There’s quite a lot of disagreement about what it means to live a Christian life. My guess is that in most local churches, if you surveyed the people in that church, asking them to describe what it means to live faithfully as a Christian, you would get numerous responses, some of which would conflict with each other. I chose the picture above because it depicts one answer I suspect many Christians would give, that being a Christian means going to church buildings with bands and singing praise songs as part of worship services on Sundays. Did Jesus call us to live like that? While that activity is not necessarily wrong, Jesus never asked his followers to do any of that, and yet we Christians have made Sunday worship experiences the primary expression of our faith.
So what is the kind of life Christians are called to live? I think an Old Testament prophet can help us answer that question.
We’ve been studying the life and ministry of the prophet Ezekiel for months on the blog. This week we’ve been learning what God says to Ezekiel in chapter 33, verses 1-20. Let’s continue reading Ezekiel 33. Verses 11-20 are a bit of tongue-twister.
“The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness. If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right—if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live. Yet your countrymen say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But it is their way that is not just. If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so. Yet, O house of Israel, you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But I will judge each of you according to his own ways.”
The message in verses 12-20 is longer than that previous section which we studied here, but God is saying the same thing: “Turn away from sin, turn to God, and you will live.”
The kind of life that God calls us to is described by the word “righteousness.” The kind of life that the people of Israel were living is described by the word “wickedness.”
Righteousness versus Wickedness.
To live is simple, God says. Turn away from wickedness. Turn toward righteousness.
Righteousness is defined as living right, in truth and justice.
Notice how God describes this in verse 15, “he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil.”
Jesus said something similar: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
In this five-part series studying Ezekiel 33:1-20, God called Ezekiel to be the watchman for his people. We Christians are also watchmen. Jesus, in the teaching I quoted above, describes what watchmen do. We make disciples, teaching them to follow the way of Jesus, which is the righteous way of life. That means we must set the example, living the way of Jesus first ourselves. Watchmen seek to live the righteous life as Jesus taught us and as Jesus himself demonstrated for us.
You are a watchman.
You are called to live the righteous life, the way of Jesus, and you are called to invite others to do the same.
That’s what a watchman does.