Daniel 9, pt 1 God of All Nations: A Model Prayer

Daniel 9, pt 1

God of All Nations

A Model Prayer

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me, if you would and turn to Daniel chapter 9. If you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

Daniel chapter 9 is an important chapter. It is a chapter that it is almost impossible to read without bringing preconceived ideas and assumptions into it. The last 4-8 verses are some of the most complicated, debated and unclear verses in all the Bible. No matter where you fall in what those last few verses mean, most commentators agree that these are amongst the most complex verses.

And yet, before those verses, we have an amazing number of verses. The first 19 verses of this chapter get almost no recognition or love. They often get passed over or ignored in favor of those last few, but they are full of rich, deep, theological and encouraging content.

So, we are going to make sure that we don’t pass over them or ignore them, but see what Daniel and God have for us to hear. So, we will start with Daniel chapter 9, verses 1 & 2. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I greatly encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel chapter 9, verses 1 & 2, Daniel records:

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Word.

 

So, we remember that the first 6 chapters of Daniel were a history of him and some friends in exile in Babylon, a history that spanned close to 70 years. As we started the second half of the book, we have gone back In time to revisit or visit for the first time, chunks of that 70 years where Daniel had a vision form God, or a dream, or an appearance by an angel. And we are going through and looking at those sections.

So today, with chapter 9, we pick up at the same time as Daniel chapter 6. We are in the first year of King Darius’ rule in Babylon, the first year of the rule of the Meads and Persians. And Daniel is going to lay out a prayer that should be the envy of all of us and that we should all strive to emulate. That prayer is likely where we will spend the most time, but that prayer is not where we start, and it won’t be where we end. It is however what sets the context for everything else we talk about.

One of the first things we see here, other than the date, is that Daniel reads scripture. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but it may be a surprise to know what he considered scripture.

Jeremiah was a prophet who ministered from 626 BC till 587 BC. As a frame of reference, David was brought from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 BC and the Babylon fell to the Meads and Persians in 539 BC, which is when this is taking place.

And so, Jeremiah was not long established in Jewish history as a prophet of God. Instead, he was much closer to a contemporary of Daniel. We have already established throughout this series that Daniel had the Holy Spirit working in and through him. HE was real. And the phrase used today is Real Recognizes Real.

Daniel recognized that Jeremiahs prophecies were truly a word from God. They were scripture. Those who are going to be a part of scripture often can recognize scripture as it is being written.

We saw this in the New Testament as well. In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter says that Paul’s writings are scripture as well. The internal testimony of Scripture is one of our biggest reasons to trust what the scriptures say and to know that they are in fact, God breathed and inerrant.

So, Daniel recognized Jeremiah as a prophet, oh ya! Who was speaking the Word of God. And he saw in Jeremiahs writings that Jerusalem would be desolate for 70 years.

There are two specific texts in Jeremiah that speak to this. Ill read both of them to you. First is Jeremiah 25:11 & 12, which reads:  This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.

 

And then the context for one of them most famous bible verses, Jeremiah 29:10, in which God declares:  “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

 

Now, we remember that often times, the dates and numbers of prophecies are not meant to be taken completely literally. Sometimes they are round numbers, close to actual numbers, sometimes the are symbolic based on what the numbers represent. And sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above.

If the 70 years of exile started in 605, when Daniel was taken of out Jerusalem and brought into Babylon, (there’s no consensus that this IS when it starts, btw,) then Daniel would have been reading this text and praying the prayer we are about to look at in 539, then 66 years would have already passed. And the point of that is that Daniel new that the point where God was going to restore Jerusalem was somewhat close at hand.

He knew what God had promised. He knew it was going to happen. He knew a general timeframe. There was no doubt. And he would have started to see some of those promises begin to be fulfilled. The Babylonians were defeated. The time was nigh.

One of the common troubles, or temptations that we face as Christians is trying to maintain the balance of knowing and acknowledging that God is completely sovereign and his will will be done no matter what and that tendency and temptation to use that as an excuse or reason to not act.

But we see and hopefully have experienced that reading Gods Word will prompt us to prayer. Seeing Gods promises should prompt us to pray. Yes, even praying for him to fulfill the very promises that we know he will fulfill. As we see those promises start to be fulfilled, as Daniel did, that should not prompt us to relax our prayers, but should increase our urgency to pray.

And so, next we will look at Daniels prayer. This is, in all likelihood, not the prayer that we see that Daniel prayed in Daniel chapter 6. But this was in that same time frame, the first year of King Darius, and it was likely the same type of prayer, maybe the same subject content.

Daniels prayer is recorded in Daniel 9:3-19:

 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us,[a] by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,[b] make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

 

 

What a prayer! Gods foreknowledge and his predestination, other words for his complete sovereignty are shown by Daniel throughout this prayer. And though God has everything already figured out and determined, Daniel doesn’t sit back, instead he devotes himself to prayer. One commentator says it that Gods sovereign purposes should spark us to act, in both prayer and action. I love how Sinclair Ferguson notes that our prayers in this situation should often sound like kids talking to their parents, continually reminding the parents of what they never forgot, “You promised!”

 

 

Daniel turns his face to the LORD, and he seeks him by prayer. He pleads with the LORD. We are reminded by the prayers in the Bible, that prayers are us talking to God, prayer is not God talking to us. Hebrews 1:1 reminds us that there is only one way that God talks to us today and that is through his Word, the testimony of Jesus Christ who is the Word. This prayer from Daniel is him seeking and glorifying God.

All true prayer should first and foremost seek to magnify God and to humble oneself. That last part is one of the reasons why we see fasting, and sackcloth and ashes are so intertwined with prayer in the scriptures. They are partly to humble us as we go before God. Another part of that is that fasting eliminates distractions and helps us to focus on God much more clearly. It reminds us that our dependence is on God and nothing else.

Daniel has four parts to this prayer. And that’s not saying that all of our prayers need to follow this preset formula or anything like that, but its good to see some of the parts of biblical prayers so that we can utilize them on our own personal prayer life.

These four parts include worship, confession of sin, both individual and corporate, the justice of God and the judgment of sin, and finally, a plea for Gods mercy on our sin.

Prayer needs to start always with confession. Again, this is not referring to a legalistic format that prayer needs to take, but at our heart prayer needs to have as its basis two things. First, we need to recognize Gods, “Godness.” And second, we need to see the covenantal nature of our relationship with God.

When we see these two things in reality, we must see the true nature of our sins. Daniel says, we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have rebelled, we have turned aside from your commands. All different ways of saying the same thing. We sinned.

But God is a perfect and holy God. God has not sinned. He has only loved. He has given us his commands and he has shown us His ways. And in response to him, we have all sinned and only sinned always. Daniel says, we have not listened to your prophets, we have not listened your Word. We have not listened to what you have already told us.

In verse 7, Daniel compares Gods righteousness with our own righteousness. We should be ashamed of our sin. Our sins, the sins of our past are directly responsible for present and our troubles. We are responsible for the consequences of our sins.           Judah and Israel were in exile, Judah here in Babylon, punished because of their sin and turning their back on God and His Word.

 

And yet, just like salvation belongs to the LORD, so do mercy and forgiveness belong to the LORD. We have rebelled, no. We need to call it what it is. We have sinned. All of us. And so, because we have sinned, we are in need of Gods mercy and forgiveness.

Verse 11 reminds us that ALL Israel transgressed, or sinned. Just as Paul tells us in Romans 3, that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. WE all have sinned, and we have all made the conscious choice to sin. And we have all suppressed that truth in our unrighteousness.

Gods wrath and justice are poured out on those who deserve it. Those who have sinned against the Holy God. None of us are worthy of mercy and forgiveness. None of us are innocent. We will revisit that later on.

 

One of the things that Daniel does here that I think is a good habit to get into, is praying scripture back to God. We confirm his word and help us to remember what he has already told us.

 

It is important to remember that it is not our suffering that grants us favor with God. The previously mentioned fasting and sackcloth and ashes do not grant us favor with God or make us more holy. Israel and Judah’s exile and the troubles they were going through in said exile did not grant them favor with God.

What does grant us favor with God is God himself. When we repent of our sins and believe in the truth of Gods Word, meaning the witness of his Son Jesus Christ) that is a gift from God as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2. Gods grace poured out and delivered through faith in Christ.

So, suffering does not grant us favor with God, but suffering does often lead us to the recognition that we need Gods grace and forgiveness and we need to repent. We look around at our lives, at our actions, at our hearts, and at the people and the world around us and we see sin. We see the consequences, the brokenness of our lives and of this world and we see the need to repent and put our trust and faith in someone bigger, greater and stronger than ourselves.

 

In verse 14, Daniel prays what just might be the key verse in all the Bible. He says “the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice” If you take nothing else away from my sermon this morning, remember that verse. It is the basis of everything.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

 

In verses 16-19, as Daniel gets to the end of what we see recorded of his prayer, we see that Daniel is praying for justified wrath and justice that he is pouring out on those who deserve it, he is praying that God turns that into mercy. He is praying for the liberation of and the return to Jerusalem. He has already been told that it will happen.

Verse 18 Daniel again clarifies that we petition, or ask these things of God, not because we are owed anything or because we have earned anything, it is not of our righteousness. No, it is Gods righteousness. IT is Gods Mercy. It is Gods grace and his holy character, his promises that we base our petitions to Him on.

In verse 19, we see the key point that all things are done to Gods glory. Daniel prays that all of Gods actions, Him hearing us, Him seeing everything, Him forgiving, all of it, Do it LORD because of and for your glory.

Sinclair Ferguson tells us that “Daniels ultimate motive for prayer was the glory of God because it was his great motive for living. Daniel clearly saw the need of the people. His praying was clearly people oriented, but it was God centered. The bottom line of his heart cry was “Save your people, LORD, for your own sake,”

That’s where we are going to leave off this morning, looking at Daniels prayer to God. Next week we will look at Gods response to Daniels prayer. Again, a complicated and confusing section. We wont all agree, but we will all love each other and unite under the cross of Jesus Christ.

Israel’s exile would end, but their rebellious heart would continue. All of our rebellious hearts continued. It is only the Holy Spirit rewriting our hearts, Jesus Christ making us a new creation that wipes our slate clean and allows us to be reconciled to God. For now, even as our hearts have been renewed, we still live in this world as exiles, just as Daniel was an exile in Babylon. The day will come when our exile will end. We will get to go home, and we will get to live and serve in the true and eternal kingdom, the kingdom of God.

We get to do that because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Let’s Pray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Daniel 4:1-37 God of all Nations Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream

Daniel 4:1-37

God of all Nations

Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream

 

Good Morning Bangor Community Church! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 4. We are continuing through our series through Daniel, entitled “God of all Nations.”

          This week, this chapter, we see a difference in format from the previous few chapters. We see the same focus and the same theme as we have seen so far that God is sovereign over all. Period. But this week, we are going to see things told through the perspective of King Nebuchadnezzar himself. And we are going to bring to a close the King Nebby part of our story.

We don’t know the exact time that this chapter was written, though it is obviously likely that it was towards the end, at least the latter half of Nebby’s 43-year reign. And this story, this chapter is told and written from His perspective instead of Daniels, and it is him looking back, from towards the end, in order to share what God has done for him and what he has learned from God.

In that sense, this has a feel similar to the book of Ecclesiastes to me. This is what I’ve learned, this is what God has shown me. And this I pass on to you. And he says that his audience of this story is to all people, all nations and all languages.

So, lets go ahead and read the first section of this chapter, Daniel chapter 4, verses 1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to read and follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 4:1-7, Daniel records what Nebuchadnezzar wrote”

 

King Nebuchadnezzar,

To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth:

May you prosper greatly!

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;
his dominion endures from generation to generation.

I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers[b] and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his word.

 

We have seen leading up to this point some of the things that Nebby has seen and experienced as a witness and testimony of the Most High God. We have seen Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abed-nego prosper and grow strong on a diet of water and vegetables. He had a dream that not only could no one interpret, but no one except Daniel could tell him what the dream even was. He saw Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refuse to worship him and his statue and get thrown into a super-hot fiery furnace, only for them to come out not even smelling like smoke. The man has seen some things.

And here he is going to share one more thing he has seen God do. In verse 3, along with what we are going to read in verses 34 & 35 are going to be the theme of this chapter, God and his absolute sovereignty, his eternal kingdom that endures from generation to generation.

Through those previous instances, we see that Nebby has acknowledged the power of the God of Daniel, and the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, but we haven’t seen him acknowledge Him as the God of Nebuchadnezzar. We haven’t seen him turn to the LORD as exclusively God. Will this one last story of Gods Work in his life be the one that changes Nebbys soul?

 

So, we immediately see from Nebby that he had another dream. He had it when he was comfortable, when he was prospering, when he was, from what we can tell, when he was complacent. This would have made him immediately think back to his other dream that we covered in chapter 2.

But this was different than the first. Nebby was different. His circumstances were different. The dream itself was different. And his reaction was different. This time he didn’t withhold his dream from the wise men that he brought together. HE told it to them straight up. But he hadn’t changed completely because he still expected them to be able to interpret his dream. And they still were not able to. We do see that Nebby has mellowed some because he is not threatening to tear them limb from limb and all that, but that still had to be hard for the wisemen to admit to him.

 

We pick the story up in verse 8 through verse 18:

Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)

I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.

13 “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger,[c] coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.

“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times[d] pass by for him.

17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’

18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

 

So, Daniel finally shows up here and I notice a few things first. These are the things that tells me that Nebby has not fully accepted the God of Daniel as his own personal God. First, he says that Daniel is filled with the spirit of holy gods, not the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of the Holy God. Second, he insists on calling Daniel by his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, which is a tribute to the Babylonian god, Marduk.

He tells Daniel his dream and tells him to interpret it for him and then we get to see what the dream is. A great big tree, reaching towards heaven. It was seen throughout the world, seen by all. It was fruitful and abundant. It was beautiful, it provided food, shelter and security for many.

Then came a message from heaven, Chop It Down! Chop it down and leave the stump and the roots as a sign to all. His mind will be made as a beast instead of a man. And the purpose of this dream is very specifically for the purpose of making the Most High God known to all.

So, Mr. Daniel, Mr. God is with you. Tell me what this dream means.

 

And so, Daniel responds to him in verses 19-27:

Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”

Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! 20 The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, 21 with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds— 22 Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.

23 “Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’

24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”

 

 

Now, this dream kind of freaked Daniel out. The King tried to calm him down, but this dream was intense for Daniel to hear about and to think about. And the standard formality of that time is to wish that the dream is about the Kings enemies, as Daniel says here.

Then in verse 20, he starts his interpretation. The tree is about you, oh King. Your greatness reaches to the heavens and your dominion is to the ends of the earth.

But the messenger came down and said that you would be cut down and sent out into the fields to dwell with the beasts to eat grass. This time will last for 7 times. Now, there is no consensus about how long a time is. It could be 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months or 7 years. No matter the assuredness that some may speak with, it is an unknown. But we know that God said that it would be for a specific and finite amount of time.

Daniel continues that the stump and the roots of the tree will be left. This is to show that Nebbys kingdom will be held for him during these 7 times and that once he “Knows that Heaven rules,” his kingdom will be returned. In other words, when he acknowledges Gods sovereignty and humbles himself, he will be allowed to return from the field and have his mind returned to him.

The message that Daniel ends with is a message that is delivered by men throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, including by Jesus Christ himself. Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of Mark are “Repent and believe the Gospel!” Jonah told the Assyrians in Nineveh something he didn’t want to tell them, repent or you will be destroyed!”

God is a holy God and has holy standards. We are an unholy people from before birth, at least we are since after the fall in Genesis 3. Repentance is when we turn away from our unholy behaviors, our sins. We turn from our sins and turn to God, putting out trust, our faith and our dependence on him. That is where salvation comes from. By the grace of God, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, he saves us from the consequences of our sins, eternal torment and suffering in Hell.

Often times in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, we see more earthly examples, some practical examples of the need to repent. Often times, what we see in the Old Testament is that you are in a poor situation because of the sins you have committed. Not always of course. Job shows us clearly that this isn’t across the board true and it should not even be our theology. Jesus again addresses the misapplication of this idea as a rule with the blind man that is brought to him. He is asked, why is this man bling? Is it his sins or the sins of his parents? He answers them and says, Neither, this is the case so that the power and glory of God would be shown.

But as we saw with Jonah, as we see with many of the prophets, the message that God sends is to turn away from your sins, Repent! And I will save you from your situation. Repent and I will relent of your judgement. Repent and I will relent of your punishment. Here, we see, Repent and you may not have to spend 7 times as a beast in the field, eating grass and with the mind of a beast.

Daniel sees the message that God is sending to Nebby and he begs with him not to continue on the path he is on. God is going to humble you because your self-pride is too much. Repent and you may be spared this situation!

If Daniel is this passionate about saving his King from acting a fool for a period of time, how much more should we be passionate about saving everyone we know from Hell. How much should we try to show them how to escape the eternal torment that is waiting at the end of their path, that was waiting for each of us at the end of our paths before God intervened.

Ultimately, the power is in Gods hands. He and he alone is the one with the power to save. Jonah cries out, Salvation belongs to the Lord! Our job is to faithfully plat the seeds of the Gospel. Romans 10 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Our job is to speak the words of the Bible, the Words of God into their lives. Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations. Our job is not to make converts, but to grow people in wisdom, knowledge and obedience of the LORD.

This should not be a secondary issue or a backburner issue. If we have unbelieving friends, unsaved family, it should consume our prayers. And I know for a lot of you it does. I know it does for me. As a church family it should be vital for is all together, for all of our families and friends, not just our own individually.

          Charles Spurgeon puts into great words how passionate we should be about this, he says: If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

 

 

 

Now, we see that Nebby didn’t heed Daniels pleadings as we continue along with verses 28-37, finishing this chapter. It reads:

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

 

1 year after the dream and its interpretation, Nebby was walking around his palace and thinking to himself, “I did this! I built the kingdom of Babylon! All of it! I did it!”

So, God essentially told him, “All right, your hubris has caught up with you. I am in charge here. I am in charge of the kingdoms of the world, and I am taking yours away from you!”

Immediately his dream came to fruition and he was made to act like and live like the beasts of the field. Usually we tend to think of Cattle in this story. That’s what I’m thinking about as we talk about this. Nebby spent 7 times living like the animals, eating grass, growing long hair and long nails. Exactly as his dream told him would happen.

And then, at Gods appointed time, he says, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praised God. I blessed him. I honored him. There is a balance in this. We both see, because of who Nebby is, that he is still taking partial credit for the end of his time as a beast. But we also see that one of the main balances, or tensions, that the Bible strikes is that God is completely sovereign, and nothing happens with him saying so, but also that we, Man, are responsible for our actions. We can’t blame God for our sins, for our problems and certainly not for us being sent to hell. We freely sin of our own volition.

So Nebby is both proud and truthful in his words. And when he praised God, in Gods timing, God restored him to his right mind. All of his kingdom, his power and his glory were restored, and he was actually given even more than he had before.

Again, a theme in the scriptures. Using Job as an example, once everything ended, his rewarded was even more than they understood God was going to give them. Everything that was taken from Job was restored plus some. Here, Nebby was not only restored but given more once he praised God.

We can make the parallel connection that if we trust in God, and we are saved by his grace, that our reward is going to be so much better than we are to expect. We are not only avoiding the punishment of hell; salvation is not just fire insurance. But we get to spend eternity in perfect communion, in perfect relationship with our LORD, the God. We get to spend eternity in perfect creation, worshipping him, praising him and full and perfectly complete.

I love the last line of this chapter and I’m going to leave you with that as we close for the week.

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Let’s Pray.

2 Timothy 3:1-9 Life in the Local Church: A sign of the Times

2 Timothy 3:1-9
Life in the Local Church
A sign of the Times

Good Morning! Turn with me, if you would, to 2 Timothy chapter 3. As always, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own a Bible, or if you know someone who would read and does not have one, please grab one from our back table there.
We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy titles, Life in the Local Church. One of the biggest themes we have seen from Paul in these writings, in these two letters is confronting false teachers and protecting the congregation from false teaching.
That’s going to be the main bulk of what we are looking at this morning as well. Paul has been building to this over what we have looked at the last few weeks. He has been warning and teaching Timothy, and the church at Ephesus and I want to review a little bit of that before we really dive in here this evening.
As we look back at chapter 2 of this letter, we see that Paul has repeatedly given warnings about quarrelling over words and similar ideas. He has done in verses 14, 16, 23 & 24. With that repetition, I think we might want to pay attention.
In verse 15, Paul tells us to present ourselves to God. He is showing us that God is who we will stand before. God is the one whose opinion and judgment matter, not mans opinions and judgment. He also challenges us and commands us in this verse to Rightly handle the Word of truth.
2 timothy 2:19, Paul encourages us and promises us that what God says will come to pass when he tells us that Gods Firm foundation will stand steady. A Mighty Fortress is our God, as Martin Luther sings.
2 Timothy 2:22, Paul tells us to flee our youthful passions. We are to repent from and run quickly away from our sins and our temptations. We are instead to pursue with that same passion and intensity righteousness.
In verse 24, he tells us that we are to be kind to everyone, no matter who and especially our opponents. And one of the reasons being that, as Paul shows us in verse 25, we should desire that God would grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth.
That’s where Paul has been, writing to Timothy and where we will pick up today, with Paul continuing and looking at false teachers. These weeks passage we will be looking at is 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells Timothy:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

May God Bless the reading of his Holy, inspired and sufficient Word.

So, Paul left off with some encouragement at the end of chapter 2, that God grants repentance leading to the knowledge of Truth and we are working our way, trying spread the good news of the Gospel and living a righteous life instead of a life of son.
But Paul says here, understand this… know this, this is truth. Things are not going to automatically be all hunky dory. It wont all be so easy as it can sometimes seem to be.
A common false teaching that’s out there right now is “If we are nice to them, they will be saved.” It goes right along the lines of “It doesn’t matter what we do to get them through the door, as long as they come to church.” You see churches around that do these massive giveaways in order to get people through the doors. Or they sing secular songs and put on, basically concerts as their worship. They have the smoke machines, and lasers and the like. In those things, there is no Gospel.
With no Gospel, there is no salvation. Things are not going to be as easy as we want them to go. There is a reason that Jesus warns against the easy path and the wide gate (Matthew 7)
And so, understand that in the last days, there will be difficulties. When the Bible says last days, it is referring to the entirety of time from Christs first coming, which finished with his ascension, and goes all the way through until his second coming that we are still waiting on. These times will be difficult.
These things we are going to look at, they were happening in Paul and Timothy’s time, and they are happening today. As the preacher says over and over in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. In verses 2-5, Paul lists a long number of things that mark people of the last days. This is specifically in context of False teachers and those who listen to and follow false teachers, but it’s also a pretty general description of the culture around us, including those within the church, that call themselves and maybe even think themselves Christians but truly are not.
This is as true in Timothy’s day as it is today. Paul is telling Timothy, when you go out and you believe and you share the truth and you live the truth, this is what you can expect to encounter. This is what we can look around and expect to find when we deal with people outside of the forgiveness of Christ.
And I’m just going to touch on a few of these attributes, we are not going to go in depth into each of the 18 characteristics that Paul’s lists here. Again, I want you to see what Paul is talking about here. These are prevalent in the days of the early church and in the Ephesian church.
First, the first one we will touch on and the first one Paul mentions, is that people will be lovers of self. This might be easy to picture for the young generation today. This is the Selfie generation, right? But, again, this not new to today. And you know who these people are that are lovers of self. Those who tend to only talk about themselves. They have a talent of making every conversation about them. No matter what you are going through, no matter how bad or how good you are doing, they’ve been worse than your worst and better than your best. Their worship tends to be focus on them and what they are doing and who they are instead of who God is and what God has done. They insert themselves into every story in the Bible, making it about them instead of about Jesus. We all know these people.
Now, sometimes, we can fall into one or more of those categories. Sometimes we give in to the temptation to be the center of the universe. That’s why we should constantly be testing even our emotions, attitudes and desires against scripture.

Paul next warns against those who are lovers of money. We looked at this some back in 1 Timothy chapter 6, verses 9 & 10. Paul wrote then, but those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.
One of the fastest spreading false teachings spreading throughout the world today is the Prosperity Gospel, or Health and Wealth Gospel. It stems from greed at its core, from the love of money. And its teaching, in essence is that God wants every single one of his children to be wealthy and to be healthy. No debt, no struggles, no sicknesses, no cancers, some even go so far as to say no death. It’s a promise for God to fulfill all our world desires. And its from Satan. They also claim that God won’t give it to you unless you ask for it, or even demand it. And if he doesn’t give it to you, if you don’t get that promotion, if your marriage fails, if he doesn’t heal or whatever, it means that you didn’t pray hard enough, or sincerely enough or have enough faith, or any number of other things that put the fault directly on you. This is evil and its false teaching from the pits of hell. Most ministries and preachers you see on TV fall into this category. If you need to “sow a seed of faith,” Its almost certainly in this category.
One of the main problems is that it takes all power away from God, did you notice that? And it puts it directly on you. Its because of your faith and your actions and your prayers that God will finally be able to do what he wanted to do for you. No. God is sovereign and does what he wants, when he wants, whatever he wants, regardless of anything about us. And this comes from the love of money. All sorts of evil come from the love of money.
Paul warns us about these people who are unappeasable. This is a big one we see in society today. If you and I disagree on something, we can stay in disagreement. We can respect each other, we can *gasp* tolerate each other and we can either agree to disagree and goon with our lives or we can be friends who differ on an issue.
But what have we seen more and more recently around us? No, we can’t disagree with each other! You will be poked, prodded, shamed, yelled out, jailed, publicly ridiculed, threatened with violence and legislated into agreeing. And then, even if you end up agreeing with them, its still not enough. They take another step to the side and say, “Nope, that’s not the line anymore, here is the new line.”
I want to share just one high profile, recent example. Chick-Fil-A had come under fire a number of years ago because their owner at the time, who has since passed away, said that he supports the biblical view of marriage. The company would donate to charities which included some that held to a biblical view of marriage as well. This past November, I think it was, they announced they would no longer be donating to those biblical charities, but to broader charities including those who support or affirm the LGBTQ lifestyle. Problem solved, right? Wrong. As Pastor Gabe Hughes writes: This new strategy Chick-Fil-A is following has never worked. Almost every business that has caved to the rage mob has suffered for it- Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the NFL, the Boy Scouts, etc. After Chick-Fil-A announced changes in giving, GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) came out the very next day and said it wasn’t enough. You must bow before their sex gods, beg for mercy and fly their flag, then maybe they’ll forgive you and not until you meet them on their terms.

The very definition of unappeasable.

Paul also points out those who are disobedient to their parents. What I specifically want to point out with this, just as in Romans 1, in the last part of the chapter where Paul lists out a number of sins, that included in these lists of sins is being disobedient to your parents. My point is not to stand up here and tell you all to obey your parents. You are all out from under your parent’s authority as adults. My point is that we all have sins that we dismiss as unimportant, or minor or whatever. We read through these lists and its so easy to dismiss this sin as not important or valid or whatever. But one we start doing that, we cannot be appeased, and we continue to take steps to dismiss more and more sins. Gods Word is perfect and sufficient. What he calls sin is sin, no matter the time, the culture, the society or the feelings of us. We don’t get to pick and choose which sins matter. The wages of each and every sin is death. This does not mean that we are the Old Testament nation of Israel and we are still holding to the civil punishments for these sins. When one disobeys his parents, we are not going to stone him to death, but it means that its still a sin.
Next, similar, but different to being lovers of self, false teachers and those who follow them tend to be swollen with conceit. Not only is it all about them, but they are never wrong. They cannot be corrected. They either will ignore and pretend not to hear, or they will stomp off in a huff or they will attack when corrected.
Again, this is one where we all tend to react wrongly. None of us is comfortable being corrected. None of us wants to be wrong. And so, we search ourselves. If some one offers up correction, we look at it and see if there is anything to it. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. But the worst thing to do is dismiss it out of hand. Now, the more gentle and loving the correction is offered, the easier it is to hear and the easier it is to acknowledge what needs to be corrected. This means that when we correct someone, we should strive to do so in a gentle and living manner. However, even if someone comes at you in a hostile and angry manner, take time to look at the actual criticism and see if there is anything that you can take from it.
Lastly, for me one of the biggest and most condemning of these characteristics, Paul mentions those who have the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. What a person portrays on the outside, or what they say, does not always indicate who they actually are. Many people, easiest to see in those who are in public spotlight, claim to be Christians, or claim the teachings of Jesus, they have an appearance of godliness. But when you listen to what they actually believe, and when you watch how they actually live, they deny the power of God, of His Word and of living a godly lifestyle. This happens from people from all walks. Right now, its super easy to see in politicians from each side of the aisle. We see it in religious leaders unfortunately all to often. When churches deny that Jesus, during his earthly ministry was not God, they are denying his power no matter what form of Godliness they are putting on.
We see in our families, coworkers and neighbors. In polling in recent years, 90% of Americans say that they believe in God, regardless of what their definition is. 90% of Americans hold to a form of Godliness. In similar polling, somewhere just north of 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Not all of this 75% actually believe in what the Bible says needs to be believed in order to be a Christian.
America, with its history of rebelling against authority and building up the idea if rugged individualism, pick yourself up with your bootstraps, doesn’t lend itself to Biblical Christianity too easily. Let me explain. Typical, historic American ideals are to not depend on anyone else, to do everything for yourself, that no one can tell you what to do, that you are your own authority. Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, says that you CAN’T do it on your own. It says that God is the ultimate authority. It says that you have to depend on Jesus for your salvation.
So many today, in our country are clothing themselves in their own righteousness, trusting in their own form of godliness as opposed to staying biblically true and being clothed in Christs righteousness and trusting in God’s godliness.

At the end of this list of characteristics and attributes, Paul says what should have been going through all of our minds, Avoid these people! It does not bring any good. It does not honor good to break bread and fellowship with such people.
Again, this is not talking about someone who sins once, who gives in to temptation or is in the midst of progressing in their sanctification, growing in spiritual maturity. This is not about having differences of opinions about secondary, non-Gospel issues. This is for those who continually, stubbornly, actively hold to false teaching and spread that false teaching, driving heresy and division through Christs church.
He also knows from scripture, such as we looked at last week, such as what Paul writes about first in 1 Corinthians 5:2, to break fellowship with someone who is in unrepentant sexual sin, to kick them out of the church. Later, in 2 Corinthians 2:5-10, we see Paul saying that once one has repented and been forgiven, they are to be received back into fellowship.
If we break fellowship, if we refuse to worship with someone, if we are to avoid some one for the reasons we look at here today, the idea is that we are continuing to pray that God would grant them the repentance that leads to the knowledge of truth. And if they do, like the father welcomes the prodigal son with open arms, we also welcome them back with open arms. That is the end goal, but until then, we are called to protect the church, to protect the congregation in total and to protect those who are still learning and growing and susceptible to false teaching, we are to protect them from these divisive, untrue, influences.

Paul then shows the effects, very practically and specifically to the church in Ephesus, of these false teachers spreading through the congregation. We see this in verses 6 & 7. In the Ephesian church at that time, the false teachers around were particularly able to deceive and to distract the women in the church. Paul was not just writing about esoteric, theoretical problems that might pop up someday, somewhere. This was having a specific, quantifiable effect. This is not just things that we are learning so that we have head knowledge, but this is real life.
And I want to point out what Paul says, always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth. These who are deceived by the false teachers, always reading always studying. That’s a good thing isn’t it? But read what he is saying. Always learning, never arriving at the knowledge if the truth. Always looking for something, never satisfied. For these people, the Bible is not enough. They feel that they need to have God speak personally to them, and to reveal truth that they are not able to find is Gods revelation that is the Holy Bible.
I don’t like to name names of this sort of thing because I don’t like to give false teachers this much publicity, but as a part of shepherding and protecting the flock, I am seeing the need to do this. I’m sorry if some of you have this book at home, but one huge, clear example of this is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. This is a popular devotional book primarily focused towards women. Here’s the thing. In the introduction, Sarah Young says that reading the bible was not enough for her. She was chasing the experiences and the feelings of a personal presence of God. She wrote the book by listening for God to talk to her and them writing down the words of God. She claims divine inspiration that is only attritable to the books of the Bible and she rejects the sufficiency and completeness of the Bible itself. She also writes it from the perspective of Jesus, meaning she is putting her writings, her words, that she thinks are Gods words, putting them in Jesus mouth.
And this is one of the most popular “Christian” books sold in the last number of years and has a whole lot of spin offs as well. But its heresy. It needs to be avoided and its claiming that the Bible isn’t enough and that it is the very Words of God.
We will get more into this in the next few weeks, as Paul writes more about the scriptures, but let’s be really clear here this morning. Quite simply, the Bible is sufficient. It is complete. God did not forget to reveal something to us then. The Bible is his complete revelation and his complete Word. Nothing else is needed.
Now, as we read through these warnings and the negative things that are going in Ephesus and seeing how they are playing out today as well, it can look dark and gloomy. But there is always good news that breaks through the bad. Yes, false teacher will come. They will sway many. They will go against the truth and they will add to Gods word and they will deny Gods word.
Paul shows us the same thing happened with Jannes and Jambres. These were two of the magicians in Pharaoh’s court as they were opposing Moses. Paul is equating these two false magicians to the false teachers that we will encounter today.
But, Gods Word, the truth of God himself will ultimately prevail. On the Gospel, on the Word of God, as Jesus sys in Matthew 16:18, I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it.
I like the way Ligon Duncan sums up this passage as he writes:
‘Timothy, you are going to live and minister in difficult days–dire days. Don’t expect it to be easy going. Don’t expect to see the world stay out of the church. Don’t expect to see the church unhindered by false teaching, even in her pales. No, you expect difficult days, Timothy; but as you expect that difficulty, not only make sure that your congregation has the right attitude of what they are and what they’re about in the kind of circumstance that they’re in, but you make sure that your congregation is spiritually discerning, so that that congregation can tell a false prophet from a true preacher of God’s word. And remember, Timothy: no matter how bad it looks, the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s church. The false prophets’ folly will be uncovered and revealed. They will not have the last word.’

The folly of these false teachers and those whom they have deceived and follow them, their folly will end up becoming known to all. They will be exposed publicly eventually. Sometimes that will happen here and now. Sometimes that won’t happen until the end, when we are standing before God and he is separating the sheep from the goats. At that point, as Paul writes multiple times, every knee will bow, and every tongue shall confess Jesus is LORD.
No one will be able to put on a form of godliness, but instead all will see the glory and the righteousness of God and the truth of His Word. By then, it will be too late to change minds. That’s why we pray for their repentance here and now, while there is still a chance for these false teachers and unbelievers to come to the knowledge of truth.
There are not many truths. There is not knowledge of various truths of your own truth. There is just truth. Gods Truth. Trust in that truth. Serve that truth and choose that now.
I can’t say it any better than the Word of God itself does, Joshua 24:14 & 15, he says:
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Now, one of the ways that we honor and serve Jesus Christ is by remembering him and doing what he told us to do. We do this on the first Sunday of each month. We remember Jesus Christ. We remember his works and we remember his live and his sacrifice. We remember Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.
Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have two things to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.
Second, this is a time of reflection. Your hearts and mind should be clear and right before God. We, as followers of Christ, have been forgiven, but 1 John says that we are to confess our sins. If you have sin that you haven’t dealt with before God, take this time to do so. IF you can’t, it is better to pass the elements and make your heart right with God.
There is no judgment in these things, Paul wants us to make sure that our minds are focused on the remembrance of Christ and his works and love for us.
So, what we are going to do is Mike and Jim will come up. One of them will pray for the bread, which symbolize Jesus body. The body that he gave up for us to pay the penalty for our sins. We will then pass those out and when they are all passed out, we will take the bread together as a church family, unite underneath the Gospel. Then, the other one will pray for the juice, which is a symbol for Christs blood. His blood purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We will pass those out and again, take them as a church family once they are all passed out.

Let us go ahead and prepare our hearts and come to the LORDS table.

2 Timothy 2:8-13 Life in the Local Church: The Same Glorious Gospel

2 Timothy 2:8-13

Life in the Local Church

The Same Glorious Gospel

 

                Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 2. We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that we are calling “Life in the Local Church.” I anticipate that this series will take us up through Easter and then we start a sermon series through another book of the Bible, presumably from the Old Testament. As we open to 2 Timothy, if you do not have a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

As we start looking at this week’s passage, it will be extra important to look at some of the things that Paul has written earlier in this letter. I think specifically to the last thing he said in the passage we looked at last week. Timothy 2:7 he wrote to Timothy, think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

                This is not only talking about what Paul had just written, but the entirety of his letter, and the previous letters as well. Specifically, I want \us to remember what he wrote in chapter 2, verse 1, he told Timothy, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul is not saying new things. He is saying the same thing over and over. He is sometimes saying it different ways, or from different angles, or slightly different applications, but he is still saying the same thing.

That will be the first point we look at after we read this mornings passage. We will be looking at 2 Timothy 2, verses 8-13. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. So, 2 Timothy 2:8-13, Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, meaning his Words are the Word of God, writes to Timothy:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

 

 

May God bless the reading of his Holy and inspired Word.

 

 

So, Paul tells Timothy, he tells us, that we need to remember Christ Jesus. Think on these things, God will give you understanding in everything and in that context, Remember Christ Jesus. This not just some one-off comment by Paul. Again, this is purposefully immediately following what Paul said about God giving understanding. The most important piece of knowledge is one that only God can give us and that is that Jesus is LORD. We won’t come to that knowledge without God revealing it to us.

Once God has revealed that knowledge to us, we need to dwell on it continuously. Again, Paul is not telling us something that he isn’t doing himself. Before this passage we are reading this morning, Paul has mentioned by name, Jesus Christ 8 times. He will do so twice more in this passage. That’s 10 times through 1 & ½ chapters. Paul is making sure that we, the readers as well as He himself, the writer will continually remember.

There is a great quote that is frequently attributed to Martin Luther regarding us needing to be continually reminded. It is said A church member asked Luther “Why do you preach the Gospel to us week after week?” Luther replied, “Because week after week you forget it. ”

                There is some debate as to the authenticity of this story and quote, but truth lies in it, nonetheless. We are a people who are a forgetful people. We are constantly forgetting and need to be reminded of several things. We need to continually be reminding ourselves of who we are, we are sinners, scriptures say that we are sinners form within our mother’s womb. But we think we are good people, or good enough anyway and that people, especially us are generally good at heart, down deep inside.

We need to remind ourselves of our need. We are sinners and therefore we are in need of a savior. We are in need of forgiveness. We are in need of grace. None of which we deserve, nor can we achieve or acquire for ourselves. We need to remind ourselves of that too. That we cannot do this on our own.

We need to remind our selves of our savior. Jesus Christ is our savior. He is, as he says in John 14:6 The Way, The Truth and The Life. We need to remind ourselves that it is not our works, but his works that turns into redeemed souls, saved from our sins, regenerated, justified, sanctified and soon to be glorified. Not our works, but his works, His death, burial and resurrection. The forgiveness that He bought with His blood. The fulfillment of so much prophecy. The fulfillment of all the prophecy. All of it done by Him and by God the Father on our behalf so that we can receive and be clothed in his righteousness and be called the sons of God, co heir with Christ.

And we need to remind ourselves of who he is. Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. He is the Messiah. He is God the Son. Let me say that again. He is God. And Paul specifies that point. He says Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. This establishes his deity. If Jesus is not God, then we are done. We are lost. We are worshipping an idol. And he has no power to save.

Christs resurrection is absolutely vital to our faith. Our most important holiday of the year celebrates the resurrection. Easter is us remembering and celebrating this! This does not take away from Christmas. Yes, he needed to be born in order to die, in order to rise from the dead. That our other important holiday, celebrating his birth. But his resurrection is what proved he was God. Its what defeated death. Its what allowed us to have a hope for the future and it shows us what to look forward to with our own resurrection in the end.

This is so central to so much of what Paul teaches. 1 Corinthians 15, starting with verses 3-7, Paul writes:

 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

 

Then look at verse 12-19 where Paul shows why this is so important:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

 

Christ is God. Jesus is God. God became man to save sinners. He was born, he died, he was resurrected. In order to be born, he must also be man. That’s what Paul says when he refers to Jesus as the offspring of David. Yes, this fulfills prophecy. God said that the Messiah would come from the line of David. But that’s not what Paul is pointing in this text, in this context. He is pointing out Jesus humanity. God became man. We need to remind ourselves of this at times too. Many of the false religions, the cults, many go wrong because they either deny Christs deity, or they deny Christs humanity. He was both. Truly God, Truly man. And He, Jesus Christ is the point, the focus, the subject of the scriptures, of the true, biblical Gospel.

And Again, it is this Gospel that Paul is imprisoned for preaching. That Christ is God. That sin is sin. That we are sinners. That sin needs payment. That Christ paid it for us. That he calls us to holiness. Paul is imprisoned as if he were a criminal because he preached nothing but Christ and him crucified.

But the good news is that, despite Paul being locked up for preaching the Word of God, the Word of God is not, will no and cannot be locked up!

 

We know that Hebrews 4:12 tells us:  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

                And we know some of the things that happened because of Paul’s imprisonment. He writes in Philippians 1:12-14, of a previous imprisonment:

I want you to know, brothers,[e] that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[f] and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the

word[g] without fear.

 

 

                The Word of God is powerful. The Word of God is free. It can stand on its own. Charles Spurgeon is attributed with saying: “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”

                As we look at what Paul write sin verse 10, it takes me back to what he wrote in Philippians 1. In verse 10 here he says that all that he is going through is for a purpose and that purpose is to further the Kingdom of God, to bring more people to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ and to God may be glorified.

He endures suffering and he does everything possible so that the elect, all those whom God has called, may come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus says in John 6:44, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.

                All whom God calls will respond to him. And all those who are put into Jesus’ hand will obtain salvation. By the grace of God alone, through Faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. It is all to the Glory of God alone, not our glory. And salvation comes through the scriptures alone. Romans 10:17. Faith comes by hearing and hearing of the Word of God. The unchained, unbridled, living and active, sufficient Word of God.

This in no way means that we don’t have to do anything, that we just let God do his thing and we kick up our feet. No, also in Romans 10, faith comes by hearing, but how are they to hear if no one tells them? Its been said that Spurgeon had this to say about making sure we follow scriptures and evangelize:

If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the street lifting up shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come.’”

 

                Our job is to let nothing be an excuse for someone to not come to know the LORD. We are to let nothing be a stumbling block. We are to present the information, to present the Word, to share the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit call forth those whom God has deemed.

Romans 8:30, And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

The eternal glory, as Paul puts it here is 2 Timothy is what we are all waiting for. Its what we have hope in. RC Sproul in his commentary on this verse says:

This glory is the final, complete salvation of the elect in the new order of God. The saints will have resurrection bodies and transformed human natures. They will experience the triumph of Christ over sin and death and know fullness of joy in a life secured for them by Christs death, resurrection and ascension.

Amen?

 

Paul then quotes what is likely and early Christian hymn, reciting a known truth in the early church. He recites:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

 

                If we die with, if we die to self as he calls us to do. If we kill the sin in our life, as a fruit of our faith and the work of the Holy Spirit. If we repent and believe the Gospel, this all lead to eternal life with Christ, that eternal glory we just mentioned, in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

And we are called to endure. Paul has made mention often in this letter that we are called to suffer on behalf of the Gospel. We are to endure this life, the suffering that come with it.

Romans 8 again, this time verse 18, Paul writes: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

                And in the glory that is to come, we will reign with him as co heirs. Right now, Jesus is sitting on the throne, he is the king over every single solitary thing. After he comes back, after he puts away death as the last enemy to be defeated, he will hand the creation back over to God the Father and sit at his right hand, reigning over the new creation. And we will be right there with him.

But that sonly if we respond to the Word of God and we come to a saving faith in Him. This hymn or whatever, warns against those who do not. Those who deny him, Christ will also deny.

Jesus says in Matthew 10, 32 & 33:

So, everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

 

Without Christ, we have no hope. Without Christ, we have no righteousness. Without Christ we are locked out of the Kingdom of God and we will suffer eternal wrath and judgment that is deserved from our sins. That is the holiness and justice of God.

Some who deny Christ will think they are Christians and they will be at church every week and they will say all the right things and do all the things they think they are supposed, memorize the Bible verses, say Amen, but they will not truly know Jesus in their hearts. They will instead, be trusting in their own works and in their attendance and their memorization and all that instead of Christ.

Some will call themselves Christians but will never set foot in church, will never open their bibles, will live just like the rest of the world lives. They will produce no fruit and have no repentance showing evidence of their salvation.

Some will reject Christianity and Christ outright, as we are seeing more and more of today. But all know, deep down inside, they know the truth, though as Romans 1 puts it, they suppress it in their unrighteousness.

But through it all Christ will remain faithful, even in our unfaithfulness. And in the end, every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD.

Now, here is how powerful Christ is, not even our unfaithfulness is big enough, strong enough or powerful enough to undo Christs faithfulness. Our salvation, our standing with God has nothing to do with us. Not our works, not our obedience, not our faithfulness. Because the truth is that we will fail. We will be disobedient; we will be unfaithful to God.

But it is impossible, it would go against his very nature, it would be sin, the one thing that God cannot do. We hear and see all the time that God can do anything, but there is an exception to that. God cannot go against his own nature, He cannot sin. And for him to go against his word, for him to be unfaithful would be for him to sin.

And that just aint gon’ happen.

 

God has made a covenant. He made a covenant of works that we, starting with and symbolized, us represented by Adam, we failed. We did not then, through Adam and we cannot know because of our sin nature uphold the covenant of works. Obey my commands and have everlasting life.

But Jesus Christ came and fulfilled the covenant of works so that we may take part in the covenant of Grace. Who so ever believes in Christ, will not perish but will have everlasting life? That is an unbreakable covenant. That is not one that we can undo. Because it is secure in the works of Christ on the cross, in the tomb and in his resurrection. That is the new covenant.

God is faithful to his word. If you deny him, you will face everlasting wrath and justice in hell. If you believe in Christ and repent of your sins, you will be brought into the new covenant, into the family of God and will take part in that eternal glory with Christ.

And it is that new covenant that we remember on the first Sunday of each month. We remember Jesus Christ. We remember his works and we remember his live and his sacrifice. We remember Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have two things to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

Second, this is a time of reflection. Your hearts and mind should be clear and right before God. We, as followers of Christ, have been forgiven, but 1 John says that we are to confess our sins. If you have sin that you haven’t dealt with before God, take this time to do so. IF you can’t, it is better to pass the elements and make your heart right with God.

There is no judgment in these things, Paul wants us to make sure that our minds are focused on the remembrance of Christ and his works and love for us.

So, what we are going to do is Mike and Jim will come up. One of them will pray for the bread, which symbolize Jesus body. The body that he gave up for us to pay the penalty for our sins. We will then pass those out and when they are all passed out, we will take the bread together as a church family, unite underneath the Gospel. Then, the other one will pray for the juice, which is a symbol for Christs blood. His blood purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We will pass those out and again, take them as a church family once they are all passed out.

 

Let us go ahead and prepare our hearts and come to the LORDS table.

With Christ, we receive his mercy and forgiveness. With Christ, though not righteous on our own, we receive Christs righteousness.

1 Timothy 6:11-16 Life in the Local Church: Active Faith

1 Timothy 6:11-16

Life in the Local Church

Active Faith

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 6. First, Merry Christmas! Second, if you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab one off the back table as our gift to you.

Now, Paul is writing to his Son in the faith, Timothy. He is closing this letter, and historically, we know that he is beginning to wind down in his life. 2 Timothy, which we are going to go through as soon as we finish 1 Timothy here in the next couple of weeks, is the last letter that Paul will write.

But here, Pau; is writing Timothy to help him combat an outbreak of false teaching that has come into the church in Ephesus. So, he has specifically dealt with those teachers and the teachings. As a part of that, Paul has also been encouraging, exhorting, teaching and building up Timothy in his faith.

In the passage we are looking at this morning, Paul has finished dealing specifically with the false teachers. He will refer to some of the teachings, but he is done addressing them directly.

He just finished addressing their evil motivations, their evil results, and their evil consequences. They have within them and as their motivation, the love of money, the love of power and influence and fame. They sow discord, discontentment, dissension and with their slander, they sow disunity.

Paul will refer to those things as he turns to address Timothy directly in this mornings passage. I am going to read 1 Timothy, chapter 6, verses 11-16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, sharing the very Word of God, writes to Timothy:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before[d] Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

May God Bless the Reading of His Word. Amen.

 

So, Paul refers to all the things that the False teachers are, all the things that the false teachers teach, all the sins the false teachers commit, and all the fallout and discord that comes from false teachers. And in referring to those things, Paul tells Timothy to Flee from those things! Flee! Get as far away from those things as possible.

Scripture is full of admonishes to flee sin. A few specific instances are that we are to flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). We are to flee from youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:22) And to submit to God and resist the devil so he will flee us (James 4:7) 1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us to abstain from every form of evil.

These are the things that are of the world. These are the things that are of false teachers. These are the things of people who are not of God. And we are to run as fast and as hard as we can in the absolute opposite direction of these things. We are not to entertain them, or to flirt with them, getting close and saying, just this little bit wont hurt, or no one will ever know.

That is not the attitude or the heart of a Man of God, as Paul calls Timothy here. A Man of God loves God. If he loves God, He loves Christ. And Jesus tells us in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In conjunction with that, 1 John 5:2&3 tells us by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

          A Man of God is broken because of his sin and knowing what his sin has done to God. A man of God recognizes that he is sinful and in need of a savior. A man of God recognizes that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation. A man of God has put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ and repented of his sins. A man of God is grateful and gracious for the grace of God that, through faith in Christ, his sins have been forgiven. A man of God is gracious in forgiving the sins of others around him. A man of God stands firm and courageously for the truth of who God is and what he has said and what he has done. A Man of God can be a man or a woman, but they are a child of God, through the grace of God, by faith in Christ.

Paul here tells Timothy, calls him a man of God and tells him to flee from the things that are not of God, and to pursue instead these things; righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Those are the things that a Man of God does.

We are to pursue righteousness. Jesus has some things to say about this in the Sermon on the Mount. First, in the Beatitudes, he says,” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) Just a few moments later, he points out to his followers, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

Perfect righteousness is not something we have an ability to achieve or accomplish, but it is what we are to strive for, and more importantly, it is the standard that God holds us to. Perfect righteousness is following and holding to the laws and commands of God, in heart, in mind and in action. Something that, in the course of history, because of sins affect on us all, only Jesus Christ has been able to achieve.

The man of God is to pursue Godliness. We are to live as much like God as possible. Paul writes in Romans 8:29, part of Gods purposes in all things, as he says, for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.

          Godliness is being like God. Not acting like you are God but acting as God acts. Having a heart for those God has a heart for. Acting the way, he would act, rejecting and avoiding what he would reject and avoid. Living a holy life, motivated by a holy heart, thought with a holy mind.

 

 

We are to pursue faith. Faith is our rock-solid foundation. Hebrews 11:6 says, without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

There is a reason that Faith Alone is one of the five tenets of the Protestant Reformation. Salvation by faith alone. Not Faith and Works. Not Faith and kept by works. Not Works. But Faith alone, this is what a Man of God holds. Faith in Christ and Christ alone.

The man of God is to pursue love. Paul didn’t need to clarify this, but such false teaching, or weak, superficial teaching has infested the church that we do need to clarify this today. This is biblical love. This is Godly love that Paul is talking about. This is not worldly love. This is not everything we do is fine. This is not I love tacos, I love the sun, I love USA, I love God, all loves meaning the same thing.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4, that we are to speak the truth in love. This means that we are not to speak the truth and use it as an excuse to be harsh or to be a jerk. We don’t get to say, well it’s not my fault if they took it that way, or if they got offended, I said what the bible says. That may be true, but God says that it does matter how we say it, how we approach people and that the truth that we speak, the truth that the Bible speaks is said in love. I once heard it said this way; The Gospel is offensive, there’s no getting around that, but there is nowhere in the Gospel that says we are to be offensive.

A Man of God is to pursue steadfastness. This is kind of a combination, of patience, endurance and taking the long view of what’s going on around you. Steadfastness, sometimes translated, longsuffering. To take a long view. TO know that no matter what is going on in the here and now, that God is in control, that God has already won and that what is promised to come is so much better and completely worth going through what is happening now.

We are to be patient in waiting on the LORD. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that no one knows the day or the hour of his return and that we are to be ready for it. But we are not to toss the future out with the bath water, to mix up a whole bunch of things there. His time is appointed, we know it will happen, even if it seems slow to us.

Peter writes, 2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

We see everyday tragedy come up in the news. More than we should, we see shootings, killings, disasters, so much abortion, so much death and destruction. And many cry out “Come quickly, LORD!” But God says that we are to continue to do our duties, to live our godly lives, to pursue him and his righteousness every day until he comes, no matter how long that is.

Lastly, the Man of God is to pursue gentleness. This ties in with some of the others, but when we know and recognize what God has done for us, we should turn around and treat others in the same manner. Those who have repented of their sins and turned in faith to God the Father have received the forgiveness of their sins. A Man of God has had the grace of God, and his mercy just poured out over them. When they sin, when they give in to temptation and them come to God, seeking forgiveness, God is gentle, loving, kind and merciful. If one has not repented of their sins, God will be much less gentle to them. But if we are men of God and we have received the gentleness of God, then we should let that flow through us to treat those around us with gentleness as well.

 

 

After listing those things that Timothy, and we, as his children, should be pursuing, Paul says to Fight the Good Fight. This reinforces the idea, first, of an active faith. That our faith is not incidental to our lives. Everyone has faith. It may be in the one, true, biblical God, in the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three in one, Almighty God. And I pray that it is. Or it could be in our selves and our works, our goodness. It could be in other, so called gods, or spirits, or religions. It could be in our country, our politicians, or our worldviews. It could be science and rationality. But whatever it is, we all have faith, and we all live out our faith. Often, it is a fight, a hard, long fight, just to stay faithful over the course of time. We need those attributes that Paul just told us to pursue in order to fight the good fight.

We fight for the truth; we fight for what’s right. We fight for the Gospel. Even in that fight, we are still called to do so in a godly and loving manner. Sometimes that means that things take longer than we want them to, but that doesn’t mean that God is not working or that we are being unfaithful. Please remember, that not everything we disagree with is false teaching. Not everything we don’t see eye to eye on is worth fighting over and shouting about. Somethings, we just plain disagree on.

But in those things that the false teachers and the world tries to bring into the church, those things that say, sin is not sin. Those things that say Jesus wasn’t God. Those things that say Jesus wasn’t man. Those things that say we can be saved by being a good person, or by following the rules, or by any other method than by grace alone by faith alone. In those things, we fight the good fight.

Paul gives a similar charge at the end of his letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 16: 13&14, he writes: Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

One question that pops up, and I think Paul is addressing here, how do we stay steadfast, longsuffering? How do we continue to fight the good fight when we look around and only see what appears to be us losing battle after battle? How do we risk it all in this world?

Paul writes, take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

We can fight the good fight, we can stand firm and we can stay faithful to Christ and his Word, we can risk it all in this world, because our reward is in the next world. Our hope, our faith, our promised destination is in the next world.

We are here for a time, an important time, but a time. We are here to live life and to enjoy life, but we are here to do so in and with Christ. And Christ came so that we may be saved from our sins, clothed in his righteousness and that we may walk through the door, the only door, the door which is Christ, to enter eternity, worshipping and praising God Almighty. This, as opposed to the only other option, life in eternal hellfire and damnation, eternal life with Gods grace, mercy and love, but with Gods vengeance and wrath and justice.

Grab hold of that eternal life! The life to which you were called. Those whom God has called. I return to Romans 8:29, but also add verse 30, where Paul writes: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

We are saved by Gods grace, those of us who are called by God. It is nothing about us. There is nothing we can do to be called. Our salvation is in no way dependent on us. The famous Jonathon Edwards quote that I share often, the only thing you contribute to your salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.

Jesus says in john 6:44 that No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. There is no doubt about what Gods says in the scriptures. But, again, there is a purposeful tension that God puts in the scriptures. If that’s all God says, what point is there to act in any way, to do anything? God will take care of it all and we can just kick back our feet, put them up on our desks and wait. It would be easy to be patient and longsuffering in that instance.

So, God makes both his sovereignty and man’s responsibility, both are biblical teachings. Paul says here that the eternal life to which we are called, of that, we have made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Not only were we called, and I would argue that the scriptures say that only after we have been called and because we were called, we make a public confession in front of many witnesses. There is responsibility on our end of things as well.

The faith that God has gifted to us (Eph 2:8-10), that faith, which he called us to and gave us having nothing to do with ourselves, that faith we need to respond to. That faith is an active faith. It is a public faith. We publicly get baptized and we share our faith with those we know and love. We share the Gospel, and we share our testimony, not the same thing by the way. We share it because that’s what God tells us to do. We fight the good fight, the faith of and for faith.

Paul finishes this passage with a combination of encouragement, he charges us, and a doxology, a praise to God. Verses 13-16:

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before[d] Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

 

 

Paul makes one of any connections that Jesus did many things of which we are to follow his example. In this case, making the good confession, confessing who Christ really and truly is, and doing it even when its not easy. Jesus could have saved his life, prevented getting beaten, whipped, mocked, spit on and crucified by providing a defense in from of Pilate.

We see that Paul is charging us, commanding us, encouraging us to lead that holy life he was talking about earlier. To flee from the things of this world, even if they are brought into the church. To turn to Christ, to pursue those things he listed earlier, righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. And we are to do so until Christ returns.

It reminds me of the last lines of the hymn, In Christ Alone;

No power of hell, no scheme of man Can ever pluck me from His hand Till He returns or calls me home Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

 

 

 

And it is all because of who Christ is, who The Father is. It Is because of who he is and what he has done, his holiness, his sovereignty, his eternal greatness, his almighty power, his love, his mercy, his justice. It is because he is the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords. To him be all honor and dominion. Amen.

Paul sums it up better than I ever could. Let’s Pray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malachi 3:13-4:6 The Cynical and the Faithful

Malachi 3:13-4:6
The Cynical and the Faithful

Good Morning! Lets go ahead and grab our Bibles and turn to Malachi chapter 3. IF you do not have a Bible or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.
Today we look at the last section of Malchi, finishing up our time with this Old Testament minor prophet. Next week we are going to start a series going through 1 & 2 Timothy, Pauls letters to his Son in the Faith, showing us how God designed the Church to run and to act. Whats right and wrong and what the truth is that we are command to keep and stand up for.
Ut, today, as we come to an end of our series through the book of Malachi, we see Malachi, or God speaking through Malachi, Malachi writing down the words of God. We see the theme of the rest of book, come together and be wrapped up in the last sections of this book. And part of the themes of this book could be ripped from todays headlines.
If you follow the news at all, and if you dont, good for you. But if you follow the news at all, this past week you saw that Jefferey Epstein died in prison last weekend of a reported suicide. He was an evil man, charged with many account of human trafficking and other horrible, unspeakable crimes. When his death was reported, the Newspaper headlines shouted out that he had escaped Justice.
The world has the thinking that if you die before you are punished for your crimes and sins, you have escaped justice. And we, inside the church fall into that same thinking. If we dont see people around us facing the consequences for their sins, we get upset with God, because justice is not being served.
Malachi addresses that and more as we look at this last section. Before we go any further, lets read this week’s text. Reading Malachi 3:13-4:6. Ill be reading out of the English standard Version and I do encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation here today. Again, Malachi chapter 3, verse 13, through the end of the book, chater 4, verse 6. God, our Father, speaking through his prophet, Malachi, says:
“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

The first thing we see here is the last accusation God makkes iof Israel in this prophetic book. We have spoken hard words against Him. And of course, as with every accustation in this book, Israel’s and our response to him is HOW? We dont see things through Gods eyes. We dont see accurately what we are doing, how we are acting and what we are saying. We ceratinly dont see what our words mean, especially to those around us. By responding in this way, Israel is playing the victim. “Thats no what we said!” Or “Thats not what we meant!”
But each time God responses with exactly what they have done wrong. And he says, when you look around and you see evil doers prospering, when you see them test God and seeming to escape punishment, when you see that happen and you say, “Theres no Justice!” or “Theres no Point!” When you see those things and you figure that there is no point in serving God, those are our hard words against God.
And to be clear, you can have the ideas, the thoughts that those who do evil are getting away with it and you can wonder why God isnt punishing them and continue to serve God with all your heart, mind body and soul. You can see those things and still trust that God And those are not necessarily hard words against God in and of themselves. But when you say that BECASUE justice is not being served, BECAUSE you see these issues that there is no point in serving God then you are turning back from God.
We see Job cry out quite a bit about the perceived injustices and he continues to trust in God. We see Habakkuk cry out about the violence and asking why God is allowing it to continue. Jesus cries over the city of Jerusalem and their hard hearts. But when we see people sin openly and freely, and blaspheme God in their hearts and their actions, God tells us to trust him even more and to be faithful to what he has called us to do. Serve him, obey him, trust in him and share him with the world.
God says that he will be faithful to those who are faithful. As a quick aside, sparked by the text, this shows, as well, the importance of fellowship. Of getting together on a regular basis, both on Sunday mornings and otherwise. Talking wth each other, meeting together, getting to know each other deeper, knowing our struggles and our triumphs.
Our church family will help us stay faithful and comitted. It can be very easy to feel isolated. It can be very easy to feel like we are the only ones. Both as individuals and as a church. We have talked a lot recently on Wednesday mornings AND Sunday nights of churches in Northern California and cross America that are being unfaithful to their designed purpose of Preaching the Word of Gods, teaching the Bible and discipling Christians to follow the commands of God. And with that it can easy for us to get prideful and think we are the only faithful church left.
Individually, we look around us, look at the multitudes across America that identify as Christians and yet, seem to be living as the world or have poor theology and it can be very easy for us to get prideful that we are true christians when they are not or we are better, more mature, righter christians, while they are still immature or believe false teachings. And we do so as though either of those have anything to do with our efforts , as opposed to our faith being a gift of Gods grace.
But, again, it can very easily feel like we are the only ones left in this world. And yet, God has addressed this all throughout scripture. In 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah frustrated about the things going on around him and the lack of faithfullness from israel. He says in verse 14, talking to God: “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Essentially, I am the only one faithfully serving you, LORD. Everyone else has abandonded you and I and only I am the one doing right in your eyes! Well, there is a lot we could go into there, but Suffice it to say that Elijah feels isolated and like there is not much hope left in anyone but himself. God response to him in verse 18, telling Elijah: Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.
We are not alone. Despite what we see around us, or what society and the prevailing culture present to us, God always keeps a remnant and it is always larger than we expect. This of course does not cntradict what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13 & 14. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Many will think that they are Christians and they are decieved. And yet, many more than we can see will also be along side of us in heaven. The truth is, Christianity is not shrinking. Let me say that again, more accurately. True, biblical Christianity is not shrinking.
True, biblical Christianity is protected by and preserve by God. True, biblical Christianity, the Invisible and universal church is not what the world sees as Christianity. Studies over the last few years have shown that over 90% of Americans believe in “god”. There is ot a definition to who or what god is in that question, just, “Do you believe in god?” It goes further to show that somewhere around 75% of Americans claim to be Christians.
And yet, as we have discussed before, many who claim to be Christians dont actually now what Christianity is. They dont actually know what the Bible says. They hold to what is, by definition, heretical beliefs. And those are who we see walking away, leaving the church and John writes in his letter that they went out from us because they were never really one of us.
But those who fear the LORD, they shall be mine, says the LORD. Those who have been saved by God, through his grace, manifested in our faith in Christ and his finished work on the cross, assured of their salvation through a doctrine called “Perserverence of the Saints.”
Got Questions describe the doctrine this way:
God, by His own power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, keeps or preserves the believer forever. This wonderful truth is seen in Ephesians 1:13-14, where we see that believers are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchase possession, to the praise of His glory.” When we are born again, we receive the promised indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that is God’s guarantee that He who began a good work in us will complete it (Philippians 1:6). In order for us to lose our salvation after receiving the promised Holy Spirit, God would have to break His promise or renege on His “guarantee,” which He cannot do. Therefore, the believer is eternally secure because God is eternally faithful.

Gods people are his treasured possesions. They, we, will be spared our much deserved wrath of God and instead be declared rightouess in His sight and promised eternity with a prefect, holy and loving God.
The thing that God is showing us is the distinction between the rightouess and the unrightouess. That can be very hard to see. Its not always clear. Jesus shows us this in the prable of the wheat and the tares, in Matthew 13:24-30:
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[c] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants[d] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Our churches in America, in this world are filled with both believers and non believers. Coming together, growing up intermixed, with nobody but God able to tell who is who.
Not only is America one of the biggest mission feilds in maerica, the reason Village Missions exists, but churches are one of the biggest mission fields in America. Many think that if they attend church regularly, or if their parents or grandparents brought them to church or Sunday School as a kid, or if they raised their hand or walked down to an altar and said a prayer, that they are saved. Too many think that if they live moral lives, bring their kids to church and vote Republican that they will have check off enough items on the chrck list that God uses to determine if we are good enough to get into heaven.
However, Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
This is important. What we claim, what we identify as, how we act, none of it does anything to save us. Salvation is by the grace of God alone, through Fiath alone in His Son, Jesus Christ alone, to and for the glory of God alone, as He has revealed in the Sciptures alone.
So, regardless of what we would like to think, there are only two distinctions. The rightouess and the wicked. And the Day of the LORD is coming. And on that day, we will see the seperation, the distinction between the rightouess and the wicked.
On that day, the arrogant and the wicked, those who reject Gods covenant and his grace and mercy, those who know the truth but supress it by their unrightouesness, they will be subject to the judgment fire. The lake of fire, that never quenches.
This is unfortunately not the refining fire that we see back in Chapter 3, verse 2. This is an eternal punishment. Perfect and Holy Justice will be served. Man like Jeffery Epstein, who many think have escaped justice, cannot escape the Justice and wrath of God. And because of our sins, that is what we all deserve. I came upon this wupte this week: “Nobody wants a God who declines to deal with evil. They just want a God who declines to deal with their evil.”
But for Gods covenant people, for those who fear him, for those who serve him, for those whose faith is in Him, The Son of Rightouesness will come with healings. This is not necessarily speaking of physical healing in this world, in this life. God came to save sinners. He will heal us of our sins. We will be healed of our sins to spend eternity in our perfect, glorified, physical bodies.

Gods message in the scriptures is often a dual message with one purpose. Malachi shows that as well. Malachi starts with a declaration of the love of God. And it ends with the threat of a curse. Paul writes in Romans 11:22: Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness.

The Kindness AND the severity of God, all designed to bring us to repentence and faith. His kindness poured out on those who respond to this message. His severity poured out on those who reject it.
Christianity is both, at the same time, the most inclusive AND exclusive religion in the world. Exclusive because there is only one way to salvation, only through Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the only door that we can go through to get to God the Father. Period, There is no other way. It is inclusive more that any other religion, because the invitation to walk through that door goes out to anyone and everyone. It is going out to everyone here this morning. If you have not responded to this message of love and salvation, now is the time. If you thought youw ere safe and realized that you are trusting In your own works and rightouesness, now is the time to believe the Gospel and repent. If you have already respended to this message and trusted in Christ alone, now is the time to share with those around you and to rejoice in the coming of the LORD to dole out his perfect and Holy justice and his perfect and holy mercy and grace.
The Message of Malachi, the Message of this book is Gods Faithfullness and his love and his compassion and his mercy. And the message is his wrath and his justice, all perfect, all complete and all holy just as God himself is. The covenant God has made is perfect, complete and Holy just as He is and it will never end, it will never be broke by God and we can place our complete and total trust in him and his commands.
Lets finish this book off by reading what The psalmist writes in Psalm 84:11 & 12:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Malachi 3:6-12 Give to God what is Gods

Malachi 3:6-12
Give to God what is His

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Malachi, chapter 3. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please help yourself to one off of the back table, as our gift to you.
So, as we are continuing through this book, we are seeing that there is nothing new under the sun. The things that God is addressing and telling Israel through Malachi could very easily be written today. This book, the message in Malachi is very contemporary and applies to us, as Gods covenant people as it applied to the recipients of this message, Israel, as Gods covenant people.
There is not too much introduction today, because there is not much to say. In Malachi, God has been pointing out a variety of different ways that we are being unfaithful to him and the convant that he has established with us. He has been pointing out a variety of ways that we have been sinning against God. And he has been pointing out Gods “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”
And we are going to continue those themes this morning as we read this weeks passage. We are going to look at Malachi 3:6-12. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi chapter 3, verses 6-12. God, speaking through his prophet, Malachi, says:
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer[b] for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.

We start out with God proclaim his unchangingness. James writes that there is no variation in God. Once his covenant is made, it is made. When he makes a promise, that promise comes true. He says something and it happens. And he has said that he will show mercy to his people.
And yet, despite his promising to show us mercy, proving it time and time again, we continue to take from God. We reject him outright, or we think that we can use him and contain him, we continue to treat him as if we can earn his good graces, his love. We think we can keep him in a box, pull him out when its convienant, or when we need him and put him back away, able to live our lives however we want.
Thats not how God works and he has been quite clear about that. He has promised to have mercy and his love to those who are his people. He has called us to believe the Gospel and repent of our sins. James writes in his letter, chapter 4, verses 7 & 8:
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Here is what his promises and his word and his unchangeability mean. God is completely sovereign. Nothing is done, OR not done for that matter, outside of His will. Nothing in this world is done or not done, without God purposely and specifically deciding that it will or will not be done.
But Scripture is also crystal clear that this does not absolve us of our own responsibility for our actions and our decisions. Again, Jesus says in Mark 1:15 (double check) that we are called to Repent and believe the Gospel. We have no standing to say that we didnt have an oppurtunity or a call to turn to him. But we are to have faith in Jesus Christ alone as our Salvation.
James also writes that the faith that we do have, without acting on it, without doing the things that faith calls for, that faith is dead. (James 2:17) The seeming paradox between Gods Sovereignty and Mans Responsibility continues as we look at Ephesians 2. Verse 8-10, Paul writes:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Even this passage shows us two things that I point out. First, the faith in which we trust in Christ and faith in which our rightouesness is based on, that faith itself is a gift from God and not of ourselves. But also, that with our faith comes responsibility. Verse 10 points out that we were created to do good works for and through God and and that it is our responsibility to do them.
We were created to do these good works that God has called us to. And we were created to worship God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Romans 12:1, Paul writes: to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Us doing the things that God has created us for is the truest and purest form of worship.
God says that he will be faithful on his end, and calls us to be faithful on our end. One of the things that Scriptures continues to show us over and over is the we dont keep our end. This section of Malachi shows another example of how Israel at the time and us today fail to give to God what is his.
Verses 8-12 here have an immdeiate context, a bigger context within Malachi and an even bogger context within scripture as a whole. And as a shared recently, all of those contexts are important, to leave one of them out is to take the verses out of context.
We will start with the immediate context and work our ways out. Malachi here is talking about Israels unfaithfullness in the context of tithing. The word tithe literally translated means 10 percent. Thats why we tend to use the word like we do. We dont notice, or we forget that the prescribed giving in the Old Testament was upwards over 30%.
We do also see that there is no prescribed “tithe” in the New Testament. We re commanded to give, but never commanded to give a certain amount. 2 Corinthians 9:6 & 7 says : The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. So, when you give, the two things to makes sure is not that your giving meets a certain dollar amount or whatever, but that your giving is cheerful and sacrificial. Give generously and as you are led.
Above all, we are to give God our first fruits. We are to give to God before all and above all. Lets look back momentarily to the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.
Cain was a Gardner, a farmer. He grew crops and food. Abel was a Shepard, tending to the flocks and the animals. Now, they both brought an offering appropriate to their profession, what they had, they brought the offering to the LORD.
For one reason or another, God approved of Abel’s offering and did not approve of Cain’s offering. Now, any conclusion we come to as to why, is just a guess. The scriptures don’t tell us clearly why. But there are some thing it does tell us and there are some ideas we can ponder. First, Hebrews 11:4 says that Abel’s was a “more acceptable sacrifice,” and he was commended as righteous. But why was it more acceptable?
There are a few thoughts, some might be right, all of them might be right, none of them might be right. I don’t think that last one is the case, by the way. Now, some say that it was because there was no blood in Cains offering that his was rejected. This is possible, but I don’t think its the case for a few reasons. First, yes, blood was already shown to be required for the covering of sin, as we saw last week, but specific offerings and sacrifices had not yet been implemented. Also, there is no indication that this is a sin offering. There were plenty of Old Testament offerings implemented that were not required to include blood. All the text says is that this was an offering to the LORD. So, I tend to lean against that view.
Next, and this has the most possible textual support, is that Abel gave his first and his best, while Cain gave just some stuff. If we look back at verses 3& 4, it says that Abel brought first born of the flock. For Cain it simply says he brought of his fruit. If he did bring first fruits, wouldn’t it say it there? And God does want us to give first to him. We put him number one in our life, above all things. Period. We give to him first, everything else second. We give off the top and we give him the best. That principle is clearly established throughout scriptures and very well could be why Cains offering was rejected.
I think that’s part of the reason. But I think the biggest reason is that Cain gave his offering, his sacrifice, his fruit he gave them for the wrong reasons. I think that Abel gave cheerfully and generously, as Paul calls us to do in 2 Corinthians. I believe that Abel gave out of his faith. He gave out of his love for God. It was his worship. I believe that Cain gave because he was supposed to or he was told to. Without faith. With out worship. Not cheerfully or generously. But out of obligation.
I think we see that in the way Cain reacts here. And as we look at this, think abut how we act with God as well. Cain brings fruit for an offering, as he is supposed to and God rejects it. You can almost here the thoughts going through Cains head. “I did my best and it wasn’t enough for you! Its not fair! What else do you want me to do? What more could I possibly do?”

We also see in the passage of our scripture reading this morning, Acts chapter 5, the story of Annanias and Saphira that the issue is not with how much they gave. The specific dollar amount is never the issue. The issue we see here is the heart, which we know is deceitful above all things. They said they were going to give the whole amount to the church. They instead, held some back for themselves and then lied about it. It was their deciet and sinful heart that ultimately did them in, not the amount of their giving.
From there, we move to the bigger context within Malachi. And that is us being unfaithful to God, his commands and what he has called us to. We have seen us breaking his commandments. We have been worshipping other gods and various idols. We have ignored and celebrated sins. We have been un faithful in marriages and seeing marriage as a covenant. We have failed to repent of our sin and know we are robbing God with out unfaithfullness in giving and genorosity. Basically, a basic, complete and systematic lack of obedience.
And yet, God is faithful. We believe in the Gospel and repent of our sins. And sometimes we expect that means that we wont sin anymore. We expect to never let God down again. And yet, we know thats not the case because we are living it. Pual himself struggles with this issue in Romans chapter 7. But once we are brought from death to life in Christ, once we are Gods children, God has made a promise that He will not turn his back on us, that he will be with us always.
God tells us in Joshua 1:9;
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
And the very last words of Matthews Gospel, Jesus says in Matthew 28:20:
I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

God has made his promises and his word is unchanging. He will keep his promises and his covenant will be fulfilled.
And we finally come to the biggest context, the context of the entirety of the scriptures. Give to God what belongs to God.
This includes but is more than money. As an example of how, all incompassing this is, I want to read Luke 20:19-25:
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality,[d] but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius.[e] Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Your life does not belong to you. Your life belongs to God. Jesus paid for it with his blood. He gave his life for yours. He created you and I. And we were created in his image and likeness.
And as one made in his image and likeness, you reflect the attributes of God the Father. You get to chose how you do so. You are either a slave to sin, or you are a slave to rightouesness, as Paul puts in Romans 6: 17-23. Jesus says in Johns gospel that we are either sons of the Devil or Sons of Abraham. (John 8:39-47) As spiritual heirs of Abraham, the fulfillment of so much prophecy, we are called children of God. (John 1)
You either give to God what is His, or you rob from God by wothholding and taking what is His.
Now, its common to hear very wrong application taught from this passage in Malachi.
Guiling you in to giving a higher dollar amount to the church, regardless of what you have been giving or what the other circumstances are. WRONG!
Offering you a money back gaurauntee on your tithes if God doesnt show up in your life and do a miracle. WRONG.
Any other application where you eliminate the Word of God and just go off of guilt or what the Pastor says. WRONG.
Gove in order to receive any sort of material blessing or healing. WRONG.
You give. Thats biblical. Thats from God. But you give what God has called you to give and not what I or anyone else tell you to give. Sometimes God will bless you with money or material blessings, but that is never promised in the Bible. Sometimes God will heal you. He certainly can and in some cases, does. But physical healing of disease or infirmities is never promised this side of heaven.
And if he chooses to give you those blessings, YAY! Praise God! But what He has promised to give us is worth som much more than anything else in this world. He promises us Him. He gives us himself. He gives us forgiveness of our sins, His Sons rightouesness and eternal life.
Revelation 7:9&10 gives us a picture of what this will look like when John writes:
behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
Rev 7:10  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

All of things that are written in scripture, all the Words of God are designed to show us the truth. John writes in his Gospel, Chapter 20, verses 30 & 31:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Thats the goal, and if we are in Christ, thats the promise. We stumble, we trip, we fall. In Christ, that is in the process of being driven out of us, the process of sanctification. But we deserve the wrath of God. But it is Gods grace that saves us, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
The enemy will try to sow seeds of doubt or shame. Because we have not and will not achieve sinlessness this side of the grave, Satan, the Accuser, will try to make us doubt Gods love, see the first section of Malachi. He will try to make us doubt our salvation, that we havent yet earned it or done enough good. Or he may make some think that because they are good people or have done good thingsthat they really are saved when their actually is no saving faith. He will use and do anything he can to make us doubt Gods promises and faithfullness.
God promises us in Malchi 3:11 the he will rebuke the devourer for us. The enemy has no power over us when we are in Christ. Romans 8:1 says that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And thats what Im going to leave us with. Assurance of the fulfillment of Gods promises to us. Im going to read Romans 8:31-39 and then I will close us in prayer. Paul writes:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Malachi 1:6-2:9 pt 2 The Church is a Defender of Truth

Malachi 1:9-2:6 pt 2

The Church is a defender of the Truth

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Malachi. If you do not have or own a Bible, please remember to grab a Bible from the back table as our gift to you. One of our missions here at Bangor Community Church is to get the Word of God in the hands of as many people as possible.

So, the book of Malachi is where we are. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament and is split up in to 6 different sections. Over simplifying, 6 different dialogues that God is having with Israel. We started last week looking at the second and longest of those last week, looking at Malachi chapter 1, verse 6, all the way on through to Malachi chapter 2, verse 9.

We saw how God calls us to put Him first. We are here in church to worship and glorify God first and foremost. If we are not fully focused on God and his glory, then God says, dont bother. Church is a poor hobby. Dont play Church.

And we saw what we are to be, as a practical outpouring of our glorifying God, what we are to be as the church. We are to edify and build up the body of Christ, we are to evangelize those that dont know Jesus Christ, and to disciple those who do, so they grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the LORD. And we are to contend earnestly for the faith.

We are to give God our first and our best, of our time, our money, our thoughts, our actions and our life. God is talking here to Israel in general but also, specifically to the priests, those who are called to do the work of the LORD. They have been dropping the ball, and giving cheap, diseased sacrifices. God is going to remind them of what their calling is.

So, before we jump into that part, we are going to read the text that we are looking at this morning. Again, it is a longer section, the same section we read last week. Malachi 1:6-2:9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to follow along in whichever is your preferred translation. So starting in Malachi, chapter 1, verse 6, God, speaking through His prophet, says:

 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord‘s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be[b] great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations

 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring,[a] and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.[b] 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction[c] was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people[d] should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

So, I mentioned last week too, that specifically God is talking to the priests of Israel. Those who were called to teach the law, to run the temple, to perform the sacrifices, those who are to serve God and spread the Word and his Will throughout the nations. And so, that may seem like it means that he is not talking to us, that he is only talking to a certain segment today.

However, we read in 1 Peter 2:9, that this includes us, as Peter writes:  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

God created this world with order, not chaotically, not randomly. He created things to go in a certain order and to work in a systematic way. It started as a paradise, but man sinned and chaos was brought into the world. Thats why the world is as it is today, because of our sin and disobedience. Because we are totally depraved. We have a sin nature that enslaves and control us.

But God is a graceful God. He is a God who cares about his creation. So he has poured his grace on the entire world. Some of that is whats called common grace. This is all of the good things that we see around us. God is still giving blessings to the world around us.

This is everything from rain to help plants grow, swamp coolers and Air Conditioning. This is the colors that we see around us, the beauty of nature. This is pet dogs and our favorite books or movies. This is art in general, this is way that our favorite food tastes. This is our friendships and our marriages and our relationships. This is everything Good and lovely in this world. And this includes the revelation of how to live right and the standard of our Holy and Perfect God.

And then there is specific, special grace. This is what God pours out on those whom he calls to believe in him and to save from the consequences of our sin. And it is only through the grace of God that we get this. He chooses to pour his specific, saving grace through the vehicle of faith, and only faith that is in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

God is very clear in His Word. There is only one way and there is only two choices. Salvation by God is through his grace alone. Jesus shows us the two destinations possible in his parable of the Goats and the Sheep in Matthew 25. Starting in verse 31, he says:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

These sheep are those whom he has called, those whom he has poured his saving grace out on. Those who have turn to him in faith, trusting in Jesus Christ to forgive them of their sins and repenting of their sins. The sheep are those whom He calls His children.

He continues on down in verse 41, speaking to the Goats:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

This is referring to those who have not turned to Him. Those who trust in themselves or any other god rather than the One true God. Those who think that they can be righteous enough, or can be holy enough. These are those who, as Paul puts it in Romans chapter 1:18, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. The Truth of Scripture and of who God is is made plain and clear by God through His creation. We have no excuse for not recognizing the truth except that our own rebellious, unrighteous attitudes reject the truth for what we want the truth to be instead.

And one of the biggest points that is made by Jesus in the parable is that these are the only two options. There is no partially saved. There is no temporarily saved. There is no used to be saved. You are saved by grace through faith in Christ or you are not. Period.

We looked last week at the sufficiency of Scripture. How we are to defend the doctrine that as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17:  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We looked at that the Word of God is the foundational book and rock that we can base our faith on and how it is when we get away from the truth of scripture that we fall into heresy, blasphemy, apostasy, compromise, and so much more. Gods word is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword. Hebrews 4:12. Nothing is more important, or helps us stay In the truth or focused on God more than defending and affirming the Word of God.

One of the most important, if not THE most important truths contained in the Word of God is the exclusivity of Christ, the need that we have for a savior and that Christ is the only savior.

And one of our jobs as the church, as a royal priesthood is to defend that truth. We are to share that truth. We are to help as many people as possible know that truth. And we need to remember to do so out of and with love. We can say the right things, we can say the exact words of the Bible, but if we are not speaking the truth in love, we are wrong.

Speaking the truth in and with love is very different than compromising the truth. We need to hold firm to the truth. We need to grab Jesus and the Bible with both hands and go full speed ahead. But, one of the most common reasons we start speaking the truth in the wrong way is that we are frustrated that people don’t get it. Or because we want them to see the truth so bad. Or whatever the motivation, it can typically be narrowed down to not trusting God to take care of the results. We are called to be faithful and God is called to take care of the results.

In Chapter 2 of Malachi, God tells the priests about being faithful to what God has called them to. And he points out the difference between true, obedient priests, and the false priests who fail to obey the commands of God.

In Malachi 2, verses 2 & 3:

If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring,[a] and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.[b]

One of the things we need to make sure we remember is the order that these things transpire. We are either sheep or goats. That determination is the first thing. Are we children of God or are we not? First, Gods grace is poured out in us and we repent of our sins and we turn to Christ. Then we receive the blessings that come with it. Also after we become a child of God, we are able to follow and obey his commands.

Without Gods saving grace, without the Holy Spirit changing us from the inside and regenerating us, we are not able to obey God. Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please him. So, without faith, we are the Goats, to be cursed, to be thrown into the eternal fire. If we do not honor his name, which can only be done through true spiritual worship that comes through faith, than God will send curses down on us.

But, if we come through faith and enter into covenant with God, he says in Malachi 2, verse 5 & 6: My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction[c] was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.

Life, peace, full of awe towards Him. Jesus says that he came to give us life and life abundantly. John 10:10 And John says towards the end of his Gospel, John 20:31, these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

True instructions are to be in our mouths. We are to speak the truth. We have to know our Bible, and now it in context in order to do this. Right doctrine matters. Gods Word matters. I love this quote by Jared Wilson:

The Bible is so revealing, so penetrating, so calibrating, so explanatory and upending. The Bible is God himself telling us the what, where, when, why, and how of everything that ultimately and eternally matters.

Malachi 2:7 says:  For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people[d] should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. Again, thats every believer. We are a royal priesthood. And we are called, both individually and as a corporate group, as a church gathering, to guard knowledge. Not to keep it away from others, on the contrary, to make sure that right knowledge is passed out to all.

Let me ask this. Those that have been a Christian for longer periods of time, Do you guard knowledge? And do people ask you for instruction? I think we can bring this around to discipleship and mentorship. Titus chapter 2 says that the older are to teach the younger.

This is not exclusively referring to age, bit to maturity in the LORD and his word. Are you teaching those newer in the faith, those who are curious or have questions, are you sharing true, biblical knowledge and instruction with them? Are you able? Or do you need to spend time in the Word and with someone sharing knowledge and instruction with you?

Want to know a secret? We should always be in both camps. As you grow and mature in the faith, you should be looking for those around you whom you can invest in and you can teach, once you have a solid foundation in Gods Word.

Once you become a Christian, you should never not be learning and growing. You should be seeking our fellow Christians, brothers and sisters, depending on the context, who are willing to teach, to invest in you. Who are willing and able, thats important too, to guard knowledge and share it with you and to share right instruction with you, helping you grow in wisdom and knowledge of the LORD. That should never stop, no matter how long you have been a Christian. There will always be someone more mature, some one who knows more, and even if you dont recognize it, someone who you can learn from.

Now, you should not start mentoring and discipling someone else as soon as you become a Christian. When you start out, you take time to sit under right biblical teaching and learn from those who have gathered and acquired a lifetime of biblical, godly, knowledge.

And all this plays into, how do we know what teaching, what knowledge and what wisdom is right to give and right to listen to. It all comes back to the Bible and what it says about Jesus Christ.

False teachers never accurately portray who Jesus Christ is. They either diminish or demean Jesus humanity or his deity. These can be subtle. These teachings can be hard to notice at first. But if you look and use the Bible to test the spirits, to test all things by scripture, even bible verses that are quoted, the fruit will become apparent. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Matthew 7:17 & 18.

If and when we see teachings that say things like Jesus was just a man while here in earth, That should be a red flag. That start can lead to many different endings, but as you may have learned in school, a faulty premise always leads to a faulty conclusion. Its false and unbiblical and cuts away saving faith. Or if you here that Jesus was God, be only appeared to be a man. This is wrong too. He was truly God and Truly Man. Thats part of why it could only be Him that had the ability to be our savior. If you hear that Jesus mission, his main purpose, his goals and his priorities were anything other than to save sinners, then run. This could even be things that sound good. But the Gospel is simple, God became man to save sinners. Anything else is a false Gospel.

The Gospel is not physical healing. The Gospel is not miraculous signs and winners. The Gospel is not being happy, or being wealthy, or being healthy. The Gospel is not you testimony. The Gospel is not our political sides winning. The Gospel is not our nationality or ethnicity. The Gospel is not living moral, good upstanding lives. The Gospel is not being on the right side of History. The Gospel is not equality. Those are false Gospels. What does Paul say about these? Galatians 1:6-9:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Heres why those things are able to get a foothold even though they are false Gospels. Because often, the can be a result of the true Gospel. When the true Gospel is preached and received, it can, at times, as a secondary matter, result in healing, or miracles, or equality, or prosperity, or whatever. But it is not promised, necessary or required. And the reverse is true to. If that is absent, it does not mean that the Gospel is absent as well.

False teachers wont hear this. If you point out false teaching or false Gospels, it is highly likely that you will be called divisive, that you are fostering disunity or that you are dividing up the body of Christ. But God points out here that it is the False teachers that are divisive.

Malachi 2:8 & 9:

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

Our job as the church is to defend the truth. Our job as the church, both individually and as a group, is to be a pillar, a buttress of truth, as Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15. We are to know Gods Word, trust Gods Word and preach Gods Word. We are to share Gods Word and leave the results with him. We have the word of God, the sword of the spirit and thats all we need.

Ill leave you with a Charles Spurgeon Quote, The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.

Lets Pray.

Malachi 1:6-2:9 pt 1 Dont Play Church

Malachi 1:6-2:9 Pt 1

Dont Play Church

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Malachi. Malachi is the last book of the Old testament. If you do not have a Bible of your own, please grab on from the back table and consider it our gift to you.

So, we started looking at the book of Malachi last week. Remember, Malachi was a prophet whose ministry was towards the end of the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah. Malachi was the last of the prophets recorded in the Old Testament, before God brought about over 400 years of silence, where he did not spreak to Israel through the prophets until the birth of John the Baptist.

And God has some harsh words for Israel at this point. We are going to look at some of those words here this morning. But God started off reassuring Israel that He does in fact love them. They dont feel that love, but Gods Word assured them it was true, Jacob he loved but Esau he hated.

That was the first of the disputations, or, essentially, dialogues that God ahas with Israel here in Malachi. This morning we will look at the second one, the longest of the 6 that we are going to look at in this series.

So we are going to be reading Malachi, starting in Chapter 1, verse 6, all the way through to chapter 2, verse 9. Before we go any further, lets go ahead and read this week text. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your prefered translation. So, again, Malachi 1, verse 6, on through chapter 2, verse 9.

The Word of God says:

A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord‘s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be[b] great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring,[a] and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.[b] 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction[c] was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people[d] should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

God continues speaking here as we start of in verse 6. The first thing we see here is that God is deserving of and we are to give him much honor. The Westminster Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is “To Glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

God is Holy, Holy, Holy. Scriptures says this twice, first in Isaiah 6 and then in Revelations 4. The use of repeating the word three times shows how significant this attribute is in knowing who God is. We are to give him all glory, all honor and praise.

God here gives us two real life examples here. Sons are to honor their fathers. Thats simple enough. “Children, obey your parents, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1. “Honor your Father and Mother.” Exodus 20:12. One of the most fundamental commands in scripture.

The other one we see is that a servant is to honor his Master. Jeremiah 3:14 says, Return, O faithless children, declares the Lord for I am your master;. All throughout Lukes Ghospel, the disciples continually refer to Jesus as their master. The other Gospel record this as well, but it is especially evident in Lukes Gospel. Paul writes in Colossians 4:1, Masters, treat your bondservants[a] justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

We are to give honor to our earthly Masters, and there is always an earthly Master. But Gods point here is that these types of relationships where we give honor to each other, to our Fathers and to our Masters is a type, a shadow of the infinite honor and glory and praise that we are to gven our heavenly father and our heavenly Master.

God is asking, where is my honor? Why are you not showing me the honor and fear and respect I deserve? Why do you hate me? This is one of the cases where there are no degrees between love and hate. There is one, Love, that we are called to, where we read God is Love. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:13, So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

And the opposite of love is hate. God demands our all encompassing love and devotion and faith and trust. And if we give him any thing less than all of us, than we give him nothing and we show him hate instead of love. There is no such thing as partially loving God or loving him with part of our hearts, part of our lives, part of our bodies, or part of our time. If we do not love all of God, all of the time, with all of us, we are hating Him.

God says that we are to honor our fathers and our masters. He says that they deserve our honor and respect. But he says how much more is he deserving of our honor and respect. And we are to give Him more honor and respect than we give our fathers and masters. Essentially think of it like this. Try giving your Dad, try giving your boss try giving police, and authorities in this world the same amount of respect and reverence that you give God, and then see how poorly that goes in your life.

God deserves our first fruits. He deserve our first and our greatest and our highest honor. Are you giving him your firstfruits? Are you giving him your best? Your time. Your money. Your heart. Your effort. Your commitment. Your life. Your Words. Or are you giving him whats left over? Are you giving him whatever is on hand? Are you giving him what you happen to have, after you do all the other things first, after the rest of your time has been filled up, after the rest of your money has been spent?

God says, Do not Disrespect Him. His word is clear on what his expectations are. Do not pretend to give him anything or even everything. Do not come in here and give God your false worship. God will not be mocked.

I want to take a second here to clarify one point. God here in Malachi is talking to Israel. In the greater scheme of things here, in context, he is talking to the visible church. In other words, he is specifically talking to those who profess to be Christians. If you have come in and you are not sure about God, if you are not sure about Christianity, this is not speaking to you. Your are here and we want you to do nothing but sit back, feel welcomed and learn who the one, true God is and how he gave us his Son to save us from our sins, and more specifically, the eternal consequences there of. He does that, by the way through his Grace and only through his grace. He pours his grace out on us, saving us, when we put our faith, and only when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself God, who was born a human baby, lived a sinless life and died to pay the punishment for sin. This is all revealed in his Words, in the Holy Scripture and he does this, at the head of it all for His Glory. So, think on that, we pray that you make the decision to put your faith and trust in Christ and repent of your sins, but unitl then, dont worry about your worship or if your doing enough or any of that. Sit back and listen and read your Bible.

But for those of us here that claim to be folowers of Christ, and there for, the one true God, and read, believe and follow his Words to us, his commands that he has given us, we are called to repent of our hypocrisy when it rears its ugly head and to esure that we are putting our entire focus on Christ.

I gotta tell you. Church is a terrible hobby. What would be the point of it? There is a reason that some many people in the world today, and specifically in our country today, dont bother to go to church on Sunday Mornings. They have better things to do. Thats it. Simply put. We all can fall into that occasionally. Beautiful weekends like this, that lake sounds real good. We have 6 young kids, so there isnt a morning where sleeping in doesnt sound good. We could think about and I bet everyone of us could come up with a whole list of reasons that sound better than getting up early, putting on nice clothes, wrangling up kids, getting them dressed, and driving down here.

OF course there is something better. Church is not a social club. The purpose of us being here is not to get together and talk and hang out. Church is not a place to come and waste time. We are not here for vague, undefined community related social reasons.

The church exists not for us and this world primiarily, but it exists primarily to glorify God. Thats why we are all here individually. Thats why we are all here societally. And thats why we are all here as the body of the church and the church corporately. To glorify God.

Some of the ways this is designed to take place are identifyed in scripture. We exist to edify the body as Paul lays out in Ephesians cchapter 4. We build each other up. We see Paul write in Epehsians 4:11 & 12, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers,[d] 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

The church exists for evangelism and discipleship. Jesus gives us the Great Commision in Matthew 28:19 & 20, telling his disciples, and all of us, 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We go and make disciples, both sharing the Word of God, to let people who dont know the Gospel see the wonderful truth and promises of God, but also to make each and every one of us continue to grow deeper into his Word, to grow spritually, to become more mature in the faith. So that we can more and more observe all that Jesus has commanded us.

And we study the word and submit to godly, contextual, true teaching of the Word of God as we, as is written in Jude, contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. This all is our spiritual worship. This all is how and why we come together as a church and glorify and honor God. This is what we are here to do.

Anything else instead of this is giving false honor and glory to God. It is despising God. In the context of what Malachi is saying here, they offered up lame animals, blind and diseased animals. They offered up garbage. They offered up a farce of what God wanted them to and had commanded them to as an act of true worship and sacrifice. They gave their last fruits. They gave their leftovers.

And if thats what they are going to do, God says, dont bother. Look at verse 10,  Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.

God says, if this is what you are going to offer, dont bother. Dont bother with the sacrifices. Dont bother pretending to follow the Law. Dont bother rebuilding the Walls around Jerusalem, and dont bother rebuilding the temple. Theres no point. Just shut the doors.

You know, you often here a challenge that usually goes something like this. “If your church closed down and shut the doors, would your community miss you?” There is some truth to that. Part of loving our neighbors and a part of sharing the Good News of the Gospel to to present a good witness, a good testimony and that includes loving and serving our community. In fact, one of Village Missions goals or purposes is to ensure that every community has a Gospel presence, in other words, to make sure that there is a Bible teaching, Gospel preaching church in every community.

However, even if we are serving our community, if our focus is not first and foremost on God and worshipping him, serving him, honoring him and glorifying him, then, God will say the same thing to us, Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! There is no point in us being here, if we are not going to do what God has told us to do.

So, reading this and hearing this, we should have one question and one question only on our mind, How do we make sure this doesnt happen to Bangor Community Church and to us individually? The answer is simple and clear and difficult. We hold high the sufficiency of Scriptures. We hold in the highest regard what God has already said to us and told us.

There are a lot of, what are called, “Seeker sensitive,” churches out there. And the idea behind these churches is that they will do whatever it takes to get people through those doors, to get them inside the church. They will compromise and justify just about anything that they think will get people in the seats. The first and biggest thing that gets compromised is the Word of God.

The teaching gets watered down because they dont want to offend anyone. They stop talking about sin, instead, maybe just talking about Jesus, but not the context that made his death necessairy for the salvation he provides. We see shallow theology. Improper or incorrect teaching of Gods word, sometimes downright heresy. We get churches and pastors that teach that we need to unhitch from the Old Testament, that it doesnt apply to Christians and that it should never be used when discussing the Bible with non believers. Or you get teachings like Jesus wasnt God when he was on earth, that if he was God and did all his miracles, that would not be impressive, but since he was a man, and we are men, if we live like Jesus did, we can do the miracles that Jesus did.

These are real teachings from real so called pastors that are reaching thousands if not millions of listeners around the world.Some of these churches, and more, figure if they give enough things away, that more people will come in. So you see, especially at the big holidays, like Christmas, Easter, etc, you these big churchs hold drawings, giving away t shirts, books, TVs, laptops, even cars. There is a saying out there, What you win them with is what you win them to. Meaning that whatever it is that you use to get them in the door and to even maybe give a comitment, is what you need to keep doing in order to get them to stay. At the forefront of these churches is what Ron Sallee refers to as Nickels, Noses and Noise. How much many did we bring in? How many people did we bring in and How many programs did we run?

Yet, we dont often enough see churches following scripture. What does the bible say? In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul referes to the scriptures as, the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. The Bible tells us all we need to know about how to be forgiven of our sins and saved from their penalty.

Paul also tells us in Romans 10:17 that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. The scriptures, Gods Words are what he uses to save us. We hear what he has said about sin, grace, Jesus, forgiveness and salvation, and the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and changes our hearts, We put our faith in Jesus Christ and God, in his infinite grace now sees us as rightouess.

There, that was a lot easier than trying to juggle fire whil riding a unicycle. It was much easier than saying that if you have enough faith, God will make you healthy and rich, otherwise known as lying. It was much easier than coming up with bigger and bigger primzes to give out next time.

The Word of God is sufficient. Its all we need. God made sure we had all we need to edify and build up, to make disciples of all nations and to contend for the faith. Its all right here in this book.

And it is also, as is written in hebrews 4:12 & 13, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

When we read Gods Word, with the hear, with the intent of glorifying God and growing closer to him, his Word will convict us of what we have done wrong, what are doing wrong and what we thought about doing wrong. And so, this will help us to make sure that we are not just playing church, not offering up empty and vain worship to God, that we are not despising him, but we are in fact giving him all honor, all glory and all praise.

Now, the first Sunday of every month, we follow the commands of Jesus and we celebrate communion in remembrance of him. We remember and we celebrate what unites us and brings us together. The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we come together to celebrate that unity. To pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

Malachi 1:1-5 Gods love is Unbreakable

Malachi 1:1-5
No Doubting Gods Love

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the Minor Prophet, Malachi. He is the last book in the Old Testament. If you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table there as our gift to you.
So, does it feel weird not to be turning to Romans? So as some of you may already know, my philosophy in preaching is to preach Line by Line, Verse by Verse through books of the Bible, what’s called Expository Preaching. My ideal is to alternate between New Testament books and Old testament books. We just finished Romans, which is in the New Testament and so now, we are going to go through Malachi, a book in the Old Testament. This will be a shorter(ish) series, at least that’s my plan, and no, I don’t yet know where we will go after Malachi.
This week, we will look at the first verses in Malachi, but even before that we will introduce ourselves to this book of the Bible, grouped with the so called minor prophets. So, some background first.
The name, Malachi means ‘Gods Messenger.” Now, because of this, there is some debate as to whether Malachi is a title or a name in this instance. For me, I will always lean towards the historical answer, or in this case, I will always believe it is a name as opposed to a title unless and until there is compelling evidence to the contrary.
Regardless, Malachi is a messenger of God. He wrote down the oracles, the words that God gave to him. Historically, timeline-wise, he is a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. Its likely though not guaranteed, coming along towards the end of their ministries of rebuilding the temple and the wall and reestablishing Gods Word and a remembering of Gods covenant among the Jews coming back from Exile.
And we are going to see that Gods covenant is one of the major themes throughout Malachi. Gods covenant, his Word is unchanging, it is unbreakable. It is the same, just as God him self is, yesterday, today and tomorrow. And Gods covenant does not go away. God is faithful even when we are not. And not only that, but God is faithful, especially when we are not. He is Holy, Holy, Holy and all that that entails. Gods faithfulness and our lack of faithfulness will be on full display in this book.
Again, this is the last book in the Old Testament. After God finishes speaking to Malachi, it ushers in the 400 years of silence. God stops speaking to and through the prophets. John the Baptist and at almost the exact same time, Jesus of Nazareth broke the silence and ushered in the New Testament time. Hebrews 1:1 & 2 speaks to this, saying,
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
We don’t have prophets anymore. John the Baptist was the last of what are considered the Old Testament prophets. And from then on, God spoke to us through his Son, The Word made Flesh, The Word of God, Jesus Christ. And his Words are what we have written in our hands, in the Bible you are holding. Every word in the Bible is the Words of Christ.
The Book of Malachi has a unique style to it. It is written in a “disputational” style. Not to be mistaken with dispensational, which is a theology system specifically regarding the end times. But this back and forth disputation style is like a dialogue between God and the people of Israel.
There are 6 of those in this book and the plan is that we are going to follow them in our series, so 6 sermons through Malachi. This first one, we will be looking at Malachi, chapter 1, verses 1-5. So I will read our text for this morning, and I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation while I read. Again, Malachi, chapter 1, verses 1-5.
Malachi, The prophet of God writes:
The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.[a]
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

God starts off with a simple, concise, clear statement. “I have loved you.” The people of Israel, however, didnt feel this was true. When you read all that they had been through over the previous 500 years or so, they felt like there was no way that God could love them. Their country was split in two. Each one, at seperate times was conquered and taken into captivity. Even before that, they were constantly being invaded, oppressed and attacked by their neighbor countries. Even more immediate to when this was written, Ezra came back, brought many Israelites with him and they started rebuilding Jerusalem. There were some complications there, to put it mildly if you read through the book of Ezra. Nehemiah came back and rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem but also had some problems. And if that timing is correct, that this was written and prophecied towards the end of Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s ministries, than the Israelites would not yet have been fully restored to their home back in Israel. It would have still been on ongoing process.
The Israelites didnt see the blessings, the Israelites didnt see the proof of Gods love. They only saw the negative. They only saw what they felt. And so this book starts off with the clear truth that we need to hear. God has loved you.
The Word of God is clear. It is what it is and it says what it says. There is no ambiguity and there is no grey area here. God gives a factual, true statement. The truth of Gods word is not dependant on how we feel. We may not always feel that God loves us, just like the Israelites didnt feel like God loved them. But that doesnt make it any less true.
Gods word, both written and spoken, means exactly what it says. And we have it here written down. We have the written Word of God. Israel didnt have it written down, all ready for them. They hear from God through the prophets. Now the words of those prophets are written down and they are just as clear as they were then. (Clearer if you understand the context of the New Testament being the fulfillment of the Testament and, as we have learned in our Bibliology class, The New is in the Old Concealed, the Old is in the New Revealed. This means simply that if there are things we dont understand in the Old testament, then the New Testament will speak to it and explain it.)
Gods Word, as revealed then and as written down is true, it is complete, it is comprehensive and it is sufficient. Because of all that, it is also Final.
So, at this point in History, Israel does not feel the Love from God. Their response to Gods Word was to question it based on their feelings and disbelief. They dont believe what God is saying. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?”
Have you noticed that we all go through different and difficult times, times when we feel removed from God. We all have times where we are not seeing him work, not seeing the evidence of God around us. During times like those, we are spiritualy weaker. We get extra aggitated. We take offenses easier. We give offenses easier. We are more prone to giving in to sin and temptation. When we either feel temptations more and more or when we give in and sin, it exacerbates the problem and we feel Gods presence and love less and less.
But we have a factual anchor to keep us safe in the storms of life when our feelings are blowing us all over the place. Gods Word says that if you are in Christ, you are loved. Period. Those who are in a covenant relationship with God, those whom he has foreknown & predestined, those whom he has called by his grace, to believe, through faith, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and repent of their sins, to those God says, I love you.
Now, the Israelites during the time of Malachi did not know who Jesus was. He had not come down from Heaven, born a baby, truly God and Truly man. But, they knew that God had promised a savior and a messiah. They knew he was coming and they knew that Gods promises would be fulfilled. We read through Hebrews 11 and we see that in the Old Testament, those who, as Hebrews 11:2, puts it, “received their comendation,” received it through faith. Faith in the One True God and faith in the coming savior and Messiah. They had faith in Christ, even though they had not yet seen him. They too, were under a Convenant of Grace. And the vehicle God has designated to pour out his grace is through that faith, the same faith that was counted to Abraham as rightoeusness is the same faith that saves us today. Faith in Christ alone.
But because not everyone has that saving faith in Jesus Christ, Gods love, his saving love is not received by everybody. We need to remember that Gods language, his definitions differ from what our society and our feelings want words to mean. God loved the world, loved the world so much that he sent his one and only son to die for the sins of the world. God is a God of Love. God is Love. God is perfect and complete. But that doesnt mean that Love is the only thing that God is and it doesnt mean that love is God.
Within our Good and Perfect and Holy and Complete God, also exists hatred. God hates sin. He says here, Jacob I loved, but Esau I have hated. Thats hard for us to understand and believe and accept. But its there in the Bible, in his Words, in Black and White. And so he have to do something with this. We have to try to understand what God means by this.
There will be two parts of this that we will look at. First is the definition and the use of the word hate, and second, what is God saying here in Malachi? So I looked up in Bible dictionaries and all that what the root word, what the word “hate” meant in the original languages and definitions and its not good news.
The word simply means hate in the dictionary, but it can also be translated as enemies, or foes, so there is an advesarial role that plays into this. There is a tendency to simplify and say that when God hates, it is simply that he loves less. There are times in the Bible where the word hate is used this way. Specifically with Jacob hating Leah but loving Rachel. But that is not the entirety of the definition of this word, hate. We see for example in the the New Testament, one of the words translated “hate,” means to “hate, detest or persue with hatred.”
Gods hatred is not tame. It is a perfect and complete hatred as well. It does us no good to water down his hatred. But we do need to balance it and contrast it with his perfect and complete love. For us, when we say we hate someone or something, it either means that we dont particularly care for it, or more likely, its filled with mean spiritedness and we wish bad, we wish ill will for those whom our hate is directed at.
But on Gods end, its not mean spirited, his hate and the consequences there of are a part of his perfect love and justice. They are a part of his perfect grace and mercy. Due to our natural, sinful nature, our sinful rebellion against God, we are justly in his wrath. That is what we deserve, what we are due. Because God is God, he can do this but at that point we are on the receiving end of both Gods love and his hatred. We do know that Paul wrote in Romans 5:8: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
For those he hates, for those outside of Christ, God withholds his grace and his mercy. For those outside of Christ are on the receiving end of Gods wrath and judgement. Esau and his descendants, mentioned here in Malachi, they are no more because Gods mercy and saving grace where withheld from them. Because they chose to not live and obey through faith.
And we need to remember that it wasnt that God took away his love, his grace, his mercy, but instead that he pours those things out on whom he choses. When his specific, intentional, saving grace and love are poured out on a sinner, we are unable to resist the call and draw of God and his love, grace and mercy. And it is only through that love of God poured out on us, allowing is to have faith in Christ, that lets us respond in faith and repentence. Without that saving fatih, Gods saving grace, we will go the way of Esau. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Those whom God hates wll not prosper, not in eternity. Those whom God loves, the specific, saving love, will be with him and will have Gods perfect wrath and judgment pass over them.

But I also want to look at the context of what God is telling Israel here in these first few verses of the book of Malachi. God says, I have loved you. They dont see it and say how have you loved us? Essentially, God is saying, in a more perfect and loving way than I am know, “If you dont think I love you, see what happens to those whom I hate.” Him bringing up Esau and the fact that his descendants are no more is him saying, I dont hate you, I love you and this is part of the proof of the difference.
And again, we have this factual, tangible proof, then, through the words of the prophet who spoke the words of God, and now, through the words of God written down in the Bible, that God does indeed love us. Regardless of our feelings. Regardless of what we are able to see. Regardless of our current or past circumstances. God loves us.
Becasue of Gods love and because of Gods judgment, our previously closed eyes to the wonders and works of God, are now open. If we see the works of God in our lives and around us in the world, we will shout out and exclaim how great God is. “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”
God, the one True God, the God of the Bible, The Father, the Son, The Holy Spirit, God is not just the God if Israel, as many in the Old Testament world thought of him, but is the God of Heaven and Earth, the God of all creation, The God of each and every one of us. He is the God of not just a small group of people but of who so ever shall believe.
This is where we see that Christianity, the worlds one true religion, is both the most inclusive and the most exclusive religion in the world. Christianity is exclusive in this sense. Only those who walk through the narrow door that is Jesus Christ are saved and welcomed in to the family of God, to be called his children. There is no other way, there is no other path, there is no other door to walk through that leads to the one true God. Jesus says in John14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father exceot through me.”
But as exclusive as Christianity is, it is also the most inclusive religion. It is inclusive in that though the path is narrow and there is only one door, the invitation to walk that path, the walk through that door, the invitation to believe and repent is giving to every single person in the world. We just finished going through Pauls letter to the Romans, and what was one of his main points? Your background does not matter. Your ethnicity does not matter. Your ppast sins dont matter. Your previous religious or spiritual beliefs dont matter. Your parents and grandparents dont matter. Your church attendence and your morality dont matter. Your politics dont matter. Everyone is invited to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

God is sovereign over those who believe and those who dont. God is sovereign over heaven and hell. God is sovereign over those who he loves and those whom he hates. His grace, his love and his mercy are all poured out, ultimately, to bring glory to himself. His wrath and his judgment, his hatred, are ultimately poured out to bring glory to himself.
See, thats another part of Gods love and hatred that we havent yet mentioned. God is holy. The scriptures say he is Holy, Holy, Holy. He hates what goes against his nature. He hates what and who sins against him. He hates what takes away from his rightful glory. He hates what is not Holy, Holy, Holy.
If it were not for the sacrifice, the shed blood of Jesus Christ, he would hate us. And yet, there is what is called a Great Exchange. When Christ gave his life and took on the punishment for our sins, he only was able to do so because of his perfect righteousness. With no sin of his own, he took Gods wrath and punishment for our sins on himself. In exchange, those who repnet of their sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, we receive his perfect righteousness. We receive the forgiveness of sins, so that when we all stand before God at the end, and we will all stand before before God in judgement at the end, when we do, He will either see and judge uw for our sin or he will see and judge us for being wrapped up in Christs righteousness. Both outcomes speak to his glory.
That doesnt make earthly sense, does it? That doesnt make worldy sense, that punishing people, that judgment and wrath, that Hell can speak to the glory of God. But what is hell? A common response, that sounds real good, is that Hell is simply seperation from God. And that would be an extreme punishment, thats for sure. And there may be aspects of that, in regards to God withholding his love, grace and mercy.
But heres what society and much of the Christian church forget. Hell is not where Satan rules supreme. God doesnt send us to a spot where Satan rules over us. God rules over Hell just as much as he rules over Heaven. God is the God of Heaven and Hell. And he is a holy God. Sin goes against his holiness and therefore it is to the glory of gods holiness to punish sin.
And of course, Gods saving grace and mercy, through faith in Christ, show the glory of God, who changes hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Who brings us from death to life. That is all done to and shows the might and supremem Glory of God.
Now, again, we dont always feel or see this. But we can stand on the Solid Rock of Christ and his word. We can stand on the promises of God our Savior. RC Sproul says I don’t always feel His presence. But God’s promises do not depend upon my feelings; they rest upon His integrity.
If we are living for the Glory of God. If his love and mercy have been poured out on us, making us children of God. Then the simple and clear fact is that, whether we feel it or not, whether we think it or not and whether we believe it or not, the simple and clear fact is “I have loved you,” says the Lord.

Lets Pray