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Faithlife

Spirit-Filled Heart

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To cultivate a new heart and a new spirit, transformed by the grace of God.

Notes & Transcripts | Sermon Questions

Seeing the Need/Introduction

Left to our own, we are slaves to the vengeance we feel for those who have wronged us, but God’s grace can enter our hearts in surprising ways with results we would never have expected. That grace creates a new heart and a new spirit within us. Too often people conduct themselves with hidden agendas as they hide behind obscure communication. But God is very clear about wanting new hearts in his people.
Ezekiel prophesied from Babylon, where he had been taken captive along with the king of Judah and 10,000 others in 597 BC (). In the fifth year of their captivity (592 BC), the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel. and his prophetic ministry began ().
Ezekiel was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. Both prophesied the end of the nation of Judah. Jerusalem would be destroyed and the temple defiled. Jeremiah preached this message in Jerusalem, where he was in danger of being executed for treason. But Jeremiah persisted and even wrote a letter to the exiles in Babylon, telling them to prepare for a lengthy captivity ().
Ezekiel echoed the same message while in Babylon. As a captive himself, he encouraged his fellow Israelites not to believe the false rumors of an early return from exile. The first 30 chapters of the book that bears his name predict the dire consequences of sin on Judah and surrounding nations.
Word came of the prophecy’s fulfillment - Jerusalem had indeed fallen (). From that point on, the prophet’s tone became softer, more comforting. He provided a foundation for faith and hope. Though the city had fallen, God had not forgotten his people. Relief would come.

Holy Name -

Ezekiel 36:22–24 NRSV
Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.
The phrase people of Israel refers to Ezekiel’s fellow exiles in Babylon. It is to them that the current message from the Sovereign Lord is directed. God had already warned the Israelites not to defile themselves and the land by imitating the religious practices of the previous inhabitants. To do so would result in removal from the land (). The people of Israel defiled the land and earned God’s judgment and were driven from the land into exile. Israel, the northern kingdom, was conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C. Judah, the southern kingdom, was taken to Babylon in a series of deportations that began in about 605 B.C.
The phrase people of Israel refers to Ezekiel’s fellow exiles in Babylon. It is to them that the current message from the Sovereign Lord is directed. God had already warned the Israelites not to defile themselves and the land by imitating the religious practices of the previous inhabitants. To do so would result in removal from the land (). The people of Israel defiled the land and earned God’s judgment and were driven from the land into exile. Israel, the northern kingdom, was conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C. Judah, the southern kingdom, was taken to Babylon in a series of deportations that began in about 605 B.C.
Ezekiel speaks to people who are guilty of defiling their land. They have received God’s just judgment. But the Babylonians, with very few exceptions (), do not see it that way. They see people conquered by their own armies and gods. This one way the Israelites have profaned God’s name, since it allows the Babylonians to see him as inferior to worthless idols. But praise God for his holy name! God will not tolerate this forever. So far the sake of his holy name, he will show himself greater than the gods of Babylon.
The solution to (or prevention of) the profaning of God’s name is to make it holy - to sanctify it. The pagan Gentiles (the nations) believe their gods to be greater than the Lord; they think this has been proven because they have taken the Lord’s people captive. But the Lord will do something that will reverse such thinking.
God was adamant about his intention to make his name holy once again, not for the sake of the Israelites but to be sure that other nations knew for certain that he is the Lord. By expressing the degradation for which the Israelites were responsible in the context of the violation of family honor, God made several principles patently clear: 1) Actions have consequences, 2) the perception of his name as God is weakened by the negative actions of his followers, 3) God chooses to express his concern for the Israelites in terms of family, and 4) God is ultimately the one who controls family honor. The Israelites understand the code of honor well.
How might God act to exalt his name today in spite of unfaithfulness in the world? Regarding the contexts within the church & the contexts outside the church.

Holy People -

Ezekiel 36:25–27 NRSV
I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
In verse 25 God declares that I take you from “Filthy to Clean”. Not only will the people be returned to their homeland, they also will be cleaned or purified. To sprinkle clean water on people is the language of ritual purification. The cleansing from idolatry will be effective; after the exile, Judah will never again be led into the worship of idols.
The cleansing from idolatry will be effective; after the exile, Judah will never again be led into the worship of idols.
What idols do people worship today? How do we get people to see their error? Regarding the idols of those who make no pretense of faith in God & Regarding the idols of those who divide allegiance between God and something else
In verse 26 we see that not only will God cleanse them, but he will turn their hearts from stone to flesh. God is promising to perform heart surgery. He declares to not only give them a new heart, but a new spirit. Their old hearts must be replaced with a new one. No mention is made of the old spirit in the people, but it must be a mind-set that is opposed to God and his will. Hosea speaks of a spirit of prostitution. The spirit of rebellion must be replaced.
Now in verse 27 we see with the new spirit, the spirit of rebellion is removed and new spirit from the Lord is implanted; the people will indeed turn from their former disobedience.
What are some proper and improper ways to help fellow Christians exhibit behavior that conforms to the expectations of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us?

Fertile Land -

Ezekiel 36:28–30 NRSV
Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleannesses, and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field abundant, so that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations.
God’s promises of cleansing their wrongdoing freed them to the optimism of hope. Their sense of shame was overshadowed by longing for fertile fields and fruit-laden orchards by God’s grace. God promises here recalled the bounty and beauty, and gave them a sense of what a perfect life in God’s will would produce.
Famine brings not just physical suffering but also shame, especially when marked as an act of divine punishment. But bountiful crops, the opposite of famine, removes that reproach and disgrace.
A man was measured by his honor, and that was tied closely to his ability to provide for his family. Worth was measured not by how many coins existed in one’s purse but by the possession of land that produced grain and fruit for the table.
How would you respond to a believer who uses , to assert that those who are truly cleansed by God will never face economic reversals or hardships?

Repentant People -

E#
Ezekiel 36:31–32 NRSV
Then you shall remember your evil ways, and your dealings that were not good; and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O house of Israel.
In verse 31, the people are now blessed by the grace of God, so now they will come to see clearly how disgraceful their former behavior has been. They will repent of their former ways, coming to loathe their past unfaithfulness.
To what extent is it appropriate for Christians to engage in self-loathing? Why?
In verse 32, God wants the exiles to understand that as his people, they are to be ashamed of their former conduct. The grace he will grant them is not to mislead them into thinking that his favor is due to anything on their part. He wants them to see their former behavior for what it is. This is the only sure deterrent to repeating bad behavior.
The law can impose penalties, but that by itself does not prevent a repetition of the bad behavior. The person who has sinned has to come to see the sinfulness of his or her own behavior. That is what God challenges the people to do. Once they come to see their own sin’s shamefulness, it disgrace, they will be cured of repeating it.

Conclusion

We must not forget how to “blush”. Everyone of us has probably had the experience of saying something that is embarrassing. Maybe we said something unkind about an individual whom we thought was not within earshot. Then we realized the person overheard us after all. The combination of words and circumstance caused us to embarrass ourselves. And we blushed. It’s a natural reaction.
But Jeremiah spoke of a time in Israelite history when the people did not know how to blush. They sinned against God and, when they learned of their sin, still felt no shame. “Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (; ).
When Ezekiel told the people to be “ashamed and disgraced,” he used a Hebrew word very closely associated with the one translated “blush” in Jeremiah. Both men lived in a culture where shame seemed to be a lost concept. The same was true in Paul’s day (, ). The same is true in ours. Until we can be ashamed of our sin, we will not be able to see things as God does.

Prayer

Holy God, teach us to take responsibility for our shortcomings, to ask for forgiveness. Deliver us from making the same mistake twice. Teach us that our individual choices reflect on the God we worship. Remind us that grace enables us to live with a renewed heart; in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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