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A New Heart And A New Spirit

May 27, 2017 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler

Verse: Ezekiel 36:22–36:28

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I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.   Ezekiel 36:25-27

In the name of the Father and of the (X ) Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Dear beloved of the Lord:

Through His holy prophet Ezekiel, the Lord declared, "I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols."(vs. 25) Thisstern message was delivered to the House of Israel, whose blatant idolatry polluted the land God gave them.  Israel bowed down to idols, both the physical idols of stone and wood and gold, as well as the idols of the heart like money and lust, food and drink, murder, theft, false witness and covetousness.Worst of all, they had hearts of stone, cold and unloving, stubbornly resisting God's efforts to turn them in repentance.God sent priests to teach them, prophets to warn them, yet they would not listen to the Word of the Lord.Ironically, due to their spiritual deadness, Israel protested they were following their hearts by what they felt was spiritual, or what they determined would make them godly.  

Does God’s sharp warning apply to us today?  What of local churches, where people are taught to follow their heart, or give their heart to Jesus, or seek whatever worship satisfies their felt needs?What of the rampant idolatry that surrounds us, wherein many worship idols of money and cars and sports and family and drugs and sex and electronic entertainment in a false world called “virtual reality”?      

What a warning for us!  Truly, some of those idols live in us as well.  How easy it is to think that as long as I give my Sunday morning to Jesus, I can spend a hundred hours a week devoted to my obsession, whatever it is.  Of course, sooner or later the idols win, and Sunday attendance loses.  You cannot serve two masters.  Either Christ will be the Oneyou serve, or something else will be.    

Still,youcherishyour idols.  There are always things in your heart that distract youfromGod’s Word and Worship and Confession.  These idols may seem very noble and spiritual. Maybe they are moral rules that hold ultimate authority in your minds.  Maybe they are the time and attention you give to your family and friends, which, although it seems good and loving, gets in the way of the time youspend praying, praising and thanking God.           

There are always idols in us that try to get in the way of faith.  Few of us are so outwardly wicked as the children of Israel in their last days.  But just because we hide our idols does not make them any less dangerous.    

We dare not depend upon our own strength to resist the idols in our hearts.  Because when we are prideful in this way we ironically make our spiritual strength into an idol.  We should not think that our hearts are strong enough to resist sin.  That places our trust in our self and makes our heartsidols.   Instead, we should become like little children, acknowledging our helplessness and depending only upon Christ and His strength.       

Surprisingly, His strength comes to us in water.  Ezekiel spoke of this cleansing water that was to be sprinkled on Israel.  There is only one spiritually clean water that makes people spiritually clean.   There is only one kind of water that cleanses all the filthiness from us.  Our filthiness is too stubborn to be remove any other way.  We were born spiritually defiled and unclean, like the bloodiest, nastiest stain.  But the Lord has washed us clean with His holy water of Baptism.     

According to the old Testament(Numbers 19), the Lord gave instructions that when a person touched a dead body, they were considered unclean.  To cleanse them, not just any kind of plain water, no matter how pure, could be used.  A special cleansing water had to be prepared.  A heifer without blemish or defect would be taken outside the camp and slaughtered by the priest.  The flesh would be burned, and the ashes kept.  When a person became unclean by touching a dead body, water was added to the ashes of the heifer, and this mixture sprinkled on the unclean man, then he would be purified from his uncleanness.                

We were born spiritually dead.  We ourselves were the corpses that were unclean.  That is why there are idols in our hearts even now, because our dead flesh loves to worship dead things. We were born unclean, and no ordinary water could purify us.  No good deed could make up for our filthiness, because even our good deeds were made filthy by our uncleanness.       

But Christ gave Himself as the Sacrifice without blemish or defect.  He was taken outside Jerusalem and slaughtered, offered up by Himself, the only Priest worthy to do it.  His flesh was burnt by the fiery wrath of God against our sins which Jesus bore. Now, whenever an unclean man is to be purified, we sprinkle water that is combined with God’s Word to the sacrifice of Christ.  For whoever is Baptized into Christ is Baptized into His death.  The perfect Sacrifice gives His benefits through the water and the Word.  He purifies us into forgiven reborn living children of God, heirs of eternal life.           

Thus, we also have new hearts in us.  Instead of a heart of stone, the new heart is a spiritually alive, fleshy living, human heartChrist has put in us.  It is the Spirit working in our reborn from above life to create in us new obedience.  We do not create anything, much less our obedience.  For creation is an act of bringing something into existence that was not there before.  We were lifeless, unclean corpses with hearts of stone.  Now through Holy Baptism we are saints with living hearts.     It is God the Holy Spirit who causes us to walk in His commandments.  He creates right actions in our lives.   Whenever we do right, we should say, "Here acts the Holy Spirit again.  Thanks, be to God."  For sanctification as well as justification is God's work alone.  We try to cooperate in feeble fashion by our good works, but even those little efforts come from Him.        

Sadly, remnants from our heart of stone are not completely removed in this lifetime.  Our dead flesh is still subject to sinful deafness and stubbornness and idols that try to dominate us.  We are still sinners and unclean as far as our flesh is concerned, but holy saints completely cleansed as far as Christ and Baptism are concerned.  We must wait for the final Day to be rid of the heart of stone.  At the Resurrection of all flesh, Ezekiel's promise will be completed.  The heart of stone will be removed, as we are raised with holy bodies.  Then we will be without any physical or spiritual blemish or defect, as our Savior is.        

To this great God who has saved us by water and blood, who is Sacrifice and Priest and Sanctifier, to Him be all the glory forever. 

In the name of the Father and of the (X ) Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  AMEN