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423:  The Breathtaking View of Christ

423: The Breathtaking View of Christ

One of the major failures of the church today is to downplay the place of Christ when we come together to worship.  Yes, you heard right.  We, hopefully unknowingly, often relegate Christ to the back pew or the second chair.  And who do we elevate in His place?  Usually the pastor or, often, the worship leader.

And when we come together as a church we have a tendency to preach on the “what’s” and “why’s” of the Scripture and seldom the “how’s”.  Think about it.  We know we are commanded to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2), but are never told exactly how to do that.  Did you ever wonder why?

We are commanded to “walk according to the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), yet are never instructed on how to do that.  We know what it means and why it’s important.  But for some reason, our pastors fail to take our hands and show us exactly how to accomplish this command.  Why?

Is it because practical Christianity is not in vogue today?  Or could it be we have become a church made up of those who can tell us what to do but have never experienced it themselves?  Are we more like cowboys driving cattle from the rear than a shepherd leading from the front?

What are we to do?


Seven Things the Church Failed to Teach Me

Recently I was reading a blog by Frank Viola that shared these seven things the church never taught him.  And I couldn’t agree more.  Consider the following:

  1.  How to practically live by the Christ who dwells inside me.
  2.  How to practically learn how to hear the Lord’s voice beyond “pray and read your Bible.”
  3.  That church-as-we-know-it is drastically different from church-as-God-would-have-it.
  4.  What the gospel of the kingdom is and how radically it can alter a human life.
  5.  How deep the tentacles of the world system go and how to break free from them.
  6.  That God’s presence is extremely subtle most of the time.
  7.  How to find Christ in the Scriptures, including the entire Old Testament.

So in 2019, I have committed to teach the church I pastor the “how’s” of the Christian faith and to answer these, and other, practical questions about living for Him.  Will you join with me as we explore the breathtaking view of our Lord together?

The following is a study on the Breathtaking View of Christ found in Colossians 1:15-19 and 2 Colossians 2:9-10.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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Twenty Strange Pastor Criticisms

Twenty Strange Pastor Criticisms

For a little Christmas cheer, I’ve listed below the latest actual pastor criticisms from church members.  And a special thanks to Thom Rainer for these.

  1. “You didn’t send me a thank you note for my thank you note.”  Thank you.
  2. “You are too happy!”  I’ll make a point of being a total grump around you.
  3. “I will leave the church if you don’t put tissue seat covers in the bathrooms!”  Please flush on the way out.
  4. “I would be happy to take your wife to the store to help her select some appropriate clothes.”  Please do, but don’t return.
  5. “I guess I have to die to get you to wear a suit and tie to church again.”  The pastor did so the next Sunday.  He’s waiting on the member to hold up his end of the deal.
  6. “Every sermon you preach is better than the next one.”  Thank you . . . no, wait.
  7. “Why do we have to follow something an apostle wrote 2,000 years ago?”  Yep, that Bible is overrated.
  8. “The VBS hot dogs are too cheap.”  What?  We got them at LifeWay!
  9. “You don’t tell enough jokes when you preach.”  Yes, I do. I mentioned your name in my last sermon.
  10. “You need to stop talking about making disciples.”  Yes, that criticism came from an elder.
  11. “When you changed the name from Sunday school to small groups, you took Jesus and the Bible out of the church!”  I agree.  Read Hezekiah 4:11.
  12. “You didn’t give good advice about the family vacuum.”  Now, that’s important.
  13. “I heard you are going to cancel Christmas.”  Yes, I consulted with the Grinch.
  14. “I don’t like the color of your beard hair.”  Thank you.  I plan to dye it pink.
  15. “Your hair color is too dark for someone in your profession.”  Don’t worry.  The more I hear from you, the grayer it gets.
  16. “Just because it’s in the Bible, you don’t have to talk about it.”  I try to be selective.
  17. “Your wife used the wrong spoon in the coleslaw at the church social.”  Thank you.  She has agreed to be in timeout from church for one year.
  18. “We need to throw out the guitar to the streets. The piano is the only instrument that belongs in the church.”  Yep, that’s what the Apostle Paul said.
  19. “You ended a sentence with a preposition in your sermon.”  What is this criticism good for?
  20. “Your pregnant wife is faking morning sickness.”  I would be happy for you to watch her throw up.

Enjoy.

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You can read more of Thom’s church wisdom at his website, www.thomrainer.com.

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Profiting from the Holy

Profiting from the Holy

In Exodus 30 the Lord gives Moses, in great detail, instructions about how to make the holy anointing oil (Ex. 30:22-33) and the incense (Ex. 30:34-38) to be used in temple worship.  And He gives specific commands about each.  For the anointing oil He said:

Exodus 30:25-30 – “And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer.  It shall be a holy anointing oil.  With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base.  You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy.  And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.”

God then tells His people the importance of what He has just commanded them to do.

Exodus 30:31 – “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.’ “

But there’s a warning.  What has been deemed holy by the Lord is not to be used for personal pleasure or gain.  Man is not to benefit from what is reserved for God alone.  He said, “This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me (not to you) throughout your generations” (Ex. 30:31).

The Lord knew then, as He knows now, how easily we can turn worship into something we like and forget about the One it’s designed to honor.  We play the worship music we enjoy, preach the sermons that make us feel good, and anoint anything we feel like anointing.  Our times together to worship the Lord often digress into something that makes us feel better about who we are and not about Who we belong to.

Listen to the warning God gives about making a profit from what belongs only to Him.

Exodus 30:32-33 – “It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition.  It is holy, and it shall be holy to you.  Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.”

You are not to pour My oil out on whom you desire nor make some for yourself using the recipe I have given you.  This is for Me and Me alone.  “It is holy, and it shall be holy to you” (Ex. 30:32).

God gave the same command and warnings about the incense.  After detailing the specific combination of spices He desired, God then tells His children exactly where to place the incense and why.

Exodus 30:36 – “And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you.  It shall be most holy to you.”

This incense is to be placed where God has chosen to meet with His people— a most holy place.   And “it shall be most holy to you.”  It is not to be used in your home, sold on Amazon, or used in any other way God has not specifically prescribed.  Why?  Because its purpose is to prepare a place for God to meet with man— a most holy place.  And not to make your car smell better.

Again, there’s a warning.

Exodus 30:37-38 – “But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition.  It shall be to you holy for the LORD.  Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”

You are not to make any incense for yourself for any reason.   Why?  Because “it shall be to you holy for the Lord.”  It’s not for you, just for Him.  And what happens if we choose to ignore His warnings and commands and personally profit from what belongs for Him alone?  He says the person who does this “shall be cut off from his people.”  They will no longer be covered under His covenant.  They shall be as a foreigner, an outcast to Him.


Cut Off From His People

Take a few minutes this Sunday and watch a couple of church services online.  Especially from a mega church.  How much of what you see is designed to glorify and worship the Lord?  And how much is planned to make the congregation feel comfortable and want to come back next Sunday?

Then go look at your own service this Sunday.  How much of what is done is for the benefit of you, or for the adoration of the Lord?  Is the “special music” for your enjoyment, or for His?  And speaking of music, do you even know what kind of music the Lord enjoys?  Is it traditional?  Contemporary?  Psalms only?  With or without instruments?  Does He enjoy loud guitars and a light show?  Or is that just for us?

And the message?  Does it lift up Him and His glory and attributes?  Or is it more about you and your problems and how the Lord can “get you through to the other side?”  Are you encouraged to verbally proclaim the beauty and majesty of the Lord or to turn to your neighbor and say, “You look good today?”

What kind of worship truly worships the Lord?  What type of service would He design if we ever took the time to ask Him?

These are some questions I hope you’ll think about before you head out next Sunday for church.  Because it’s supposed to be all about Him, and not about us.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

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Podcast 303:  Our Bonhoeffer Moment

Podcast 303: Our Bonhoeffer Moment

With our society and culture crumbling all around us it behooves the church to assess its commitment to Christ.  Are you hot or cold or lukewarm?  Is Christ on the outside of the church knocking, waiting, for us to open the door and allow Him into His church? (Rev. 3:20).

These are scary times.  But not unprecedented times.

In fact, it’s these very times that bring out the best in the church. It’s times like these where true men and women of God step forward to take their stand for truth.

It’s the time of Daniel, Elijah, John the Baptist and Gideon.

The following is a study on the call of Gideon.

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Podcast 293:  Credibility and Character

Podcast 293: Credibility and Character

What’s the big deal with pastors today calling themselves apostles?  Why are they doing that and how can that be justified from Scripture?

Or, better yet, what are the qualifications for the office of apostle?  And, once we determine the qualifications, do any of these pastors meet them?  Can anyone meet them today?  Anyone?

The lesson to be learned in all of this is that credibility is not communicated by titles or degrees. Credibility is communicated by character.  True, God-like character.  And the fact we have men calling themselves apostles today shows us how much we still need to learn as a church, doesn’t it?

The following is a study on Colossians 1:1-2.

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Podcast 261:  Down with the “D” Word!

Podcast 261: Down with the “D” Word!

In the latter half of Malachi 2 God employs some strong words to convey His feelings about His people and their attitude towards Him.  He uses treacherously five times in 8 verses.  We also find profane or profaning, abomination, and God saying He literally hates something.

Those two words alone, God and hate, should get our attention.

But what does God hate?  Ah, that’s where the “D” word comes in.

Want to hear more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Malachi 2:10-17.

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Podcast 259:  Believers with Dirty Faces

Podcast 259: Believers with Dirty Faces

One of the most sobering and frightening statements by God to the priests, clergy, and believers just like you and me is found in Malachi 2:3.  There God says:

“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it.”

Just so you know, refuse means dung, fecal matter, excrement.  That’s right.  God is saying He will spread or smear excrement on the faces of His priests or clergy or you and me.

Do you want to know why God would do something as drastic as this?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Malachi 2:1-9.

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Malachi:  Excrement and the Clergy

Malachi: Excrement and the Clergy

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

Excrement and the Clergy

“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces,
The refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it.”
Malachi 2:3

In the second chapter of Malachi we find one of the most chilling and sobering warnings to the priests of Malachi’s day, and to the preachers of our day, found anywhere in Scripture.  Malachi gives us just a glimpse of how our Lord views His priests and preachers and pastors— literally anyone who claims to speak for Him, who fail to give glory to His name (Mal. 2:2).  And the actions of God against the clergy are disturbing, if not outright frightening.


No Honor to My Name

In Malachi 1:6, God begins to chastise the priests because of their disdain and hypocrisy for Him.  They bend over backwards to offer praise and homage and respect to everyone on earth but Him.  He says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  If then I am the Father, where is My honor?  And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name.”

Later on in the chapter God again chastises the priests for offering polluted, defiled, worthless sacrifices to Him and trying to pass it off as true worship (Mal. 1:8).  By the time we get to Malachi 1:10, God is telling the priests to “Shut the door of the temple and go home.  You’re wasting your time and My time.  No worship is taking place and I have no pleasure in you.”  Why?  Because they profane His name (Mal. 1:12), seem bored with the task of worship (Mal. 1:13), and greedily keep the best for themselves and give the scraps to God (Mal. 1:14).


The Rebuke of the Clergy

This is where it gets scary.

Remember Who is speaking: God Almighty, the great “I AM”, the Sovereign One, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, the Great and Final Judge.  And remember who He is speaking to: the priests, the preachers and clergy, those who have been called and chosen by God to give Him honor, respect, obedience, love and awe.  Before you sit back and smugly think this warning doesn’t apply to you since you are not a preacher, remember Revelation 1:6 where Christ has made each of us “kings and priests to His God and Father.”  In other words, you and I are also priests of God and, like all priests, should spend our lives glorifying God— whether we have a seminary degree or not.  This warning is for each of us today.

“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you” (Mal. 2:1).

What commandment?  Does the word “this” refer to the commandments from chapter one or do they look forward to the commands of chapter two and following?  Answer: both.  And what happens when the priests fail to heed God’s warning, fail to repent, and give Him the glory due His name?  What happens when preachers, pastors, evangelists, and teachers in the church become selfish, greedy, self-centered and self-seeking, narcissistic, nothing more than egotistical glory-seekers for themselves and begin to lead His sheep astray?  What is God to do then?

“If you will not hear (or, listen, obey), and if you will not take it to heart (or, commit, consider), to give (what) glory to (what) My name,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings.  Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart” (Mal. 2:2).

What is God commanding His priests, you and I, to do?  Give glory to His Name.  The term glory means the weight or gravity of God’s presence.  It defines His importance and the honor He is due as God.  The word name is mentioned 6 times in the first 16 verses of Malachi and is the summation of all the attributes of God: His character, reputation, everything.  God is saying if they, we, do not give Him the glory due is name, He will send a curse upon us and our blessings.  In fact, He says, that curse has already begun.

So how bad will the curse be?  How serious is God about all of this?  Is He more serious than He was in Revelation 3:16 where He “vomited them (the church) out of His mouth” for being apathetic, lethargic, and lukewarm?

“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants (or, offspring, children) and spread refuse (or, dung, fecal matter, excrement) on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it” (Mal. 2:3).

Really?  God can’t be serious.  Does God really mean He will spread, or smear refuse, or dung, fecal matter, excrement, on the faces of His priests and their descendants.  I can’t believe God would do this?  It seems so harsh, so hard.  I didn’t think not giving glory to His name was that big of deal.

Well, it is.  You’d better think again.

One of the natural byproducts of animal sacrifices, in addition to a torrent of blood, is excessive excrement or refuse or dung.  Just like what happens when a frightened dog is put in a cage and taken to the Vet, the same thing happens to the cows, sheep, goats and other animals awaiting their death.  The place where the animals were sacrificed reeked with excrement.  According to Levitical law, the excrement, along with other parts of the sacrifice, was to be removed, carried outside the camp, and burned (Ex. 29:14; Lev. 16:27).  They were considered disgusting, defiled, and had no place around the holiness of God.  Of great offense to the priests would be to get fecal matter or dung on their clothing, sandals, or on their skin.  God is saying to the priests He would take this same fecal matter, this animal excrement, and smear it into the creases of their faces.  Why?  Because refusing to show glory and honor to the Lord is not something He takes lightly.  And then the priests are removed, outside of the camp, with the excrement, to be disposed of.  This is what God thinks of those who hypocritically proclaim His name.

After God chastises His priests as such, He then says, “Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you” (Mal. 2:4).  Then you’ll know how truly disgusted I am with you.  Then you’ll know exactly how I feel about your hypocrisy and apathy and contempt for Me.  Yes, then you’ll know how you smell to Me, not as a pleasing aroma, but as excrement.  The animal refuse from your “solemn feasts” (Mal. 2:3).


How Should the Priests Repent?

“My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear Me; so he feared Me and was reverent before My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity” (Mal. 2:5-6).

God then uses Levi and as example of how He expects His priests to live and function and fulfill their duty as examples of holiness, righteousness, and sanctity before the God and the people.  What God said to the priests in Malachi’s day, He also says to us today:  We would be wise to listen and obey (Mal. 2:1).

One. the priests must live in contentment with God (Phil. 4:11-13), satisfied with the “life and peace” given them (Mal. 2:5).

Two, they must learn to live in the fear of the Lord, learning how to honor and revere Him above all else (Mal. 2:5).  They must show profound respect for God, His glory, and His name.

Three, they must live and preach the truth.  They must stand for God’s Word, His righteousness, justice, and equity (Mal. 2:6).

Four, they must spend their lives for the sake of others, as a watchman on the wall (Eze. 3:17), turning many away from iniquity by word and deed (Mal. 2:6).

Five, the priests must “walk with God” (Mal. 2:6).  Not walk after God, but walk with God, like Elijah, like David, like Daniel, like Enoch.  They must have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), and care about nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

Finally, the priests then and the preachers today must seek and speak the knowledge and truth of God.  Why?  For he, you and I, are a messenger of the Lord of Hosts.

“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 2:7).

We, as preachers, as priests, as believers in Christ, as heirs, as joint heirs with the Lord (Rom. 8:17) must seek with every breath in our being the glory of God and the honor of His name.

For if we fail, it may take more than just a few handy wipes or a swipe of antibacterial lotion to wipe the excrement of our sin off our faces.

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Podcast 255:  Shut the Door!

Podcast 255: Shut the Door!

Message from Malachi — A Prophetic Warning to the Church

Some of the most scathing words spoken by the Lord to those who have committed their lives to Him, the priests, are found in the first chapter of Malachi.  And I mean scathing words.

But what God says in Malachi is not limited to the priests of Israel, but also to the church today.  These words speak to everyone of us.  They are not to be taken lightly.

Consider the following:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  If then I am the Father, where is My honor?  And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” says the Lord of hosts.

Want to know more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Malachi 1:6-14.

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Malachi:  The Burden of the Word of the Lord

Malachi: The Burden of the Word of the Lord

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

Introduction
It Was the Best of Times, it Was the Worst of Times

The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.
Malachi 1:1

We are about to undertake a study of the last book of the Old Testament, the last of the Post-Exile prophets, Malachi.  This small, four chapter book holds a unique place in the Scriptures because it stands at the end, the last call if you will, of the Old Testament and also at the beginning, as an introduction, to the 400 year period where God was silent and closed the door on any future revelation to His people.  The 400 years of silence, as it is known, began with this two verse warning at the end of the Old Testament: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.  And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6) and ended with the coming of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Some people believe Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets, like Daniel or Ezekiel or Isaiah or Jeremiah.  But that’s not exactly true. Jesus Himself stated that John the Baptist, the greatest man who ever lived (Matt. 11:11), was the last of the Old Testament prophets (Matt. 11:13, Luke 16:16).  But we will take a deeper look into all of that, and its implications for us today, at a later date.

For now, we’ll stay focused on Malachi.

The Name:  Malachi

The name Malachi, in the Hebrew, means “my messenger.”  Malachi came as a messenger from the Lord.  Some believe Malachi was the personal name of the prophet, like Bruce or Frank or Tom, while others feel it may be a title of some sort, maybe of Ezra the scribe, or of someone else.  The weight of Biblical evidence, however, points to the fact that Malachi was the personal name of a prophet of God who spoke forcefully, almost brutally, to the sins of his day and to the sins of ours.  Rest assured, there’s much in Malachi to challenge and rebuke and offend the church and the clergy today.  It’s a most timely book that needs to be preached from pulpits all across our land but, unfortunately for the church, seldom is.  As we dig deeper into his message, you’ll understand why this book has fallen out of favor in the Laodicean church of today (Rev. 3:16).

Not much is known about the personal life of Malachi other than what is revealed in his prophetic words, which isn’t much.  Tradition tells us he was from the tribe of Zebulon and he most likely died young.  After reading his words, I think you’ll agree we could learn much from Malachi, the man, in regards to his passion and boldness and especially his love for the Lord.

The Background:  Malachi

Malachi ministered during the fifth century B.C., about a hundred years after Cyrus had, in 538 B.C., issued his decree allowing the Jews to return from the Exile to their own land.
Yawn.
Yes, you read right. Yawn.
I know, at this point, many of you will begin to glaze over as we did during High School history class.  Why?  Because history is boring and we, in the church today, have been constantly force fed from infancy a steady diet of lights and sounds and pulsating music and drama and dance all designed to keep us excited and entertained, but not necessarily instructed or matured in the Word. Look around at the church today— it shows.

Plus, most of us are not students of the Old Testament and especially of Old Testament history.  We could pretty much care less about Cyrus and his decree and some exile from somewhere for a bunch of people whose names we can’t pronounce nor care to even try.
“Just keep telling us about Jesus and showing us the flannel graph cut-outs of the Bible stories and we’ll be just fine.”
Actually, you won’t.  But that’s a conclusion you’ll have to come up with on your own.

Dates and Such

Anyway, to bring us up to date, all the prophets of the Old Testament fall into three basic categories: Pre-exile, or those before the exile or captivity (e.g., Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah); Exile, or those who wrote their prophecy during the 70 years of captivity (e.g., Daniel, Ezekiel); and Post-Exile, or those who wrote after their return from captivity into their own land (e.g., Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).  As you can see, Malachi belongs to this last group.  In fact, he was the last of the last group.

Let me give you some dates to help put all of this in perspective.

In 605 B.C., some Jews were taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. This would include, for example, Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. This is known as the First Deportation.
In 597 B.C., ten thousand more Jews were carried away, including Jehoiachin the King of Judah and Ezekiel the prophet (2 Kings 24:1-6) in what is known as the Second Deportation.
In 586 B.C., the Third Deportation took place where Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took all the remaining citizens, including King Zedekiah (2 Kings 25) into captivity.
This captivity was to last seventy years.
In 538 B.C., the Babylonian captivity came to an end when Cyrus, the king of Persia, conquered Babylon and issued his decree permitting the Jews to return to their land. This ushered in a new phase in the history of the Jewish people.

Malachi-return

As the deportation took place in different phases, so did their return.

In 536 B.C., a remnant of 50,000 Jews returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel, grandson of King Jehoiachin (Ezra 1:5-2:70, Neh. 12) to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and re-establish the system of sacrificial worship.  This was known as the First Return.
In 458 B.C., the Second Return took place, led by Ezra the priest.
Thirteen years later, in 445 B.C., Nehemiah led still another group back to the land.  Nehemiah was then appointed governor of the Jewish nation by King Artaxerxes of Persia.  Under Nehemiah’s leadership the walls of Jerusalem were built and a spiritual renewal or revival took place.  But between 432-425 B.C., Nehemiah was called back to Persia and Jerusalem was left without their governor.  It was during this time that Malachi came onto the scene.

The Spiritual Temperature

You would think, after 70 years of captivity, the Jews in Malachi’s day would have remembered God’s chastisement and not fall back into the same old sins that brought about their exile in the first place.  But that’s not what took place.
It seems the famous quote by George Santayana was as true then as it is today:  “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

The Temple was rebuilt and the people could freely worship the Lord, yet they had fallen out of love with Him and slowly drifted back into stale formalism, religion by rote, much like the church at Ephesus.
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).

Their passion had grown stale as they became increasingly comfortable with just “doing” their religious thing one day a week and offering a pittance of their life to Him, rather than enjoying the love of God in a vibrant, living relationship.  Sound familiar?
They had grown insensitive, almost callous, to the love of God lavished upon them and, therefore, had grown cold, selfish, and egocentric in their response to that love.  In fact, they now even doubted God loved them, or had ever loved them, in the past.
Additionally, they had become numb, almost anesthetized to the truth, and had lost their ability to recognize the enormity of their own sin and just how far they had drifted from His Word. It was a classic case of the “frog in the kettle” syndrome.
And, most of all, they no longer had any reverence for God.  The sacred was now secular and the “chief end of man” was their own happiness and selfish pursuits.

How could this have happened to them? How could they have fallen so far? And how have we allowed this to happen to us?

For them, the answer was simple.  They had unfulfilled expectations that were based on their own faulty view of God.

When they returned from captivity and began the task of rebuilding the Temple of God they held fast to the words of Haggai as their very motivation to persevere and complete a task beyond their ability and under extreme hardship and persecution.  They believed these words to be prophetic, which they were, and to be literally fulfilled in their day, in their own lifetime, which they weren’t. Haggai 2:7-9 states,

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts.  ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

But year after year dragged on and nothing like this ever happened.  The Temple they built was not as glorious as Solomon’s Temple and the “shaking of heaven and earth ‘ never took place.  They understood this prophecy was to be fulfilled by the Messiah, which was true, but the Messiah never came.

And these unfulfilled expectations gave way to disillusionment, and disillusionment to anger, and anger to apathy, and apathy to sin.  The people of God, especially the priests, stopped believing in the faith, the hope that had carried them through their 70 years of suffering.  And now, back in their own land, they forgot and no longer needed the God who had brought them there.
Sound familiar?

We look at the book of Acts and see the vibrant, dynamic lives of the early church who were willing, at a moment’s notice, to jettison all their earthly possessions for just the hope, the slim, outside chance of being used by God (Acts 2:44-46).  Then we compare what we read in Scripture to the selfish, materialistic, narcissistic, self-promoting, always “about us” attitude of the church today and we wonder what happened.  We experience out own unfulfilled expectations regarding the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10).  Jesus spoke of true, Spirit-filled, eternal life as “abundant” and the church then redefines “abundant life” as being a life filled with trinkets and toys to enjoy: cars, money, houses, fame.  And these unfulfilled expectations gave way to disillusionment, and disillusionment to anger, and anger to apathy, and apathy to sin.
Again, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The Message

Before we plunge into the text, can you see any parallels with the Jews in Malachi’s time and the church today?
Both have lost their fervency for God.  In fact, we spend our time in corporate worship trying to artificially counterfeit a move of God simply because we’ve never seen God move in our midst and have no idea what it would look like if He did.
That’s beyond sad.  It’s tragic.
So we fill our senses with loud music, aerobic worship, spandex clad dancers, rock bands, R-rated movie clips, rotating lights, Starbucks, and the like hoping to satisfy the masses with an experience, something that will “keep ’em comin’ back” — but not a move of the Holy Spirit.  Whenever we “feel” something in church, whether it’s goose bumps, a tingling up our spine, happy or sad emotions, laughter or tears, we immediately attribute it to the Holy Spirit and can’t wait until we can come back and “feel” it again.  And in doing so, the church creates a congregation of adrenaline junkies who pile in Sunday after Sunday to get their next fix.  And if the church doesn’t deliver the high they crave, then they’re out the door to try to find something or someone that will.
A sure recipe for failure and hurt.

Malachi’s message to the Jews of his day is the same as his message would be to the church today.

One, their suffering was linked to their sins and the judgment of those sins was to begin with the house of God and with the priests (1 Peter 4:17).  As we see our society crumble and implode all around us and scratch our heads and wonder what happened, it may be the unraveling of our society is the direct result of sin in the church.  The sin of omission, not doing what God has called and saved us to do, and the sin of commission, the flagrant disregarding of the holiness of God, both on a personal and corporate church level.

Two, how can you say the Lord doesn’t love you, or has never loved you?  The continued, unselfish and forgiving love of God was manifested to them in His very choice of the Jews as His own people, the apple of His eye (Deut. 7:6-8).  Therefore, they are without excuse.  For the church, the oft-debated, maligned and rejected doctrine of election also shows the depth of His divine love in His choice of those who make up His church (Eph. 1:3-6).  We, for no other reason than God’s “good pleasure” (Eph. 1:5), have been chosen to be adopted as “children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).  Does it get any better than this?  What more could God do to show us His love that what He has already done?

Finally, Malachi tells us the Day of the Lord is coming (Mal. 3:16-4:6).  Make no mistake, that Day is on the way.  Therefore, understanding what the Day of the Lord means, what are we do to?  How are we to act? How does this coming reality change us today?

Peter asks and answers that very question.  I’ll let him take it from here.

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, (question) what manner of persons ought you to be (answer) in holy conduct and godliness. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, (answer) be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:11, 14).

Are you ready to explore Malachi?  Then you’d better fasten your seat belt and get ready to be confronted with the Word of God from the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi.

Because a prophet of God is about to speak in our midst today.

Note:  Image is from Ellsworth, R. (2007). Opening up Malachi (p. 9). Leominster: Day One Publications.

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Coming NextThe Sovereign Love of God – Malachi 1:1-5

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