“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:30-32)
How To Return To God
The mercy and grace of the Lord have always come from His benevolent spirit of seeking penitent hearts from sorrowful men. Even as the Jews languished in captivity, the Lord begged His people to return to Him with a full heart. They had tried to blame their fathers for their plight with a parable suggesting the fathers had eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth were set on edge. God rejected this excuse reminding the people they were responsible for their sins and no blame could be given to others. Salvation came from a heart of repentance. If an evil man turned from his way to keep the will of the Lord, he would be saved. The soul who sins dies. Sons do not bear the sins of their fathers and fathers do not bear the sins of their sons.
Seeking the Lord through forgiveness requires a willing heart to acknowledge wrong. Repentance is not an excuse to accept sin as common but a God-directed remorse and broken spirit that sees the putridity of how sin separates man from God. The first word of the gospel has always been to repent. Ezekiel implores the people to change their hearts and turn back to the Lord. This requires full repentance of turning away from all of their sins. God will not accept a half-hearted attempt to repent. He demands a full and demonstrable action of a contrite heart and broken spirit worthy of His love and grace. Ezekiel tells the people to turn from all of their transgressions so their sins will not destroy them. Until the day comes that a full release is given, sin remains and the temptation remains.
Repentance is found in casting away and putting the spirit of rebellion away from the heart. Sin is rebellion. It exalts itself against God demanding the appeasement of selfish desires apart from the will of the Father. Sin must be cast away. No man can carry a cross of Jesus Christ and carry the baggage of a sinful life. The two are never compatible. Putting rebellion behind is to take every effort to eliminate the sources of temptation and sin. This shows the heart is diligent in removing the stains of a sinful life so that one can approach the Lord with righteousness. When sin is removed then a new heart and a new spirit are created. David had prayed for a new heart when he begged the Lord to forgive him for his sin with Bathsheba. Jesus taught His disciples the Father is seeking those who have desired the mercy of God. Sacrifices were a part of worship but it was the heart turned away from sin that was desired by the Lord.
Finding a new heart and a new spirit requires taking sin away and turning to God. The Lord has no desire that anyone perishes, suffer eternally, or face His wrath. There is a reality of the wrath of God that will fall upon most men but this is not the purpose God created humanity. Ezekiel cries out to the people to know that God is sorrowful over their rebellion and had no desire to send the Babylonians against them but because of their sin and rebellion the Lord had no choice. God takes no pleasure in the death of one who dies. His eternal desire is for all men to repent. It is incredible to see the grace of God extended to rebellious men who if they repent and turn from all their transgressions, He is willing and able to forgive them. All prodigals have a home to come back to and a Father who loves them still if they would but return. Amazing.