Open with clip from The Patriot
During a memorial service, Gabriel makes an announcement to enlist men in the South Carolina militia. However King George was the one who ordered the hanging of the men being memorialized, trying to set an example to the rest of the colonists-and it worked. When Gabriel asks the men to get out of their pews and go fight for their freedom, no one responds. Disgusted by the men’s hypocrisy, Annie Howard stands up and challenges them to act on the beliefs she’s heard them speak about so strongly. (Fields, Doug and Eddie James. Videos That Teach 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002. Pg. 138)
Often people will make the comment that actions speak much louder than words. In this movie clip this comment is definitely true. The men in the church were men who had complained about the British control over America. They wanted the nation to fight for freedom so that America was a country of its own. They despised King George and didn’t want anything to do with him. But why then, when it came down to it did these men resist signing up for the war? The war and the freedom it could accomplish was what they said they wanted!
Their actions were saying, “We don’t really care that much about freedom.” These men were scared and they felt insignificant. They wanted somebody else to bring about what they knew needed to happen. As long as they were comfortable and safe while someone else was fighting for the freedom they wanted, they were ok.
Today, as I look at my life and the lives of other Christians around me I have reached the conclusion that most Christian’s actions are speaking much louder than their words, especially in America. We have lost touch with who God really is. 10 minutes ago we sang out, “Better is one day in Your courts,” and, “I could sing of Your love forever.” How many people in this room proclaim these things outside of church? How many people in this room believe in Heaven and Hell? All too often we profess a belief in Hell but yet we sit back and watch our friends and families go there. All too often we profess a belief in Heaven but yet live our lives chasing after money, popularity, boys, girls, or material things. How many people here believe that Jesus is the way the truth and life and that no one comes to the Father except through him? Yet all too often we are too scared to hurt a friend’s feelings or feel intolerant when we are confronted with the idea of telling friends about Christ.
What is even worse than the fact that our actions don’t back what we say is the fact that we have become comfortable with that. A while ago at my church, we talked about going against the current of the world. To start off the night I had everyone get up and start running in a circle around our sanctuary. Once they had the circle going, I had the smallest 7th grade guy that was there, turn around and run the opposite direction. He started getting pushed and checked, he was trampled for a little bit, and eventually he was being picked up and carried by the group going the opposite way. After a while he stopped trying and gave in. This is often how we respond to the world as we try to live the way God wants us to. We have gotten tired of being different and going against the grain so at some point many of us have just given in and stopped trying. We have become dry and we have given up in our relationships with God. This is called complacency and it is overflowing in Christians today.
The scripture that I want to look at tonight is an amazing story and it can blow your mind if you try to visualize it as we read it. I think this passage gives a great description of the complacency in Christians today but I think it also gives us hope and challenge by showing us what God wants to do with us. I encourage you to open your Bibles to Ezekiel 37:1-14
In this passage, we meet Ezekiel right after he has told the Israelites that they needed to be restored by God. The Israelite people had forgotten about God, as they have done many times throughout the Bible, but worse yet, they had become complacent. Ezekiel 36:17 tells us that as God speaks to Ezekiel, “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight.” Now, half of you right now are saying, “Ughh” right now in your heads. The other half of you, most likely the younger guys, are going, “What?” If you don’t get what that second part of the verse means go ask Ethan after the service. No, Ethan doesn’t deserve that, if you don’t understand that talk to your Mom later on.
Ezekiel 36:26 sums up Ezekiel’s prophecy from God to the Israelites. “I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” The vision that we read about was an illustration of God doing just that. Ezekiel goes into the valley and sees piles of dry bones that represent the sinful and complacent people of Israel. God restores the bones back to normal body form and then he breathes life into the lifeless bodies. What is the result? A vast and powerful army that is ready to serve God.
Verse 11 tells us three very interesting things about the Israelite people though before they are restored. First, the Israelite people were dead to God and they had been dead so long, that their bones were already dry. That means that the people had been complacent for a very long time because a body doesn’t become bare and dry overnight after someone dies, it takes years! Second, the people had lost all hope. They had given up. “Forget it,” they said, “God has abandoned us.” They had no hope that God could restore Israel back to the breathtaking, powerful nation it had once been. Third, they were all separated from one another. They had no fellowship with other Jew’s because they were scattered in different lands.
Now if this description doesn’t fit Christians today, I don’t know what does!
We are a dry people nowadays.
In August, my youth group went down to Purple Door Music Festival which is a big Christian music and arts festival in Pennsylvania. The big band that everybody in our group wanted to see was a group called Blindside. They were scheduled to play the last set on Friday night at around 10:00 pm. As the festival started earlier that afternoon there were talks of heavy rain and thunder storms coming and everyone in the group was getting nervous that they wouldn’t be able to see the band. As predicted, around 6:00 it started raining. The rain started to come down harder and harder and soon enough there was thunder and lightening as well. As Pillar came out to open for Blindside, they got a half a song out and the people in charge of the concert pulled the plug on the power. The kids in my group were so upset, “Is Blindside going to play? Are they going to play tomorrow if they get rained out?” We huddled up, in a puddle of mud, trying to keep warm, and hoping that the rain would stop so the show could go on. Finally after a massive bolt of lightening shot across the sky right above us I made the executive decision that we were going back to the hotel.
The group reluctantly headed up to where our things were being guarded by one of our leaders, whose name is Brian. As we got there though we realized something and one of the girls spoke up. “It’s not raining up here Brian?!?” Brian, who had been on his knees pretty much since it started to drizzle, looked up and lovingly said, “I know, I am the only one here praying.”
Today, we have neglected our relationships with God just as much as the Israelites did. We have neglected Him so much that we have forgotten about the power that God has. Miracles and God power being displayed through our lives is supposed to be normal! We have gone and made the norm abnormal. The only time most of us spend time with God or even acknowledge God is at church, one day a week. We don’t know who God is anymore because we don’t make time for him. We don’t spend time in His Word, listening to what he wants to say to us. We don’t spend time talking to God throughout the day. We don’t seek after Him, longing to know Him for who he is. We don’t involve Jesus in our lives and a lot of us do that on purpose because we know that if we do involve Jesus in our lives we are going to have to change some things we are doing.
Now I know some of you are sitting there going, “But I don’t have time to do those things. I play sports, I have homework, I need my sleep, I wanna hang out with my friends, I have a boyfriend or girlfriend, etcetera, etcetera.” The list could keep going on. But what God has been showing me lately is that if we don’t make the time to invest in a relationship with God, if we don’t involve God in ours lives then we are going to stay dry. I’m not saying to be legalistic because God is going to love you no matter what. You can’t do anything to earn God’s love but we do have to take a stand and make a point to invest in a relationship with Christ. We have to make a point to involve God in all the aspects of our lives. Which, I may add, we will fail at all the time, but God knows our hearts and we need to try!
We are a hopeless people nowadays.
We are growing up in a time where many people feel worthless; they feel they have no purpose in life. “I’m nobody special,” I hear people say all the time. “What does God care about me?” Especially after thinking about how dry of a people we are, we may feel even more down about ourselves. This is where God’s grace comes in. We can find hope in the cross! Jesus said that he loves us so much and then he was willing to back up his words with actions by dying on the cross for us. He was punished for our disobedience to Him, which is called sin, and then he said, “Come and join my family, live with me in paradise.”
God knew that the Israelite people were dry but he said, “I will give them a new heart. I will breathe new life into them and make them a new creation.” God rose up the dry bones; God forgave them of their sins, and made them into a vast army. God said, “You are important! You have worth! So much worth that I want you to be part of my family and I want your help to do the work that I have to do.”
We are a separated people nowadays.
God has made us into a vast army but then we don’t act like it. We neglect people from God’s family and we separate ourselves by not going to church and not being part of the body. We don’t act together the way Christians should. The body of Christ has been cut up into little pieces and we are sitting content where we are. There is an ear over there doing its own thing, there is a thumb over there, and then way over there is a toe doing its own thing. Even though we may be different, even though we may worship different, and even though we may have slightly different beliefs, everyone who professes the divine life, death and resurrection of Christ, the triune God, and claims to have a relationship with Him is part of God’s family. God has adopted them into the family and we need to as well!
How many Christians from your school do you talk to? How many of you even talk to each other when you are at school or around town? God wants us to act together! We are the body of Christ and we have been made into a vast army. If we break apart, if we try to do our own thing, it’s going to be so much harder to spread the news of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t call us to go out on solo-missions but to work together.
Tonight, God is calling us to evaluate our lives and to enter into the relationship that He wants with us. Some of you in this room don’t have a relationship with God. God is waiting for you, all you have to do is turn around and receive His embrace. Maybe some of you in this room have been Christians but are complacent. God has missed you and he misses your time together. I challenge you to turn around your life and put God first again.
We have to make the choice to involve God in our lives and to be involved in Him. We need to have hope in God that he loves us and that we are important to Him We need to have faith that God wants to use our lives for powerful and great things. We have to come together as the body of Christ, as the vast army that God has risen up and we need to make an impact together.
***Give every person an army man to carry with them***