Doubting God’s Love

Scripture Text: Malachi 1:1-5

This is the message that the Lord gave to Israel through the prophet Malachi. “I have always loved you,” says the Lord. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?” And the Lord replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.”

Esau’s descendants in Edom may say, “We have been shattered, but we will rebuild the ruins.” But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies replies, “They may try to rebuild, but I will demolish them again. Their country will be known as ‘The Land of Wickedness,’ and their people will be called ‘The People with Whom the Lord Is Forever Angry.’ When you see the destruction for yourselves, you will say, ‘Truly, the Lord’s greatness reaches far beyond Israel’s borders!’”

INTRODUCTION

If we have a firm conviction that God loves us, we can bear any burden and endure any storm but if we begin to doubt God’s love, our faith begins to falter. Remember, a strong or healthy faith must be maintained. In a way, faith is like a muscle, it must be nurtured and exercised or it atrophies.

Growing up I was a bit of a rebellious child. Not mean but a kind of a dare devil and very hardheaded. My mother was very strict, daddy not so much. I got whipped more than my seven sibling combined. A got a beating on a weekly basis. As a kid, I had doubts about my parents love. I seriously doubted Mother’s because of the beatings. In today’s culture, my mother would be arrested for child abuse.

I had a special place I would go after a whipping. I would sit on the ground with my face on my knees and cry. There were times when I prayed, “LORD, why don’t my mother love me?” Then I grew up. By the time I was 17, I had decided not to give my mother anymore grief. I began being nice to her and showing her respect. I discovered something shocking: My mother was very fond of me. She did love me and became my best friend. When I left home at age 22, I knew my mother loved me. Through the years I have battled some storms, some of my own making, but I never doubted [during those bad times] that my mother loved me.

As we will see tonight, the Jews had a childish faith. There were going through some difficult times and they were doubting God’s love.  If you are doubting God’s love, I want to give you some tips on how to overcome that doubt.

I. FOCUS ON THE PERSON OF GOD

Sometimes we focus too much on Gods activity but our first focus should be on WHO HE IS

GOD is first and foremost Holy. Everything else about God is predicated on His holiness. God is also a God of love. I John 4:8…But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4:16…God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. John 3:16…For God so loved the world…Romans 5:8…But God showed {demonstrated, synistēmi, to stand side by side, along side, with} his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

  1. God loves us with an eternal love, He has always loved us.
  2. God loves us with a sovereign love...it is His choice, prerogative.
  3. God loves us with a super natural love…The N.T. writers created a word to distinguish God’s love from all human loves. The word is Agape. 

Peter loved Jesus but not completely, not perfectly. Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” [Jesus reply] “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

Who loved who the most? Did Peter love Jesus more than Jesus loved Peter? Of course not!

We are talking about two different brands of love–one is human and the other divine. Jesus does not love us the way we love HIM. His love is perfect, complete and totally unconditional. His love can never be earned or deserved.

II. FOCUS ON THE WORD OF GOD

In the book of Malachi, the LORD speaks more than Malachi; we see God speaking twice in verse 2. Reading, studying, ingesting and obeying God’s word is paramount to our faith. Our faith grows when we feast on God’s word.

Every believer is tempted to doubt. The Jewish Religious leaders knew that they knew they were saved. One huge problem, they rejected Jesus. Even Jesus was tempted with doubt but we cannot allow doubt to become a stronghold; the devil will use it to cripple our faith. I read the word of God daily. My goal is to spend more time in the word than in any other single activity. I read the bible much more than I do books and I rarely read a news paper or fiction. Most news papers are fiction. I am not guilty of wasting time watch fake news. I love to read and study God’s word. This passion did not happen over night. You might not believe it but 25 years ago, I only read the bible to preach and teach. Today, I study the bible for pure enjoyment.

Let me remind you that Eve’s first temptation was to doubt the goodness and benevolence of God, to doubt that He loved her. Remember this passage in Genesis chapter three:

1The serpent was more clever than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. The serpent said to the woman, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But God did say, ‘You must not eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. Do not even touch it. If you do, you will die.’ ”

“You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “God knows that when you eat fruit from that tree, you will know things you have never known before. Like God, you will be able to tell the difference between good and evil.”

Notice what the devil is doing: he is impugning the integrity of God’s word. It was a calculated and malicious attack on the God’s spoken word. In so doing, he cast doubt not only on God’s word but upon His essential goodness. Eve made a tradgic mistake, she put more stock in the devil’s word than she did God’s.

Remember, Satan tempted Jesus with doubt and how did Jesus respond? With the word of God.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

3 During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

So if you are having doubts about God’s love for you, get into the word.

III. FOCUS ON WHAT GOD HAS DONE

The Jews were focused on their circumstances which were not good. They had been back in the homeland for 70 years and things were no better than when they first returned. Taxes were high, the economy was bad, they had to mortgage their farms and some had to sell their children into slavery just to survive. They were surrounded by folks that despised them and they were being oppressed by wealthy Jews within the community. It was not suppose to be this way. Their disappointment in the circumstances had changed to cynicism and apathy. They continued to go through the motions of worship but they were not focused on God, they were focused on themselves. Actually, they were being intellectually dishonest with themselves.

  1. They had not put God first as was indicated by the offering they were bringing. The offering lame, blind and even stolen animals. They were offering things that cost them nothing.
  2. They were singing but they had no real enthusiasm, they giving lip service. Their hearts were far from God.
  3. They were not being obedient to Scripture and the priest were setting a horrible example.
  4. They were not living by faith as was indicated by their refusal to tithe.

To top it all off: they are angry with God for not blessing them with prosperity and power. There attitude toward God was very selfish…“What have you done for us lately?”

For just a few moments; I want us all to focus on what GOD HAS ALREADY DONE. Let’s stop thinking about what He has not done and focus on what He has already done. For the Jews of Malachi’s day the list would look something like this…

  1. God had miraculously preserved the Jews in bondage. He saved the Hebrew children from the fire, Daniel from the Lions den and the entire population from Haman who planned to exterminate the Jewish population.
  2. God moved the heart of a pagan king to release them from bondage and give them back the articles that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple and to fund the rebuilding of the temple.Wow!
  3. God gave them a safe trip home. A 900 mile journey through dangerous territory.
  4. God gave them leaders to rebuild the Temple.
  5. God sent Nehemiah to rebuild the wall.
  6. God sent Malachi to confront them with their sins.

When God miraculously delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh and they crossed the Red Sea with God parting the waters for their safe passage, they sang praises on the North bank when they saw the Egyptian army floating in the water but three days later they are angry with God and Moses because they have no water. They had a three day faith.

All they had to do was stop and think about what God had already done for them but they were too immature and could not look back and give thanks.

CONCLUSION

Right now, I want you to bow your head and close your eyes. I want you to think about who God is and what He has already done for you. Primarily, I want you to go back 2,000 years to the cross. I want you to think about what God did for you in Christ.

  1. He paid for your sins, all of them.
  2. He broke the power of sin in your life.
  3. He conquered death and the gave in your behalf.
  4. He gave you peace.
  5. He gave you hope.

Because of what Jesus did for you: [1] you can’t die [2] you cannot go to hell [3] and you will never be alone or forsaken. Stop focusing on all the things that are going wrong and focus on Christ and His great love for you.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Elder Brother

Scripture: Luke 15:25-30

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,
26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,
29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.
30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

INTRODUCTION

The key to understanding this story is found in Luke 15:1-2, Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

The Pharisees, who prided themselves in obeying the law, failed to keep the two most important commandments: [1] Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and [2] love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. They neither loved God nor man. As a matter of fact, they basically hated everyone who was not like them. They hated Gentiles, Samaritans and Sinners. They were filled with pride and self-righteousness. They refused to even acknowledge their sin, let alone repent of it. In this story the elder brother is a portrait of the Pharisees.

I’m sure you are wondering: if this is about the Pharisees, why preach it today, there are no Pharisees here. But there are, Self-righteousness is not dead, nor is pride, contempt for others and self-will. The Pharisees are very much alive and among us….As a matter of fact, I consider myself as a “Recovering Pharisee.”

  1. They are very religious, faithful to the church.
  2. Most of them do not miss a service.
  3. They tend to be morally impecable. [cover their flaws]
  4. They are critical and judgmental.
  5. They don’t seem to be happy.

Today, we are going to look at the characteristics of a Pharisee or Elder Brother.

I. THEY HAVE AN UNHAPPY DISPOSITION

{V. 25-26} When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on?


Elder brothers don’t like music and dancing. They don’t like celebration because they have no concept of grace. They are legalist and they hate grace. When the elder brother found out they were having a party, he went ballistic.


Elder brother are working on a holy look for appearance sake: it is somewhere between a migrane headache and acid indigestion. They look like they were born on the dark side of the moon and baptized in pickle juice. They are not a good advertisement for Christianity. They appear to be having as much fun as the Cruise Director on the Titanic. The bad thing is, they think they are holy. They have no clue what real holiness looks like. The elder brother was unhappy. 
  • He was unhappy with his brothers return
  • He was unhappy with his fathers response
  • Unhappy about his work (slaving)
  • He was unhappy that they began the party without him
  • He was unhappy with the party itself

Have you ever meet any unhappy Baptist?

  • Unhappy with the music
  • Unhappy with the preacher [little ladies at Cash]
  • Unhappy with the deacons

Have you noticed: you can change music, preachers and deacons and they are still unhappy. The more you placate and pamper them the unhapppier they get because they do not understand GRACE and why we are celebrating. They believe that everything is merited. The elder brother was upset with the party because his brother did not deserve to be forgiven, let alone had a party thrown in his honor.

Folks, we cannot earn God’s favor. We are all sinners and we all deserve death and hell. There are no exceptions. Everything is grace, everything. Once you understand GRACE, you can party and party hardy. Pharisees have no concept of grace.

II. THEY HAVE AN UNFORGIVING ATTITUDE

Yet when this son of yours comes back…. after squandering your money on prostitutes.

The Father ran to meet the prodigal. He was quick to forgive. He didn’t even allow the boy to finish his confession. The elder brother is a different story. He refuses to forgive his brother. He doesn’t even claim him as a brother...Yet when this son of yours comes back...the elder brother said. We can’t claim to love the FATHER when we don’t love our brother. We have to forgive. Not only did Jesus command it, relationships demand it. You will not stay married if you don’t learn to forgive. An unforgiving attitude is an indication that you are holding on to something and it could be an offense but that is not your call or mine: if the FATHER forgives, we are also to forgive. The offense is first and foremost against Him.

III.THEY HAVE AN UNREALISTIC VIEW OF THEIR OWN SIN

The Pharisee or Elder Brother types are good at posting and recording the sins of others but they do not see their own sins. The big difference between the brothers is that the baby finally acknowledged his sin, repented and confessed his sin to his father. The Elder brother is a sinner as well but he masked his rebellion. His sin is covert. He keeps it covered but after a time, sin decieves us and the elder brother does not see his own sin. 

He does however see his brothers sin…Yet when this son of yours comes back…. after squandering your money on prostitutes.

  • How did the Elder know about the prostitutes?
  • Did he spy on his baby brother? {not likely}
  • Did he hire someone to spy on him? {possible but not likely}
  • How did he know he was spending money on prostitutes? {that is what he would have done if it were not for his polished exterior, for the fact that he was concerned about what other people thought of him}

NOTE: You and I have the same black heart as a prodigal. They go out and sin openly, we desire to do the same but are afraid of being found out.

I was in a mens SS class 40 years ago when a man spoke up in the middle of the lesson, he said, “It just dawned on my, my sin of judging others is worse than the sins I am judging them for.” Bingo, he understood grace. Prodigals don’t pretend. They make no attempt to hide their sin. Elder brothers are big pretenders. They cover their sin, they mask their lust. They would not be caught dead with a prostitute but they look at porn on the internet. They have the same black heart as a prodigal.

The Elder Brother, like the Pharisee did not see his sins but he had them, they are evident to us.

  • The Elder was jealous.
  • The Elder was angry with the Father
  • The Elder was disobedient to the Father {refused to go in to the party with his Father begging him}
  • They are judgmental
  • They are unsympathic and unyielding: hard on people

IV. THEY HAVE UNLOVING HEART

The bottom line is this story is: the Elder brother did not share his FATHERS heart. He did not love his brother. I am reading the bible again and this time I am making note of the passages that have to do with loving our brother. Jesus said there are two GREAT COMMANDMENTS: [1] Love God with all your heart [2] Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. These two commandments are preached throughout scripture, old and new Testaments.

Here is what I am saying, when you boil everything down, TWO THINGS MATTER [1] Loving Jesus [2] Loving your neighbor. If you get these two things down, you are in good shape. BUT you have to understand that they go together. If you don’t love God with all your heart, you will not love your neighbor as you do yourself. If you can’t stand your neighbor, you don’t love God.

The Elder pretended to love his father but did he? He certainly didn’t love his brother, did he? The truth is, he loved neither. When you love your FATHER with all your heart, you want to honor them, please them. What would it have taken for the Elder to please his FATHER? To forgive and love his brother.

CONCLUSION

This story is a Chiasm, a Middle Eastern literary structure with a mirrored pattern. If you have studies poetry, this is similar. The pattern in this story of parallels is ABCDDCBA [first stanza or half]. The second is ABCDDCB and the A is missing. Jesus did not end the story. We do not know if the Elder brother changed his mind and joined the celebration. In other words, Jesus was giving a personal invitation to the Pharisees. Please repent, come in and join the celebration.

So where are you in this story. I am the elder brother and I have repented, it took me a wild to adjust but I am loving the CELEBRATION. I want to please my FATHER. I want to honor HIM. I want to love people the way He loves people.

What about you? Do you want to acknowledge your sins today or you focused on the sins of others? Do you want to come inside and join the Party or had you rather stay outside and pout? I am begging you to come inside.