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One of the greatest promises in Scripture is Jesus’ promise to build his church so that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). This promise gives us confidence as Christians and churches in Great Commission work.

The New Testament warns us, on the other hand, against confidence giving way to complacency. While Jesus has, for two thousand years, faithfully built his new covenant church, without the gates of Hades withstanding it, plenty of local churches, having caved to complacency, have faded into irrelevance. We see this as early as the first century, when Jesus, within a generation of his ministry, warned five churches in Asia Minor that, if they did not repent, he would remove their candlestick (Revelation 2–3). That is, if these churches did not repent of their complacency, he would remove their influence as churches.

The reality of this caution is illustrated in the text before us this morning (Ezekiel 10–11).

Chapter 10, a continuation of the vision of chapters 8–9, vividly portrays the glory of Yahweh leaving Jerusalem and its temple because of the people’s refusal to heed prophetic calls to repentance. For too long, Judah had placed its trust in vain idols. Yahweh had now left the temple and, eventually, the city itself, abandoning the city to the empty hope of its idols.

In 11:1–13 we discover the reason that the people had forsaken Yahweh in favour of idols. The city elders had been plotting evil by offering godless counsel. They were saying, “The time is not near to build houses. This city is the cauldron, and we are the meat.” Where Jeremiah had advised the people to settle in Babylon and build houses (Jeremiah 29:5), the elders had openly rejected God’s truth by contradicting Jeremiah’s word. It was not, in fact, time to build houses, they said. God would still come through to deliver his people.

The language of cauldron and pot was intended, it appears, to highlight the value of those remaining in Jerusalem. When cooking, the best meat goes into the pot. The useless stuff doesn’t make it into the pot. Those who had already been removed from Jerusalem were the offal, while the brave souls remaining in the city were those of true value in Yahweh’s eyes. Of course, all of this completely contradicted God’s revealed will, which only invited greater wrath. Yahweh therefore reiterated his intention to punish the people remaining in Jerusalem.

Like the churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 2–3), the survivors in Jerusalem had persisted in unbelief and unrepentance. Their influence would therefore be removed. But all hope was not lost. Yahweh had his remnant and would remain faithful to that remnant (11:14–25). Complacency would be the downfall of the Jerusalem survivors, but Yahweh’s faithful people in exile could be confident of Yahweh’s covenant promises to them.

While there is no place for complacency in the church of Jesus Christ, we must not allow ourselves to lose full confidence in God’s promises of ultimate victory. The gospel will prevail, even if the complacent lose out on the blessing of being a part of that.

Of course, the principle applies individually as it does corporately. Every Christian has the inviolable promise of ultimate glorification and Christlikeness. But God may allow his chastening hand to befall complacent believers.

As an example of this principle, take Paul’s warnings in 1 Corinthians 11 to those who fail to appropriately discern the Lord’s body (1 Corinthians 11:27–30).

To eat and drink in “an unworthy manner” is defined there as doing so “without discerning the body.” “The body,” in context, refers to the church. In other words, because some Corinthian Christians had grown complacent in their attitude toward the church, they were eating and drinking judgement on themselves. The promise of final glorification had not been voided, but their complacency invited chastening in their lives. They were better off not partaking of the Lord’s Supper than partaking with a blasé attitude toward the church.

Both as a church and as individual members of the church, we must allow this text to caution us against complacency. God’s promises will never be voided, but our complacency may well negate our blessed part in those promises. As you meditate on Ezekiel 11–12 this morning, ask God to guard you against the sin of complacency so that you can enjoy the full benefit of his blessed promises in your life.