Christianity 201

June 22, 2017

When Someone Messes You Up and You Think God is to Blame

by Clarke Dixon

Another student acted up, you got the detention, the teacher got the blame. This is how things sometimes played out back when I was in school. When everyone was punished for the sins of one student you couldn’t help but think the teacher was being unfair. Life can be like that. People make bad decisions and we bear the consequences of those bad decisions. We conclude that God is being unfair.

In Ezekiel chapter 18 we encounter God’s people having a similar experience. God made a covenant with a particular people who would enjoy God’s protection if they kept their side of the covenant, but who could expect trouble if they did not. They mostly did not, so things did not go well for them. They ended up losing their land to the Babylonian empire and many of the people, including the prophet Ezekiel, were exiled to Babylon. Before long a proverb became popular as a summary of the situation: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2). This proverb speaks of the parents eating the food, and yet the children experience the result. Applied to God’s people, the former generations were the ones who sinned against God and broke the covenant, yet the current generation is the one that suffers. That is not fair. Former generations acted up, the current generation got the detention, and God gets the blame. The proverb expressed a growing chorus of resentment toward God for being unfair. Perhaps you can relate to that feeling when your life is made miserable thanks to the sins of others.

As Ezekiel 18 unfolds, the record is set straight:

The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die. Ezekiel 18:1-4

At this point I encourage you to read chapter 18 in its entirety. Here are some things to think about:

First, we can look to the future with hope because God relates to each of us as individuals and not according to the sins of others. 

Verse 4 points to the judgement of God as being a future thing that concerns each individual: “it is only the person who sins that shall die”. Based on past and present experiences we can fall into a very fatalistic approach to life. However, the future can be radically different. In Christ, it will be. In the midst of the hard battles of life, know that God’s love for you has the power to shape your future. God is not being unfair when you face trouble, He does not owe you a perfect present. The suffering you experience today as a result of someone else’s sin is not God’s punishment of that person heaped on you. It is a result of living in a fallen world were things can and do go wrong. God’s judgement on you as an individual is yet to come.

Second, take responsibility.

Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? Ezekiel 18:25

God’s people were in exile, not because they were experiencing the consequence a previous generation deserved, but because they were experiencing the consequence every generation deserved, including their own. There is no one who deserves an ongoing relationship with God on their own merit. “There is no one who is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). There is a coming judgement. No one on that day will say “God, you are being unfair in your judgement,” for each person who stands condemned will recognize that they are receiving just what they deserved. When we face the consequences of the sins of others, we can take a look and see the consequences others are facing because of ours.

Third, look to Jesus.

Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live. Ezekiel 18:31-32

Those final verses of the chapter strike a very hopeful note for God’s people in exile. Here is an opportunity to be the generation that gets it right, that shakes off the sin and rebellion that plagued every preceding generation. It is a hopeful note, that is, until they try it. I can imagine their thinking; “Turn from sin, get a new heart and a new spirit? Great, something else for us to fail at!” It would be like someone saying to me “cast away your love for chocolate, and get an appetite for only fruits and vegetables.” Easier said than done.

However, there is good news. Ezekiel 18 points beyond itself to Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The commandment of Ezekiel 18:31, is a promise in 36:26

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

This promise is ultimately fulfilled through Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. When our lives are made miserable by the sins of others and we blame God, remember that Jesus offers to bear your sins. Repentance should not be seen as a stressful exercise in trying to get everything just right, but an amazing opportunity to leave behind the sin that messes life up and and enter into a relationship with the One who fixes everything up.

When it feels like someone else messes up, we bear the consequence, and so God should get the blame, remember that we messed up, Jesus bore the consequence, God gets the glory.

 All Scripture references are from the NRSV


Clarke Dixon and I were caught in a hailstorm on Tuesday. That may not be relevant but I thought I’d share it.

Read more — not including the hailstorm — at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

January 3, 2011

The Cost of Following Christ

When a rich young man came to Jesus and asked if there’s “anything else” he needed to do, Jesus presented him with “one more thing” that to the young man was seemingly impossible.

Biblical discipleship would truly involve “forsaking all.”    This post appeared in July at TruthSource.Net While I agree with what it says, I can think of instances where I wouldn’t want to see this used.   Or would I?   I remember hearing a speaker saying that “small demands will produce small results; great demands will produce great results.”   Didn’t Jesus seem to be “waving people off” following Him at times with “difficult sayings?”  Have we watered down the gospel?

Because of horrible evangelism, religious lies, and itching ears, a majority of people have been led to believe that becoming a Christian is as easy as praying a simple prayer and requires very little cost or no cost at all. However, the Lord Jesus Christ has declared very clearly in the Bible that it will indeed cost you—it will cost you everything.

You will have to turn away from all your sins

Being a Christian will cost you your sins; you cannot be a Christian if you’re unwilling to forsake them. This is called repentance, and Jesus declared that unless you repent, you will perish in Hell. We are called by God to repent of our sins and turn to Him because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world. You don’t have to clean up your life before you come to Christ; no, my dear friend, come to Him now as you are. You just have to make up your mind about giving up your sins. You must stop, turn around from following after sinful lusts, and begin following after Christ, calling upon Him to help and He will remove sin from your life as you follow His lead and obey His word.

James 2:19-20; Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 26:20; Luke 13:3; Psalm 7:12; Revelation 2:16

You will have to forsake your desires and affections

Being a Christian will cost you all desires and affections which oppose the will and word of God. You will have to continually be on guard to rid your life of all the things that God hates and declares to be wicked. If you are unwilling to give up these unrighteous desires, you cannot be a Christian. God commands His people to hate evil and love good; to abstain from every form or appearance of evil; to flee from immorality, lust, idolatry, and greed. We are commanded to pursue righteousness, justice, and godliness. And this means all the things we fill our lives with will be determined by God’s word—the movies or television we watch, music we listen to, clothes we wear, and everything else on which we may set our affections.

Psalm 97:10; Amos 5:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:22; Ephesians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:22; Philippians 1:10; 4:8; Psalm 119:97, 128

You will have to surrender over your dreams and aspirations

Being a Christian will cost you all dreams and aspirations you may have that do not align with the will of God for your life. If you’re unwilling to completely shift the focus of your life away from yourself and your previous aspirations and toward Christ and doing His will, you cannot be a Christian. We are commanded to do absolutely everything—down to something as small as taking a drink of water—with the focus of bringing God glory. We are even called to take every thought captive and make them obedient to the will of Christ. That means if you’re worrying about becoming rich, well-off, famous, or whatever, you’re going to have to cast this behind you. Jesus declared that our primary and preeminent focus is to be on His kingdom above all else. We serve the Lord, not vice versa; and He calls His people to carry out His will, not theirs; we pray for His kingdom come, His will be done, not ours. He is Lord over our life, and His disciples must live their lives accordingly.

1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Matthew 6:10, 33

You will have to give up all your finances and possessions

Being a Christian will cost you all your finances and possessions. If you’re not willing to transfer all ownership of your money and possessions over to Jesus Christ, you cannot be His disciple. He owns everything in your life—including your life—and as a Christian you must acknowledge and submit to this. All that you have, you no longer use it for yourself but for Him—for His sake, His glory, His kingdom. And the things which cannot be used for these things must go. The money you have, which itself comes from God, you no longer use to buy foolish things for yourself but for the things which He approves and is glorified in. Christ commands us not to store up treasures on earth, but to store up treasure in Heaven. Your treasure will reveal your heart. If you’re all about money or heaping up this world’s goods, then your heart is with this world which will pass away. What will it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? If you seek to keep this world’s goods, you will lose both them and your soul. You cannot serve both God and wealth.

Luke 9:23-25; 14:33; Matthew 6:19-21, 24

You will have to leave behind your family & friends

If you love your parents, siblings, spouse, children, family, friends, or even your own life more than Christ, you cannot be His disciple. Your love for Christ must be so extreme and preeminent that it makes your love for everyone else, in comparison, look like hatred. Jesus declared that He had not come to bring peace and tolerance amongst one another on the earth…He came, rather, to bring a sword of division, to set a person against the members of his own household for the sake of obedience and loyalty to Him. If your family criticizes you in regard to following Christ, or pressures you to go on a route that opposes the will of God, you will have oppose them for Christ’s sake. If you have friends who love to sin and could care less about Christ, you’re going to have to leave them behind…but if you are true to the Lord and serious about following Him, they’ll end up hating you eventually anyway. However, Jesus promises that whoever has left houses or parents or siblings or friends or spouses or children for His name’s sake will receive many times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Matthew 10:34-37; 19:27-29; Luke 14:26; 18:28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 15:33

You will have to renounce your reputation and status

If you are unwilling to count as loss for Christ’s sake your reputation and status, and what people think of you, you cannot be a Christian. You must count all these things as rubbish in view of the surpassing value of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. You must cast off any false notion that you are someone important, someone of worth, one with wisdom and strength, and realize you indeed are one who is broken, lowly, foolish, and weak. The message of the cross is foolishness to the world, and in coming to Christ, believing His word, and obeying His commands, you will also be esteemed utterly foolish by them. But you must embrace the reproach of Christ that will come your way. If you hold faithfully to Christ, you will be ridiculed, despised, mocked, and slandered.

Philippians 3:7-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21, 26-28; 3:18; 4:9-13; Luke 6:22-23

You will have to abandon your comforts & easy living

If you are unwilling to take on the demanding lifestyle of a disciple of Christ, you cannot be a Christian. Jesus declared that the vast majority of mankind will end up in Hell, and that there are many who desire to enter into eternal life but will not be able to. He exhorted His disciples to strive to enter into the kingdom of God, because only those who violently press into it will enter. The Christian life is not one of luxury or complacency, but one of self-denial and discipline, vigilance, always being on the alert, always taking heed and being careful, always striving, pursuing Christ, fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life. The Bible says we must enter the kingdom of God through many trials and tribulations, and all who desire to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution. You will be hated, excluded, insulted, scorned, slandered, and abused on account of Christ—you may even be killed—but be of good cheer, for these things you are blessed, and your reward will be great in Heaven.

Luke 6:22-23; 13:23-24; Matthew 7:13-14; 11:12; John 15:19; 1 John 3:13; Acts 13:40; 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 Timothy 6:12; Mark 13:33; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 10:12

HT: Holding to Truth