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.

Three Striking Paradoxes

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to Himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

Introduction

I will say a couple of things by way of introduction:

  1. This is a great passage of scripture. One that I love to read over and over. It alwaqys encourages me. I put it up there with Isaiah 53, Psalm 23, I Corinthians 13, Romans 8, or any of John 21 chapters.
  2. With that said, as much as I love to read and study this chapter, I have had a difficult time coming up with a sermon outline. I feel rather inadequate because I know at best, I am only scratching the surface.
  3. I see not only comparisons and contrast in this passage but also divine paradoxes. A divine paradox is a statement of truth which on the surface does not seem possibly true. It appears to be a contradiction but in reality, is not contradictory at all but a profound principle. [Example: God is a God of Love and hate. Seems contradictory, how can He be both? Simple: He loves good and hates evil.]
  4. There are three that I want to discuss and the first is more of a contrast than a paradox. It could be converted to a paradox.

 

 

I. GREAT TREASURE IN A CLAY POT

Usually, expensive things come in fancy boxes. Jewelers don’t put diamond rings in a paper bag but God has put an infinite treasure of inestimable worth in a clay jar or pot. The little clay pot that Paul is referring to was the cheap, common, expendable clay lamps that were sold in the market place for one half of a cent, one little copper coin. The oil in the lamp was worth more than the lamp itself. These little clay lamps were very fragile and prone to break or crack.

Our bodies are the clay pots and the treasure is the gospel. God’s purpose in putting a great treasure in an inexpensive and common clay pot is so the attention will be on the treasure and not the pot itself. There is nothing more annoying to me than a so called minister of the gospel carrying his own introduction and expecting me to read it. Who cares where he went to school or how many degrees he holds or what positions he has held in the convention. I don’t congregate on Sunday to admire or worship clay pots and especially cracked pots. It is not about you. It has never been about you and it will never be about you. The focus is on the TREASURE inside the pot, not the pot. This tiny clay pot or lamp is to manifest the light. When I look for a lamb, I don’t get fooled by the decor on the lamp, I want to know how much light it illuminates.

Another passage comes to mind [ I Corinthians 1: 26-29]…26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

Tasker says, “Wonder of wonders, the treasure of the gospel entrusted to men who are subject to infirmities, limitations, instability and insecurity.”

Why does God choose the weak, the common, the ordinary to carry the precious gospel? It is so that God will get the glory. Men have a tendency to worship other men, especially the ones with think are outstanding, great, popular, awarded, recognized, successful or wealthy. By using the common everyday ordinary, God gets the glory.

II. STRENGTH PERFECTED IN WEAKNESS

Let’s fast forward to chapter 12 where Paul testifies...Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Did you get that…God’s strength is made perfect in human weakness. Unbelievable!

It is hard to glory in your weakness because none of us are fond of weakness. We all admire strength, not weakness. Paul did not want to be weak, He prayed three times that God would take his infirmity and make him strong but God said “No, I want you depending on Me, not yourself. If I made you strong; you would rely in your own strength.” {JEV II Co.12:7}

One of the most amazing things about the gospel ministry is that the devil and his followers [some are members of our churches] are never allowed to do their worst. Actually, God never allows them to know the degree of our weakness. It is a part of the hedge that God has put around us to keep us from being destroyed by the enemy. I love verse 8-9…We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

In this series of participles, Paul contrast our constant humiliation with God constant ‘Grace’ which is always sufficient.

  • Although we live under constant pressure from every direction–we are not crushed.
  • We may get perplexed [have doubts] but we never give in to a spirit of despair because of God’s grace working in us.
  • We are hunted, persecuted, watched with critical eyes by those who oppose us but we are never alone. We have God’s abiding presence and the encouragement of friends who are praying for us to succeed not fail.
  • We get knocked down all the time but we get back up. We get knocked down but not out. We get injured but we don’t take ourselves out of the game.

Warren Wiersbe says, “The ministry is not measured by bars and stars, but by scars.” A vessel that gets shaken, broke or cracked spills out, overflows from the blows. It is God’s way: we want Him to use our strengths but He prefers our weakness. Dr. Wiersbe tells the story of he and a friend going to hear a young minister. After the young man had finished a flawless presentation, Dr. Wiersbe’s friend said, “He lacks one thing, he must have his heart broken.” You may not understand this but I do. I’ve heard young and gifted speakers deliver a message like a machine but that is the point. We are too mechanical and the only remedy is a broken heart or cracked pot.

III. LIFE RAISED FROM DEATH

The third contrast or paradox is life from death. Look at verses 10-14….

10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to Himself together with you.

Jesus experienced death everyday of His life. The cross was ever on His mind. He completely died to self in order to serve others. Jesus told His disciples, “If you wish to come after Me [follow my example], deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me daily.” No man can follow Christ who has not taken up his cross and of course, the cross means death to self. But for those few who are willing to die to self, Jesus gives them a life that is far better than the one they died to.

I grew up a sports fiend. Out of seven children, I was the only one who loved sports. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that “Sports” was my life. I ran track in Jr. college, played intramural sports in my last two years and loved every minute. Played football, basketball and softball. There were a couple of things that I wrestled with when the LORD began dealing with me about preaching the gospel. One was: “How could I possibly be happy a part from sports?” I knew before I graduated High School that I was not going to be a professional athlete but I was considering a life in coaching. You can’t follow Jesus until you lay all this stuff on the altar which by the grace of God I did and 47 years later and I thankful for God’s grace. I gave him my life and He gave me a much better life than I dreamed was possible. It is a striking paradox but when we die to self, He resurrected a better life in place of our old life.

But Paul is not talking just about that surrender when God calls. Paul is talking about experiencing death every day of our lives. In Paul’s day, travel was very dangerous. Paul literally risk his life to get the gospel to places like Corinth. Plus there was all the riots, jail time, beatings, ship wrecks, etc. Paul faced the threat of death constantly. He lived in the presence of death but in so doing the life of Christ was exuding from his scars, his brokenness, his weakness and his death to self.

Conclusion

Paul was beginning to see the big picture. God was using Paul’s daily death experiences to get the gospel to more and more people which was creating more and more thanksgiving and thus God was getting more and more glory.

In John 9:24, the scriptures read…So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” They are the Jewish Religious leaders and they are telling the man born blind to ‘Give glory to God’ which he was doing. The Jewish Religious Leaders did not believe that Jesus was God. Here they are acting as defenders of the faith, “Give glory to God.” I have learned through the years that those who exhort others to give the glory to God are not doing it themselves. The Jewish religious establishment could not give glory to God because they wanted it for themselves. When you reach that point of seeing your utter depravity and die to self, you will discover the inexpressible joy of giving God the glory. But you can’t do this as long as your carnal self is seated on the throne.

I can assure you that Paul was filled with joy and thanksgiving when he saw God getting glory. This is what makes worship so wonderful.