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September 7, 2008 AM

EZEK 37:1-3

INTRO: If you have never read the great book of Ezekiel, you have missed one of the most exciting readings of the Bible. The little dramas and the word pictures of this book are amazing. And while they make for interesting reading, they are God's way of communicating important truths and messages to His people living in the captivity. I can imagine that the people who have been transported from their homes in Israel to the strange environs of Babylon would ask over and again, "Why? Why did this happen to us?" Then, they would ask, "Will we ever return to our homes?" The text I have read this morning is a passage in which Israel is likened to a valley filled with dry bones (v. 11) ... and the question is "can these bones live?

    1. "Our hope is lost"
      1. they had been away from their homes and county for years
      2. and they saw no hope of returning ... "we are cut off from our parts"
    2. Are we able to see our true spiritual condition?
      1. Lk 7:2-7 - "...I am not worthy..."
      2. do we deceive ourselves with thoughts such as, "At least I'm not as bad as some people are"
    1. Let me read four passages from Ezekiel
      1. Ezek 33:25-31
      2. Ezek 34:18,19
      3. Ezek 36:31
      4. Ezek 37:23
    2. What we learn about them?
      1. they violated the explicit dietary laws God had given them
      2. they had perverted God's revealed religion to include idols
      3. they had offered human sacrifices to their idols
      4. they had become a violent society of people
      5. they participated in immoral pagan practices
      6. they had extensively become violators of the marriage covenant
      7. they refused to heed the words of godly teachers (Ezekiel)
      8. their leaders had failed to lead them in righteousness
      9. "bottom line" - they had become openly, brashly sinful
    3. Can we see ourselves in any of Israel's troubles?
      1. violating the explicit commandments of God?
      2. perverting God's revealed religion?
      3. offering our children as sacrifices to popularity, sports, fashion?
      4. careless about the marriage covenant?
      5. connoisseurs of violence
      6. leaders failing to lead in paths of righteousness?
    1. Recognize the folly of such a life & condition - Ezek 18:4c
      1. if there is no change from this sinful way, eternal death is assured
      2. but are we really able to grasp the significance of this?
    2. Repent of the sins which have caused helplessness - Ezek 18:30
      1. their sin (and ours) offended God - "broke His heart" (Ezek 16:32,43)
      2. Godly sorrow leading to a true change of mind is the only hope here
    3. Resolution to change toward God - Ezek 18:27,28
      1. those words "because he considereth" are, I believe, very significant!
      2. here is a person thinking about the course of his life and his fate ... think about Ps 32:8,9 - are any of us guilty of being muleheaded about our lives?
    4. Prayer for forgiveness - Dan 9:16-19
      1. Daniel - carried into Babylon as a youth ... grew there ... served as an important minister of the government - but he knew about the "why" of captivity
      2. he acknowledged; he pled for forgiveness; he did not appeal that forgiveness was deserved; he appealed to God's mercy
    5. Reformation of life - Ezra 3:1-5
      1. the key words here are "as it is written in the law of Moses"
      2. an essential element to leaving a hopeless life is to conform life to that which is written in the word of God ... all of the prayers in the world cannot bring forgiveness in the absence of this reformation

CLOSE: From Rom 15:4 we learn that the things recorded in the Old Testament are there for our learning. The incident from Ezekiel is much more than inspiration for a song ... when we make the same irreverent mistakes Israel made, we become the captives of sin. But there is hope ... and that, for me, is the great lesson of the valley of the dry bones!

Cecil A. Hutson

07 September 2008

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)