The Plant, The Worm and The Wind

SCRIPTURE: Jonah 4:1-10, NLT

1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry
2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love {unrelenting, unconditional}. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 
3 Just kill me now, LORD ! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 
4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 
5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 
6 And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 
But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 
And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 
10 Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.
11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

INTRODUCTION

As we come to the close of our study in Jonah, there is so much I want to say but out of respect for you and the blessed Holy Spirit, I will discipline myself to share what I feel is most important.
  • Jonah is indeed a flawed character which reminds us that God can use whomever He pleases, however He pleases and whenever He pleases. The book reminds us that the MESSAGE is greater than the messenger.
  • The book of Jonah is about God’s redemptive mission to save the world.
  • The book of Jonah affirms God’s sovereign control over His creation. God is in absolute control of every element and every creature: He hurled the storm, He directed the fish, He caused the plant to spring up, He sent the worm to kill the plant, He sent the wind to bring discomfort to the rebellious prophet. God is in control: there is no need to panic. His KINGDOM will come. His will is going to be done.
  • Warren Wiersbe points out some interesting contrast between Jonah and Jesus
    • Jonah was willing to die for his sin–Jesus was willing to die for yours and mine
    • Jonah ministry was to one city–Jesus ministry is to the entire world
    • Jonah’s obeyed reluctantly because he feared God–Jesus obeyed willingly because He loved the Father.
    • Jonah did not love people–Jesus loved the world and died for sinners
    • Jonah waited outside the city and prayed for his enemies damnation–Jesus died on a cross outside the city and prayed for God to forgive His enemies.
  • In the book of Jonah, God has the first and last word.

TRANSITION: TONIGHT WE WANT TO LOOK AT THREE THINGS….

I. FIRST: JONAH’S ATTITUDE

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry
2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love {unrelenting, unconditional}. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 
3 Just kill me now, LORD ! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 
4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 


Jonah is angry: anger is the emotion we fell when our expectation for justice is not met. Jonah believed that God was in error. He should not have forgiven the Ninevites because they deserved judgment.


James 1:19-20– Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angryHuman anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.


There is a good anger and a bad anger but most of the time our anger is not good. There is a thing called righteous indignation [Jesus in John 2]. Paul told the Ephesians, “Be angry and sin not.” Matthew Henry said, “The only way to be angry and not sin is to be angry at sin.”


Jesus got angry when He saw others being treated unjustly but Jonah anger is personal: he feels that he is the victim of the injustice. It is the anger that arises when we don’t get our way. Jonah is mad because God doesn’t agree with him and did not cooperate with him to carry out his will.


Anger is the frustration of not getting the desired results that we wanted.


Anger is a two sided coin: On one side their is rage but flip it over and you find self-pity. Note what Jonah said, “I am so angry I could die.” Both rage and self-pity are disparaging, they diminish and depreciate us. Rage is a gross waste of energy and nothing makes us appear smaller in the eyes of others than self-pity…poor pitiful me.


God asked Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry?”

II. JONAH’S POSTURE

5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 
6 And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 

Some temptations abate as we grow older but some increase in intensity and one of those temptations that gets stronger with time is our “comfort.” We want to be comfortable. I am not an exception to the rule.


There are two things wrong with Jonah’s posture. [1] Like so many professed believers today, Jonah’s posture is passive…he is sitting and waiting.


Don’t get me wrong folks but I have very little patience with these bible study groups who want to meet and indulge their appetite with more knowledge when we are not putting into practice what we already know. If you have a bible study group that is involved in ministry, missions and evangelism, that is a horse of a different color: I applaud such. What we Baptist like to do is meat, eat, blow and go…but we go home to our recliners. We don’t go to the hurting or to the lost. The Reforms are just as guilty of taking this passive position. They want to leave everything to God. Listen folks, God expects us to do what we can. He gave us brains and spiritual gifts so that we could serve others.


[2] Jonah is not only sitting and waiting: he is engrossed in his own comfort. He had made his comfort a top priority.


A part of my doing this series out of Jonah was God prodding me to move out of mycomfort zone.


I am not comfortable with interrupting the lives of others. I have some neighbors who want to be left alone and I want to leave them alone but God is prodding me out of my comfort zone. I had a lot of anxiety over the Block Party: would the weather be permitting, would anyone show up? I finally just had to pick a time and date and say, “LORD, I can’t control weather or people so that part is up to you.”


What is God prodding you to do this week? Teach, go on a mission trip, share Christ with a co-worker or neighbor or to give sacrificially, more than you can afford.

III. JONAH’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE LORD

But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 
And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 
10 Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.
11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

What is the old saying, “God called me to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” Well, God sent a worm to afflict Jonah, to destroy his comfort. There is a purpose for everything, even worms.


If God can use a worm, a plant, a fish and a rear end like Jonah, surely He can use me or you, amen!


Jonah got mad at God again: [1] First He was angry that God did not destroy Nineveh and [2] now because He allowed the worm to destroy Jonah’s shade, or comfort. This is a sermon within itself but I am going to move on for the sake of time.


Jonah fell in love with the plant. It was a 24 hour affair and he was upset when the plant died. He was not upset by the people of Nineveh dying. He cared more about the plant than he did people. It is OK to love plants and even to talk to them but they are not more important than people. How do we get our priorities so out of whack?


How is it that we get so bogged down in the mire of this temporal world that we become enslaved to it cares and passions. Think of the world as a pit of quick sand and we are in it up to our shoulders. We spend all our energy trying to survive. We have nothing left for God. I one time, we owned a huge house with a huge yard [5 arces]. I had one little riding mower. It took forever just to cut the yard. [the bigger the swing set the more bolt and nuts there are to keep tight]. Now we don’t own a house but we are freer to go and to give. [story of Wang from Ruth Graham Lotz]

CONCLUSION

Did you know that repentance is mutual: We repent and then God repents. We turn from sin and then God [because He is merciful] turns from His wrath. The book of Jonah is about mutual repentance. The Ninevites turned from their sin and violence and God turned from His wrath. 


WHAT DO YOU AND I NEED TO REPENT OF THIS WEEK, TONIGHT?

  • Is our prejudice greater than our love for people, especially those who are not like us and who threaten our way of life?
  • Are we all tied up with earthy cares, so much so that we are not free to serve God.
  • Do we need to repent of our anger and frustration and asked God to fill us with love rather than anger and resentment. {Remember, Jonah’s disobedience robbed him of the joy of leading such a great crusade}
  • How close are we to Jonah’a attitude and how close are we to Christ. Who do we resemble most?

When we decide that we want to be more like Jesus and less like Jonah, we will have REVIVAL is some form. WHY NOT TONIGHT?                                                                                                              

 

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Five Kings In A Cave

Scripture Text: Joshua 10:1-8

Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard that Joshua had captured and completely destroyed Ai and killed its king, just as he had destroyed the town of Jericho and killed its king. He also learned that the Gibeonites had made peace with Israel and were now their allies.
2 He and his people became very afraid when they heard all this because Gibeon was a large town—as large as the royal cities and larger than Ai. And the Gibeonite men were strong warriors.
3 So King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent messengers to several other kings: Hoham of Hebron, Piram of Jarmuth, Japhia of Lachish, and Debir of Eglon.
4 “Come and help me destroy Gibeon,” he urged them, “for they have made peace with Joshua and the people of Israel.”
5 So these five Amorite kings combined their armies for a united attack. They moved all their troops into place and attacked Gibeon.
6 The men of Gibeon quickly sent messengers to Joshua at his camp in Gilgal. “Don’t abandon your servants now!” they pleaded. “Come at once! Save us! Help us! For all the Amorite kings who live in the hill country have joined forces to attack us.”
7 So Joshua and his entire army, including his best warriors, left Gilgal and set out for Gibeon.
8 “Do not be afraid of them,” the LORD said to Joshua, “for I have given you victory over them. Not a single one of them will be able to stand up to you.”

INTRODUCTION

Five Amorite kings conspire against Joshua and Israel. They join forces to attack and destroy the people of God. The good news is: there conspiracy failed and Joshua [a type of Christ] prevailed. Understand what is going on here: the Israelites are in the land but they have to fight to keep it. It is a fact of life, although we are saved, we can still become enslaved just like the children of Israel in Egypt. It is not God’s will for us to live in bondage to sin and Satan. In Israel’s case, there bondage did not alter who they were, they were God’s chosen people but they were enslaved to Pharaoh, a type of the flesh. They were not free to worship or serve Yahweh. God working through Moses delivered them from Pharaoh and lead them into the wilderness for training but  even though that had vivid images of Pharaoh’s death in their minds, they still thought and acted like slaves. It is God’s will to deliver us from the power of sin.

Dr. James MaHoney in his book, JOURNEY INTO FULLNESS, said, “If I could teach a new convert only one truth it would be this fact; your battle with Satan is not over when you get saved, it’s just beginning.” Simply because you gave your heart to JESUS, does not mean that Satan walks away and abondons his plan to destroy your life. Whereas it is true that he cannot touch your soul, he can still wreck your life, destroy your testimony and rob you of peace and joy. Satan doesn’t spend his time with those walking in darkness, his hatred is for the children of light. He hates Jesus and he hates all those who follow Jesus.

In today’s scripture {story}, the Israelites have already won decisive victories at Jericho and Ai but the natives of the land, the Amorites are not happy with their presence. So they conspire to defeat the Israelites and re-enslave them.

The five kings represent the stronghold of the flesh that rear their ugly head and try to dominate us and keep us from living the victorious Christian life. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” It is not God’s will for us to live as slaves to sin and our fleshly nature. 


Let me inform you or remind you that we are in a war and it is a spiritual war. Paul said to the Ephesians 6:12…We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

It is a spiritual war. Paul also told the Corinthians… We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. {2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NLT}

It is a spiritual war which means, we cannot see our enemy but he is there and he is real: his goal is to enslave us, destroy our testimony and disable our ability to worship God and serve others. 

Paul made it emphatically clear in Romans 6…

11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.
13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.

14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.


When Jesus died, He broke sins grasp on our lives so that we no longer have to serve sin or bow to the power of sin.  We should consider ourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. We cannot let sin control the way we live; we must not give in to sinful desires of the flesh. BUT these sinful desires are there embedded in our flesh and trying to destroy our peace and joy. The presence of sin in our flesh and the world creates a struggle, a war, a spiritual war. As surely as Joshua and the Israelites were in a war, you and I are in a war.
These five kings are symbolic of the POWERS OF THE FLESH that conspire together to enslave and destroy us.

I. THE FIRST KING IS PRIDE

The first king is Adoni-zedek {At-a-knee-sedek}. Adoni means LORD and sedek means rightousness. Together, they mean “Lord of Righteousness”. This king was neither LORD nor righteous but he thought he was. He was not filled with righteousness, he was filled with himself…he was reeking with pride.

Pride is the mother of all sins. There is no sin without pride. Pride turned Lucifer into a demon. Pride is no respector of people. It tempts the good as well as the evil. There is no greater pride than to glory in our morality or accomplishments. Right in the middle of PRIDE is the unbended, stiff necked I [ego].

The following is a list of prideful features: only the Holy Spirit can help us see this inordinate pride that lurks in the shadows of our life: as I list them, examine yourself in the very presence of God. Are you ever conscious of:

  • A secret spirit of pride—an exalted feeling in view of your success or position; because of your good training or appearance; because of your natural gifts and abilities. An important, independent spirit?
  • Love of human praise; a secret fondness to be noticed; love of supremacy, drawing attention to self in conversation; a swelling out of self when you have had success.
  • The stirrings of anger or impatience, a touchy, sensitive spirit; a disposition to resent and retaliate when disapproval of or contradicted; a desire to throw sharp, heated flings at another?
  • Self-will; a stubborn, unteachable spirit. A headstrong disposition.
  • A critical or judgmental disposition.
  • A peevish, fretful spirit; a disposition that loves to be coaxed and humored?

Since humility is the chief Christian virtue, the one upon which all ministry, evangelism and missions is carried out; it stands to reason, pride is our greatest foe. We must constantly guard against pride. Sin itself is deceptive and pride is the most subtle of them all. It can be present in our life and us not even know it. Pride is the one disease that everyone knows a man has except the man himself. It can cause the greatest to fall.

II. THE SECOND KING IS GREED

Greed, like jealously, is an unpopular sin: no one ever confesses greed. Does this mean no one is greedy? Does this mean that none of us have been enslaved by greed? You know better. The greed bug or virus lives inside every person. There is no exception.


Giving is down across the nation and across the board. The average protestant gives only $10 per Sunday, a little over 500 per year. I don’t know of anyone making less than $5,000 per year. In a recent Barna survey, 69% of protestants said they were giving less and it is reflected across the nation. Mega churches had some increase last year but the average church did not. Yet, go to an Alabama or Auburn football game and observe the money being spent.


Robby Gallaty, the author of this years January Bible Study book is a pastor in Tennessee. A church member came to him and said, “Pastor, I want to volunteer to do the sheetrock work on the new building. I cannot afford to tithe and this is my way of giving back to the church.” The wise young pastor said, “Since you have confessed that you do not tithe, do you mind if I share with you what the bible says about this subject.” Reluctantly, the man agreed and the Pastor opened his bible to Malachi 3:10…

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

He said the LORD is challenging you to put Him to the test, so do you have a financial problem or a faith problem? The young man thought for a few moments and then confessed, “I guess I have a faith problem.”

Attendance at our church is sporadic to say the least because on any given Sunday, we will have a dozen families on vacation. I’m not talking about their only vacation of the year, I am talking about the first of twelve. Our pastor has challenged us to commit 48 Sunday to DBC. There is no telling what we could do if we were faithful to attend and faithful to tithe. Why don’t we?

If you are not proactive, if you do not attack your greed, your greed will ultimately control your life and with it will come many sorrows.

III. THE THIRD KING IS PLEASURE [hedonism]

We as a society have gone nuts over entertainment and pleasure. We are becoming a nation of hedonist. Like Esau, we live for pleasure. I don’t have anything against sports or entertainment these things are not to be our driving passion. Like Esau, we are more focused on happiness than we are holiness. Entertainment is to be one aspect of our life but not life; it is not to be our god.


Americans spend 6% of their income on entertainment. Not bad, right. That is almost twice what we give to charitable causes. The average church member gives only $10 per week or about $500 per year. When spend far more than $500 dollars on cable TV, not to speak of internet, Nexflix, computer games and etc. We all need a little entertainment but we don’t need to be entertained all the time.

IV. THE FOURTH KING IS ADDICTION

There are a wide range of addictions; not just drugs and alcohol. Porn is addictive and so is gambling: we will get to pornography in a moment. Right now, I want to talk about a huge problem in today’s society and that is substance abuse.

In the USA, we spend 700 billion dollars a year on substance abuse: this includes loss of work and rehab. Drug abuse is epidemic; if you don’t believe me, visit our Morgan County court house and observe what is going on in our court rooms. I would venture to say, 90% of the cases are drug related.

Young people listen to me, 90% of those addicted to drugs began by smoking and drinking. There are a wide range of drugs on the streets: marijuana, heroin, Crack Cocaine, Stimulates, prescription drugs, Opiates, Cocaine, Tranquilizers, PCP {Angel Dust, anesthetic, sedatives, hallucinogens and inhalants. Yet the number one problem continues to be alchohol. Every 53 seconds, someone is killed in an alcohol related accident. One out of every three automobile accidents is alcohol related. We spend 300 billion dollars a year trying to clean up the mess that alcohol leaves behind. You can visit the FOUNDRY or any drug rehab facility you choose and you will discover that alcohol is the number one drug problem in America. You will not hear the truth on Channel 19 or from the Decatur Daily, they profit from the advertizements but Alcohol is extremely costly to the tax payer and society as a whole.

Patrich Means an expert on drug addiction said recently, “When we want something badly enough, we’ll deceive whomever we have to in order to get it.” All sin is decietful by its very nature but addiction is extremely deceitful. Those addicted always convince themselves of two lies: {1} I don’t have a problem {2} I can handle this on my own. I don’t need intervention.

Satan is a clever stratigest, he is fighting to control your mind, the way you think. He wants you to think that your situation is hopeless, you are too far gone, you cannot change. He wants to trap you in toxic shame and endless regret. If you allow him to, he will make your life a living hell. He will engulf you with guilt and shame. Guilt is related to what we do but shame is how we feel about ourself and it is toxic, it can poison your entire system.

V. THE FIFTH AND FINAL KING IS LUST

Lust like greed is prevelant yet seldom confessed. Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in America and young people are often the victims. Pornography is rampant thanks to the internet. Porn is one click away. Some estimate that 37% of internet sites are porn related. Some estimate that there are 260 million different porn outlets on the internet. Porn is highly addictive. The two addiction I fear most are porn and gambling. I had childhood experiences with both and I know what they can do. I stay as far from them as possible.

Conclusion

You will never get victory over these kings until you follow the biblical example in Joshua 10:22-26

22 Then Joshua said, “Remove the rocks covering the opening of the cave, and bring the five kings to me. 

23 So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon.


[1] Bring them out of the darkness into the light


24 When they brought them out, Joshua told the commanders of his army, “Come and put your feet on the kings’ necks.” And they did as they were told.


[2] In obedience to Christ command, take authority over them


25 “Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “Be strong and courageous, for the LORD is going to do this to all of your enemies.”


[3] Exercise courage…this takes guts which is why most folks try to keep their sins hidden. They lack the courage to confess, to be honest.


26 Then Joshua killed each of the five kings and impaled them on five sharpened poles, where they hung until evening.


[4] Give your sin, shame, addiction to Jesus, He will execute them for you.

Victory is accomplished by His glorious grace…verse 25 “The LORD is going to do this.” You and I will never be able to execute the powers of the flesh, we don’t have the stomach for it but Jesus does and he will carry out the execution the moment we surrender our will to Him.
A family had a little dog get hit by a car. The dog was injuried internally and could not recover. The vet told the family, the dog must be put to sleep, it is the only humane thing to do. The children began crying and the dad said, “I don’t think I can do it.” The vet said, “You don’t have to. I will do it for you but you have to give me permission. Sign this sheet paper, say good bye to your pet and walk out. I will do the rest.”

BOTTOM LINE: “Do you want to be free to worship and serve Christ? Or do you prefer to be a slave to your sin?

Irresponsible Priest

Scripture Text: Malachi 2:1-9, NLT

1 Listen, you priests—this command is for you!
2 Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.
3 I will punish your descendants and splatter your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile.
4 Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites can continue,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered Me and stood in awe of My name.
6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from Me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with Me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”

INTRODUCTION

Chapter two of Malachi is an indictment against irresponsible priest: they were not doing their job. They were not living up to their call. They were accursed in the Mosaic sense. Note Malachi’s words in verse 2….

Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.

The curse Malachi is referring to is in Deuteronomy 28…

15 “But if you refuse to listen to the LORD your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you:
16 Your towns and your fields will be cursed.
17 Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be cursed.
18 Your children and your crops will be cursed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be cursed.
19 Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be cursed.
20“The LORD himself will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in everything you do, until at last you are completely destroyed for doing evil and abandoning me.


The word Moses uses in Deuteronomy 28 for curse is kel·ä·lä’ and it comes from the root word kä·lal’ which is a very interesting word. It means to treat lightly, to trifle, to water down, to lightly esteem, to treat something holy as common. The priest were taking worship too lightly, they were taking their responsibilities too lightly, they were trifling with holy things and in so doing, they were dishonoring God’s name.

Dr. Page Kelly, whom Joe David knows personally, wrote the Broadman Laymen Commentary on Malachi: Dr. Kelly says: “Humanity’s highest duty is to hallow God’s name.” Needless to say, these levitical priest were not treating God’s name with reverence and respect.

I imagine someone in the congregation today is asking this question–“What does the irresponsible Levitical priest have to do with me, I am not a priest.” My answer would be, yes you are. If you are saved and under the blood–Jesus Christ has made you a priest….

I Peter 2:9

 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.


Jesus has changed everything. The Levitical priesthood is history, passe, they don’t exist anymore but Jesus transformed the Levitical Priest into Royal Priest. Every believer is a priest but we do not go back to Levi, we go back to Christ our High Priest. We do not serve a patriarch, we serve the King of kings, thus we are Royal Priest.

The GOOD NEWS is– Jesus made us priest and we have all the privileges of a priest. Actually we have much more than the Levitical Priest: we can approach the throne of grace any time day or night. BUT the BAD NEWS is–we also have all the responsibilities of a priest. About now, you are thinking, “Oh no, I thought he was going to be preaching to himself.”


In verses 8-9, Malachi levels five complaints against the priest. Let’s look at those and then draw some parallels.

8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”
  1. They had strayed from the path. The ESV reads, “You have turned aside from the way.” [The way being God’s way] When we turn aside from His way, we turn to our way.
  2. They had become a stumbling block–They caused man to stumble into sin.
  3. They had corrupted the Levitical Covenant by violating it. They were not living up to their call.
  4. They had not obeyed the LORD.
  5. They were showing favoritism.

One other thing before we get to the heart of the message….What are the inherent responsibilities of the priest? They are listed in verses 5-7…

5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered Me and stood in awe of My name.
6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from Me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with Me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
  1. They were to convey life and peace.
  2. They were to reverence and stand in awe of God’s name.
  3. They were to pass on God’s instructions.
  4. They were to live lives of integrity [no lying or cheating]
  5. They were to walk with the LORD.
  6. They were to embrace right and turn away from sin.
  7. They were to turn others from sin.
  8. They were to preserve the knowledge of God before the people.
  9. They were to be people you could go to for help and instruction.
  10. They were to be God’s messengers.

I am going to simplify things for you: our basic responsibility as PRIEST are two-fold: [1] We stand before God in behalf of men [2] We stand before men in behalf of God. The first responsibility has to do with prayer and worship and the second involves our witness and ministry.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, let me ask you some questions:

  1. Are you walking daily with the LORD. Are you on His path or your path?
  2. Are you faithful in your ministry to HIM. {standing before him in prayer}
  3. Have you become a stumbling block. People are watching you and me. Who do we need to apologize to today? {Because we’ve been a bad example}
  4. Are we living up to the responsibility of our calling, or are we shirking our responsibilities as a PRIEST?
  5. Are we obedient? Will you be willing to OBEY God during the next five minutes?
  6. Are we loving our neighbor as we love our self… we cannot be instruments of life and peace unless we love each other and treat each other fairly.

    I close with a story to illustrate the point:

In the book, “A Promise Kept”, is the story of Robertson McQuilkin, a former missionary and seminary president who gave up his post because his wife Muriel had Alzheimer’s disease. He dedicated himself full-time for as long as the Lord deemed necessary to take care of his wife. He wrote of traveling with his her:

Once our flight was delayed in Atlanta and we had to wait a couple of hours. Now that’s a challenge. Every few minutes we’d take a fast-paced walk down the terminal in earnest search of what? Muriel had always been a speed walker. I had to jog to keep up with her.

An attractive woman executive type sat across from us, working diligently on her computer. Once when we returned from an excursion she said something without looking up from her papers. Since no one else was nearby I assumed she had spoken to me, or at least mumbled in protest for our constant activity. “Pardon?” I asked. “Oh,” she said, “I was just asking myself, ‘Will I ever find a man to love me like that?'”

McQuilkin turned to the woman and said, “Oh yes, you can find a man like that. You can find a man like that, because I’ve found a man like that. The only reason I love my wife the way you see me loving her is because the man Jesus first loved me. The only resources I have to draw upon to love my wife the way I do are the resources He gives me. Mirrored in my relationship here with my wife you can see the faithful love of God for me.”


We share life and peace in our love and ministry to others: it is the strongest aspect of our witness. May God help us to be responsible priest who share life and peace with others.

Courage For The Conflict

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Therefore, since God in His mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.

If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

INTRODUCTION

In this passage, Paul shares with us some things that “We don’t do,” as Christian ministers.

I. FIRST, WE DON’T GIVE UP 

AV, “We don’t faint.” NASB, “We don’t lose heart.” GNT, “We don’t become discouraged.” Phillips, “We let nothing daunt us.” Daunt means, we don’t let anything intimidate us so that we are ruled by fear.

I love the Good News Translation of verse 1…God in his mercy has given us this work to do, and so we do not become discouraged. All of the above translations are excellent. When we lose our courage, we tend to faint, become discouraged, drop out of the ranks or even hide in the brush because we are intimidated by the foe.

Paul gives us some reason why we do not become discouraged and give up.

  1. God gave us this ministry-Ministry is a gift, a precious gift, a wonderful gift.
  2. God gave us this ministry because He is merciful–we do not deserve to be His ministers.
  3. God gave us a better ministry than those of the Old Covenant. I have a better ministry than Moses. Moses proclaimed the LAW, I proclaim Jesus and GRACE. 

Don’t pass this off as if it is not directed toward you. I’m not talking to myself alone. Every true believer has a ministry. If you do not know what your ministry is, you need to find out. If you don’t have a clue, begin visiting the Nursing Homes once a week and wait for God to speak. I got a beautiful card today from a woman who lives on the other side of the county. Eleven years ago, I ministered to her daughter who was dying of cancer. My last visit with this young lady was an experience that I cherish. I felt a strange compulsion to walk her across the finish line, I had never done this before. I thought that she and I were alone but her mom and aunt we listening outside the door. I held her hand and exhorted her to finish the race and moments after I left, she took her flight to glory.

It was a special moment. I have never had another experience to compare with this precious memory. Her mom and aunt will never forget that day and one or the other sends me an encouragement card two to three times a year. These two precious sisters: Mary and Dana have the gift of encouragement and they use it for the glory of God.

You have a ministry  [a spiritual gift] and it is your fault if you don’t know what it is. If you don’t have a clue, follow your passion until God speaks clearly. The only reason I can be in Ministry is the mercy and grace of God. He gave me this ministry and I dare not quit.

II. WE DO NOT RESORT TO DECEPTION IN ANY FORM

Look at verse two...We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. The false teachers were famous for twisting the truth, distorting the truth. They used all forms of subtly and flattery. They were masters of the “Hidden Agenda.”

There is no veil in the New Covenant…nothing hidden in the dark, nothing disguised, but all is simple, plain, open and transparent. Paul said:

  1. We tell the truth and renounce secret and shameful ways. We keep things simple and lay them on the table. No hidden tricks up our sleeves. I talked to a man last Sunday evening about accepting Christ as his savior but I told him the truth…Jesus will save you but you have to be willing to repent of your sins and accept HIM as the LORD [sole authority] of your life.
  2. We don’t distort the word {RSV says “Tamper”}. Literally the Greek word means to adulterate which means to mix lies with the truth.
  3. We don’t try to deceive by masking, veiling the truth. Paul made it clear, that hiding the truth is the method of the god of this world…alias “Prince of the air”“Ruler of the Cosmos.” The devil is a clever con artist. His purpose is to hide the truth or to blind you so you can’t see it. People are hearing about Jesus but they are not seeing His deity, His glory and this is the work of Satan. He wants to blind us so that we do not see the truth about Jesus.

III. THIRD, PAUL SAID, WE DO NOT PREACH OURSELVES

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

F.F. Bruce says, “The true herald does not draw attention to himself or devise his own proclamation.” Warren Weirsbe says, “It would have been easy for Paul to have built a fan club because weak people thrive on associating themselves with great men.” Tasker says, “First and foremost, the minister is a servant of Jesus Christ and it is the love and loyalty for His Master that compels him to serve others.”

John the Baptist said,  You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

People don’t need to see us, they need to see the light in us.

All my professors in college were moderate to liberal and they questioned every miracle and cast doubt on the atonement. When I got to Seminary, I discovered the same liberal, unbelieving element. One N.T. professor was subtle in doing so, but he was teaching “Identification” instead of “Substitution.” We strive to be like Jesus instead of Jesus resurrecting Himself in us through regeneration and sanctification. The same professor did not believe in hell. I do admit, that no one was more liberal than this man but many doctrines were questioned during my 7 years of higher education. I made up my mind during those days that I would preach the bible and not worry about the things I could not understand or resolve. 

Isaiah 55:10-11 became my watch word: “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.” They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to,and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

I have been faithful to preach God’s word for 47 years and my goal is to always exalt Jesus and the older I get, the more I understand the truth of this passage, Jesus must be preached. The Gospel must be shared. God has promised to bless it and He will. 

Normal Christianity

Matthew 10:37-39

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

INTRODUCTION

What does it mean to be a Christian? Many people believe that being a Christian means attending church once a week but is that a good definition of Christianity? What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ or a follower of Christ? Are all true believers followers of Christ? Did Jesus teach nominal Christianity? Did He distinguish between a believer and a follower? A study of the gospels reveals that Jesus made the same demands on all followers. There is no category for non-following believers. In the GREAT COMMISSION Jesus emphatically stated…”Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world already convinced of its rightness that they provoke that world’s hostility.

In a moment, we are going to look at three extreme claims that Jesus makes on our lives but first I want to tell a story. Recruiters for all the armed services were given one hour to make presentations to the student body of a certain high school. The Army recruiter went first, then the Navy and then Air Force. The problem was that each one of them too more than their allotted 15 minutes and that left the Marine recruiter with 3 minutes to present. He stood and spoke loudly and clearly: I have less than three minutes to speak but I don’t need three minutes. Most of you can not handle being a Marine; you don’t have what it takes. In a group this size, there are probably a half dozen that can make the grade. I want to see you six at my table as soon as the bell rings. Guess who had the most applicants? The Marine told them the truth and that challenged a select group.

When it came to enlisting followers, Jesus was tougher than a Marine. Three things Jesus says if we are to follow HIM…

  1. WE MUST GIVE HIM PREFERENCE. He must be our highest priority. He can not be given a place; He demands preeminence. If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. Jesus must be your greatest love. No one can come before HIM, no one. Many of us want Jesus to be first in our lives but we have learned as did Peter that sometimes our heart deceives us and we don’t love Jesus as much as we thought. My intention is to put Jesus first in everything. I read a story about a woman who loved Jesus with all her heart. She was married to an unbeliever who was also a jerk. He resented her going to church every time the doors were open but she loved the worship and fellowship of her church and she never missed. Finally on a Sunday morning, he gets fed up with this church business and he tells her as she walked through the den and headed for the garage that she is not going. She hesitates briefly but continues to get her coat and the car keys. By the time she is ready, he is standing between her and the door. “You are not going to church today, you are staying home and spending time with me” he said. “No,” said she, “I will have all evening to spend with you but this morning, I am going to church.” With that he pulls a pistol and puts it between her eyes. In a rather sarcastic tone of voice he says, “Now where are you going?” She said without a blink, “If you pull the trigger, I’m going to heaven; if you don’t I am going to church.” I love that story…I’m cheering her own…you go girl. Jesus has to be number one: your greatest love.
  2. WE MUST TAKE UP OUR CROSS AND FOLLOW JESUS. Theologically, there is no such thing as a Christianity without a cross. The cross was the Roman instrument for death and of course Jesus took our sins to the cross. Our forgiveness and atonement is directly related to Jesus death on the cross. If you take the cross out of Christianity, our sins are un-atoned for and we have no forgiveness. The cross is not a piece of jewelry or a good luck charm, it is death to the flesh, to our self life. Paul told the Corinthians that he suffered death daily. 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. 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. 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. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. Matter of fact, Paul said to the Galatians that he was a living dead man…I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Paul said I am crucified, that would mean dead but then he says, nevertheless I live but it is not I but Christ in me. So what is Paul, living or dead…he is both. He is a living dead man. He is dead to self and alive to Christ.
  3. WE MUST WILLINGLY SURRENDER OUR VERY LIVES. The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. JESUS does not want to be a part of our life, not even the best part: he demands our life itself. Whoever counts his life of so much value that he will preserve it by sacrificing his opportunity to follow Jesus, or will renounce his faith to save his life, will find in the end that he has lost his soul forever for the sake of a few fleeting years; while he who gives up all things, even life itself, will find an abundant reward in the life eternal. All self-seeking is self-losing. The Divine law is always to give in order to receive. We keep nothing that we have not given away. The only thing you will retain in the final outcome is that which we did not clink to. It’s not that important that we live long upon the earth; it is important that we be faithful as long as we live. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we must be ready to die. If I value my life in this world more than I value Jesus and the life of the next world, I cannot be his disciple. Admittedly, we are afraid of persecution. We see what the world did to Jesus and we do not want to bear that kind of reproach. We do not want to be marched down main street with a cross on our shoulder while the crowds is mocking and making fun of us. Our very nature instinctively cries out for us to preserve our lives, to clink to our life and that would make sense if this life was all we had.
    • If this life is all there is, no more studying all day on Saturdays…I watch football and eat stew.
    • No more trips to Guatemala and no more money given to missions…I will use that to buy me a new tractor with a front end loader.
    • Sacrifice is stupid if this life is all there is.
    • If this life is all there is we should live it up not give it up!

CONCLUSION

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. We live in a world that is anti-Christ and the hostility toward Christ and His followers is growing. I think it is very possible that a more severe persecution is on the way, one that I fear the West is not prepared for; one that I’m not sure I am prepared for. All of the 12 Apostles were martyred except John.

  • James the brother of John was killed with a sword by Herod.
  • James the less was stoned to death by the Jews.
  • Andrew was crucified on an X cross in Greece.
  • Matthias was stoned by the Jews.
  • Mark was dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • Peter was crucified on a cross in Rome. Upside down by his own request.
  • Paul was beheaded by Nero in Rome.
  • Bartholomew was crucified in India.
  • Thomas was run through with a spear in India.
  • Luke was hung on an olive tree in Greece.
  • Simon the Zealot was crucified in Britain.

The bad news is that this world will hate anyone who openly confesses Christ and they can kill the body; the good news is they cannot touch the soul.