The Prodigal Son and The Flesh

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 

2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! 


11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 
12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. 
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 
14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 
15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.

such sinful people—even eating with them! 

16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. 


INTRODUCTION

I love Luke 15…Actually I love the stories that Luke recorded that are not found in the other gospels. Stories like the Rich Fool, the Good Samaritan, The Rich Man and Lazarus, The Pharisee and the Tax Collector and Zacchaeus. Today, I want to introduce a series from Luke 15. I will be speaking to you three times and LORD willing I will talk to you today about the Prodigal Son, then next The Loving Father and last The Elder Brother. To understand any of the three messages we have to begin with verses 1-2…


As I speak today, our convention is divided. The reform movement has made a huge surge into Southern Baptist circles and I yet to hear a hype-calvinist preach from Luke 15. The Reforms are fond of quoting a statement the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” When you here this quoted more than John 3:16 beware. Jesus stated clearly in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” There is no debate about God’s love for sinners–“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”


The Pharisees and Scribes were the Reform of their day, at least those in the Baptist Church. Our Presbyterian brothers do not press the analogy so far as this group in our convention. They did not believe that God loved sinners and they were upset that Jesus was eating with them. Tax collectors were hated by practically all Jews but these folks the Pharisees are refering to our Jews who have abandoned Judaism. They have stopped the practice of keeping the laws of Moses. In other words, they don’t attend church and make no pretence of being religious. The Pharisees did not see themselves as sinner but they labeled others as sinners. They refused to have any dealing with these sinners. They would not associate with them, do business with them and they certainly would not eat with them.


Jesus tells three stories in succession about things that are lost. First there is a lost sheep which of course had value. Many of the Pharisees were invested in livestock and they understood the worth of a sheep. The second story is about a lost coin and again, they understood the value of money because they were lovers of money themselves. The third story which we call the Prodigal Son actually has several parts and three main characters. 


The first two stories are to get the Pharisee’s attention: they can identify with these stories but the third story is an indictment against them. They are profiled in the third story in the person of the Elder Brother. The Tax Collecters and sinners are profiled in the Prodigal and God is the loving Father. So our plan is to talk about the PRODIGAL today, the LOVING FATHER next Sunday and then the ELDER BROTHER on September 17.


We have three sermons on the Prodigal but the good news this morning is that I’m going to do only one and it’s the shortest of the three.


When Adam and Eve fell in the garden, it left us with a selfish, self-centered nature. The bible refers to this nature as the ‘flesh’and we see it up close and personal in this story.

 Note verse 12 to begin with… The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’

I. FIRST OF ALL: THE FLESH ‘WANTS’ 

{A gluttonous appetite for things}

Note his words: ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’

  • The flesh wants its way. Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have each turned to our own way…”
  • The flesh wants independence…This boy wanted some distance. He wanted to be away from his father, the power and influence of his father. He didn’t want his father telling him what to do.
  • The flesh wants things…My share of your estate…which he was going to liquadate immediately. The flesh has an insatble appetite for stuff, for things.
  • The flesh wants pleasure…it craves pleasure. Those who give into the desires of the flesh live undisciplined lives and go from one pleasure to the next just like Esau.
  • The flesh wants and it wants now…the flesh does not want to wait.
We have a four year old granddaughter who wants practically everything she sees. Every time I walk in the house, she asked for something…Chucky Cheese, Targets, money for her piggy bank, go swimming, Chick-Fil-A, etc. She is never satisfied. The more she gets, the more she wants. She is a child but unfortunately, some people never grow up and they continue to indulge the flesh. As we will learn today: it is not a good idea to give the flesh everything it wants. I would weigh 300 pounds if I gave into the flesh.

II. SECONDLY: THE FLESH WASTE

Verse 13…“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. The Greek word for Estate in verse 12 is bios, if you have the King James it is translated as living. The young man quickly converted his share of he estate to cash, money which is father had spent a life time earning. He packed all his belonging and moved to a distant country and there he wasted all his money on wild living.

  • First lets look at the word waste. The Greek word diaskorpizō means to scatter abroad, to disperse, to strew, to squander or to waste. It is the picture of a farmer scattering seeds, only in the case of the Prodigal, he was literally throwing money to the wind.
  • To waste to use use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.
  • Now lets look at the word ‘wild living.‘ The KJV translates this word ‘riotous’. The NKJV uses the word ‘Prodigal’. The ESV translates it ‘rckless.’ The NASB reads ‘loose living.’ Really, what does the word riotous mean? According to Strong, the Greek word could have been translated three ways: riotous, dissolutely, or profligately. The problem is: I don’t know what any of these words mean. Well riotous means without order or disorderly. Dissolutely means lacking restraint; especially, over indulgence.  Profligately means careless, foolish and reckless. I think all of these characteristics apply to the Prodigal: He was disorderly, over indulgent, lacking discipline or restraint, careless, foolish and reckless.

 WASTE

  • Waste is a sin. At the top of my daddy’s list of sins was wasting food.
  • It is also wrong to waste money which this young man did.
  • But he wasted more than money, he wasted a part of his life…He was living without purpose. He spent all the money but to what purpose?

When he got to this distant country, he should have found a job but he didn’t, he began living it up and wasted all his money. When the money was gone, he was not only broke, he was alone. He didn’t even have one friend. Note the last line of our text…But no one gave him anything. 

All this time and he had not built one enduring relationship. How sad!

III. THIRD: THE FLESH DOES NOT SATISFY, IT ALWAYS LEAVES US EMPTY

Verse 14-15…. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.

  • Ironically, the KJV says, “he began to be in want.” The NIV reads, “he began to be in need.” NLT hits the nail on the head, he was hungry, starving. So hungry, so empty that slop was tempting.
  • The flesh is big at boasting but it cannot fulfill what it promises. It will leave you empty, hurting and dissatisfied every time.

CONCLUSION

Don’t waste your life pursuing riches, things, stuff. Begin today, if you have not began already, to live with purpose and build relationship instead of building a bank account. I was at least 40 years old before I understood this truth. Relationships trumps riches every time. The highest relationship is one with Jesus. Repent of your selfish ways and come to Christ today.

Mary Magdalene

SCRIPTURE TEXT: John 20:1-18, NLT

1 Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 
2 She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 
3 Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. 
4 They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 
5He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. 
6 Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 
7while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. 
8 Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— 
9 for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 
10 Then they went home. 
11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 
12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 
13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 
14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 
15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” 
16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). 
17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 
18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message. 

INTRODUCTION

We don’t know much about Mary’s past…

  • We do know that she was demon possessed when Jesus found her and obviously He healed her but the account in not recorded in the bible. We do know that she was from Magdala, a tiny village on the North bank of the Sea of Galilee, within walking distance of Capernaum which was Jesus head quarters. 
  • We know that Pope Gregory I {591} gave her a bad rap. He characterized Mary Magdalene as an adulteress or prostitute and identified her as the prostitute who anoints Jesus’ feet {Luke 7:36-50}. It is my understanding that the Catholic Church reversed it’s position on Mary in 1969 but the damage had been done. Practically every movie made about the life of Christ portrays Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. There is no evidence that she was a prostitute.
  • Luke identifies her as one of the women who supported Jesus ministry financially and it is not likely that a prostitute who be in a position do do so. Her income would depend on her working and we all know that Jesus would transform anyone who followed Him. Magdala was known for textiles and for dying fabrics. Mary probably gained wealth from the textile business. This is a hunch, we do not know where she got her wealth.
  • We do not know the details of her demon possession: some say it was mental illness; others speculate that she could have dabbled in the occult. Could it have been an addiction that lead to the demonic possession? We do not know. We do know that any form of demon possession would be bad. The devil and his demons are tormentors. Any form of possession was bound to have made Mary miserable. She may have felt overwhelmed by guilt or had deep self-loathing for herself.
  • We do know that she was filled with gratitude, she loved Jesus. She was loyal through thick and thin and she did not shy away from the cross. She was right there giving Him her love and support.
  • I am quite sure that Jesus was the only man who had ever loved Mary without abusing her, using her, or demeaning her.

THREE THINGS I WANT TO SAY ABOUT MARY MAGDALENE

I. UNDERSTAND: SHE LOVED JESUS AND HE LOVED HER BUT HE DID NOT ANSWER HER PRAYER

Mary went to the tomb looking for a body, a dead lifeless body. When she got to the tomb, she was shocked to discover it was empty. What should have thrilled and elated her caused her much grief. She ran from the tomb to find Peter and John, they came immediately to check it out but then they returned home…not Mary, she wasn’t going anywhere until she got some answers.

Mary looked back into the tomb and saw the two angels but before she could asks them about the missing body, they spoke to her…“Dear woman, why are you crying?” [Mary]  “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.” 

Mary is in distress over the missing body. This has heighten her anxiety and deepened her grief. She turns away from the angels in disappointment and frustration and there stands a man that she supposes is the care taker of the cemetery…and He repeats the Angels question….“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Then Jesus asks a second question... “Who are you looking for?” ……“Sir,” Mary said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”  

So Mary’s prayer after  seeing the empty tomb was…LORD help me find the body.

Mary did not go to the tomb expecting to see a resurrected Jesus; she went looking for a dead corpse. What a wonderful surprise: Jesus is alive. God did not give Mary what she asks for: He gave her exceedingly, abundantly more than she had even imagined.

Aren’t you glad that God does not answer our small, petty, shallow prayers but goes beyond anything we can imagine or articulate and gives us what our hearts truly desire even though we had never realize what it was that we truly desired.

II. MY SECOND POINT IS THIS: JESUS IS VERY MUCH PRESENT ALTHOUGH MARY DOESN’T KNOW IT.

You talk about near, Jesus is within arms length and Mary is looking for His body. She’s not looking in the right direction. She is looking for DEAD among the LIVING but as long as you look for a dead, lifeless, powerless Jesus–you are not going to find HIM. He is not in a tomb, nor is He on a cross.

I want to make this truth clear: Jesus presence is one thing, our recognizing His presence is another. He is always present, that is a fact: He cannot be otherwise. He is to creation what the sun is to our solar system. I see the sun in the day time but at night I cannot see the sun. Doesn’t matter, I know it is present, even if I don’t see its reflection off the moon, I know it is still there because I am still here. Without the sun, we would live less than 8 minutes. What the sun is to this tiny solar system, Jesus is to creation. He is the cosmic glue, the one who holds it all together and He is LIFE. He is the life giver and the life sustainer. If Jesus were not present, you and I would be dead. Jesus is real no matter how you feel. Mary didn’t feel His presence but He was present, so don’t confuse feeling with facts.  Actually, she felt sorrow and grief even though it was He who was addressing her. How can this be? She simply did not recognize His presence.

Then Jesus calls her by name…“Mary!”…Mary turned to HIM and cried out “Rabi or Teacher.” When she heard Him speak her name, she knew it was Him. Once she knew, once she became aware of His presence, the horrific storm in her soul began to abate. Obviously, no one spoke her name like Jesus.

III. THE THIRD AND FINAL POINT IS THIS–NO ONE, OTHER THAN JESUS, COULD MAKE MARY HAPPY. [Heal her broken heart]

I suppose Angels have pretty thick skin. I sure they saw the disappointment in Mary’s eyes when she looked in the tomb and found them instead of the body of Jesus. I would get excited to see two angels but they didn’t move her–she was fixed on one thing and that was Jesus. She preferred a dead Jesus to two live Angels. Of course the good news is: she was getting a living Jesus, One who was victorious over sin, death and the grave.

I want you to imagine dealing with this distraught and grieving woman. Let’s put you at the tomb to talk to this heart broken woman…

  • Mary, I know you came here looking for the body of Jesus but no one knows where the body is and besides, if He is dead, what difference does it make. I can’t give you the body of Jesus but I can give you the keys to a new condo on the Sea of Galilee. Just take these keys and forget about Jesus. [Mary] “You know what you can do with those keys don’t you? You can keep them. I don’t want a new condo on the Sea of Galilee, I want the body of Jesus.
  • [A second person tries] Mary…I can’t produce a body for you but I will give you a brand new 4 bedroom pent house in down town Jerusalem, that should make you feel better and forget about the body of Jesus. [Mary] You guys just don’t get it do you. You could offer me the world and it would not take away my grief. Nothing is going to satisfy me other than the body of Jesus.
  • [A third person tries] Mary…what about a ten year supply of makeup? [Mary] No, I don’t want makeup, a new house or a condo on the beach, I want Jesus.

By now, you get the picture, nothing is going to please this woman other than Jesus. Jesus is on her mind and in her heart and she will not settle for anything other than Jesus.

CONCLUSION

Wow! What a powerful testimony Mary has given…You can have this entire world, just give me Jesus. Oh that you and I might have a similar testimony.

Jesus love you folks: He gave His life for you just as He did Mary. He will give you a new life, a better life just as He did Mary but you must repent of your sins and accept His forgiveness. You can do that today. Right where you stand, you can left up a prayer to heaven: Dear God, I am a sinner and I need a Savior. Today I put my trust in Your Son Jesus, I believe He died for my sins. I believe He was buried and rose from the dead. I believe He is in heaven and listening to this prayer. Save me Jesus, save me now.

 

 

The Sun of Righteous

4Scripture: Malachi 4:1-6

1 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.
2 “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.
3 On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
4 “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.
5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.
6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

INTRODUCTION

Would you be shocked if I told you this passage is about Jesus who is the Sun of Righteousness or Son of Righteousness if you prefer: doesn’t matter to me because He is both and all. Obviously, this passage is about JUDGMENT. Most of us do not see judgment as a good thing but where there is judgment, there is salvation and there is no salvation without judgment.


In the days of Noah, the world was so depraved that it was on a course of self-destruction: God intervened and sent the flood. Thousands perished but Noah and family were saved from a world that would have eventually destroyed them. Sometimes we forget that the CROSS was a judgment, a judgment on sin. Sin was destroying us and Jesus came to save us from our sin. He did so by becoming sin for us and suffering the penalty of death. God judged sin at Calvary. He executed it, gave it the death penalty. There would be no salvation for anyone had not that judgment taken place.

In light of this truth, I wish to share three points:

I. A JUDGMENT TO AWAIT

Malachi is dealing with a group of Jews who are disrespecting God and accusing Him of being unjust. These Jews said horrible things about God ….

  • It is vain to serve God
  • There is no profit in keeping God’s commandments
  • Does no good to mourn, prayer or fast
  • God blesses the arrogant and the wicked
  • They tempt God and get by with it

Malachi’s message is clear: Yes, they may tempt God but they will not get by with it. The fact that they have not been judged does not mean that they will not be judged. Their judgment is coming, it is still in the future. Judgement is both a process and a event. We believers are suffering some judgment now in the present but there is coming a future judgment day when all unbelievers will be judged.

Malachi’s point is that the wicked have gotten by with nothing; a judgment is awaiting them. “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.

Here Malachi tells us four things about this coming Judgment

  1. It is a coming DAY [v.1] It is a DAY on the calendar. I cannot tell you when it is but God knows, the DAY has been determined. You know that if God gave us enough sense to sit down and plan out our lives by using a calendar that He can do the same. We just do not have access to HIS calendar.
  2. It is a Judgment DAY [v.1,3] Malachi uses two metaphors to describe those who will be judged. They will be like straw and dust. Malachi said JUDGMENT will be like a furnace or oven [probably referring to the little clay ovens that the Jews used]. He said the wicked would be like straw. The Jews used straw for fuel in their little clay ovens. Straw makes a quick fire with an intense heat: it burns quickly and leaves no residue. You don’t have to worry about ashes when straw is the fuel because STRAW has no substance. Likewise, those who have lived for this world have no substance: they will be consumed quickly and nothing will be left. In other words, they will lose everything. People who lived for money and power will lose all. Money is straw in the spiritual realm, it has no substance. Yet we have folks building a kingdom of straw. You would be better served to do an act of kindness for your neighbors each day. At least that will not burn up on Judgment day. Prayer, praise and proclaiming the word has eternal significance but money has none. What a sad commentary. Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul.” In spite of His advice, people keep pushing shoving, grabbing and getting, hoarding and hiding and it is all for nothing. Everything in their life will go up in flames and be gone in a moment. The second metaphor Malachi used was dust. Dust and straw have something in common: neither have substance and neither will stand in the day of judgment. If you have the idea that Judgment is going to be a big fight, think again. Straw and dust have to little substance to resist.
  3. It is a Great DAY [v.5] It will be a great DAY just by sheer numbers. Billions will be there. Entire Nations will be there. Every kindred, every tribe. It will be unlike anything we have ever seen or imagined. I was impressed with the crowd at the Atlanta baseball game the other night and that crowd will be a drop in the bucket.
  4. It is a dreadful DAY [v.5]

II. A SALVATION TO ACCEPT

[v.2] “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.

For those who do not fear the LORD, judgment will be a horrible thing but for those that fear God, there is an escape. Just as Noah and family were spared by taking refuge in the ARK, those who repent of their sins and take refuge in Christ will be saved from the coming Judgment. The sun is the main source of life on planet earth. We cannot live without the sun. We are absolutely dependent on the sun. But the same sun that gives life can take it. Too much sun can cause death. The sun can both harm and heal. Jesus can Judge us or Save us. Actually, God the Father is going to vindicate Jesus His Son.

There is a ceremony of purification found in Leviticus 14, it has to do with being healed of a skin disease. The priest takes two birds, one is killed and bleed into a bowl, then he takes the live bird and dips its wings into the blood of the first bird, he then releases the bird to fly heavenward, rising with healing in his wings. Many think this is a picture of the ascension of Christ. “The Sun of righteousness rising with healing in His wings.” [v.2]

If you repent and accept Christ as your savior, it will be the best decision you will ever make; if you reject Him, it will be the worse.

  • Accept Christ and your sins are paid for–reject Him and you will pay
  • Accept Christ and be blessed–reject Him and you will be cursed
  • Accept Christ and be saved–reject Him and you will be condemned
  • Accept Christ and you have a home in heaven–reject Him and you spend eternity in hell.

III. A CURSE TO AVOID

“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.
5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.
6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”


When we think of a “curse,” we think of an expletive, an offensive word or phrase used to express anger or annoyance. We think of a swear word, an oath, or profanity but that is a secondary meaning of the word Curse. The CURSE Malachi is speaking of is a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something.


David’s Curse on His Enemies in Psalm 69

19 You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. 
20 Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. 
21 But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst. 
22 Let the bountiful table set before them become a snare and their prosperity become a trap. 
23 Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and make their bodies shake continually. 
24 Pour out your fury on them; consume them with your burning anger. 
25 Let their homes become desolate and their tents be deserted. 
26 To the one you have punished, they add insult to injury; they add to the pain of those you have hurt.
27 Pile their sins up high, and don’t let them go free. 
28 Erase their names from the Book of Life; don’t let them be counted among the righteous. 


Jeremiah 17:8….

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”


No one in their right mind should want to be under God’s CURSE but Malachi told the Jews…If you do not heed Moses instructions and listen to the preaching of God’s prophets and have a change of heart, you will be under a curse.


The Rabbi’s have rearranged the last verse of Malachi so that the O.T. does not end with the word CURSE. For the past 2,000 years the Jews have lived under a Curse and it is because they rejected Christ. This is going to change someday before that great and dreadful day of Judgment. I believe there is going to be a massive revival among the Jews. Where millions are saved. The Jews are in the Saul stage now: they fight the church tool and nail but when they get saved, they will be like Paul, aggressive evangelist.

CONCLUSION

God in His sovereign grace allows you to right the last chapter of your story. You can be under the curse and be like straw or dust or you can honor Christ and be like a calf out of the stall, kicking up your heels and dancing for joy. Repent and be blessed, rebel and suffer His wrath. He allows you to choose. Choose wisely.

The Divine Distinction

SCRIPTURE: Malachi 3:13-18

13 “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD . “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’
14 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins?

15 From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’”


16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and always thought about the honor of His name.
17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.
18 Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

 INTRODUCTION

Although I addressed verses 13-15 Sunday night, I wanted us to look at them again because Malachi is showing us a contrast. Verse 18 is the key….Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.

As we have mentioned again and again…Many of post-exilic Jews had a bad attitude as we saw in verses 13-15. They had some harsh accusations against God:

  1. It is vain to Serve God. 
  2. No profit in obeying God’s law 
  3. What good does it do to wear sackcloth and fast?
  4. God blesses the arrogant: He shows favor to the wicked

BUT

Look at verses 16-18: here we have a completely different story. You see the contrast in verse 18….There were a group of Jews {minority} who feared God and wanted very much to please Him.

  1. This believing remnant feared the LORD.
  2. They had fellowship with each other.
  3. They prayed and God listened.
  4. They meditated on God’s name.
  5. They were serving God.                       

I. FIRST: NOTE THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC OF THOSE WHO SERVE GODTHEY FEAR THE LORD

[verse 16] Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another.

The word Malachi uses is yare’ which means awe, reverence or respect. There are three Hebrew words for fear. One {pachad} means to be afraid, startled or stand in awe. It is used in Hosea 3:5... In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the LORD and of his goodness. It can be used in the context of worship but not always. The second word {arats} means to be terrified, to be filled with dread. Moses uses it in Deuteronomy 31:6…So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and no not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

  •  Job — “The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.”
  • Solomon —Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
  • Isaiah–And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
  • Luke–The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in thefear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
  1. When we fear God, we become afraid of evil, we turn from it {Proverbs 3:7} Job is a good example {Job 1:1} There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
  2. When we fear God, we obey Him or serve Him. Perhaps not for the right reason but we are afraid to disobey. Samuel told the Israelites, But be sure to fear the LORD and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. [I Samuel 12:24]
  3. When we fear God, we worship Him, stand in awe of Him. Impossible to worship without the fear of God. [Deut. 6:13] You must fear the LORD your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name. I like what Moses said to the Israelites…And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. Pleasing, loving and serving are vital aspects to worship.
  4. When we fear God, we begin to learn, gain wisdom {Proverbs 9:10}

….SO….

Those who do not fear the LORD….

  1. Are not afraid of evil
  2. Are not God’s servants
  3. Are not true worshippers
  4. Are not wise

II. SECOND: NOTE THE GENTLE REMINDERS

[Verse 16, GNT] Then the people who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard what they said. In his presence, there was written down in a book a record of those who feared the Lord and respected him.

The people spoke to one another. The God-fearing Jews got together, they congregated and they spoke to one another. Whereas the other Jews were voicing complaints, this group was probably praising God and celebrating His goodness. It would be a type of worship service.

Verse 16 in the NASB

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.

The RSV reads heeded and heard…The ESV–The Lord paid attention…Holman–The Lord took notice. The Hebrew word is kä·shav’, to hear, be attentive, heed, incline (of ears), attend (of ears), hearken, pay attention, listen.

FIRST REMINDER–GOD is paying attention: He cares

When someone sits down with you and pays attention, attending to your every word and making every effort to understand your heart…How do you interpret such a gesture? It means they care. Most folks are not going to stop what they are doing and sit down and listen because they do not care.

God listened to them as they talked to each other: He heard, took note of what they said. We do not know exactly what they said, but obviously, it was pleasing to the LORD. It is a remarkable thing, that God listens to us.

SECOND REMINDER–Because God cares, He listens.

God is listening and he is understanding. The second word Malachi uses is  shä·mah’ to hear, to understand

Let me give you an example: Think about the story in Luke 24 of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus joined these two disciples without them being aware of who He was. He talked to them, He listened to them; He even asked them questions. It is a wonderful story of God interacting with man. God does listen to what we say. Our prayers may not get answered the way we want but He is listening. He cares about our feeling, our problem and the things that concern us.

THIRD REMINDER–God is paying attention, He is listening and He is taking notes.

The first time I spoke to Morgan County Preachers was back in the 80 when Michael Dawson was pastor of Central in Decatur. I preached out of Judges on Gideon pursuit of his enemies. The title of the message was WEARY, YET PURSUING. I noticed as I was preaching that one preacher had a note-book and was taking notes. Only one and it was Bro. Mike. I almost lost my place. It blew my mind that a man of his caliber would think he could learn from me. Later, I came to realize that the Holy Spirit speaks when the word is preached and it is a good time to have pen and paper.

Even more amazing is the fact that God is taking notes. He had a record in heaven. Perhaps you are thinking, I don’t know if that is a good thing. Well, He is not recording our sins, although sins are recorded. This is a record book of those “Who fear Him” and those who “Meditate upon His name.” You might say PRAISE HIS NAME. Those who HONOR HIS NAME. Those who give high regard or ESTEEM HIS NAME.

Let me tell you where I think Malachi is going with this: The complaining Jews, those who do not fear God are accusing God of favoring the wicked. They were saying, “It does not pay to serve God…there is no reward in it.”

Malachi is saying the opposite: Yes, it pays to serve God and He is keeping a record of all who do and someday [future] they will be rewarded. Ancient Kings kept extensive records and from time to time they would review the records and when they found a loyal subject deserving of reward, they would reward that servant. Mordecai is a good example: one night when King [Xerxes] Ahasuerus could not sleep, he called for the record books and found out that Mordecai had saved him from a wicked plot and he rewarded Mordecai [after all that time].

The complaining Jews were thinking of this world only: don’t limit God to this world only.

III. THIRD: NOTE THE PROMISE

[V. 17] “They will be My people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.

  1. A DAY OF RECKONING...“On that Day.”…We do not need to fret about the wicked. Psalm 37 is good medicine for all of us…their DAY is coming…
    Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither. Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.  Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD . Trust him, and he will help you. The wicked have no future.
  2. WE ARE GOD’S SPECIAL TREASURE. The word for Treasure can refer to anything of great value [Jewels, gems, gold, silver] that must be secured or locked up. The Hebrew word seg-ool-law’ is the feminine passive participle of an unused root meaning to shut up as in wealth. To keep under lock and key. Some interpret this to mean we are God’s crown jewels. I like to think of the security aspect, we are under lock and key. No fear of the devil stealing us away.
  3. WE WILL BE SPARED LIKE OBEDIENT CHILDREN. Holman translates verse 17… I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. The Hebrew word khä·mal’ to spare, pity, have compassion on.

CONCLUSION

I don’t look forward to judgment. I think it will be a terrible day. Yes, I am anxious about seeing Jesus glorified and institutional sin destroyed but I am not excited about anyone going to hell. I must say this: we are not going to be saved by our good works, our hope is in the compassion and pity of God. We are saved by virtue of His divine nature. He is a loving and compassionate God and that is why He sent His only begotten Son to die in our stead. Praise to God from whom all blessings flow.

Give God The Glory

Scripture: Malachi 3:13-15, NLT

13 “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD . “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’
14 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins?
15 From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’”

INTRODUCTION

As we have discussed previously, the Jews of Malachi’s day had a severe attitude problem. They had been liberated from Babylonian captivity years prior but like the generation that died in the wilderness, they had forgotten what captivity was like and were complaining about their present circumstances.


Their unhappiness had reached such a low state that they were saying ‘harsh’ things about God. The Hebrew word is chazaq {ka-zack} which means to be strong, firm, rigid, hard, severe, grievous, and the prevailing thought in translation is harsh although some translate the word ‘arrogant’. The Jews were arrogantly saying some harsh things about God….Any time we rail against God, pride is involved.

 They said things like….

  • What good does it do to serve God?
  • What do we get out of keeping His laws or commands?
  • What good does it do to wear sackcloth, to mourn and repent?
  • God blesses the arrogant and the proud more than us.
  • God prospers the wicked, they get richer and richer while we get poorer and poorer.
  • The wicked tempt God and get by with it.

These are pretty strong accusations

Man by nature is selfish and although the Jews are blaming God for their problems, it is actually they who are at fault. They cannot see the truth because, they who accuse others of pride, are blinded by their own pride and arrogance. Pride is not just an affliction on the wicked and the wealthy…

….Pride is a problem for all of us….

June and I attended a Braves game this past Tuesday. We wanted to see the new ball park. They have a huge jumbo-tron in center field and someone pans a camera through the crowd and they show the picture on the jumbo-tron. Time and time again, June and I saw people push others aside to get in the forefront of the picture. I hate to admit, but most of the guilty were children. The same thing is in adults but we try harder to hide it.


The truth is: most of us want to be the focus of attention–we want to be in the center of the picture. The difference is that kids like Chloe don’t make any bones about it.

You note, I said “Most of us.” There is a reason I said most. God is at work in us to change us, to transform us and bring us to a place where are greatest desire, our driving passion is to give HIM the glory. To get us to this place, God works via a process and we call it sanctification. A huge part of our sanctification is suffering, set back, disappointment, heart ache and even shame. What we need to understand is that God is moving us from point A [selfish, vain glorious and craving the spotlight] to point B where we delight to give Him all the glory. Many times, broken hearted people do not want to be the center of attention and when we are suffering shame, we certainly don’t want any attention. We usually want to hide.

If you read Isaiah 24, you will see that God is doing the same thing with the world at large: He is moving the world toward a day, a specific day when they, the world, give God the glory. This coming day lays somewhere in the future.

The good news is: you and I do not have to wait for this day in the future when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is LORD. We can do it today!

I don’t do this often but today I want to illustrate my point [God is moving us from point A to B] with my own personal testimony.

I surrendered to preach at age 19, a sophomore in college. God blessed me in my youth. I had the privilege of pastoring a church my last two years in college. It was a good church. The people loved me and were good to me. I thought I loved Jesus. I considered myself devoted. I worked hard and did my best and got lots of affirmation. I assumed I was doing everything for God’s glory and probably said so.

Then I went to Seminary and things changed. I had no church to affirm me. The first few months in Seminary, I ministered at the Down Town Rescue Mission on Magazine Street in New Orleans. It was an eye opening experience for a country boy from North Alabama. I soon realized that I had lived a sheltered life. My wife went with me and played the piano because I was both music director and preacher. About six months into my Seminary experience a church in New Orleans called me. It was a tiny church, head over hills in debt. They had two deacons and one of them was moving to Mississippi when I accepted the call. I don’t remember seeking God’s will, I just wanted a place to preach on a regular basis.

Long story short, we went door to door in that East New Orleans subdivision and God blessed. We began reaching people and baptizing people. I experienced one of the most powerful services I’ve ever been a part of in that tiny church. I had been warned by the previous pastor that the church had a matriarch but I ignored the warning. I was a firm believer in Pastoral authority and I was not about to get instructions from some 75 read old woman who thought the church belonged to her.

One Sunday, I was getting ready to begin the service when one of my ushers came and got me. He said, “You have to come out side and see this.” I went with him and the dear lady was greeting for us [unofficially]. She was telling folks, “You don’t want to come here: this church is in debt and the pastor is a dictator.” I gave her a mild rebuke and told her to get inside. I think she opted to go home instead but she was not through. In the next few weeks, she stirred such a stink that we called a business meeting and I let her have the floor which was a mistake. She called me things that I had to go home and look up in the dictionary [before google]. A few weeks later, I resigned. I probably should have stayed and fought it out with that heifer but I was there for the education and it was affecting my studies.

Then I get called to a church in Mississippi and again, I don’t pray and seek God’s will, I just go. Basically, my attitude was, “God, if you don’t stop me, I am going.” The church was split but they had a patriarch and he got his way at the expense of the pulpit committee. It was six to one but the one ruled. That was not a good things but I did not look close enough to analyze. I did not get a great vote but I went anyway. I was full of confidence and thought I could fix any problem. Wrong! They turned me every way but loose. I came under fire from day one and my critics never let up. One lady said, “He is a good mixer but a preacher, he is not!” The only thing they liked about me was that I said Amen with an A, they didn’t like Ah-meners.

After graduating Seminary, I was called to a church in Northwest Alabama and I still had not learned my lesson. Again it was, “I intend to go LORD unless You stop me.” I went, the church was divided and in the midst of a turf war. I knew I was in trouble when I found out they had 18 people on the nominating committee and this committee cleaned house. They changed everything: it was a complete coup. The ousted party vented on me and I was totally innocent. They publicly disrespected me. They would not bow when I prayed, they would not stand to sing, they made horrible faces at me when I stood to preach and even heckled me a time or two. I was three years into this dismal mess when God finally got my full attention and began to show me my depravity. When we begin to understand our depravity, we feel a sense of shame and it curbs our lust for glory.

Let me cut to the chase and tell you what this is all about. Although I didn’t realize it at the beginning, I was doing things for my glory. As my former secretary would say, “Imagine that.” It was much more about Jack than it was Jesus. I had not confessed that publically, I pretended to do all for God’s glory but I was hurt and offended when I didn’t get at least a portion. When I came to Morgan County in 1979, there was still a lot of Jack so the process continued. [Yes, I know, there is still a lot of Jack]

A major break through came in the 90’s when I attended an Associational Meeting of all things. My wife says they are boring but God used this one to help me. A preacher by the name of Harlon {Robin} Hood preached out of Colossians on the preeminence of Christ and the Holy Spirit turned the lights on in my darkened ignorant mind. I saw the truth as clear as day. I was immediately released from a ton of anxiety. I realized that day that my motivation had always been wrong. Although I had known all along that Jesus is to get the glory, I had always craved some for myself and even thought I was deserving.

A few years later, I went through what old preachers call, the DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL. I got involved with some hyper Calvinist. I stood my ground, I didn’t back down but all the arguing and debating lead to a struggle with doubt that lasted more than a year. I wrestled with these horrible doubts until I was exhausted. Finally, I reached a place where I was totally whipped. I said, “God, I give up. I surrender. You are sovereign. You make all the final decisions. I want to spend eternity with You but I don’t know whether my name is in the book of life or not. I do know that I trust Jesus and I am surrendered to His will. The devil keeps telling me my name is not written in the book of life but I know this, I am going to serve you regardless and I do pray for you to get glory from my service.” It was a Job moment, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust HIM.” For the first time in my life, I had put HIS glory over my eternal welfare. Then peace like a river began to wash the doubts away.

The year 1527 was the most difficult year in Martin Luther’s life. He began having dizzy spells in April that forced him out of the pulpit. He became bed fast with an acute intestinal virus. For weeks he believed he was at the point of death. He was overcome with a debilitating discouragement, the dark night of the soul. He felt completely abandoned by Christ, so much so that his entire body would tremble. All this time a raging storm occupied his mind: he even had blasphemous thought about God. To make bad maters worse, the Black Plague hit and thousands were dying. Friend begged Luther to flee the infected area but he refused and he and his wife stayed to minister to the dying. Luther’s house was transformed into a hospital as he and Katy ministered to the sick and dying. On top of this, his son Hans became desperately sick. All of this drove Luther to seek Refuge in the LORD and Psalm 46 became his hiding place. You do know what came out of his meditations on this Psalm, A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD. I dare you to pull it up on YouTube and listen to the hymn as you read the words.

WE WOULD NOT HAVE THIS GREAT HYMN HAD LUTHER NOT SUFFERED

As believers, we are going to have difficult times. God will not have us living sheltered lives. He wants us to be mature, not spoiled brats. The storms we face are not to punish us, they are to make us better. We cannot let the storms, the difficulties make us bitter as it did these Jews who had a rotten attitude. God is moving us to a place where everything we do is for His glory. As Paul said, So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

The Jews that Malachi was dealing with were serving God or at least going through the motions but they were not doing it for His glory. They were serving for their own personal gain. They had no intention of serving for nothing. This is what had them upset: they felt like they were getting nothing in return for their service. We must reach a point in our sanctification where we serve HIM because He is God and worthy of our praise, worship, admiration, adoration and service. We don’t serve Him to get, we serve Him to give HIM GLORY. Our getting is no longer important.

George Washington was commissioned to be the commander-in-chief of The Continental Army by Congress on June 19, 1775. {by the way, he is the most despised man in American history by the liberals} Washington was selected over other candidates based on [1] His previous military experience [2] The hope that a leader from Virginia could help unite the colonies and [3] Washington agreed to serve without pay if Congress with reimburse him for expenses after the war.

Liberals today are squawking about the $160,000 Congress paid Washington in expenses after the war [$20 Thousand a year for eight years] when Obama spent $96,938,882.51 [slightly under 100 million] on vacations in just 8 years. Washington didn’t serve for pay, he served because he loved his country. We need a higher motivation than a pay check.

I am not saying it does not pay to serve Jesus but I am saying this: we need to serve Him because we love and not for the pay. When you get to the point that you serve Him for His glory, you will get your pay even if they crucify you or burn you at the stake. If we could have put a mic to the lips of Peter as he died on a cross upside down, I think it would have said, “Glory to God, it pays to serve Jesus.”

Peter would not have said that in the beginning but God in His grace moved Peter from being self-centered and vain-glorious to doing all for the glory of God.

We do not serve HIM so that He will serve us in return: we serve HIM because it is the right thing to do.

We are to have the same attitude as Christ: THINE IS THE KINGDOM, THE POWER AND THE GLORY.

The Anguish Of The Soul

Scripture: Psalms 13

1 O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
3 Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me.

INTRODUCTION

This song was written during David’s flight from Saul. David had been anointed by Samuel the prophet but nothing promising had happened since. David had been waiting and waiting but things seemed to be getting worse not better.


Have you ever been in a situation where you were praying desperately for things to get better and they kept getting worse?


David did the logical thing: He questioned the LORD. Four times in this brief prayer he asked the question HOW LONG?

  • How long will you forget me? Forever?
  • How long will you look the other way?
  • How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? [NIV] How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?
  • How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

THREE THINGS I WANT TO COMMUNICATE TO YOU

I. EVERYONE HAS THIS ANGUISH OF SOUL THAT DAVID FELT

David felt forgotten, ignored, struggle to maintain positive thoughts, feeling that the enemy had the upper hand. Even Jesus felt such anguish of soul while He was on the cross for He cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”


So, if you are battling this DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL, do not despair. It happens to all God’s servants.


I Peter 4:12-13

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

II. DO NOT GIVE IN TO YOUR EMOTIONS [FEELING]

Jeremiah said, “The heart is desperately sick, who can trust it.” Do not trust your emotions. Put your faith in God’s word. You are not going to get victory over any of your enemies a part from God’s word.


Jesus taught us by His own example to battle the enemy, temptation, doubt and fear with the word of God. The devil will have a fields day if you go against him in your flesh or emotions.


I’ve been preaching the bible for over 45 years and I have learned the hard way…never trust your emotions or feelings. I preached a similar message to this a few Sunday nights ago at a church in Lawrence County and I felt like a miserable failure. I didn’t feel great about the sermon this morning. I prayed, I prepared but it did not come out the way I wanted. I felt like it was just flat, no emotion, void of spirit. You know what that means…absolutely nothing. I went home the other Sunday night and sat back in my recliner to enjoy a little relaxation and my phone rang. The man on the other end said, “Bro. Jack, I know you have no idea what is going on in my life but the sermon tonight was for me.” My first thought was WOW, GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD.


If you want the sparkle in your eye, if you want a song in the night…you get in God’s word and stop relying on your emotions to carry you.

III. REMEMBER: JESUS ALWAYS HAS THE LAST WORD

Remember the scene at Lazarus tomb…Jesus had instructed them to roll the stone aside and Martha interrupted…“Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus…“Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up and prayed and then He shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”

It is not over until Jesus says its over. I believe what Jesus says is ‘so’ even before it is ‘so’, simply because He said ‘so’.

Remember Jacob in Genesis 42:36, when Simeon didn’t come home, he said “Everything is against me.”

If We Could Visit Heaven

Scripture: Revelation 21:1-7, NLT

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
2Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

INTRODUCTION

In November of 1986, I went with a delegation from Alabama to Nigeria, in the elbow of Africa. This nine-day visit changed my life completely. I bought a 35mm camera before departing and I took over a hundred pictures but my slides did not do Africa justice and I finally threw them in the trash. No description you can give will convey to others what you have seen with your own eyes.


How many of you have seen pictures of the grand canyon? How many of you have actually seen the grand canyon? I saw video of the Niagara Falls many times but when June and I visited the falls 1996, the sight took my breath. I stood there in awe and amazement and I tell everyone I see, “You have got to go to the falls.”


The same principle applies to heaven. I have never had a vision of heaven like John. God allowed John to stick his head through one of the portholes and take a quick glance and it changed Johns life forever.

I am sure that a visit to heaven would change us all…

I. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REASSURE OUR HEARTS THAT GOD IS ON THE THRONE

Africa was chaos, pure choas and it hasn’t changed. From what I understand, it is worse. But there is also chaos here, just not as much. In heaven, there is no chaos–there is perfect law and order because God is enthroned in every heart.

My father had a series of strokes before he departed this world. Back in 1994 he was in the hospital at Athens and I went up to see him on a Thursday night. Bill Clinton was the newly elected president and I had grown a full beard in protest. For some reason, Daddy had to explain the beard to everyone so when I walked into his semi-private room, he immediately began explaining to his room-mate why I had the beard. His room mate was black and his pastor was sitting by his bed. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer but I knew that black people are block voters and they vote democrat no matter who is running but Daddy would not hush. I tried in vain to change the subject but he was relentless….”My boy doesn’t like Clinton and he will not shave until Clinton is out of office.” By now, I am embarrassed and looking for a hole to crawl into. The black man’s pastor rose to his feet and he stood at least 6’8″, he was a giant of a man. I thought, “Oh no, he is going to pile drive me into this concrete floor.” He walked straight to me and I am thinking, “Gee, thanks Dad, you are about to see your son executed.” He reached out with his huge arm and grabbed my head and pulled it right up to where I was facing him. My heart stopped beating, I was terrified, then he said, “Son, don’t you be worrying about Bill Clinton. He is not in charge. My LORD Jesus is on the throne.” I’m too scared to speak but I was thinking, “hallelujah.” When I got my composure, I said, “I knew that but God sent me hear tonight so that you could remind me of the fact.”

This black pastor reassured me of something I knew…Jesus is in absolute control…God is on the throne. Everything is going according to plan. There is no panic, no chaos in heaven.

II. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REKINDLE OUR CHRISTIAN JOY

I know you know a lot of Christians, do you know any happy ones. I’ve been serving church since 1970 and I can tell you, there are a lot of unhappy Baptist. A visit to heaven would cheer us up. There is no sadness in heaven and what this earth needs, what this church needs, what you need is a little heaven. There are plenty of folks who want to give us hell but very few who want to give us heaven.

Dallas Willard was a great theologian and apologist of the last century. He was promoted on May 8th, 2013. His last words were to his granddaughter, before they took him into the surgery that he did not survive, he looked at Larissa and said, “Give them heaven.”

Many, many years ago I heard George W. Truett tell the story of John D. Rockefeller’s grandsons. Their grand dad went to work for 50 cents a day back in 1855 as a book-keeper in Cleveland, Ohio. But by the turn of the century, he would be the richest man in America, worth over 300 billion dollars. John D. Senior was raised poor and his parents talk him the value of hard work, honesty and prudence. John D. Rockefeller hated waste and that was the key to his success. Long story short, he didn’t want his grandsons corrupted by inherited wealth so he sent them to the iron orchards of Oklahoma where they had to work on oil rigs. He made them hire on under pseudonymous names and they had to work at entry-level jobs but the boys had a blast. They sang, cut up, joked and even whistled as they worked. It was irritating to others who hated the dirty gruesome job. Finally, one of the foremen, complained to the boss–“What with these kids, they have a good time, they enjoy this hard and grimy work, they even sing while they work. The boss, who knew the truth said, “You would be singing to if you knew that one day all this would belong to you.”

III. A VISIT TO HEAVE WOULD REVIVE OUR HOPE

Just this past Friday, I made a special trip to Huntsville Hospital to share the gospel with a young woman age 37. She has two children and a husband who will not work. In the last five years, she has lost both parents and battled two forms of cancer: ovarian and bladder. The treatment for the cancer has destroyed her kidneys and now she is on dialysis. She is hoping for a transplant but the chances are slim.

Week before last, I talked with a Daddy who had lost a son to suicide. The boy had medical issues, relational issues and he was head over heals in debt. He reached a point where he saw no way out and he took his own life.

I know a number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren because their parents are on drugs. I know several who have used their life savings to rehab their children only to see the child go right back to the addiction. There are a lot of situations that seem hopeless.

Years ago, I had a friend named Charlie. Charlie was unique, he was a pistol but he had a stroke, a massive stroke. He could not talk, he could not walk, he could not feed himself. The stroke left him totally helpless. Charlies was a prodigal, he had lived on the wild side and the stroke left him with nothing. His mom wanted him to go to their family doctor and have test run and so they went. The doctor obliged them, knowing nothing could be done. After four or five days in the hospital, the doctor came to Charlie’s room and said, “Charlie, I am sorry, there is nothing I can do. There is no hope of you getting better.”

I felt so sorry for Charlie. I didn’t like the doctor telling him there was no hope. I had shared Christ with Charlie and he had affirmed his faith by gripping my hand. I went to his bedside and said, “The doctor is wrong Charlie, there is hope and that hope is in Jesus.” I began talking to Charlie about heaven.

If we could visit heaven, it would rekindle our HOPE!

IV. IF WE COULD VISIT HEAVEN, IT WOULD REASSESS OUR EARTHLY POSSESSIONS

I am sure you’ve heard the fable of the miser who converted all his wealth to gold bullion so he could take it with him when he died. The story goes that when he got to heaven was those bags of gold that St. Peter questioned him, “What in the sacks?” The old miser opens one of the sacks and Peter exclaimed: “You brought pavement, why would you bring pavement to paradise.”

We are supposed to love people and use things but we have it backwards: We love things and use people.

I know some of you are campers. You are not shocked when you pull into a camp ground and see tents or trailers, campers but what if you saw a couple drive in with a load of lumber and start building a house on a camp site? Would you say, “Wow, that is a good idea, I wish I had thought of it,” or would you think, “those people are nuts.”

For too many are trying to build a permanent home on a camp site.

V. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REAFFIRM OUR FAITH THAT SALVATION IS BY GRACE

I am running out of time so let me cut to the chase. Imagine on our visit to heaven, we interview some of the saints that are there. Lets start with Moses the Law Giver…Moses you had some unique experiences, you did some powerful things. You were God’s servant and God’s friend… Moses would then interrupt: “Jack, I am not here because of what I did for God, I am here because of what He did for me.”

Then I stop Peter, “Peter, you were one of the twelve and the leader of the church. You even died as a martyr for your faith in Christ…” but Peter would interupt…”Jack, I am not here because I died for Christ but because He died for me. Jack, I was ransomed by the precious blood of Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, without spot or blemish.”

Every testimony would be the same….JESUS…JESUS….JESUS…GRACE…GRACE…GRACE!

VI. A VISIT TO HEAVEN RELIEVE OUR ANXIETIES OF DEATH

Physical death is an illusion, at least to we humans. Remember the story of Jairus Daughter in Mark 5…

Jesus is on His way to Jarius house to heal his daughter but friends coming running up to Jairus and say, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” When they got to the house, the profession mourners were weeping and wailing until Jesus interrupted, “What’s going here, why all this commotion and weeping. You folks act like someone died, the girl is not dead, she is sleeping.”

So the professional mourners who see death daily are convinced that the girl is dead: Jesus on the other hand is convinced that she is not dead. He said, “She is sleeping.” and He went in the house and woke her up with these simple words, “Little girl, get up!”

What we see, dread and fear is nothing more than a nap. I plan to take one this evening and I do not dread it.


Two sisters lived in Western Europe, one lived in Germany and the other in Austria. The one is Austria was sick and dying. The sister in Germany wanted to see her one last time but the only way of travel was the train and it went through a long tunnel. She was terrified of tunnels and darkness but she wanted to see her sister desperately so she booked passage. She worried about the tunnel for days before the trip began. By the time she boarded the train, she was totally exhausted but still afraid.  By God’s providence, she sat down by a younger Christian woman and she shared her fear with this Christian lady. She open her bible and began to read out of Psalms. The scripture worked like medicine and the anxious woman drifted off to sleep and slept for three or four hours. When she woke up, the first thing she ask her new-found friend was, “How much further to the tunnel?” The young woman smiled with delight, “We went through that tunnel two hours ago.” All that dread and fear and it all boiled down to a short nap.

Three Things Which Do Not Change

6 “I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.
7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’

INTRODUCTION

We live in a changing world; everything around us is in a state of change. Chloe keeps asking Big Mama when she is going to get young again. Chloe Bug does not understand the law of thermodynamics, that everything is winding down. I have less energy now than I did 50 years ago. The truth is, I have less than I did 50 days ago. Modern technology is changing so rapidly that folks like me can’t keep up. I never dreamed I would own a smart phone and now we have a smart car. It talks to you. I was on my way to Birmingham Saturday and a warning light began flashing on the dash and a voice said, “Driver is tired or distracted, please pull over for a rest.” It will not allow you to tailgate. It breaks automtically if you get too close to the vehicle in front of you. Everything is changing so fast that I cannot keep up. Sometimes I feel like an 8 track player in a smart phone world. It is a comfort to know that somethings do not change.

Tonight, I want to talk to you about three things that do not change.

I. YAHWEH IS IMMUTABLE “I am the LORD, I do not change.” [v.6]

A great number of people living today in these United States believe in moral relativism and the evolution of morality. Their rationale, if I understand correctly, is that we know more today than ever before. Thus this greater knowledge has somehow advanced morality so that things we once viewed as being sinful and wrong or no longer sinful or wrong. The hot topic of course is homosexuality. 

As Christians, we reject this godless thinking and it is godless. God is the supreme law giver, morality emanates from HIM. He told Malachi in no uncertain terms, I AM Yahweh and I do not change.”


Actually everything is in a state of change. We call it the law of thermodynamics. Everything is winding down. Einstein believed the only constant in the universe is the speed of light. I am comforted by the fact that in this ever changing world, there is one thing that never changes… GOD DOES NOT CHANGE. He is immutable. This is cause for celebration. Hebrews 13:8…“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”


Balaam said in Numbers 23:19… God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? Balak was trying to get Balaam to curse the Israelites but Balaam told him, how can I curse someone the LORD has blessed. Balaam understood that he could not change God’s will or purpose.


Actually, God’s immutable nature is captured in His name Yahweh. It is the Hebrew verb for being. God’s personal name is a verb and it contains every tense imaginable. We see past, present and future but God lives in the eternal present. He sees past, present and future at the same time. Therefore, He is never surprized or shocked.


Nor does God change in nature or essense. God is a loving God. He is merciful and gracious and quick to forgive. He is perfect in all of His attributes. We cannot make God more loving. Nothing we do will make Him more holy. He is perfectly holy, competely holy. Our beloved immutable God needs no enhancement, no improving and no updating. He is totally intergrated. He has it all together. He is faithful. He keeps every promise.

THUS

You sons of Jacob are not destroyed. Malachi is reminding the Jews that they should be thankful that God does not change His mind, purpose or essense. Here is the POINT…these sorry Jews deserved to be destroyed. They were ungrateful. They were covenant breakers. They were rebels from the beginning. They had not lived up to their side of the covenant and yet they are blaming God. God would have been just to have whipped them from the face of the earth. The verb Malachi uses means to finish, to completely consume, to utterly destroy, to anniliate. Except for the grace and mercy of God, the Jews would have been anniliated.

The Jews of Malachi day are complaining when they should having been praising God for His marvelous grace. What a bunch of ungrateful jerks. Do they remind you of anyone you know?]

It is very important that we see ourselves in this story. You and I are the ungrateful Jews. The covenant breakers, the self-willed rebels. We are as guilty as these Jews and except for God’s grace, we would be burning in hell. We like to think we have earned our good fortune but nothing is further from the truth. We have been saved by God’s grace. Our salvation has nothing to do with our performance: it is all grace and God gets all the glory.

II. MAN HAS NOT CHANGED…Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. [V.7]

It is impossible to please God without faith. Faith is God’s way of relating to us but there are some areas where no faith is required, not for me. I do not believe that man is a sinner, I know he is a sinner. We are born with a self-centered tendency and we want what we want when we want it.

I think Isaiah describes it best in Isaiah 53:6...All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Our rebellion stems from the fact that we want our way. This is not just a problem in the world, it is a huge problem in the church. O the damage that is done by carnal members fighting to get their way. The self-centered tendency which leads to rebellion is the essense of sin and we find it in little children.

The scripture makes it clear, there are no exceptions…All we like sheep…All have sinned and come short of the glory of God…There is none righteous, no, not even one. The first step to recovery is to acknowledge the problem. The first step to salvation is to acknowledge that you are a sinner. It is not hard to get a sinner to Jesus, the difficult part is to get a human to admit their are a sinner. Once a person sees their sin, undoneness, they have no problem seeing the need for a Savior.

I had to have a root canal a couple of weeks back. I had talked Ashley into patching me up last January. She said emphatically, “Bro. Jack get this tooth fixed before it gets infected.” I heard what she said but I thought to myself, “I’ll get it fixed when it goes to hurting.” Five months later, it abscessed. I go for the root canal and they cannot deaden the tooth due to the abscess. I was on antibiotics for an extra week and then they tried the second time but this time they gave me so much medication that my jaw stayed numb for 7 hours. He is had to convince a man to go to the doctor when he is not hurting but once the pain sets in and he is convinced in his mind that he is sick, he will go gladly.

Likewise, not sinner is coming to Jesus until he sees the damage his sin is doing. Righteous people are not drawn to Jesus.

I do need a show of hands. I don’t need surveys. I have the word of God and 68 years of experience and I tell you by the authority of God’s word, you are a sinner; you have always been a sinner. I don’t need faith to believe it–I see it everyday in myself and others.

There is no such thing as “Moral Evolution.” Man is not getting better, he is still as depraved as ever. This is why morality had to be revealed to us by a holy God. We are law givers or law makers, we by nature are law breakers. What was wrong in the garden is wrong today. Homoseuality was wrong in the Old Testament and it is wrong today. God made the law and He does not change.

III. THE NEED AND NATURE OF REPENTANCE HAS NOT CHANGED…Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. [v.8] 

We have sinned. Like the prodigal, we have rebelled against a good and benelovent Father. The Father is waiting, watching but we have to repent, we have to return. The Father has done all that is possible to make it easy for us but we have to return before He will restore. This is the way it works. Don’t wait for God to send someone after you, come to your senses and return before it is too late.

The Jews said, “How can we return, we have never gone away.” How can we repent, we haven’t done anything.”

I can deal with sinners, with honest people but I cannot help those who refuse to acknowledge their sin.

Forty years or so ago, I had a woman to ask me to marry her and her boy friend. She had been married six times and all of them ended in divorce: this was her last shot because the limit in Alabama was seven at the time. I was a friend of her boyfriend. He was a good man as men go; a hard worker and very generous. I had been in the ministry just long enough to realize that do weddings was not always pleasant. I had already had two or three bad experiences. I told her on the phone, that I would consider doing the ceremony but not until I had talked with them.

I arrived at her house and began the questioning. I didn’t like some of her answers. When I was through asking questions, I said, I will do the ceremony under one condition: both of you must acknowlege you failure in your prior marriages. I will marry you if you are repentant: otherwise, I want no part in the affair. She bristled up immediately, she said, “I will not because my marriages did not fail because of me.” I said, “You’ve been married and divorced six times and yet you take no responsibility in any of the failures?” She said, “No, I do not.” I said, “I am very sorry but you will have to get someone else to perform the ceremony.”

I have seen her attitude in the Baptist church. I don’t know how some folks got it but obviously they did not repent. If you aren’t repentant, chances are you have never repented.

Don’t be like these stubborn and proud Jews…admit you are a sinner. Don’t be like the woman with 6 husbands. You must humble yourself and come to Christ. It is God’s way. There is no salvation without repentance and there is no repentance without you turning from you sinful and selfish ways. 

This is the law of repentance…It has never changed and will not change.

 

Fathers Day 2017

SCRIPTURE: 2 Chronicles 29:1-2, NLT

1 Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became the king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah.
2 He did what was pleasing in the LORD ’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done.

INTRODUCTION

If you do a study of the kings, you will notices something rather strange. There are no good kings back to back with one exception–Asa was succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat and that is as close as we come to having two good kings in a row. Even more amazing: Hezekiah and Josiah, the best two morally [David was the greatest but not necessarily the best] had evil fathers. Actually the best two had the worse two fathers. Hezekiah’s father was Ahaz, a vile man who was dedicated to the worship of Baal. He had his sons and daughters sacrificed the Molech and eventually closed the door of the Temple, outlawing Yahweh worship.

Josiah succeeded his father Amon who was so bad that he was assassinated by his own cabinet after serving less than two years. So you could say, Josiah followed his grand father Manasseh who has always held the distinction as being the worse of all of Judah kings. Manasseh was a cruel man, prone to violence and he filled the streets of Jerusalem with the blood of the innocent. He had the prophet Isaiah sawn into: put him in a hollow log and then sawed him into.

So the question I pose this morning is: How did these two good kings come from such sorry father’s. It doesn’t make sense until you study the habits of ancient Eastern kings.

  1. First of all, these kings had harems. They did not have one wife, they had wives. King David had 8 listed in scripture but everyone believes there were more. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son had 18 wives and 60 concubines. Rehoboam’s son Abijah had fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. If my math is right, that is 38 children. Fathers, it stands to reason, if you have 38 children, you are not going to be able to spend a lot of time with each individually.
  2. The mother and the children lived in a separate dwelling. The children we either in the harem or in school until of course they were grown.
  3. So, the mothers had more time with the children than the fathers. Why did two of the sorriest kings produce two of the best? The answer is, they had good mothers and the fathers spent so little time with their sons, the mother’s influence was dominant. For example: Abijah, Hezekiah’s mom was the daughter of a priest and no doubt, she is the one who instilled Yahweh faith in Hezekiah.

I know what you are thinking…“Here he goes again, lambasting fathers on father’s day.” Guys, I am going to ask you to do me a favor, bear with me, hear me out before you jump to conclusions. My purpose today is not to demean the roll of the father but to show you how important it is for men to be good fathers. Judah had five good kings and the best two were probably raised godly mothers but how many good kings would Judah have had if the good kings had mentored their sons? You think about that question for a moment. How many good kings would we have if the good ones had spent time with their sons and mentored them? It would be more than two. So my point today is…women are great at raising children but how much better would it be if we men did our part.

So Fathers, in a few brief moments, I want to challenge you and encourage you.

I. FATHERS, YOU ARE NOT JUST IMPORTANT, YOU ARE VITAL

 Let me share with you some facts about the fatherless…

  • About 40 percent of children in the western world will go to sleep in homes tonight in which their fathers do not live.
  • Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation’s children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhoods living apart from their fathers.
  • Never before in this country have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their fathers.
  • Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. 

There are two kinds of absent fathers: [1] Those who are absent physically [2] Those who are present but emotionally unavailable.

I don’t know how credible these statistics are but they are worth mentioning…Children with absent fathers are…

  1. Five times more likely to commit suicide 
  2. They have higher rates of depression and anxiety.
  3. They are thirty-two times more likely to be incarcerated
  4. Five times more likely to drop out of school
  5. More likely to encounter relationship problems themselves
  6. Substance abuse is substantially more likely
  7. Behavioural problems more likely

Men, the women can give the children nurture but you and I, the father’s give them their identity. You recognize me today as a Bailey. My mother gave me birth but my father gave me my identity and that is an important piece of the puzzle. I’ve always known who I was, I am Eugene Bailey’s Son, I am Joe David Bailey’s grandson and Joe Bailey’s great-grandson. I am a Bailey.

Look, I am not a child pschologist nor the son of one, but I know that a child’s identity is very important to them. Every child wants to know who their father is and every child wants to know their father.

ALL I AM SAYING IS: FATHER’S YOU ARE IMPORTANT

II. FATHERS, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT BUT YOU NEED TO BE PRESENT

If you followed the last presidential election, you heard the name Ben Carson. Ben grew up in the inner city of Detroit. His fathers abandoned, he, his brother and mother when he was 8 years old. During the campaign, Ben talks a lot about his mom but he never mentions his father. My question is WHY? I would suppose that the main reason Carson didn’t mention his father was because he didn’t really know him. He left them when Ben was eight years old. Basically, Ben grew up without a father. There is no doubt that he suffered due to the absence of his father.

Ben Carson had an absent father, Ronald Wilson Reagan has an emotionally unavailable father. His father was a drunk who couldn’t keep a job. He wasn’t absent physically but he was emotionally. I don’t know which is worse, the absent father or the emotionally unavailable father.

Men we are the PROVIDERS, PROTECTOR and the PRIEST of the home. The one thing that is required in all three is time. We do pretty good at providing but there is more to it than providing. We are also the Priest, the spiritual leader, the intercessor, the instructor. I always found my responsibilities to nurture my children spiritually was the most difficult part of being a father and I didn’t do a very good job.

I have two primary goals for all my children and grandchildren: To love Jesus with all their heart and to love their neighbor as they love themselves. They don’t have to make a lot of money to please me; they don’t have to win any awards. They don’t have to be the best at anything. My hearts desire and prayer to God is that they love Jesus.

I will not lie, my goals have changed over the years. I one time, I dreamed of my son being a professional athlete and I admit that I was disappointed when he decided not to play college basketball. Sad to say, I was even disappointed when he told me the LORD was calling him to preach. But I was wrong on both counts and there is nothing he can do to make me prouder than his love for Jesus.

You have heard me tell the story about the young seminary graduate that had a sermon intitled “Ten Ways To Raise Children.” Then he had children and before they all got in school, he changed his sermon to “Ten Suggestions For Raising Children.” And then his children became teenagers and he changed the sermon again, “Ten Things Not To Do Raising Children.

Fatherhood is much harder than it looks but here are some suggestions:

  1. Pray for your children. You are their priest and they need your prayers.
  2. Build relationships. The fact that you are biologically linked doesn’t insure a relationship. You build a relationship by spending time with your children and you start when they are young. If you wait till they get to be teenagers, you are in trouble. Relationship building takes time and energy.
  3. Repair fractured relationships. Fathers: you are the one to initiate reconciliation for broken relationships. For Pete’s sake, don’t blame your children. You are the father. Take responsibility and work for a fix.
  4. Don’t act like a tough guy all the time. Be real, be gentle and convey your love verbally. Don’t give me that “My kids know I love them.” Are you sure they know. How many times have you told them. A dozen times, twice, once, never. I don’t care how well you provide or how much you give your children, they will doubt your love if you don’t reassure them. There may come a time when they will figure it out for themselves but you will probably been gone by the time they do.
  5. Be an Example: if you want them to be good to their mother, then you be good to their mother. If you want them to love Jesus, then you love Jesus. If you want them to put Christ’s Kingdom first, then you put it first.

The Invisible God

Scripture: Malachi 2:17

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD ’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

 INTRODUCTION

I like the GWT version of verse 17, I think it puts everything in perspective…You have tried the patience of the LORD with your words. But you ask, “How have we tried his patience?” When you say, “Everyone who does evil is considered good by the LORD. He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”

This brings up an age-old argument: Can God’s patience be exhausted? Does God get tired of our constant complaining? Before we attempt to answer these questions, let’s establish some fundamental things that we do know about God.
  1. God is not Apathetic. He is im·pas·si·ble in the sense that our emotions do not rule Him nor change His essential nature but at the same time, He does feel our pain. At Laarus tomb, Jesus wept with Mary and Martha. Isaiah said of Jesus, “He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief.” The word acquainted means to know or learn by experience. Impassibility means to be incapable of suffering or feeling pain. Jesus laid this myth to rest. God does feel our pain but don’t ask me to explain, I can’t explain it and yet I believe it. This is what I call the paradox of faith.
  2. So we can say with confidence, God is not Apathetic but neither is He pathetic or at the mercy of man’s emotions. In other words, our emotions do not rule Him. We are sinners in the hand of an angry God, not the other way around…God in the hands of angry sinners. We are at His mercy.

So the same paradox exist when it comes to God’s patience. God can not run out of patience because He is infinite and there is no end to His resources. Surly you do not believe that God is limited in any capacitySo in one sense, the answer is no, God doesn’t run out of patience. In other words, our constant complaining will never transform God into an impatient God. But when we flip the coin to the other side, God does have an allotted degree of patience for each one of us. In this sense, His patience can be exhausted as it was with Sodom and Gomorrah and the children of Israel in the wilderness

This fact makes it unwise to presume on God’s patience or mercy. God did grow weary of the Israelites incessant complaining and He sentenced them to 40 years of futility in the wilderness. So, there is a line that can be crossed and once it is crossed, there is nothing but judgment.

In today’s text, the Israelites are making the same mistake that their forefathers made in the Wilderness, they are trying God’s patience, which is never wise.

The situation reminds me of a story told by Bill Patterson. It is the story of Robert Shelton. Robert Shelton lost his job but only after he had exhausted the patience of his employer. Robert had been warned repeatedly about being late for work and about his lack of productivity when he was at work. His boss even enrolled Robert in a program to improve his job performance but Robert made no attempt to learn from the training. He continued to do what he had always done until the day he was called into the office and handed a pink slip. Robert went ballistic. He was outraged. He began a tirade of complaints beginning with his supervisor whom Robert said, “Had been unclear on instructions.” Then Robert lashed out t his co-workers, accusing them of conspiring against him. Then he made excuses…his assigned task was beyond his abilities and training. Robert blamed everyone except the guilty party, Robert.

The Jews of Malachi’s day were a lot like Robert…they blamed everyone except themselves. The truth is, they brought much of their suffering upon themselves. They were their own worst enemy but would not confess it and for such people there is no help.

The Jewish Problem

  1. Oppression from foreign domination

  2. Surrounded by hostile neighbors

  3. Injustice and exploitation {Economic}

  4. Skepticism and indifference {Spiritual}

Three Areas Where We Have To Be Careful of Exhausting God’s Patience

I. NUMBER ONE IS ATTITUDE

Irresponsible people believe that bad circumstances validate a bad attitude but nothing could be further from the truth. God expects each of us to have a good attitude no matter what our circumstances. Joseph had a good attitude in bad circumstances and so did Daniel and Nehemiah. How would you like to be a slave? Those three handled in pretty well, did they not.

Circumstances on this earth are never going to be ideal. I am a fan of the Jesse Stone murder mysteries. Jesse Stone is the police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Actually Paridise, Massachusetts is is fictional. It does not exist. The definition of Paradise is an ideal place of extreme beauty, delight, or happiness where everything goes beyond expectation. We are not going to find that here on earth. We must do the best we can in less than ideal circumstances. As Erma Boombeck was fond of saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonaid.”

The Jews had a bad attitude not because circumstances were bad but because their thinking was bad. They had some stinking thinking. They were blaming God. They accused Him of being partial to the wicked. Their complaint was that He was not holy, that He was lacking in moral judgment. When our attitude is bad, it is the result of bad thinking or theology.

God is holy, moral and good. He is not the enemy. When we reach the point where we accuse Him of being the problem, we have a problem.

II. THE SECOND PROBLEM IS OUR TONGUE

Complainers are vocal by necessity. People who complain are outspoken. Do you remember the Israelites in the wilderness–they murmured and complained constantly. They grumbled in their tents…

Exodus 16:2…I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”

Number 14:27…“How long must I put up with this wicked community and its complaints about me? Yes, I have heard the complaints the Israelites are making against Me.”

What was the result of their complaining in Numbers 14….The Lord told Moses to tell them...”I am going to do just as you have suggested, you will die in the wilderness.” Be careful what you say, the LORD is listening.

III. THE THIRD PROBLEM IS THEIR SIGHT OR INSIGHT

They have not acknowledged what God has already done. They refuse to see His goodness and mercy. They were released from Babylon by a miracle of grace. They did not gain their independence via a war, it was given to them and yet they could not see God’s goodness.

God had made the Jews some precious promises through the prophets.

  1. They would return to the homeland and the temple be rebuilt
  2. The LORD Himself would visit the Temple
  3. Israel would have a time of prosperity and peace
  4. Israel would have promonence in the world

The first promise had been fulfilled but they were waiting impatiently on the others. Malachi’s word to them in chapter 3 is…God is going to keep His promises, He will come to His Temple but when He does, you will not recognize Him and they didn’t. So we are talking about spiritual blindness, a sight problem.

Conclusion

“Where is the God of justice?” The Jews were asking. Sounds exactly like their forefathers who is Exodus 17:7 said, “Is the LORD among us or not.” The Israelites craved a God they could see, they wanted a visible manifestation. Yahweh cannot be seen. We don’t have a lens or scope big enough to see Him. He is the invisible God. I think it was Josie who asked about this a few days ago. Christ is the image of the invisible God. [Colossians 1:15]  Paul said to Timothy, Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.

We are not to question God’s presence merely because we do not feel it, sense it, or see it. Jeremiah 23:23-24…. “I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only. No one can hide where I cannot see them. Do you not know that I am everywhere in heaven and on earth?” You don’t have to feel His presence, or sense His presence–you simply have to believe the truth–He is present. It is impossible for Him not to be present.

Growing up in church, I never go to go out to the bathroom during a service. Once the service started, we were planted. If we moved, there were consequences. One Sunday night mother had a headache and so she stayed behind, the rest of us went on the church. My daddy slept soundly once the preacher got started and since mother was not there, I seized the opportunity to go out during a service. I eased out and daddy never opened his eyes so I head for the foyer. Our building had those saloon doors that open both ways and I hit them almost on a run, but there sitting behind them was mother. I did a quick 360. She was there all the time but I didn’t know it.

Bottom line: Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” It is a simple matter of faith–do you believe what Jesus said?