Also, read about how the Israelites tried to justify living life their own way, then avoid the consequences of doing so, and how we might be doing the same thing today?
Ezekiel 11 & 12
Religion & Blind Spots
Verse 1 says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’” As Christians, there should be a joy associated with going to church and worshiping with other believers. If we dread going to church and find any excuse to stay home, we need to check our hearts. Someone once said, “If you don’t want to spend time with believers here on earth, there is little chance you will be with them for eternity.”
While going to church doesn’t save us and He doesn’t love us less if we miss a service, it is part of living an obedient life before Him. And yet, we can be deceived into believing going to church doesn’t really matter, or forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply doesn’t really matter, or gossiping, or that we can keep up some secret sin and still be right with God.
Just like the Israelites in Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s day, we can have these areas of our lives that are not submitted to God and not only feel “OK” about it, but be downright self-righteous and judgmental about others and their blind spots.
How does that happen?
Mike Wilkerson in his book Redemption, talks about something he calls “Religious Addiction.”
Definitions of addiction include words like habit, obsession, and dependence. It denotes a compulsive need or dependence on something. It usually involves a certain lifestyle, hanging out with other people who do the same and talking the way they talk. And it often offers an escape from reality.
Wilkerson says, “The religious addict escapes the reality of his own sin … If he doesn’t deny his sin altogether, he finds some way to justify himself, often by noticing how he’s not as bad as the next guy. He’s not like those heathen.” He goes on to explain that a religious addict will, among other things, adopt the lingo and much of the lifestyle of other religious people, including things like attending church. He says, “These are his ‘sacrifices’ to gain his god’s favor and retain his righteous standing,” because, like any addiction, it’s a form of idolatry. Religious addicts are often blind to their own problems.
But we don’t have to be a religious addict to have blind spots where we are not worshiping God as we should, areas where we’re going through the motions, attending church, speaking the lingo, but not living a Christ-honoring life.
In Psalm 86.11 the psalmist said, “Unite my heart to fear Your name.” We can have “rooms” in our hearts that are off-limits to God. In effect, we say, “I’ll do this, this, and this or quit doing this and this, but I’m going to do what I want in certain other areas.”
We may even feel justified by saying no one is perfect or seeing our sin as mere character flaws. At times, we believe we have spiritual collateral with God because of our self-proclaimed good deeds. We think God will somehow understand and excuse our sin.
Let’s pray that God would help us see those “rooms” in our own hearts where we have locked God out or where we have justified sin. Let’s examine ourselves in light of God’s Word to make sure we are not just “religious addicts.”
Today’s Other Readings:
Ezekiel 11 & 12:
He said … We Said
The Israelites thought they were in charge of their own lives. They often decided they had a better idea of what they needed and where they would find the answers to their problems than God did! So instead of seeking God, they followed after idols. Instead of trusting God for their provision, they pleaded with fertility gods, even participating in sexual immorality as part of their pagan worship.
When God said, if you continue going this way, I’m going to allow you to go into captivity, they said, we can avoid the consequences of our actions by relying on own clever schemes. We can cover our sins instead of repenting from them, align ourselves with pagan nations when we come under attack, and only listen to the “prophets” who tell us what we want to hear.
Sound familiar? It should.
God said, marriage is a covenant and should not be broken except in the case of sexual immorality (Matt. 5.32). We said we’ll make “no-fault” divorce the law of the land.
God said, don’t have sex outside of marriage (Gal. 5.19). We said, we’ll use condoms and birth control pills and we won’t have to suffer the consequences of pregnancy and AIDS.
God said life is precious; I created it and knew you even before you were formed in your mother’s womb (Ps. 139). We said it’s not a baby and we can abort it any time we like.
God said, don’t covet (Ex. 20.17). We said we’ve got to keep up with the Jones.
God said, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6.1). We said, “It’s my life. I can do whatever I want!”
Mankind has not changed, but neither has God; His answers are still the same—turn from evil and from going your own way, seek God and obey Him, and receive His grace and forgiveness.
But as we saw in our Psalms reading, sometimes instead of turning to God and seeking Him from the heart, we make changes that help us look good on the outside and only become, “religious idolaters.”
But let’s look at three more verses.
In the Midst of Judgment
But even in the midst of His judgment, God once again gave a promise that pointed to the gospel:
19 And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20 so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God (Ezek. 11.19-20).
Yet, even the gospel is not a blanket promise. It is for those who repent and accept it by faith.
21 But as for those who long for vile images and detestable idols, I will repay them fully for their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” (Ezek. 11.21).
And the gospel is not just for salvation. It’s also an on-going process of clinging to the Cross, relying on the empowering of the Holy Spirit and continually growing and becoming more like Christ.
Verse 18, “Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, but he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.”
Paul said it this way:
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal. 6.7-8).
Don’t Stop with the Elementary Principles of Christ
The last three verses of chapter 5 reminded us that we are not to be spiritual babies, but through practice—the doing of God’s Word—grow as believers. Here in the first three verses of chapter 6, we are told to build on the foundational truths of Scripture. Hebrews 6.1-3:
1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.
We do that by studying and meditating on His Word, by getting to know Him as God, by understanding and worshiping Him for His attributes, by putting off the old man and putting on the righteous habits of the new man (Eph. 4.22-24), by becoming more like Christ (Rom. 8.29), and by making it our goal in life to please and obey Him (2 Cor. 5.9).
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days, we’ll discuss whether we could be worshiping idols, what it means to be children of light, generational sin, a slippery spiritual path, playing spiritual games, and whether church is necessary or optional?
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Exodus is a real story about God redeeming his people from the bondage of slavery and how their difficult journey home exposed their loyalties—though wounded by Egypt, they had come to worship its gods. Most Christians don’t make golden idols like the Israelites in the wilderness, but we do set up idols on our own desert road—idols like substance abuse, pornography, gluttony, and rage. And even those who don’t know the pain of actual slavery can feel enslaved to the fear and shame that follow sexual abuse or betrayal by a spouse, for we suffer at the hands of our idols as well as those created by others. We need more than self-improvement or comfort—we need redemption.
Redemption is not a step-oriented recovery book; it’s story-oriented and Bible-anchored. It unfolds the back-story of redemption in Exodus to help Christians better understand how Christ redeems us from the slavery of abuse, addiction and assorted trouble and restores us to our created purpose, the worship of God. Readers will discover that the reward of freedom is more than victory over a habitual sin or release from shame; it is satisfaction and rest in God himself.
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