We have entered the Lenten season.
We have passed the time of the Carnival.
But the effect of the Carnival is still with us.
We usually think of a carnival as a large party with a great amount of entertainment.
But the meaning of the word "carnival" doesn't really have anything to do with the celebrations people participate in prior to Lent, for it literally means "to leave off meat or flesh."
And many people have not eaten meat during the Lenten season.
Why do you think this is?
It's because there is an acknowledgment of the fact that for flesh to appear upon our plates, an animal had to suffer and die, and it wasn't deemed proper to worship the suffering and dying Jesus Christ, while causing another of God's creatures to suffer and die.
And if it's not proper to do this for Lent, then it's not proper to do this any other time of the year, either.
Just some "food" for thought...
But today I would like for us to look at this meaning in a much more spiritual manner: that during this season, we would see our own fleshly ways of life and leave them off.
But the change should not be only for the 40 days of Lent, but for all the days of our lives.
Once the Word of God has entered us, we should be different, just as our preparation verse for this morning, Hebrews 4:12, tells us:
12. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Once we hear the word of God, we are no longer able to excuse away our behavior.
We can no longer refuse to read our Bibles in order to try to justify our ignorance, for the intent of our hearts has been exposed to us, as it has always been open for God to see, as we are told in the next verse.
13. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
We are without excuse.
We are to give up our fleshly ways for the rest of our lives.
In Luke 16:14-15, listen to part of what God told the Pharisees, who considered themselves to be the keepers of God's word:
14. Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him.
15. And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
Unfortunately, there have always been people in the synagogues and churches who scoff at God through their behavior.
They live in the flesh, saying to themselves, "If it feels good, it must be good," when in fact, nothing is further from the truth.
The prophet Ezekiel lived in the days of the captivity of Judah in Babylon.
Look at what the Lord showed him about the remnant still living in Jerusalem, before it was finally destroyed, and listen to the conversation that took place (Ezekiel 11:1-13):
1. Moreover, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the east gate of the Lord's house which faced eastward. And behold, there were twenty-five men at the entrance of the gate, and among them I saw Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah, leaders of the people.
2. And He said to me, "Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity and give evil advice in this city,
3. who say, 'Is not the time near to build houses? This city is the pot and we are the flesh.'
They never repented of their evil ways, nor had they prayed for God to forgive their people.
They never outwardly acknowledged the true cause of the destruction that had befallen them.
They were living in the flesh, and they sought only that which satisfied their fleshly ways.
4. "Therefore, prophesy against them, son of man, prophesy!"
Now comes the sharp, two-edged sword of the word of God that will convict people to the very core of their existence and leave them without excuse:
5. Then the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and He said to me, "Say, 'Thus says the Lord, "So you think, house of Israel, for I know your thoughts.
6. "You have multiplied your slain in this city, filling its streets with them."
7. 'Therefore, thus says the Lord God, "Your slain whom you have laid in the midst of the city are the flesh, and this city is the pot; but I shall bring you out of it.
8. "You have feared a sword; so I will bring a sword upon you, the Lord God declares.
9. "And I shall bring you out of the midst of the city, and I shall deliver you into the hands of strangers and execute judgments against you.
10. "You will fall by the sword. I shall judge you to the border of Israel; so you shall know that I am the Lord.
11. "This city will not be a pot for you, nor will you be flesh in the midst of it, but I shall judge you to the border of Israel.
12. "Thus you will know that I am the Lord; for you have not walked in My statutes nor have you executed My ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations around you. " ' "
Can you feel the pain in the Lord's heart caused by the wayward acts of His children?
I pray you can, for without such awareness, without such sensitivity, we are without true love.
And without true love, we are lacking the ability to truly leave off the fleshly way of life.
It's our love of God that prevents us from hurting Him through our actions.
Listen to the intent of Ezekiel's heart, when part of his prophecy comes true:
13. Now it came about as I prophesied, that Pelatiah son of Benaiah died. Then I fell on my face and cried out with a loud voice and said, "Alas, Lord God! Wilt Thou bring the remnant of Israel to a complete end?"
Ezekiel had love for God and for all His people.
He knew how much God loved Pelatiah, and wanted him to repent and change into His own true child.
And He knew how much it hurt God to cause Pelatiah to die for the sake of His other children.
He also knew that most of God's other children weren't listening either, and in that heart-felt anguish, Ezekiel cries out to God, "Alas, Lord God! Wilt Thou bring the remnant of Israel to a complete end?"
I can personally feel for Ezekiel, for I had a similar experience, and cried out to God in a similar way.
More than 12 years ago, God gave me a vision while I was sitting in a church service.
He showed me an access way with a door, like the ones some people have on their houses, so that they can enter their basements from the outside.
But this door was open and looked very heavy, as if made out of very thick cast iron, and with heavy bolt locks.
In the vision the Lord took me over to the entrance, and at the bottom of the stairs were very many people, all crying out, but although I could not hear their words, I knew it was the entrance to hell.
The Lord reached His hand over and closed the door, and it locked in place; and I cried out, "Lord, all these people!"
Perhaps that's why I'm here, that at least some people will hear the word of God through me and be saved.
Luke tells us in Acts 5:1-11 about two church members who cheated God.
1. But a certain man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,
2. and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet.
3. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land?
4. "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God."
5. And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came upon all who heard of it.
To this very day, there are people who are cheating God in similar ways.
They cheat with their money, and they cheat with their way of life.
These people conspire together to cheat God, or use each other's behavior as empty excuses for not doing as the Lord desires them to do.
6. And the young men arose and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
7. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8. And Peter responded to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?" And she said, "Yes, that was the price."
9. Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they shall carry you out as well."
10. And she fell immediately at his feet, and breathed her last; and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.
Great fear should fall upon the whole church, today, too.
It should fall upon those who cheat God directly, and it should fall upon others, that many of our families and friends may not end up this way, apart from God.
Is your heart filled with anguish over the loss of a single soul?
Then resolve in you heart to do something about it.
It's time to see the judgment of God upon many members of the Church.
It's time to lead them in the ways of God.
It's time to leave off the flesh.
Itís time we return to Calvary.
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