Ezekiel the prophet was a great preacher. In April of 585 B.C. the people flocked to hear him preach on the destruction of Judah. God said to Ezekiel, “As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (Ezekiel 33:30-32).
Ezekiel preached on the destruction of Judah, giving sin as the reason for its destruction, and everyone loved it and said “amen” to it. And then they continued to live in sin. James warned Christians of this same kind of listening without learning in his New Testament letter: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).
Ezekiel was a great preacher. Everyone said so. They just didn't apply his messages from God to their lives.
How can we put an end to warfare? Some say we must learn to negotiate with our enemies, compromise our own values, capitulate to our enemies demands, disarm ourselves, appease our enemies when they are aggressive and show them that we only have good intentions. But, in fact, this is the way to lose a war.
When civilized people negotiate with evil, they embolden evil. When good people compromise their values, they strengthen bad people. When peaceful people capitulate to terroristic demands, they are surrendering themselves. When anyone disarms himself he is at the mercy of armed villains. When the response to aggression is appeasement, the aggressors want more. When we face evil with good intentions alone, evil prevails. Losing the war is the result of such passive actions as these.
Am I talking about physical warfare alone, or is this true of spiritual warfare too? Well, did Jesus negotiate with the devil, ever compromise the truth, capitulate under pressure, disarm himself as a means to peace, appease the wicked aggressors, or show himself to have good intentions alone? Hardly! Jesus fought a battle against evil and won because he would not negotiate, compromise, capitulate, disarm, appease, or simply show good intentions. We will never make peace with the world. We’re in a spiritual battle all our lives. It’s time we battle evil as Jesus expects us to.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (I Timothy 1:15-16).
Did Paul, the great sinner, then take a tolerant approach to sin? Did he instruct the church of Christ to be open-minded and open-hearted to immoral behaviors, to people who are greedy in their interactions with others, to those who practice false religions, to those who slander others, to drunkards and to crafty people who contrive ways of getting money from people without work or services? Is Christ’s church directed to be known for its immorality, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness and swindling?
No! Paul also wrote, “I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat” (I Corinthians 5:11). Each of us has a sinful past, but sin is what we give up, not what we accept in ourselves.
“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). “So the Lord said, ’I will wipe mankind whom I have created, from the face of the earth’” (Gen. 6:7). “Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth” (Gen. 7:23-24). Then God said, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Gen. 9:13-15).
In the year 2015, evil inclinations in men’s hearts prompted the legalization of homosexual marriages in the United States of America. Liberals and homosexuals have usurped the rainbow as their symbol of the sanctioning of sexual perversion. The presidential White House even used colored lights to flood the building in the various colors of a rainbow. These evil people won a political battle, but God has not changed his mind or the meaning of the rainbow. God is still the Supreme Judge, marriage is still a covenant relationship between one man and one woman, homosexuality is still a sin and the rainbow is still God’s sign on the earth.
We know that lying is a sin. The ninth of the ten commandments forbids lying (Deuteronomy 5:9), lying is listed in two of the seven things God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19), and God’s word to Christians is plainly stated: “Do not lie to each other” (Colossians 3:9). But what about believing a lie?
Believing a lie is also a sin! Remember back to Adam and Eve? God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18) and the devil always lies (John 8:44). Adam and Eve chose to believe the liar and so they sinned. It takes two to make a lie, the teller and the believer. Recall Jesus’ words to the Jews: “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me!” (John 8:43-45). When anyone chooses to believe a lie they sin against the Lord.
Liars and those who believe liars hurt everyone. That makes truth and truthfulness essential to everyone who wants to please God. Be careful to speak the truth, but also take care to seek the truth. Believing a lie is no better than telling a lie.