A Holy Beacon

[I]f the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them, for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered, for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die.

Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. (Ezekiel 18:21–28 NRSV)

Ezekiel is not exactly the pick-me-up reading I am normally draw to in my pursuit to be shaped into the likeness and love of Jesus. Such is the gift of the lectionary, to direct us to places in God’s sacred and holy Word that we (or at least me) would not ordinarily be drawn.
And so it is that today we find ourselves here by direction, not desire. And this is, in so many ways, good and wonderful – an argument in favor of a church calendar of text, lectionary or otherwise. Ezekiel reminds us, among many things here in this passage, that the old system serves us best as a reminder of our lostness, as a beacon that directs us to Jesus atop the otherwise foggy waters of life on earth.
We are wise to pause during this Lenten season and reflect on just how far from God’s glorious standard we sit. And pushing further than mere reflection, we are transformed by realizing his forgiveness serves us best when it catalyzes transformation.
Dallas Willard writes in The Great Omission:

If, now, one adds that forgiveness is strictly a matter of what one (professes to) believe, we have the recipe for the consumerist Christianity-without-discipleship that we have inherited at the present moment.
If, however – and by no means denying the essential importance of correct belief and the forgiveness of sins – we understand “saving faith” to be confidence in Jesus Christ, the whole person, and not just in some part of what he did or said, we have understanding of a salvation that delivers the disciple, the whole person, into a full life in the Kingdom of God. That includes progressive inner transformation of the believer, not as a condition of entry into heaven – salvation, in the common sense – but as a natural part of a whole that also includes new life, constant spiritual growth, and entry into heaven as a natural outcome rather than as the central focus. This deliverance will indeed “be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.”

Ask God today: “How do you seek to transform me this day into your likeness?”
Stu Streeter is the NAB VP of Ministry Advancement & Church Multiplication.