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.

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The Bottom Line

Scripture Text: Malachi 1:6-11, NLT

6 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’
7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices? ’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.
8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.

11 But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.


INTRODUCTION

A little background is necessary for understanding the message tonight. Malachi was speaking to the post-exilic Jews. These are the Jews who spent 70 years in Babylon and now they have been back in the home land for about 80 years. When they returned, they expected some hard times. The infrastructure of the country had been destroyed. The land was occupied by several ethnic groups and none of them like Jews. Plus they are forced to pay high taxes to Persia and their is oppression going on within the Jewish community. The rich Jews were taking advantage of the poor. 


I had someone say to me a few weeks back, “One thing about it, the Jews look out for each other.” I gently corrected him: nothing could be further from the truth. The Jews are notorious for taking advantage of each other. Read the book of Nehemiah if you want proof or do a study of the Temple activity during the time of Christ. It was a corrupt money making scheme that profited wealthy Jews like Annas and Caiaphas. There have always been poor Jews. Even today, there are poor Jews, many of them in Eastern Europe and there are middle class Jews. It is a small minority who are extremely rich and when I say extreme, I mean extreme. This very small group of Jews control the gold in the world today. They owe all nine banks in the Federal Reserve system.


So what we have is a group of Jews who are disillusioned and disappointed. They thought things would improve with time but they were actually getting worse. They were focused on their circumstances {which we are prone to do} and they were blaming God. The fact that they blamed God for their circumstances lead them to have a “Bad Attitude.”


It is hard, if not impossible to isolate a bad attitude. It affects everything we do and say. It permeates our entire life. It affects relationships. A bad attitude can destroy a marriage, a family or a church. We will save that discussion for a later date: tonight we want to talk about how their BAD ATTITUDE affected their worship.


You cannot have a bad attitude and good worship. Our attitude has everything to do with our worship. Before God accepts an offering, He examines the heart. Motive is everything.


That is my sermon tonight: a bad attitude destroys worship but we are going to do two more things {LORD willing} before we go: [1] Look at the example in Malachi and [2] Tell you a life story that illustrates the same problem.


How do we know the Jews had a bad attitude? We look at their offerings. You can tell everything you need to know about a person by looking at what they give to God.

7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices? ’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.
8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.


As you can see, the Jews were bringing God contemptible offerings. They were bringing blind, cripple and diseased animals. With the diseased animals came a defiled or unclean sacrificial meal which was a part of their worship.


Years ago, some 25 years or so, back when most of our furniture was early attic, it came out of someone’s attic, a man called me and invited me to his home, a new home. He said he knew that I had mentioned using used furniture and he had some if I wanted it. I assumed it was stuff in good condition. I admit that most of our furniture at that time was used. We either bought it second hand or someone gave it to us. But it wasn’t ratty, you could see the springs in the couch. When I got to his house, he was gone, {how convenient} so one of his daughters took me to the garage and showed me the furniture. I was shocked. You could see the springs in the couch. Everything there was a piece of junk and ready for the dump. I was embarrassed because his daughter must have noticed the shock on my face and I lost it. I said, “You tell your dad, he can get someone else to dispose of his junk, I am not interested.” There is a long story behind this story but I’ll save it for another day. My question is: would you offer junk to your preacher? Would you want to insult the man who had feed you spiritually. I baptized his wife and two of his daughters. I visited his parents and grandparents up until their death.

Would you give your pastor a shoddy, worthless gift, something you would not have in your house. Malachi ask the Jews if they would give their sick animals to their governor?Of course not! My question is why?

The answer is obvious: they had more respect for their governor than they did for God. The bad attitude comes from a lack of respect and without deep reverential respect, there is no worship. This is why the LORD says in verse 10…“How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered!


But I want you to look at the next line, this is the BOTTOM LINE…10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.

Folks, if our worship is displeasing to God, we have failed and failed miserably. There is no use in our congregating and going through the motions if our aim, our goal is not to PLEASE HIM. Once again, it all boils down to respect or lack thereof.


I got a job in the 7th grade. I didn’t find the job, the job found me. A man in our church hired me to ride a 4 row planter. My job was to pull the markers and watch all the seed hoppers, to make sure the seed was dropping properly. It was a dusty job but I loved it. My employer was a big man in more ways than one. I guess he was about 6’1″ or so and weighted about 230. He was the Tax Assessor at the time and we didn’t see him much. I worked with his dad and his two sons. The oldest son was our supervisor. I worked for him throughout my school years and loved every minute. Not one time did I ever talk back to him or even speak in a disrespectful tone. The only bad thing about this story is that it reveals my sin. Mr. James was a respected man in the community: everyone thought highly of him and that included me. I don’t know what it was about him, but I wanted to please him. When he talked, I listened. When he gave a command, I obeyed.


What’s strange about the story is such behavior was out of character for me. I didn’t listen to my dad. When he gave me a command, I argued. What’s worse, he allowed me to argue. It brings me emotional pain to be honest with you and it has taken years for me to be honest with myself. The difference was in the matter of respect: I had great respect for Mr. James and very little for my own daddy. I am not saying this is a good thing, I am just saying this is the way it was. You might say I feared Mr. James but not daddy. It was not a cringing fear. I was never afraid that Mr. James would hurt me or abuse me but never the less, I didn’t take any chances. I didn’t want to give him a reason to take a limb to me. I wanted to please him. I worked hard to please him.


THIS IS THE BOTTOM LINE

Our bad attitude, our pitiful and self-centered worship all stems from a lack of respect. We do not fear God. Our greatest aim is not to please HIM and it should be. Give me a penny for your thoughts: what were you thinking when you walked in here tonight? Did any thought of pleasing God cross your mind?