St. Luke Ev. Lutheran Church
Sermon by Pastor Anthony E. Schultz
Pentecost 16 September 1 & 4, 2005 Ezekiel 33:7-11
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do not warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself. Son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you are saying: ‘Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live,” Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?”
People of God, rescued from the flaming lake of fire in hell by the innocent blood of the very Lamb of God:
Back in 1965 there was a science fiction TV show—based on the comic book Space Family Robinson. This TV show was named Lost In Space! The Robinson family is on a mission to colonize Alpha Centuri when some evil villain sabotages their space ship. The first season is filmed in back and white—the second and third in color. The Robinson family encounters space cowboys, space hippies, space pirates and finally space vegetables. Two of the cast members were actually banished from the next episode—because they could not keep from laughing when threatened by the talking carrot! The most famous line from Lost In Space—oft repeated by the robot is, “Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!” The robot would wave his mechanical arms either up and down or side to side each time he cried out, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger, Will Robinson!” I’m afraid that sometimes when God’s Word sounds a warning—people are tempted to think—it’s not that serious. The danger isn’t that real! There are people all around me—certainly doing far worse things than I do. And they seem just fine! It’s tempting to think—I have enough troubles on Monday morning—to get through my day. Now I’m supposed to worry about when I die and about eternity? I have enough troubles right here—right now! The fact is God’s Word today says:
1. Sound the warning!
2. Turn from your evil ways!
The part of God’s Word we are concentrating on—is part of the scroll of the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel is not like any other book in all of Scripture! The LORD was so kind and good to Ezekiel by grace alone—that there was a very real temptation for Ezekiel to become puffed up and conceited. To remind him to remain humble—the LORD—the Great I AM—the Holy One of Israel calls Ezekiel son of man. Some 90 times he calls him son of man. Remember that even though you were afforded a glimpse of angels and the glory of the LORD—you are still a son of man. You are but dust and ashes. You are fatally flawed with sin—through and through! What Ezekiel saw was so great—so wondrous—that he was physically overwhelmed! Down Ezekiel went. The LORD says, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. Ezekiel 2:1,2 Do you catch the precious point? When the LORD asks us to do something—the same LORD equips us—makes us strong—enables us to do what he asks! God is our strength! He is the one who equips us to do what glorifies him! The scroll of the prophet Ezekiel is filled with children’s devotions—with visual aids—with powerful word pictures to make very very vivid—the message of law and gospel! If you read Ezekiel—be ready for the bread of life. Be ready for the meat and potatoes of Scripture. Be ready for prime rib—for law and gospel to ponder and pray about and to make your faith stronger and stronger!
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me… There is wickedness all around. This is not to say every single time you see anything that is wrong—you run up and warn the wicked and guilty. There is the guy in the parking lot of the grocery store—obscenity after obscenity after obscenity after obscenity about his finally successful quest for insecticide—for bug spray! There ‘s the guy in the hospital waiting room—using eternal destruction in his conversation like salt on French fries! It ought not surprise us when people around us do what is evil. You cannot expect fruits of faith from people who have no faith. The LORD is not calling us to be a kind of God police—writing out tickets—handing out citations every time we catch someone doing anything wrong! Where we need to be watchmen is with fellow believers—with our family and our relatives and our friends—and with people we know and love—who don’t know that Jesus is their Savior from sin, too. Again, attitude is everything. When we warn people we love about spiritual danger we need to do so with gentleness, great patience and humility. When I who am but 53 ½ years old—talk to a shut-in who is 97 years old—I need to show her the same gentle respect I would show my mom! Again—motivation is important. When I talk to anyone about their sin—it needs to be out of love. To speak the truth in love! Our task is not to set a spiritual speed trap. And then when someone makes a mistake to yell, “Gotcha!” It is our solemn responsibility to be concerned about our neighbor. And when we see them making a sinful mistake—to admonish them. If someone we love is abusing drugs or alcohol or tobacco or sex we need to talk to them. If someone Jesus loves is living in sin—living like they are married when they are not married—it is our responsibility to talk to them. If someone is committing adultery and we know this for a fact—we need to talk to them. If someone in our own family has drifted away from God’s Word and from Lord’s Supper—we need to talk to them—because we love them!
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me… Before we can admonish and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ—we need to hear—we need to listen to God’s Word ourselves. We need to be lifetime students of the Scriptures ourselves! Cultivate the fruits of faith in our own life. The love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that glorify your Savior. If you are the husband and father be the spiritual head of your house. Demonstrate the gentle strength and patient forgiveness that reflects Jesus’ unconditional love. Use your strength and authority to protect and to build up your family. Use your authority to be the one who sacrifices and does without—so that your family can have what they need. This Labor Day weekend—take a good look at your job—what you labor at. Ask yourself if your job sometimes seems even more important than your family—even more important than your Savior? Oh, I don’t think anyone would say their job is more important than their Savior. We wouldn’t say that. But if we are willing to lie—to cheat—to deceive and to take advantage of others—for the sake of our job—then in practice which is more important? If we are always missing church—because—we say—we have to work—which are we treating as more important? If we are forever telling our spouse and our children—we can’t be with them—because we have to work. And then use the money we earn—to buy them more and more things—telling ourselves—that we are a good provider—because of all the stuff we give them… What’s wrong with this picture? There is nothing more important than God’s Word. There is no job more important than our family. We need to take careful look at our priorities—so that we do not value what is worthless—and lose what is priceless. What matters is Jesus Christ—crucified and risen to wash away all our sins. That’s all that matters. That’s all that counts!
‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. A horrible and sadistic killer—in Kansas City--guilty of unspeakable crimes was convicted of his murderous evil. Before he was sentenced—the survivors—the relatives of the people he molested and murdered were allowed to speak to him and to the Judge who would pass sentence on him. Again and again—the relatives said they wanted him to rot forever in eternal destruction. Even one of the reporters said a fitting punishment would be for this murderer to be murdered—made to suffer and die the same way he made one of his victims die. And—if you aren’t careful—it’s tempting to think that way. To wish out loud that the wicked would get a punishment that was at least in part as painful and horrible as their crimes! And yet—there is our Heavenly Father saying, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live!” Our Heavenly Father doesn’t want to squash us like the bugs we are. Our Heavenly Father is patient and forgiving for Jesus’ sake. When I appreciate the tremendous debt of sin and guilt Jesus has forgiven me—how could I turn around and be unforgiving toward my family or my neighbors? When you are painfully aware of the barn boards in your own eye—how could you turn around and be a saw dust surgeon in your neighbor’s face? Only Jesus’ forgiving love can make us strong enough to forgive the most horrible and hurtful sins others might do to us. Remember those simple powerful words from 1st Corinthians 13. Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus keeps no record of our sins and mistakes. How could we?
“I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live! Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” There was a sermon preached down in Chicago last Sunday that talked about a lady named Deena. Deena is from Riverside, CA. She is a Deputy District Attorney. She is also a faithful Christian—teaches 2nd grade Sunday School! She is pretty and pretty tough. So she was picked to be on that Survivor show—Survivor in the Amazon. They only let you bring a hand full of “things and stuff” when you are on that Survivor show—so she wanted to bring her Bible. Oh, that wouldn’t be allowed—the people said. Well, what would be the harm—a couple of weeks without her Bible? I mean, really! Well time went by without her Bible—and the next thing you know—instead of saying her prayers before she went to bed—she just collapsed—dead tired—asleep as soon as she hit her hammock. At first the bad language and the suggestive talk really bothered her. But after a while—she wasn’t so bothered. And before you know it—she would say things she would never have said—except she was frustrated. And nobody—nobody was encouraging her to live her faith. By the time Deena was voted out of the Amazon she went back to California—but at first not back to Church! Who would have ever thought she could slip—that she could drift that far that fast? Who would have thought? There is danger—danger for every single one of us! There is the danger that like Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon—we could fall into grievous horrible hurtful sin! There is danger that like Judas and Simon Peter and Saul—like Eutychus and Annanias and Sophira—we could fall into grievous horrible hurtful sin! There is anger all around. God’s Word warns us and encourages us. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Repent and trust in Jesus’ unconditional forgiveness and love. Amen!
To God alone all glory!
Rev. Anthony E. Schultz