Monday, November 20, 2017

Simple Standard

Simple Standard
November 20, 2017
Ezekiel 18:24 ". . . Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die."

The Lord spoke to Ezekiel like no other. Sure, the Lord spoke to Moses, but those conversations were about the immediate, about how to deal with the Israelites. But the Lord talked to Ezekiel about the future, about how the Lord works in peoples lives, about Himself, and about the spiritual laws He set in motion. He asked Ezekiel to record it, to write it down so you can could read it and understand, truly understand the ways of the Lord. It wasn't a list of rules, more like an explanation of the way things worked. Keep in mind it predates salvation through Jesus, so the words were to Israelites who understood things in black and white, not through forgiveness and mercy and grace. Ironically, He introduced forgiveness, mercy, and grace but it seemed to create a double standard.

He explained that He does not rejoice when the wicked are punished in death, rather it is a sad scenario He wishes were different. It is not like He punishes them out of spite, rather their decisions carry a sentence He cannot commute if they are unwilling. The Lord says He rejoices when they turn from their ways. He has forgiveness, had forgiveness, even for the wretched before Jesus died on the cross. Repentance was always an option. But then He sets up what seems like a double standard. He says that believers who do amazing things, yet commit knowing sins later in life, will be punished and suffer the fate of the wicked, as if he was never a believer all along. It seems unfair. You can be good for 72 years of your life, even perform miracles on the Lord's behalf, literally serve Him to the ends of the earth, but fall into sin the last six months of your life and receive permanent punishment. 

The Lord foresaw this seemingly unfair treatment, when a sinful man can commit crimes against the Lord for the first 72 years of his life but figure it out the last six months and the Lord is willing to blot out, to redeem the man. The Israelites complained why they had to work hard to serve Him and yet the Lord wouldn't remember it all in the end, if they sinned only the last brief portions of their lives would reflect the punishment deserved for their sins against Him. It wasn't a tally of all the right or wrong, the Lord was setting up true forgiveness for everyone, if repentant, just like after Jesus died on the cross. Forgiveness was always available, even to the vilest of sinners. The Lord wasn't setting up a double standard, the Lord was setting up complete fairness. He set up that the final ways of a man, the final belief systems held in the end, those negated anything in his entire life before that point. It is not a double standard, it is a simple standard. 

The Israelites thought it was a mark system, a balance table of right and wrongs, of doing good things that outweighed the bad. It was unfair the Lord never remembered those things done right. It was actually completely fair, the same system was going to be applied no matter who you were, entrance to Heaven mattered only from the point of forgiveness onward. But the righteous man who lived like the wicked the last days of his life, because of those sins, he would suffer. The Lord actually said that man, who lived well in the beginning,yet failed in the end, had become unfaithful, like an adulterer. That man knew better, knew right from wrong and still chose wrong in the end. This ends up being more frustrating to the Lord than a sinner unaware. It speaks to living well all the days of your life, but more importantly, finishing well. It isn't how you start out, it isn't how you perform in the middle, it is about how you finish. There is no double standard, there never was. Forgiveness was and is always available; repentance has always been an option, until the very end. If you've messed up, get it right now. If you never got it right, now is the time to figure it out. But just as important, don't lose what you've already worked for, don't blow it at the finish line. You have to finish well, or the prior works won't mean anything.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ezekiel 18, Acts 20:24, 2 Tim 4:7

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