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Make Yourselves a New Heart and a New Spirit!

23 February • Friday of the First Week in Lent


Ezekiel 18:21-32

21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? 24 But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.


25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?


30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

Meditation

 

The question “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?” (v.23) reflects a most precious truth. It is that God’s mercy is so extensive that He repudiates any pleasure in the death of the wicked. Indeed, as we read in the passage, the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (v.32).


The truth just mentioned has been given in another form by St Peter. To certain believers who are beginning to think that God is dilatory in returning to judge the world, the apostle explains, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish...” (2 Peter 3:9).

While we are glad that God is merciful, we must not jump to the conclusion that God will not hold anyone responsible for his or her sins. Nor should we infer that all lives will be saved (v.27). More importantly, we must not think that our past righteous deeds are ever good enough to outweigh the bad ones we now commit. The biblical teaching is clear, “When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die...” (v.26).


Whether it is about wrongs we have committed in the past or about present sins, the Lord is calling us to accept responsibility for them. The natural tendency among us—yes, me included—is to avoid coming clean, even thinking up mitigating reasons for our wrong actions. Yet, it is only by accepting responsibility that we can be released to see the error of our ways, and to repent.


Repentance, we need to be reminded, is neither a matter of feeling guilty, nor a condition of being overwhelmed with remorse. Rather, it involves (i) the casting away of our transgressions, and (ii) the transformation of our life from the inside, so that we become people with “a new heart and a new spirit” (v.31).


Repentance is a non-negotiable response to God’s offer of salvation. It is a conscious step in the direction of newness, and into life itself. We do well to “so turn and live” (v.32)!


Prayer

 

Dear Lord, You are full of mercy. I stand before You ready to repent. Help me Lord, to cast away all the transgressions I have committed. Lead me to walk in Your way of righteousness, leaving behind my old life. Forgive me, and make me a person with a new heart and a new spirit. All this I pray through Your Son Jesus Christ, who came to save us from our sin. Amen.


Action

 

Psalm 51, written by King David after the prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin, is a classic passage in the Bible on repentance and God's forgiveness of sin. Read the passage and look closely at what it teaches about repentance. Observe that David uses the words “iniquity,” and “transgressions” interchangeably with “sin” (vv.1–3). Reflect on each term for its unique meaning. Following that, you may use the passage to model your own confessions.


Dr Lim K Tham, PhD

Dr Lim K Tham recently retired as Dean of Discipleship Training Centre. He had previously served as General Secretary of the Bible Society of Singapore, as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, and as a member of the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony.

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