I want us to continue today to look at another aspect of the Holy Spirit. We have looked previously at how He is our second advocate, sent by Jesus for all of the many things outlined by our Lord in John 13-17 on that last night before His arrest and crucifixion. We have also looked at the Holy Spirits creative power with a focus on making us into new creations, born of the Spirit. We looked at how Paul tells us much about the power of the Holy Spirit and the use of gifts which the Spirit Himself gives and distributes to God’s children as He sees fit for use within the church for the common good. And last week we looked at how John the Baptist came preaching, preparing the way for Christ, by proclaiming that another work of the Spirit was to bring death to the flesh, killing all our own claims of goodliness (our own good works and self-righteousness), so that Christ could then show us that He is the only way to eternal life.
Today I want us to look at another point from an Old Testament prophet about what the Holy Spirit would be sent to do. That prophet was Ezekiel. Ezekiel was from the priestly line of Levi as were many of the old prophets and John the Baptist as well. God did not call him to be a priest though and set him apart to be a prophet. He served his time as prophet as a literal street preacher among the Hebrews taken away to Babylon. He was the prophet that was the precursor to Daniel who also served his tenure as prophet to Israel and Judah from within Babylon. Daniel most likely, as a young man, heard Ezekiel preach in the streets of Babylon. Ezekiel served as prophet for twenty-two years from 593 to 571 BC. Daniel received and shared his visions from God for twenty years from 553 BC to 535 BC. Ezekiel and Daniel shared a common characteristic in their literary works, both writing in a foreign land under foreign rule. Many of their writings are highly figurative or symbolic just as is the book of Revelation. Ezekiel and Daniel are written in this manner to help prevent them from being censored by the Babylonian authorities. Revelation was written in that manner to help prevent censorship by the Romans. The points proclaimed are sometimes not easily understood without the insight of the Holy Spirit and understanding what God does in the heart of mankind.
Our focus passage for today is Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV)
26) 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. 27) And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
We saw in our look at the book of John how Jesus proclaimed that He would send the Spirit and that Spirit would be with us and in us. Ezekiel is telling us the same thing 600 years before Jesus tells this to His disciples. This passage from Ezekiel is outlining a part of the New Covenant that Christ ushered in by spilling His own blood and dying on the cross for us. Let’s look at a few points from these two verses.
First, Ezekiel says we will receive a new heart and a new spirit. He proclaims our old heart was made of stone. Ezekiel is telling us, as we have stated repeatedly from scripture, that we are “dead” spiritually apart from Christ. We are born a sinner and continue that way unless acted upon by an outside force. That outside force is the Holy Spirit of God. He comes into us making our spirit alive for the first time. This is done by God placing within you His Spirit, the Holy Spirt of God. This is a deeply personal and individual thing. Each person has a heart. That heart is dead to the things of God unless changed into a living heart of flesh by the Spirit of God. God changes the heart by His grace, one person at a time. This personal, deeply individual operation is performed on each person who becomes a child of God.
Second, what is Ezekiel saying when he says the Spirit will be placed “in you”? Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher of the last half of the 1800’s, says it is very difficult to utilize English words to fully translate from Hebrew what this action depicts. He paraphrased this action as follows:
“I will put my Spirit in the midst of you. The sacred deposit is put deep down into our life’s secret place. God does not put His Spirit on the surface of the person, but He puts it into the center of his being. The promise means, I will put my Spirit in your bowels, in your hearts, in the very core of you. This is an intensely spiritual matter. It is spiritual exactly because it is the Spirit Himself that is given”.
Spurgeon went further to highlight how amazing, miraculous and yet humbling this act of God is. He said that literally the same Spirit of God, who displays the power and energetic force of God that moved upon the waters at creation bringing forth order and life from chaos, is the very one that has lowered Himself to reside in men. God in our nature is a very wonderful concept. God in the Babe in Bethlehem, God in the carpenter’s son, God in the Man of Sorrows, God in the Crucified and God in Him who was buried and rose again and then ascended to the Father, are all marvelous. The incarnation of Christ is truly a miracle equaled or surpassed only by the resurrection of Christ Himself. Yet, Spurgeon declared that if you could declare one great wonder with another, God coming to dwell in millions of His people is marvelous and miraculous in its own right as we highlighted three weeks ago in the weekly note titled, “Holy Spirit Power”. The Holy Spirit has literally made you a new creation and that new creature has a new heart!
There is a third point I want to highlight from this passage and it is a key point I want you to take away from this note today. That point is that Ezekiel tells us clearly one further and very specific thing that is to be accomplished in each individual that the Spirit comes within. Ezekiel tells us the Holy Spirit of God will “move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” The Holy Spirit of God operates in your inner being causing you to now love the law of the Lord. You no longer hate it or consider it non-essential for your life. Not only do you love the law of the Lord, (His statutes and commands, the Word of God), but you also now have the power to keep it.
The entire Old Testament is a story of how all people are disobedient and thus needed a savior. They needed rescuing. You may have never heard it described that way before but that is truly a prominent point which the Holy Spirit brought out through His inspiration to all of the various authors. It started with Adam and that disobedience passed down to all mankind after him. Adam had only one simple command and that was to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam ate of it anyway. God gave a more detailed set of laws to Moses, laws meant to make them a separate people, different than all others. A set of laws that would help protect them and their health, making and keeping them a great nation if only they obeyed them. What did they do? They kept disobeying them over and over. Why? Because they did not have the power within themselves to keep it. Nowhere in the Law of Moses does it state that God’s Spirit will come within the individual. As David said in Psalm 14:1-3 with that repeated by Paul in Romans 3:9-12, “No one seeks God, no one understands, no one is righteous, not even one.” All mankind without the influence of the Holy Spirit that Ezekiel is proclaiming, chooses ultimately to disobey. Something has to come into you, to change you, to enable you to not only love to follow the Lord’s commands but to also give you the ability to obey them. This is one of the great promises of the New Covenant. Charles Spurgeon had a couple of examples about this point. He stated that “If a man is whipped into obedience, it is of little worth, but when obedience springs out of a life within, that is a different matter. If you have a lantern, you cannot make it shine by polishing the glass on the outside. You must put a candle within it.” This is what God does.
When the Spirit of God is placed within you, you may still falter from time to time. You may still sin from time to time. The difference though now that the Spirit is inside you, now that you have been born-again by the Spirit of God, now that you have experienced the great miracle of regeneration, is that you will quickly recognize your sin. The Spirit will convict you and lead you to confession and repentance of such sin for you want nothing hindering your fellowship with the Father. You will not live a lifestyle continually exemplified by sin against God. If this is not true of you then you should make your “calling and election sure” as the Apostle Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:10. Peter tells us this in relation to living a life where the gifts of the spirit should be evident in your life. If they are not evident then there is a big problem, one which should bother you gravely if you claim to be a Christian. There is great significance in the words which Peter chose to use. Peter knows that these gifts come only from the Spirit and are exhibited only in one in whom the Spirit resides. The One who calls you, the one who chose you, it is He that placed the Spirit within you. That Spirit will lead you to use of the gifts He distributes to you and also lead you to love and obey the Law and Word of the Lord. Everyone called, everyone chosen, will for sure be sent to the Son and the Son will never reject a single one (John 6:37). The placing of the Spirit within you is a work done by God Himself. You did nothing to “bring the Spirit into you”. He did the work. He initiated placing the Spirit in you, not the other way around. God came to man in the form of Jesus Christ, reconciling Himself unto us. Christ comes to you in the person of the Holy Spirit and lives in the midst of your deepest inner being and He does so for a reason as declared by Ezekiel. Jeremiah made similar prophecies about this aspect of the New Covenant and what would be accomplished by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in Jeremiah 31 and 32.
Praise God today for what He has done by fulfilling His covenantal promise and placing His Spirit within you. Let that Spirit do the work which He has come to do. Your old spirit was dead and has been brought to life by the very same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead and did all of the other things we have highlighted today and the last few weeks. You are a much different person as a child of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, than you may realize. Those the Father called or chose, whom the Son redeemed, and whom are born again by the Spirit of God are literally “complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10 KJV). He did a complete work in you. You were dead. The Spirit gave you a new heart and made your spirit alive. He told you that you were a sinner and needed rescuing. He killed or withered and faded away your own self-righteousness as we discussed last week. And He also gave you a heart that now loves the Law of the Lord and now, and only now through Him, you can finally keep that Law and love doing so. He literally did it all. It is through recognition of this that you can praise Him for being literally made complete. You could never have done any of that. You would have forgot something. He, however, forgot nothing. He knew all that was required and He provided all of that to you. He lavishly poured it out on you. This lavish gift is beautifully summed up in the oft used word “GRACE”. Oh, I pray today that you recognize HE DID IT ALL!!