Ezekiel 36:25-27 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
This past weekend my wife and I met up with some dear saints of God to proclaim the gospel of Jesus to a couple thousand people attending the Richmond Christmas parade and the Hollydazzel festival in Newport News, VA. We publicly proclaimed the good news of Christ as the reconciler of God and sinners, taking the time to explain sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come. Some of these people within earshot of the gospel may have never heard a clear gospel presentation before this weekend. What a privilege it is to herald the message of eternal life!
Many who heard the truth will be future leaders in their communities. Some are leaders now. Some are business owners. Many are employees. Many are students. Many are husbands and wives who are responsible to lead their families. I mention this because sin is a reproach to any community as God explains to us in Proverbs. If change for the better is to happen, then we must get to the root of the problem--the heart. The Christmas message is about God redeeming sinners, reconciling his creation. “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king, peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” This gospel is about restoring the lost relationship between God and creation through the only mediator, Jesus the Anointed One. Regeneration is the renewal of mankinds’ hearts through the blood of the cross, which is the hope of the nations. As a result, war will one day cease; weapon development will shift to holistic agricultural production; disease, sickness, sin, and death, will eventually be eradicated. This is the gospel promise. Jesus stated in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Ezekiel goes on in chapter 36 proclaiming… “Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.”
The gospel is not simply about escaping the wrath to come. But don’t misunderstand me, Jesus certainly delivers from the wrath to come. This earth is not going to hell in a handbasket, like many who would have you to believe, but this world is being transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s hear what God’s word has to say about it:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.” Isaiah 2:4-5
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and lion fattened together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. The nursing child shall play over the hold of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples--of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” Isaiah 11:6-10
“No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall build and another shall not inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” Isaiah 65:20-25
These passages of scripture are snapshots of the future history on earth. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:17-21 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” You might recall in Isaiah 65:17-18 the text reads “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. Be be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.” This passage speaks of regeneration and the results it has on earth. Just as the 1 Corinthians passage mentions, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” There is a new way of doing life since the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The old covenant has passed away and the new has come. We are to live in light of the glorious gospel of Christ, and its fruits are evident as Galatians 5:22-25 reveal: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
The gospel has implications more than simply just saving a soul from hell. The gospel is about regenerating and making all things new through the blood of the cross. King Jesus is in the reconciling business--reconciling the world to himself--in time and on earth. The advance of the gospel and its significance is world changing--for the better. And I’m thankful that Jesus has chosen me to be a part of it; to be a part of His-story in what He is accomplishing on earth as it is in heaven. Thy will be done LORD, thy will be done! Amen.
Last Saturday, August 31st, Shayna, me and Jeff went to Herman Park to see if we could get into some gospel conversation. God brought 3 curious kids over to where I was writing on my whiteboard. And what followed was about an hour long conversation explaining sin according to the law, the wrath of God, the perfect life of Jesus, his substitutionary death, and resurrection from the dead. The kids asked a variety of questions about hell, heaven, the Bible, and good works.
Towards the end of the conversation I asked them if they were to die tonight and stand before God and he asked "Why should I let you into heaven?" what would you say? Two of the children said because they did good things, the other one said that God shouldn't let him into heaven. It's interesting that even after careful attention in explaining that salvation isn't based on works two of the children still were holding to the false notion that their good deeds will out weigh their bad. So, Jeff, Shayna and I took some more time and explained again why their good deeds cannot make up for their sins. We used various analogies and then I asked Jeff the question if he stood before God and was asked why he should be allowed to enter heaven. Jeff expounded on the one kid's answer that he doesn't deserve to go to heaven and explained that the only reason he would be able to enter heaven is through the grace of Jesus Christ. It's because of Jesus we can enter heaven. Not because of anything we have done. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins, washes us, and covers us with the righteousness of Christ. Jesus is our only hope. My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
We left the children with gospel tracts, New Testaments, and invited them to our church. Pray for them.