The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. Ezekiel 18:20
I have good news and bad news for your church and for mine. The good news: no matter how many wrong choices your church may have made in the past, God is still willing to work through you today, if you will humble yourselves and seek after Him. The bad news: you get little credit for the amazing things in your church’s past…it is your current testimony that matters. This generation of your church will stand alone in its effectiveness.
Ezekiel was dealing with the first group of Hebrews exiled to Babylon. They were the young, best and brightest of the Hebrew society. They were the intelligent, creative, young leaders. Before the exile, they had their whole productive lives in front of them. But now, it was all for naught. For all practical purposes, their productive lives were over. They would now spend the rest of those lives in exile. No surprise, then, they felt “robbed”…and they blamed their parents. They blamed the stiff-necked, rebellious nature of the generations before them for their current sad state.
The irony is that, for generations now, those very Hebrew people had been living off of the “favored” status of their own forefathers before the Lord. They had all the stories of a mighty God who had faught their forefather’s battles and who had miraculously saved them time and time again. They were living off the very spotty righteousness of their forefathers. “God promised our father, Abraham…we are his favored people.”
Do you see the pattern?
Ezekiel had a sobering word for them…and for us.
If you and your church are still living off the “glory days” of your past, if the last evidence of real Spiritual activity among you was an especially powerful Experiencing God weekend in 1996, if the prevailing wish of your people is to go BACK rather than venture forward, then Ezekiel has a harsh word for you. You cannot go with God and cling to the glory of the past. Those past victories will not carry you today. You stand today on your own feet, with your own choices, irrespective of those victories of yesterday.
By the same token, if your church has a horrible legacy of conflict and damaged relationships and a bad reputation in your community due to wrong choices in the past, be encouraged. Our God is a God of fresh starts. You can turn it all around today. The Lord has not forsaken you. Humble yourselves before the Lord and stand on your own before Him, unhindered by the poor choices of your church’s past. Start new. Today.
Maybe this word is good news for you. Or maybe it is bad news for you. Either way, one thing is certain…the responsibility is yours.