READ: Ezekiel 34-36
BACKGROUND: As always, Ezekiel is thick with imagery. Please feel free to ask in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.
THINK: Last year I was asked by my alma matter, Drake University, to go to a college fair that was being held at a local high school. They wanted to set up a booth and have a presence at the college fair, but none of the members of their recruiting and admissions staff could be there on that day. Being a proud Bulldog, I acquiesced. They sent me some instructions along with the necessary materials and I was ready to go. As the day of the fair approached I was struck with a profound reality: to many, if not all of the students, who would be there that day I was all they would know of Drake University. I was Drake’s representative and my sincere hope was that students would get a good impression of Drake through their interactions with me.
In the same way, and even more profoundly so, all of us who have put our faith in Christ are God’s representatives to the world. They see him and know him through his people. And the stakes are infinitely higher than any college fair possibly could be. The question that we must ask ourselves is this: how well do we represent him?
In Ezekiel 36 God has some harsh words for the people of Israel because of the way that they represented him to the world. His desire and his great plan to draw people to himself had long been for his chosen people of Israel to be a light unto the nations. But instead of fulfilling this role and representing God well they chose to chase after the things of this world and to worship the false God’s of the nations who were in darkness. And when they did this they brought great dishonor to the God they claimed to serve, the God they had been chosen to represent.
We are a people who are called to shine Christ’s light into the world and to bring change through the glorious message of the gospel. But we cannot do that unless or until we allow it to completely transform us. Changed people change people, and nobody who is busy chasing the world can hope to change it.
Unfortunately, I think that the American church has deeply misrepresented God to our culture. Every single one of us is guilty of this to one degree or another, but statisticians like George Barna indicate pretty clearly that the picture of Christ our culture is getting from Christians is one that drives them further away rather than one that draws them in. We ought to take this seriously. If you find yourself, at any point, not taking seriously the fact that you are God’s representative please reread Ezekiel 36 to remind yourself of just how seriously he takes it.
So, how can we do it? A great place to start is to invite God to melt down our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). A heart of stone is self-centered and calloused to sin. It is a heart that is not deeply troubled by things that break the heart of God and misrepresent him to the world. A heart of flesh is a heart that beats in time with the Father’s. It is a heart that is sensitive to sin – one that is broken and genuinely repentant for each and every time God’s holiness is affronted and his name is misrepresented.
Are you sensitive to your sin or calloused to it? Will you allow God to give you a new heart that breaks for the things that break his? Will you take your calling to be the representative of God’s name and character to all those around you with the utmost sincerity?
PRAY: Confess the times where you have misrepresented God to those around you. Ask God to give you a new heart that helps you take your sin seriously and be sensitive to him so that you can diligently do your best – out of love in response to him and not out of works righteousness or trying to earn salvation – to reflect his love, his grace, and his truth to those around you. As you pray for a new heart today, you may (if you’re like me and you loved 90’s Christian music) want to listen to and sing along with Third Day’s classic Consuming Fire.