By Kevin Shrum
Pastor, Inglewood Baptist Church, Nashville
In 1898 Priscilla Jane Owens wrote a song that would become famous and well used in the Church. The first title of the song was, “We Have Heard the Joyful Sound.” Later it became better known by a phrase out of the chorus line of the song, “Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves.”
Owens initially wrote the song for the Scottish Sunday School Mission Anniversary meeting in 1898. She would never have dreamed it would become a standard hymn for the Church. Owens’ song reminds us that God is a saving God. We need to be reminded of this just as Ezekiel was reminded of it some 2600+ years ago.
Called Out, 11:2-4
Before God saves, He convicts of sin. God called out Ezekiel to call out the false prophets who were preaching falsehoods. These were men who “plot evil and give wicked advice to the city,” verse 2. These false prophets were preaching that God’s judgment would not last and that things would soon return to normalcy. The direction God gave to Ezekiel is clear, “Prophesy against them,” verse 4.
Much of what is missing from modern day preaching is a sense of conviction. We are not the Holy Spirit nor are we to be deliberately offensive. However, the gospel carries within it a convicting power that must precede conversion.
God calls us to clearly preach so that by means of the Word and the Spirit the sinner falls under conviction, sees their need for Jesus and repents of sin, trusting Christ as Savior and Lord. Conviction of sin precedes salvation.
Was there hope for God’s people? Is there hope for us? Is the only message from God negative? No! God reminded Ezekiel that the convicting message against sin was followed by a message of hope that God would gather His chastened people.
Just as the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, Jonah 3:1, the “word of the Lord came to me again,” Ezekiel 11:14. God’s first word against sin is not His last word.
God reminded Ezekiel that His people would redeem their property, verse 15. Further, God promised that He would be a “sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone,” verse 16. Finally, God promised Ezekiel He would regather His people, verse 17. Sin had scattered them. Now, God would gather them again guided by His presence and protection.
The conviction of sin that scatters us and the mercy of God that gathers us is only the beginning of God’s work in us.
Salvation sets us on the road to sanctification or discipleship.
God reminded Ezekiel that when God’s people were regathered “they will remove all its vile images and detestable idols,” verse 18 (NIV). Further, God said He would “give them integrity of heart and put a new spirit within them,” verse 19.
The heart surgery Israel needed was the removal of a “heart of stone,” verse 19, a heart descriptive of their sinfulness, replaced with a “heart of flesh,” verse 19, descriptive of a new heart, a heart made alive by God.
As a result, God’s people would follow His precepts and purposes. We must remember: God convicts, God saves, God sanctifies, echoing Owens, “Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves.” B&R — Shrum is pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church, Nashville and is a past president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.