From the onset, it has always been God’s plan to prosper and bless us. This plan was repeated many times over in Scripture. In particular, God reassured the Israelites of this plan when, through the prophet Jeremiah, he said, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:11). He said these words when Israel was in exile and there seemed to be no hope of deliverance. Indeed, it was never God’s plan that anyone should suffer or perish. In fact, it was his plan, even from the beginning, that we should have eternal life. This was clearly shown when he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the Garden of Eden. If anyone ate of the fruit of the tree of life, they would have eternal life.
But while God provided a way to eternal life through the fruit of the tree of life, he nevertheless commanded that no one should eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or else they will die. With this command comes the freedom of choice. If men choose to eat the fruit of the tree of life, they will live forever. However, if they choose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they will die. Sadly, Adam and Eve chose to die and not live forever. Even to this day, we are given the same choices. Through Moses, God said, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deut. 30:19).
Clearly, our future is in our hands. If we make the right choices then we will live; otherwise, we shall die. God said to Israel as a reminder, “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall” (Ezekiel 18:30). Yes, sin has been the cause of the downfall of many. The Bible is full of stories of great men and women of God who fell from grace because of the sins they have committed. While they started well, they ended their lives devoid of the grace of God. The justice of God is that we shall be made to personally account for our choices and actions, whether good or evil. No one shall be made to account for the choice or action of his father, children or anybody else. It is for this reason that salvation becomes very personal.
But what is the hope of those who have already made the wrong choices? The Lord said, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31). The way to be restored back to God is through repentance. Repentance involves being sorry for the sin committed and turning to God. This is what the Bible calls godly sorrow – it brings forth salvation. On the other hand, worldly sorrow will bring forth death. This kind of sorrow is mere lip service and is not from the heart. When King David sinned, he demonstrated a godly sorrow. He did not justify his sin but acknowledged that it was God he had offended by his actions (Psalm 51:4). But in the case of King Saul, he manifested worldly sorrow when he, after acknowledging his sin, forced the prophet Samuel to still go with him that he may be honoured before the elders and people of Israel. He wanted to show publicly that he was still favoured by the Lord in spite of his sin (1 Samuel 15:30).
Clearly, it was not God’s plan for anyone to perish when he said, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32) As our creator and Father, he does have good plans for us just as our earthly fathers do. In fact he has better plans. Jesus himself explained it this way, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:9-11).
For us to be able to rid ourselves of all the offenses we committed, we need to have a new heart and a new spirit. Therefore, we have to be born again. It is only then that we can live a new life and be able to resist the temptations of sin. Let us always heed the warnings of the Lord. If we keep a stubborn heart, nobody else will suffer but us. This was the condition of Judas when, in spite of the rebuke of the Lord Jesus, he continued on his reckless path and betrayed Jesus. Jesus warned that it would have been better if the betrayer had not been born than to betray the Son of Man (Matt. 26:23-25). Therefore, let us live holy and blameless lives, befitting of a Christian, so as not to betray the Lord Jesus Christ and thus suffer the consequence. Let us repent so that sin will not be our downfall. Amen.