"Grace Works Grace"
21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die.
I am constantly mesmerized by the apparent tension between grace and works in scripture. I am also always learning about the truth of God’s character through scripture passages like this one.
In his book, Ezekiel is prophesying so that the Isrealites will be convicted of and repent of their sins. They are hung up on a false prophecy about God punishing the people for the sins of previous generations (v2). God doesn’t do that, because God is just! He punishes people for their own sins. And do you know what else? God does not delight in punishing even the guilty. He much prefers it when people repent and turn from their wicked ways (v23). That’s why He sent Ezekiel--to give Israel another chance. This is grace.
From this passage we learn that God will only hold us accountable for what we do, and not for what our ancestors did, which is great news. Nevertheless, now we have to examine ourselves and ask, ‘am I doing what is just and right and keeping all of God’s decrees?’
Yikes. Sometimes, maybe...
But read on: He will give us a new heart and a new spirit (v31). That is an incredible gift we receive when we have a personal relationship with God. It is this new heart and new spirit that allow us to produce the fruit of His Spirit by our works.
Sometimes I find myself picturing God with a clipboard, keeping track of my mistakes. I picture Him shaking His head in disappointment, waiting for me to mess up so He can punish me. I am thankful for this passage that reminds me that God is not like that. He does not delight in punishing me. He will not punish me unjustly. Instead, He is delighted to bless me with gifts I need to make it through this life. Gifts that I did not earn or ask for, but gifts of grace.
Take notice of Ezekiel’s words this season of Lent. Feel the weight of your sin. It is because of sin that we need a savior. Call them by name and turn from them. Accept God’s new heart and spirit, then go and do good works.