How can we see this in our life? Is a real army going to march upon Swift Cantrel? Very unlikely. But is there a great danger from God towards sinners? Yes, check out
Nahum 1:8-9 But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.
Let's read some places where the Apostle Paul quoted or alluded to this passage:
Acts 18:6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
Acts 20:26-27 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
This is our charge, to never shrink of declaring the whole counsel of God, to proclaim Christ and him crucified, the offense of the cross, telling people that they must repent or perish, they must be born again to inherit the kingdom of God. Now, if we are genuinely a Christian, but we fail to do our duty as the watchman, will we lose our salvation? Let's let 1 Corinthians 3 answer that:
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
We're not saved by our efforts, but the efforts of Christ, so we cannot lose our salvation, but we can be disobedient and enter Heaven with nothing to show for our lives at all. Lecrae says, "I would hate to never lead someone to Christ before I face the Lord."
So what do we say? Ezekiel continues,
Ezekiel 33:10-20 "And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: 'Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?' Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? "And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, though I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live "Yet your people say, 'The way of the Lord is not just,' when it is their own way that is not just. When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this.
There is salvation in none other than Jesus Christ, who is the just and the justifier, the righteous one who died for the unrighteous. If we do not repent towards him, putting on his righteousness, then we will fall in the final judgment. But wearing his righteousness, him paying for our sin and rising again, we have a strong and perfect plea, we will live.
So let us go out and proclaim this message of reconciliation, let us not be dumb dogs, let us not be lying prophets. We have the words of eternal life, let us declare them with boldness, both so that we are not bad stewards and watchmen, but so that many will turn and live, and Christ will get the glory for being a perfect Saviour, and we will be welcomed into Heaven on the phrase, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master."