Serving God; March 4, 2018

Ezekiel 33:8-9 “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 warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will be saved yourself.”

This whole passage is very similar to what Ezekiel was told at the time the Lord commissioned him, as recorded in Ezekiel 3:16-21. I guess he needed a reminder! The responsibility of a messenger is to deliver the message accurately and faithfully. What happens after that is the responsibility of the recipient of the message. Just yesterday I was reading an article from Ministry Today magazine about “Three Things a Pastor Cannot Do.” Those three things were, convict of sin, convince of truth, and save. Those are exactly the things any pastor wants to do, but they are the work of the Holy Spirit, and we make a mess of things when we try to accomplish them in our own wisdom and strength (which are nonexistent). That is exactly in line with this passage. An extremely Calvinist pastor once said to me that “The Church has no responsibility to evangelize, because God is going to save who He wants to.” (He later reversed that position, thankfully.) This passage certainly speaks to that misconception! There is an unavoidable paradox: we can’t do the work, but we are to apply ourselves so that God can do the work through us. This is exactly what Paul was talking about when he said, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:28-29) Paul didn’t for a moment think (after encountering Christ on the Damascus road, at any rate) that he could save anyone on his own. However, he was absolutely convinced that God could do anything He wanted to through him, so he gave himself completely to the Lord. That’s an example every one of us needs to follow.

I have had my struggles on both sides of this issue. I have exhibited physical and spiritual laziness, and I have also demonstrated spiritual pride. Neither has done me any good! Japan is a good field to teach you you can’t do anything in your own strength! The difficulty here is maintaining faith that God can indeed accomplish His salvation through you. It’s been several years now since God told me to rest, relax, and rejoice. I’m still learning how to do that! I desire the salvation of those around me more than I can express, but I can’t do it myself, just as that article was saying yesterday. However, God does give me opportunities to be His instrument, and they are joy indeed. Two days ago I was with a group of people in a distinctly non-church setting, and the Lord opened the conversation up to enable me to say that the most dangerous thing of all was for someone to think they had nothing of which they needed to repent. Billy Graham’s death was the entry point to start talking about the Gospel, so in a sense I was just continuing his ministry! I do not know when or how the Lord will choose to use me, but I am to be instant and active in my obedience, for His glory.

Father, thank You for the privilege of serving You. Help me indeed yield everything to You, allowing You to use me completely, but not setting conditions or making demands. May I be the servant, the son, that You desire, for Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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