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Saturday, December 17, 2016

December 17: Christmas According to Ezekiel

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 give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. - Ezekiel 36:25-29a, ESV

Christmas According to Ezekiel:
Sprinkled Clean and Given a New Heart

What's the best thing that could ever happen to you? Googling that question brings up a popular polling site, which has the following top 5 answers, as voted on by the site's users:

1. You achieve all your dreams.
2. You fall in love.
3. You find that one true friend.
4. All your wishes in life are granted.
5. You win the lottery. 

Where is God in the Top 5? Most people in the world say they believe in God, yet the highest God-related answer (You get to go to heaven) ranks #6 overall. I would like to humbly suggest that the promises God makes in today's passage from Ezekiel are the very best things that could ever happen to us in this life.

Let's take a moment to compare God's Top 5 from today's passage to the Internet users' Top 5 list above:

1. You are cleansed from your sin and idolatry, made clean in the eyes of God.
2. You get a new heart, one that is truly alive, alive to God.
3. You get a new spirit, the Holy Spirit, to dwell in you. 
4. You are able to sincerely obey God from the heart.
5. You live with God forever as His treasured people and He lives with you as your God. 

If God is real, then His list is so much better than the list people seem to prefer. In fact, the Internet's list really just represents the idols from which God promises to deliver us.

Ezekiel sees a valley of dry bones
become a holy army, alive in the Lord.
Ezekiel saw a powerful image of the fulfillment of these promises when he saw a valley full of dry bones become a living and holy army for the Lord (Ezek. 37). The dry bones passed from death to life and were given new purpose and a new calling. This is what our hearts truly need! 

So, how can God's list of promises be possible and how can it really be fulfilled in our lives? Well, first of all, God says "I will" eight times in these five verses. He is making a solemn vow about what He will do for His people. This is at the very core of the Bible's message and is what makes Christianity so different from man-made religions: The good news the Bible tells us is not focused on what we have done or can do, but it is entirely focused on what God has done and has promised to do.

God has fulfilled these promises in His Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, this list of promises represents what God has given us for Christmas. When God sent His Son for us, He sent Him to fulfill these promises and others. As 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, "For all the promises of God find their 'Yes' in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our 'Amen' to God for his glory."   

How are we cleansed from our sin and idolatry? We are cleansed by the blood of Jesus, because He died to pay the penalty for our sin and break the power of our idols in our lives. 

How are we given a new heart? We are given a new heart when we are made alive in Christ, united to Him so that His life might be in us. 

How are we filled with the Holy Spirit? Christ gives us the Holy Spirit, sent forth from the Father. 

How are we able to obey God sincerely the heart? Only once Christ has freed us from the penalty of the law can we walk in grateful and humble obedience to the Law, not out of fear or self-interest but out of love for who God is and what He has done for us. 

How can we live with God forever as His treasured people? Jesus said He has gone to prepare a place for us, so that we may be with Him where He is forever. (John 14:3) 

Whatever you may be hoping to receive for Christmas could never compare with what God has already given! 

Heavenly Father, when You sent Your Son, You gave us everything we could ever need. Winning the lottery cannot compare with being adopted by You as Your child forever, forgiven and cleansed, loved and secure. Thank You for the best possible Christmas present, sent from Your heart for me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

This Christmas, we can give thanks and worship because "We Have a Savior, Emmanuel": 

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