The Forgiveness of Sins – Ezekiel 18

When we come face to face with the love of the holy God, our Creator, something inside of us instantly recognizes our own unworthiness and human limitations.  Like the apostle Peter the moment he realized who Jesus was, we too may say, “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful person.”

Fortunately, it does not end there.  God’s abundant mercy and grace is available to each one of us if we seek Him. 

The foundation of our eternal life rests upon our need for God’s forgiveness.  Even the apostle Paul, a pillar of Christian faith and courage, was in desperate need of God’s mercy.  As he humbly wrote in a letter to his young assistant, Timothy:

15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.  1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT)

It is vital to be vigilantly aware of our shortcomings and to confess them to the Lord.  The Bible tells us that whoever claims to be without sin is not being honest with themselves.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  1 John 1:8-9 (NLT)

God is the only one who can completely forgive and absolve us of sin.  This was accomplished once and for all through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.  All of the ritual sacrifices performed before that pointed forward to this moment.  Since the time of Abraham on Mount Moriah, recorded in Genesis 22, the Lord has promised that He would provide the only sacrifice worthy enough for the forgiveness and cleansing of the sins of the world.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord proclaimed two important principles of forgiveness to the exiles in Babylon, who now found themselves in a strange land because of their own sins and shortcomings.  First, no matter where we may find ourselves in life, be it kneeling in a church at the altar of God, shivering in the cold after losing everything to our addiction, or lying hopeless on a cot in the darkest back corner of a prison, there is hope if we surrender our will and our life over to care of the Lord.  Ezekiel writes:

21 “But if the wicked person turns from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall certainly live; he shall not die. 22 All his offenses which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he would turn from his ways and live?  Ezekiel 18:21-23 (NASB)

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Each one of us.  And He promises, “I will remember your sins no more”.

But there is a second principle of forgiveness that Ezekiel speaks of.  It is a little harder to accept than the first, but it is the word of God:

24 “But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness, commits injustice and does according to all the abominations that the wicked person does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die.  Ezekiel 18:24 (NASB)

God does not appreciate it when we tire of seeking Him and decide to turn away from Him to live out the rest of our lives in wickedness, living only for ourselves at the expense of others.  This is not finishing strong, and it is a dangerous path to begin to tread.

In his Revelation to the apostle John, Jesus had this message for the once-faithful church at Ephesus:

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and I will remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.  Revelation 2:4-5 (NASB)

No matter who we are or where we find ourselves on our faith journey, we are all continually tarnished by sin – our flesh will see to that.  When we fall or fail, we need to recognize it, turn to God, and confess it to Him.  If we do, He has promised to be faithful to forgive us and to cleanse us from all our sin.  But there is also a warning if we decide we no longer need to follow or regard Him and can just go our own way – sin is a slippery slope, and none of us is immune to its temptations and deceptions.  We do not want to let evil become our master once again.

Reflection

Lord, I need You today, perhaps more than ever before.  Hold me close and do not let me turn away from Your love.  I confess my sins and shortcomings to You and seek to abide in the Living Water of Your forgiveness in Christ Jesus.  Guide me by the Holy Spirit to help me to finish strong for You.  Teach me to love and forgive others.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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