In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 18, the prophet Ezekiel shares a message from God regarding the truth of God's justice and the call to righteous living. Using several examples, God's message communicates that each of us are responsible for the choices that we make in this life and that God is the ultimate judge of our actions.
There is no question that our choices have consequences. An alcoholic mother or father who allows that disease of alcoholism to rule in their lives will have a negative impact on the children that are raised in the home. In some cases, those children will grow up to be alcoholics. In other cases, they will recognize the damage caused by those choices and will have victory over it, choosing not to let it control their lives. A child that grows up in an abusive situation, whether emotionally, physically, or sexually, might have a tendency to choose similar actions as an adult and perhaps as a parent. On the other hand, they may recognize the potential and make purposeful steps toward preventing that from happening.
The choices of our parents, or those who raised us, do not have to be the determining factors of our own adult lives. God communicates this clearly through Ezekiel by saying several times that the person who chooses righteousness will live, but the person who chooses sin will surely die.
God asks, "Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live" (Ezekiel 18:23, NLT). There is a misconception about our Creator God as presented in the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament is seen as nothing more than a sword-wielding, lightning-striking God of wrath. The problem with this notion is that it doesn't line up with what we see God say right here, or in many other places through both Old and New Testament. God desires that the wicked would turn from their ways because God created us for the purpose of fellowship with Him. God created us with a desire to be IN communion. But, He created us with the ability to choose Him.
My wife and I have been married for almost eighteen years. Our marriage stems from a high school romance that carried on past our graduation until we chose one another for the rest of our lives. I chose her, and she chose me. Neither of us were forced into this relationship, and after eighteen years, I love her more than I did at the beginning. Every day I choose to love her. Every day I choose to be with her. Every day I choose to seek her, to know her better, to hear her heart, and to show her that I care.
This is what God desires of us. He desires that we would choose to be with Him.
While God doesn't desire to see us die, instead He desires that we would live and live eternally, there are consequences and are a part of life. I remember as a child having to deal with the consequences of my disobedience. My parents spanked me, and it was deserved and effective. I had made a choice that went against the rules they had for me or against the standards that they had set for me. The result of my choice was a consequence that hurt. I also remember as a child that when I would choose to be disobedient, the trust that had been established between me and my parents was lost, even if for only a while.
God speaks through Ezekiel and says that if a righteous person turns from their righteous ways and chooses sin, that they must deal with the consequences. Furthermore, God says that our righteousness from before is lost because of our decision to choose sin. (Ezekiel 18:24) In other words, when we are disorient to God, there is a breakdown in the relationship.
There is a call that comes from the heart of a holy, righteous, and loving God to the heart of man that says, "I don't want you to die!" God does not desire that we should perish. He desires that we should live. "Repent, and turn from your sins. Don't let them destroy you," God says in Ezekiel 18:30. God's cry to us is a cry unto holy and righteous living. The Enemy tries to tell us that what we have done or what we are doing is no big deal, but God says that it is. God says that darkness and light cannot coexist. God says that our sinful choices lead to death, but our pursuit of righteousness and the things of God lead to life.
Choose life! Choosing life means that every day you have to make the determined effort to choose to be obedient to God. Choose to be obedient to His commands and His direction for your life. Choose to seek Him and to know Him better, just like you would a spouse or a close friend (but more!). Choose righteousness. Choose holiness. Choose Jesus and declare to the world around you that "Jesus is Lord!" of your life. God says to put our rebellion behind us and find a new heart and a new spirit! What a future that is for us! What incredible victory we can have in Jesus' name!