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Personal Accountability to God

(Ezekiel 18:1-4, 20, 21, 25-32)

Lesson 12 -- fourth quarter 2002
November 17, 2002

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2002, Christian Light Publications


The pretend boat (a bottle, actually) had become lodged in some extra long grass extending from the bank of the ditch. Lacking a stick to liberate our vessel, I carefully threw some rocks toward the "boat." I had no intention of hitting the bottle because that would destroy our toy and create litter. I wanted to create waves that were vigorous enough to dislodge the bottle. Before long I succeeded in using a rock to move the "boat" without actually striking it with the rock.

Sometimes I am like the bottle. The lives of others -- their actions, words, thoughts, choices, values -- reach out from a distance, exerting their influence on me, helping me move in some specific direction. These people do not control me, but they influence me. In fact, some of them I have never met; nevertheless, the waves and ripplets of their lives stir my boat.

Other times I am like the rock. My life touches the lives of others in an impersonal sort of way, for we have never met. That "contact" may be through individuals who have been shaped to some degree by my direct influence: my children or my students. Or those ripples might be my writings or my verbal messages preserved on tape. I have absolutely no control over these folks, but the influence of my life on theirs should not be doubted.

Now let's go back to the ditch. Suppose someone didn't want that bottle to be moved by the waves from those rocks I was throwing. What could they do about it (besides taking the bottle out of the water)? I imagine the best option would be to set up a barrier to block the waves, to keep them from stirring and dislodging my "boat."

The same is true in our lives. We cannot do anything about the influence coming from the lives of others, especially if they are removed by distance and time. However, we can establish certain "barriers" that will serve to protect us from the ripples emanating from their lives.

The illustration has its flaws, but don't let that blind you to its truths! God holds us each accountable for the choices we make . . . and for the influences we allow unhindered in our lives. He also brings us into account for the influences we exert in the lives of others.

Why change?

I have met people who have sinned so grievously or for so long that they have no expectation of ever being able to be redeemed. They figure their past is just too stained and too messed up. They are resigned to the godless life they have. They know they live under a death sentence and assume nothing will change that. But God offers both a reason and a hope for change! Listen to Ezekiel 18:21 -- "But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die."

Other people baffle me in their changes: They retire from righteousness. Maybe they think they have "been good" long enough and have established sufficient credit to carry them through. But God says "When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die" (Ezekiel 18:26).

So choose your changes carefully and wisely!

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