Rhema Grace June 2016

Note: This devotional is rather lengthy and involved compared to my usual writings. It is not one that can be read and captured in one sitting. Do not be overwhelmed by it, but allow Holy Spirit to work His within you at His pace. As you do, I am in agreement with you that Christ’  likeness , life and liberty will be accomplished within you for your benefit in your walk with Christ and to His glory.
This Devotional is based on Ezekiel 37:1-14. To get the complete picture of the subject of this devotional I highly recommend placing your bible before you and following along with each scripture.  It is a very familiar portion of Scripture and can easily be the focus of teaching and preaching.  The most popular subject that is taught and preached from this vision is that the nation of Israel and the Church need a revival.  It most certainly is true and a correct interpretation.  This Devotional supports that interpretation.

As I was meditating upon Ezekiel’s vision, my attention was brought to three stages of which we could label as Likeness, Life, and Liberty.  Before I expound on each of these three words, we must understand and see with our spirit the initial conditions and circumstances of what Ezekiel saw. Read verses 1 and 2 and you can see in your mind’s eye a valley that was covered with very many, very dry bones.  God was revealing a clear picture of spiritual death.  I personally believe that Ezekiel experienced for several moments this portion of his vision.  It was not a brief glimpse, but a lengthy revelation of a place with no life. This sobering glare at lifeless bones was interrupted with a question from God Himself, “Can these bones live?”  After contemplating his reply, Ezekiel fearfully answers, “Oh Lord God, only You know.”  Remember that Ezekiel to this point had already received many revelations from God and his relationship with God was personal and strong; but even he was struck by the sobering conditions of these very many, very dry bones, he realized there was only one way these bones would live and it would have to be God’s doing.

Read Verses 4-8.  What a sight to behold!  Realistically, it is easier for this generation to picture this part of Ezekiel’s vision because of the amazing visual effects we have before our eyes today in television and movies.  The ability to make the supernatural become real through computer technology is unmatched in any other age of the past.  From Avatar to Star Wars, our imagination is filled with an unseen world that comes alive before us.  We thus can see dry bones rattling and shaking, forming complete skeletons, receiving muscles, flesh and skin, and become bodies before our very eyes, but understand this vision was seen through the power of God and not through the digital imaging of man.

Even though this was just a vision, I can imagine Ezekiel’s heart pounding as he watched this transition unfold before him.  The emotions were running rampant within him knowing God was honoring His promise and bringing dry bones to life; but the last words of Verse 8 says, “There was no breath in them.”  This is the likeness of life, but not life.  There are many today who look like they are alive, but it is only likeness and there is no breath.  Religion can look good, but there is no breath, life, or spirit.

There are two types of likeness.  There is likeness with no life and there is likeness with life.  The likeness with no life is lacking breath.  The breath is Holy Spirit.  Religion can look good.  Good works can look like Christianity.  But if Holy Spirit is not in it, there is no life.
We can live as pretenders and look good on the outside, but inside we are dead without Christ.  Here is how Jesus described likeness without life:  “You are like tombs that have been whitewashed, which look beautiful on the outside, but inside full of dead men’s bones and everything impure.   You outwardly seem to be people just and upright, but inside you are full   of iniquity” (Matthew 23:27-28).  This is a dangerous state to be in.  Holy Spirit can convict the vilest sinner easier than He can convince someone who thinks they are spiritually alive, but they are not.

The second kind of likeness is the God-Kind of likeness and we see it in creation.  Genesis 1:26-27, God said, “Let us make man in Our image and after Our likeness.  So God created man in His image and likeness.”  He did not create robotic, emotionless, choice-less robots, but He created us to be like Him so we would choose to fellowship with Him.  But sin blurred our likeness of Him.  The reflection that we were to be of God was distorted like a carnival mirror.  The resemblance that we were created to be was cloudy and smoky.  What could possibly, miraculously restore that image and likeness?

Philippians 2:7,8 answers that question.  “Jesus made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men.  Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, the death of the cross.”  God made man in His likeness.  Sin distorted that likeness.  So God, in the form of Christ became like man, died on a cross and restored our likeness of Him once again.  This is the only path from our own efforts of being like Him to truly being like Him.  Colossians 3:10 – “Put on the new man which was renewed after the likeness of Him that created it.”  Ephesians 4:22-24 says to put off the old man that is not like God at all, be renewed by the Holy Spirit, and put on the new man that not only looks like God, but lives like God desires us to live.

This brings us from likeness to life.  Jesus is Life.  Holy Spirit manifests the life of Christ within us.  This is Stage Two of Ezekiel’s vision.             Ezekiel 37:9,10.  The breath of God came into the lifeless bodies and they lived.  As we spiritually receive the breath of God, the finished work of Christ is received in our spirit and Jesus, Who is the Resurrection and the Life, manifests His life within us.  Until the breath of God enters us, we may be able to walk on our own, but without Him, we are the walking dead and will never experience life.  Not only did they come to life, but they stood up.  When Holy Spirit breathes like a wind through us, it will bring us back to our feet.  We cannot stand in our own power, but Holy Spirit will strengthen our spiritual legs and cause us to stand once again. Whatever has caused you to fall in life, whatever has brought you to your knees, know the wind of Holy Spirit and grace is blowing and will cause you to stand.  Hear what the Spirit of the Lord is saying to this point of Ezekiel’s vision.  God will bring life to dry bones.  Whatever has caused you to be spiritually dry and lifeless will be overcome by the breath of God if you will surrender to Him.  Don’t underestimate the restoring ability of God.

Many times I have witnessed people reach rock bottom before the restoring power of God was able to do His work because it was in the valley they finally came to the point of full surrender.

Understand that I am not saying you have to reach the lowest point, but wherever you are now, whether it be dry bones or a lifeless body, the wind of God will breathe upon you, cause you to live, and stand you up.  Allow God to bring you into His likeness and life.

Note the word “slain” in Verse 9.  What a strong word that is to describe the lifeless condition of the bones.  The word slain means “to destroy with a deadly intent.”  This definition leads us to Jesus’ words in John 10:10 Amp.  His words are very clear concerning the intent of our enemy.  “The thief comes only in order to steal, and kill and destroy.”  In essence, He desires  to slay us.  I know these are strong words, but nevertheless we must understand this is the enemy’s purpose, so we cannot give any place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27).  Please note as well that these words were not meant to cause you to fear the enemy, but simply be aware of his intentions.  Thankfully, Jesus completes this Scripture with these words:  “I came that they (you) might have and enjoy life and have it in abundance, to the full, until it overflows.”  This life comes to build a barrier against the enemy.  Isaiah 59:19 gives this promise to those who reverentially fear the Lord: “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him and put him to flight, for the Spirit will come like a rushing stream which the breath of the Lord drives.”
When the dry bones became lifeless bodies, there was still a vulnerability to the enemy; but when the breath came into them, they stood up as an exceeding great army.  Let us call out to dry bones to come alive and receive the breath of God and rise up as an army full of life and power.
Now one more step in this vision needs to be recognized and it is one that the Church as a whole needs to experience as well.  There are many individuals that make up the Church and many of those individuals have experienced likeness and life, but not yet experienced another place He has provided for them.   We have ventured from likeness to life and now we delve into the subject of liberty.
When reading Verse 10, in my own mind, it seems that it should be the end of the vision.  Dry bones received flesh, then receive breath, live, stand up as a great army.  End of story.

But it’s not the end of the story.  There are four more extremely important verses.  And here is why.

Read Verse 11.  God is telling Ezekiel that despite all that has taken place and the dry bones becoming a great army, there will still be some that say they are still dry, have no hope, and are cut off from God.  In other words, they say they are still dry, dead, and divided.  Despite all that God has done, they still speak dull dreary words of death and despair.  This may be difficult for some to understand and others may debate this statement, but there are true believers in the Body of Christ that have received Christ and have eternal life, yet still speak words that contain no life.

Before I move on, I understand the despair and despondency living on this earth can bring.  I have spoken with many people that have faced extremely difficult challenges in life.  I understand that having Holy Spirit in us, and experiencing the life of Christ, and standing upon His Word, and being a soldier in His great army does not prohibit us from trials and tribulations in this life.  In fact, Paul, James, and Peter discuss often the sufferings and trials believers will experience.  But just because we are experiencing these challenges does not mean that we are dry, dead, and cut off from God.  In fact, many times it will indicate that we are closer to Him than we have ever been.

The continuation of Ezekiel’s vision is written to us today that we would receive the Liberty He has given us from allowing the challenges in life to remove us from our position in Him.  Twice in Ezekiel 37:12,13, God addresses “Oh My people.”  That is us, the Church, those that have received life.  In Verse 12, God continually says “I will” and in Verse 13, it says “When I have.”  This indicates His promise is true and will come to pass in the lives of His people.

What is the promise?  To bring us out of our graves.  How can this be?  Verse 10 says I have breath, life, stamina, and I am in God’s army.  How can I still be in a grave?  Many believers have been born again and Christ is their life, but are still living in graves.  It is difficult to expound on what the grave could be because it can be many things.  One way to describe a grave would be anything that would prevent us from moving forward in our relationship with God.

If there is no growth or maturing in faith, then it could be a grave situation.  If there is a constant battle in the same issue in your life over and over again, it could be a grave.  I can mention grave issues such as being neglected, rejected, used, abused, afflicted, addicted, distressed, oppressed, victimized, violated, experiencing guilt and shame, feeling worthless and meaningless.  All of these issues can prevent us from living in liberty.

Let me mention once again, in no way am I saying this to anyone in a degrading and condemning way.  Every one of us have felt these emotions in our lives, but there is a liberty that Christ has provided for us that we need not dwell in bondage to these things.  God desires us to live free of these bondages.

Luke 4:18 confirms this liberty as Christ says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”

This is not His mission just at the point we are born again, but throughout our life here on earth after being born again.  He is describing a life that should not live in the confines of the grave.  Every detail of His mission in Verse 18 indicates liberty.  The finished work of the cross includes freedom from sickness, being brokenhearted, living in bondage to the enemy, being spiritually or physically blind, and living a bruised, crushed life.

Here is another perspective of Luke 4:18.  God would have you to be moved from being neglected and rejected to accepted; from used and abused to cherished; from affliction and addiction to liberated; from distressed and oppressed to calm and comforted; from victimized and violated to being victorious; from blame and shame to guiltless; from feeling worthless and meaningless to knowing you are priceless.  In Luke 4:18, Jesus was actually reading from Isaiah 61:1.  Isaiah 61:3 speaks of these transitions into liberty – “Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

God spoke through Ezekiel, “I will” but now we live in the day that Jesus “already has.”  In Luke 4:21, Jesus said, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”  He was speaking and prophesying that  liberty for all of mankind is found in Him.  That liberty was completed in Him when He sacrificed His life on the cross and said “It is finished.”  He was saying the mission that you heard with your ears in Luke 4 has  been made available to everyone, but we must allow the “Spirit of the Lord that was upon Him” to manifest it within us. I suppose we could use the analogy to take a deep breath spiritually and let Him manifest life and liberty to us.

I received the following word recently from someone that was in their prayer closet and they heard:

” We receive life when we are saved , but we must go beyond that into liberty. The Lord has so much more for us. I have heard that it is good for a body if we breathe deeply. I notice at times, when I concentrate on my breathing, that I don’t take deep breaths when I breathe normally. A lot of people are shallow breathers. Think of that spiritually. God has so much more for us than we are receiving or breathing. He wants to give us life (the breath we receive at salvation) and life more abundantly (liberty and freedom).  We are breathing the breath He has given us , but are we breathing the abundance that He has for us? Are we shallow breathers or deep breathers? It seems to me it is our choice how we breathe spiritually. Are we satisfied to breathe the breath of salvation or do we choose to breathe the deeper breaths of abundance?”

So your response may be that you are experiencing areas of confinement in your life.  You know you are created in the likeness of God and Jesus is your life, but there is still a grave-like feeling around you.  What do you do?  First recognize that the finished work of Christ on the cross has set you free.  Whom the Son has set free is free indeed.  Take those breaths of saving grace. Secondly, examine your words and do not speak over yourself or to anyone else that you are dry, dead, or divided.  You are anointed, alive and made whole and complete in Christ.  No matter what the circumstances, you are redeemed.  Most of you can already surmise what the next step is.  Yes, surrender.  Surrender your life to the Lord.  Every day.  When we surrender, it is then that He will do His good work in and through us.

If you feel like dry bones, surrender.  If you feel like you have been living like a Christian but there has been no life, surrender.  If you feel like you have been living in a grave, surrender. Take the deep breaths of liberty that the Lord has ready for you.

Ezekiel 37:14 explains what God will do with a surrendered vessel.  “I shall put My Spirit in you.”  He will fill us to overflowing with Holy Spirit, but we must surrender the other meaningless things to Him.  He cannot fill a vessel with His Spirit that has no room for Him.  The emptier we become, the more He can fill us.  “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”  God said “I will bring life to you.”  He doesn’t just give us life, but He is Life.  Surrender your life to Him and He will be your life and He will bring you into liberty.

“I shall place you in your own land.”  This is all about knowing our identity in Christ and our rightful position.  If we are in a grave, we are not in our rightful position.  “We are to be seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  Surrender your chair that is in the grave to Him and have a seat with Him as a citizen of His Kingdom.

“Then shall you know I the Lord have spoken it and performed it.”  When we surrender ourselves to His likeness, life, and liberty, we must always, and I mean always, give Him the glory and the praise for He is the One Who has spoken our existence and life into being and sustains us every day. He is the reason we are not dry, dead and divided.

As always, search your heart and set yourself to live in the likeness, life and liberty Christ has provided. Romans 8:15-17, “For we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but we have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

What a joy it is to be His and free indeed.                  Pastor Wes