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"In an age where church planting, church growth, and evangelism are greatly stressed, it is possible - if not probable - that the greatest advance of God's work could be accomplished not by the opening of some new churches but the closing of some dead ones." Taking a sober look at Malachi 1:10, Todd examines various contexts in which the church and its body can and have become ineffective in their mission. Though we appear to be all about kingdom work, could we be guilty nevertheless of despising God?
He said: 'Return to Me.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'You are wearing me out.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 5
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 4
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 3
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 2
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 1
He said: 'You have turned away.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'You've despised me.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'I've loved you.' We say: 'How?'
You know it's coming. It's still funny, isn't it? It's almost like the guy is too dumb to get it, isn't it? Here she is, this little sweet Venetian, talking to this guy who in this particular case seems even more than usual like he is from Mars. She is trying to be gentle and communicate, "Hey, look. I don't think this is going to work out. You might want to pursue other opportunities for recreational dating." He just doesn't get it.
If I was going to play a little game with you…the game TriBond. Have you all ever played that thing? People throw out three different concepts, and you have to figure out how they're all tied together. Crust, mantle, core. What's that? Parts of the earth. If I set out the song, "I will give you all my worship," the movie, Dumb and Dumber, and a book that was popular in the 90s about relationship dysfunction, what would you say? Malachi. That's exactly right.
This little book in the Old Testament that is often forgotten about. It is the last effort God made in communicating to, specifically, his people, the nation of Israel that he chose, as we talked last week, by grace, for no other reason than he graciously wanted to use them as a light to a dark world.
Now this particular nation was concerned and confused about their relationship with God. It was like every time God efforted to communicate to them, they would just completely miss what he was trying to say. As we looked at this book together last week for the first time, we saw there were seven or eight different times in this book where God said, "Look. I'm trying to communicate my heart to you. I'm trying to share with you the concept of what a relationship between me and people should look like."
Every time it was like God is from Mars, and we're from Venus. It's like we're talking in two completely different languages. He just missed the folks he was trying to love. God would say one thing. He would say, "I love you." The people would say, "What do you mean you've loved us?" We're taking this fun idea, and we've made it like God is from Mars and we are from Venus.
There's an incredible amount of relationship dysfunction between us, because we just can't seem to figure out what we each mean. About 2,500 years before John Gray took this little idea that God made men and women equal but not the same and that's why there's so much struggle in their effort to understand and communicate to each other. He had that same concept going on between him and the people he loved.
He just gave a little prophet some ideas to help improve communication so folks could experience what they wanted in their relationship with him. The book is called Malachi.
Last week we looked and kind of set this book in its historical context. We saw it's about 400 to 500 years before Christ came as a last-ditch effort to communicate to those folks and to begin to communicate in a different way to a watching world about who he was. God started off Malachi by saying, "Look how much I've loved you." The people said, "What do you mean you loved us? Our life circumstance, the way things have fallen out for us doesn't much look like you love us, Lord."
What God said through Malachi is specifically, "Listen. I've loved you because I have efforted to communicate with you in an especially passionate way while I've revealed enough information to the entire world, while I've sought after, in this case Esau, your brother, while I've declared my glory to the nations in many different forms and ways. I camped out on your front porch, and I efforted to know you especially, yet you still have reproofed me and rebuffed me. That's how I've loved you. I sent a valentine to everybody, but I knocked on your door."
Now what this book is going to continue with is God is now going to tell these people who didn't understand how God loved them, "You know, y'all really don't love me. In fact, not only do you not love me, you despise me and you reject me and you disrespect me." They're going to say, "What do you mean we despise and disrespect you? We're Israel. We're the ones with the temple. We kill all our animals. We have priests. How can we not love you?"
I'm going to show you how this is an incredibly relevant section of Scripture. Chapter 1, verses 6-14. I said last week, and I stand on that same truth today, if there was only one book of the Bible I could teach to the Western church, the church in America today, I would say, "Give me Malachi," because it's like this book is written for our day and age and the church that exists in our world today. God wants you and me and his people, or at least folks who show up where his people are supposed to show up, to hear this book.
Let's look together at chapter 1, verses 6 and following of Malachi. This is what it says, "A son honors his father…" By the way, Malachi is using two ideas about the way God relates to his people. He uses the concept that he is a father who has sought a son, and he has a loving relationship with them. He is also going to use the idea that he is a sovereign who is over one who is a subject to him.
He is going to say, "Look. Whether you see yourself as my son or as my servant, you ought to respond to what I have to say. I love you, and I'm a ruler over you. Yet you pay me no time. You give me no respect." He says this. "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor then? And if I am a master, where is My respect?"
Then he specifically talks to the national leadership who was charged with communicating to people about who God was and how people could be rightly related to God, ministers of reconciliation between the Holy One and his people. He says, "Priests, you as leadership despise my name. Therefore, the people who are underneath you despise my name." The priests would say, "How in the world have we despised you?"
Do you remember what I said last week with Martians and Venetians? A woman will say, "You know what? I just wish you would listen to me." The guy says, "I hear every word you're saying. I can repeat back to you what you just said." The woman would sit there while the guy is watching TV and say, "I just wish you would spend some more time here."
The guy might say, "What do you mean I spend some more time? I'm here now, aren't I? That's why I keep getting interrupted." She is saying, "Look. I'm not talking about being able to spit back out the words I said. I'm talking about attentiveness to what I'm saying. Communicating with my heart. I'm not talking about geographically being in a specific location. I'm talking about being here with me."
Sometimes guys look at girls and go, "What do you mean I don't love you? What do you mean I'm not here much? Let me just go through my Day-Timer and show you how much I'm here. I didn't get up and play golf early this weekend. I didn't go fishing like the rest of the guys did. I was here." She said, "Yeah, but you may as well have been gone, because you weren't here. The times you were here, you acted like you resented me because I wanted you to be."
"What do you mean we've despised you, God?" So God is going to respond to that. He is going to explain to them. "In that you say, 'The table of the Lord is to be despised.'" Now he is going to explain that. "'But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?' says the Lord of hosts."
This is what God is saying right here. Let me just explain something to you again in the Old Testament. God decided to continue to reveal himself specifically through an instrument named Jacob, who he wrestled with to teach him who he was and how much he loved him and in the midst of that wrestling taught Jacob a lesson. That lesson involved Jacob's name being changed from Jacob to Israel, one that trips up people at the heel and gets things done themselves to one that God strives with.
That's what Israel means: God strives with. "Jacob, you're going to be great. Your descendants are going to be great. My name is going to be accomplished through you. Why? Because I will strive with you to accomplish my purposes. Not you, as your name implies, tripping people up, getting it done on your own, but because of my work of grace in and through you."
Now Jacob had 12 sons. Those 12 sons came to represent the 12 tribes that were the nation of Israel. One of those 12 sons was named Levi. He became not a great maker and marketer of jeans, but because of an act of devotion he and his family showed at one particular time, they became a group of people who specifically were used by God to minister to his people in the temple area where God showed he was holy and others were not, that if he did not bridge the gap with his holiness and their rebellion there would be certain destruction among them.
He wrote a book specifically to these descendants of Levi, who we called the Levitical priesthood, and the book is called Leviticus. When you read Leviticus, it is full of all kinds of descriptions about how God wants the nation to express their love for him. There is one theme that runs through this book of Leviticus, and it is I am holy.
"Because I am holy, you can't just come rushing into my presence. Because I am holy, I can't overlook your sin just because I love you. Because the one thing I cannot do as a great God is compromise my nature. I am loving, and I am just. How do I be just? Well, I'm still loving. How do I be loving and yet not ignore my justice? Answer: I will establish a system through which my wrath, my justice, can be appeased for a time until I introduce a sacrifice that will appease me for all times."
That's the book of Leviticus. In that book of Leviticus, what he does is he describes the kind of sacrifices he wants them to bring. He says, "I don't want you to give me what you're going to throw away anyway. I want you to give me what is an expression of your love for me because you know who I am.
I'm not just a holy God, I'm a great God who loves you and wants to prosper you. I want a relationship with you, and that's going to be good for you. I want to reveal my glory to you. Not because I'm insecure but because as you know me it will be well with you. In response to that offer of grace, show me that you get it by loving me genuinely."
A couple of years ago, my wife and I were invited over to a friend's house for dinner. Now I love to go over to a friend's house for dinner, and my wife loves to go over to a friend's house for dinner, because they take care of all of our needs. Typically, when we get there the food is a special treat they would plan, often knowing what we like. Or sometimes just sharing their favorite dish.
This particular time, though, this particular friend invited us over. We got there, and there was a lot of Tupperware that was set out all over the kitchen. We saw the refrigerator door kept swinging open. The microwave kept beeping, and new dishes were slid in. We came to understand that this was not a special piece of meat from Kuby's. This was their family leftover night, and we were going to get to enjoy in that with them.
After we went through what was a very bad church potluck experience, we went home and had our own peanut butter and jelly and got ourselves through the night. We've laughed with this friend since then about when they invited us over to dinner, and go, "Gotta clean out the fridge. We'll let the Wagners come over. They have seven. They'll mow through it. Right?"
I appreciate their effort to be good stewards of the food they have, but frankly, I'd rather not come over next time. When this friend calls, I now say, "What are you serving? I'll come hang with you, but please don't make me eat that again."
If you were going to have somebody, and it was appropriate with us as friends you love, but if you were going to have the president over, the governor over, what would you do? Would you just kind of clean out your fridge and splash together some leftovers? No. You would go and get, like I said, the finest piece of meat you could from your favorite butcher. You would bake those potatoes not once but twice.
You'd sauté that meat. You'd smoke it. You'd grill it just right. You'd put everything together you could. You'd present to him the best you could serve up from your kitchen, because you wanted to show him how much you cared about his presence and offer of loving him as a visitor in your home.
God is saying, "Look. Don't you know I made you in my image? The way you expect to treat one another is a pretty good indication of the way I want you to treat me. I desire that you don't just give me what you're going to throw away anyway. If you want to show me you love me, you'd give me your best."
This was the concept that was revealed, among other things, in the book of Leviticus about what kind of sacrifices were acceptable to God. The people didn't get it. In fact, they became weary in their effort to worship him because they thought God was somebody who just wanted them to go through some motions so he could look like he is the big, strong, powerful ruler of the world. He said, "You know what. You all don't understand. It's not about me knowing who I am. It's about me showing who I am to you and you responding in a love relationship to that to me."
Let me give you one more illustration. I had a friend who for weeks… Actually it went on for months on Fridays. He was driving home from work one day, and as he entered his subdivision there was a guy there pulled over to the side of the road with his trunk open. He had a bunch of bouquets of flowers. Not Tyler roses. This was a different part of the country.
This guy had gotten these flowers at a great discount. He would sell these flowers for next to nothing. The same flowers that were sold, if you will, in the Dr Delphinium of his region of the world for five times as much. He thought, "Hey. I'll pick these up and take them home to my wife." So he did. His wife graciously received them the first week.
Now this repeated itself for some 24, 25, or 26 weeks. Finally, one particular week he brings home these flowers. The wife took them, and goes, "Thank you very much," walked right over and threw them in the trash. He goes, "What are you doing? Those are the flowers I lovingly bring you every Friday!"
She turned around and said, "Are you kidding me? You don't think I drive carpool? You don't think I enter into the one entrance to our subdivision that you enter in? I know what happens. I know every Friday the same guy parks right there. I know he gets these flowers from somebody who was going to throw them in a dumpster and buys them for a dollar and sells them to you for five.
I know what you're doing there. There is no thought. There is no effort. There is no intimacy. There is no creativity. There is no special affection wrapped up in this. You pull over and for 30 seconds, you have your Lincoln, you lay it in his lap, and you bring them home to me, and you think it's going to kick off a good weekend for you."
Now before you go, "Man, that's a cold woman," I want to remind you this went on for some six months. Every time this guy would show up on Friday, after being gone a lot many times during that six months, with this peace offering that was a second thought that he would show was some great act of devotion and love.
She was like, "You don't love me. This is not something you did because you thought about me and dreamt about me all week. You haven't even been here all week. Then to show up and grab something as a second-hand effort and show that to me as an act of devotion so we could have a good weekend together. You think I'm supposed to be won by that? I'd rather you not do it, frankly. Write me a note. Write me a poem. Write me a bad poem, but think about me."
Is that an unreasonable woman? Of course not, and it's not an unreasonable God. He is saying, "Look. Are you serious? Do you really think I want you to scribble a check quickly out there and rush in and lick some envelope and stick it in there? Do you really think I'm that small that I need you to do something so you don't feel guilty? Please. If you want to express your love and devotion to me, put some thought behind it. I don't want you to do it, by the way, after you've been distant from me all week long."
What woman would look forward to an intimate time with her husband over the weekend when that husband has been cold and indifferent all week long and just because he writes a thoughtful note would all of a sudden thrust that relationship back to where intimacy would be appropriate? Not any woman I know.
I don't think she is crazy, and God is not crazy either. The book of Malachi is his effort to tell folks, "Look. Are you serious? Do you really think I am won over by your attitude and actions that are so indifferent and callous towards me? I'm going to try and state the case in order before your eyes. Not only do you not love me, you despise me."
Let me just stop right here. I'm going to give you some pretty straightforward application for the church today that relates to this. What does it mean that we have despised and dejected God today? How have we disrespected him? Let me just walk you through. I think we disrespect and despise God today when…
1._ We attend worship services without being attentive to our relationship with Christ._ I'm going to give you a bunch of little corollaries to this inside of this one and several others. Let me just explain this to you. Do you really think what God wants is us to show up someplace at some specific time, in some specific geography, at some specific moment in history and that because we sit politely until that guy up front is done flapping his jaws and then walk out and get on with our lives it would appease God?
Think about how insulted he would be by that. That we would once a week show up someplace 20 minutes late and in doing that, convince him we love him. See, what he says is, "You know what? I'm thrilled you're here, I guess, but I really wish you would tend to your relationship with me. Because if you have the right kind of relationship with me…
You know what? Sometimes you're just late because you're just late, but when you're consistently as late as you are and saying you'll meet me at a certain time, it starts to communicate that you're more significant and important to me and it really doesn't, frankly, matter if you get there at all. But if I show up within 30 minutes of our hour meeting, well then good for you that you get the last 30 minutes with me."
What God says is, "You know what? Look. If you're late because stuff happens… I mean, people are late and just come in, tell me in your own way in your own heart, 'Hey, this is what happened.' I understand that. I've been caught in traffic before, too. I've had kids throw up at the last minute before too. Yep, I know what it's like to have that feeling. I've been there myself. Man, I'm so glad you made the effort to come."
When there's a consistent attitude of indifference, it starts to communicate something else. How about when you do get there on time, but you're there on time because you feel like it's some visceral response you make because of the culture you live in or the way you were raised? Do you think that encourages, that you're always there on time?
You're like those couples we see out at restaurants in Dallas where they're reading the newspaper, not engaging with one another. Where there is almost no conversation, if any at all. Where there is no heart engagement and communication. Have you ever watched people at restaurants sometime? How awkward it is to watch two people who clearly are in the same geography at the same time who really have no delight in one another. It's painful, isn't it? Welcome to church in America today.
I could walk you in and out of a lot of churches where there would be a lot of people right now fanning themselves, politely listening, so to speak, and in the right geography at the right time but not engaging with what's happening. God says, "Boy, I sure hope you don't think that just being in this location is what I'm looking for."
Let me walk you through it this way. I don't want you to ritualistically go through the motions. I don't want a bunch of dead form. I don't want folks sleepwalking. I had cause this week to be at a specific place for a painful reason where somebody was just as much moving through an order of service in a book as they were engaging the hearts of those who were there to go through that necessary moment together.
I want to tell you something. It was incredibly painful. I went home, and my wife said, "How was it?" I said, "I almost had a prophetic moment." She goes, "What do you mean?" I just kept saying, "Lord, I sure hope you really don't expect me to stand up and get everybody's attention and say, 'This is not how it has to be.'" I've had some of those times. I sat there and went, "Lord, I'm willing, but not me. Not now, please."
It was that painful. It was that obvious was going on around me had more of the smell of death than it did life. More of the smell of, "Hey, look. This is the way we do this. We start at A. We read these things. We go to B. We do this. Then we get done. Then we leave. We've done our deal." It's painful.
God says, "You know what? I want folks who have a desire to intimately engage with me. I don't care if you're reading through something. That's fine. Just make sure you're not more concerned about your traditional order than you are the relationship with me we're trying to celebrate. The hope that you're trying to bring. The people you're trying to engage. The God you're trying to introduce them to." The opposite side of this is…
2._ We are responding to a feeling more than wrestling with the true meaning of worship._ Let me tell you one of the things that is happening more and more in our culture today. There's a great movement, especially around college campuses, with this reengaging for worship. Folks love worship. Worship is a tremendous thing.
Watermark would be a church that probably would be as much accused of going ritualistically through an order of service as it would be creating a feeling every Sunday. Certain people go, "I love the feeling I get when I'm at this church." Or, "I love the feeling I get when I go to this Passion conference."
What I'm not saying here is that God is offended by people who experience intimacy and joy in worship with him. What I am saying is the moment you delight in the worship experience more than you anticipate communion with the God you are worshipping, there is trouble there. God says, "That offends me that you love what happens at those conferences or those Sunday morning more than you love me." It doesn't matter what form you're in. It matters what God you're in relationship with.
3._ We are leading others into worship._ This offends him. This is how we despise and disrespect God today. This is what I'm talking about. Just showing up and attending worship services without attending to our relationship with him can result in sleepwalking or dead form. Or it can result in just emotional experiences and new relational highs that really have nothing to do with him but more of the creation of the moment.
4._ We are leading in those services without intently seeking the face of Christ himself._ What do I mean by that? Like I shared with you, I was at this thing this week. The gentleman up there, one of the things he said was, "You know what? I really don't have a good answer for what we're having to deal with today. I wish if somebody did that they would give it to me. I'm going to move through this order of service anyway. We're going to get done with this specific thing. But there's no real good answer. There's no real hope here. There's no real life here. We have to do this because this is what we do traditionally in this church."
I wanted to stand up and go, "Oh, man. Are you serious with that request? Do you really want to step down and let somebody who is engaged with God, who has looked at the Word he has given us, that he has revealed himself to us there is hope in the midst of a hopeless world? That there is a God who cares that we live in a broken, defeated world sometimes, who has dealt with that defeat, who gives us hope and who understands and empathizes with our pain and incredible sense of loss? Do you really want somebody to speak to that? Man, would you get down and get out of there, because you're killing people."
When we go through certain orders of service, and when we go through certain motions like that without doing the business and the work we should ourselves, God says, "You know what, man?" This is what he is saying to Malachi. "All you priests, would you get out of the way, and would you let somebody who knows me, somebody who wants to walk intimately with me speak?"
Can I just make it even more personal? Hey, dads. I think probably a lot of you guys pray before you eat. Most folks in this culture do. Most folks do, not everybody. But, Dad, if all you do is pray before that little section where you share bread with your family but there is no real intimacy in your own relationship with God, do you know what God says? "I really wish you'd quit discouraging your kids that you're an example of, "This is what a godly man looks like and this is what a godly home is, that we pause, three out of five meals, and say a little prayer, but then we get back into our little agenda."
A better thing to do would be to sit there and go, "You know what, folks? I'm not really sure why we pray before we eat. You guys know the rest of my life is kind of run on my own agenda. We just do this because I was taught to do this as a kid. This is the tradition of the church. It is our family. You know what, I'm really out. If somebody else knows why and wants to lead it and has an intimate relationship with God that is carried out throughout the rest of week, I will abdicate my leadership responsibility in this home in this area, and would you lead us please."
Do you hear what I'm saying? I'm not saying don't pray before you eat. I'm just saying it offends God when you sing, "Jesus loves me, this I know," before you tuck your kid in bed at night and you don't know that Jesus who loves your daughter. You don't have any relationship with him. You move throughout your time. All you do is at a certain geography at a certain place, you start to tend to spiritual business.
God says, "No, no, no. Please don't communicate that's what it means to walk with me. Yieldedness, brokenness, diligence. Don't tell me you're going to do something because that's what the church in Rome has always done or the church in America has always done. Do it because you intimately do business with me. Then lead out." Let me tell you another thing that offends God that makes us look like we despise him and we disrespect him.
5.We are individuals who constantly consume religious services without responding to Christ's call in our lives. What do I mean by that? "Boy, where's the hot speaker? Where is she at on Wednesday nights? Let's get over there. Where should we go hear him speak? Oh, that's great. This guy." You have to go there. This is an incredible place. You wouldn't believe how creative it is. You just jump here, and you jump there. You go to this.
You are a consumer of religious teaching, but there is no response. There is no individual commitment. There is no sense that, "You know what, Lord? This is not about information. This is about transformation. Through this gracious teaching, through this gifted individual, it's bringing about a change in my life. That change should produce a response." What should that response be? Well, if you know Christ, it should be this last one. This is how we despise and disrespect him today.
6.We stay in the periphery of body life. Not connecting, serving, or stepping forward, not making a personal commitment to say, "This is more than about a gifted person. This is more than about an exciting order of service. This is more than about where my family used to go. You know what? I have professed to know who this Jesus is.
I do more than check a box on a census. I have done heart work with God. He has called me to not live outside of the context of community. So I don't have my name on the rolls somewhere. I take the gift he has given me, and I employ it in serving others as a good steward of the manifold grace of God.
I'm not just going to sit back here, sit up here, week after week, and go, 'Man, I like being here, but don't count on me. Don't think I have issues to deal with personally.' Or 'Don't think I have love to offer other people.' Or 'Don't think I have gifts to give.'" God says, "Come on."
Listen, if you're a seeker, if you're here processing who you are, we want you to know that you process that as long as you want, as much as you want, but when you know who Jesus is, and you have convinced yourself you've crossed that line of faith, and you've moved from just intellectual ascent to intellectual agreement and you have trusted in what you agree with being true, then God says, "Show me. Come." Once you've come, he says, "Now go, and be a disciple."
You ought to pore over that Watermark News and go, "Okay. Where are the gifted apostles, prophets, teachers, and ministers who are going to equip me until I attain to the fullness of the measure of maturity of a man as Christ would have me become so I can do and be what God wants me to do and be? Not so he'll love me, but because he loves me, I will respond and not just be a consumer who sits on the periphery. I will connect."
Lest you think this is some isolated rant that showed up 500 years before Christ got here, let me show you. This about 400 years earlier. There is a guy named Amos. This is what he said. "I hate, I reject your festivals. I'm sick of your churches. I don't delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them. I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from me the noise of your stinking songs. Whether they're hymns or praise choruses, I really couldn't care less. Because I'm not really impressed by your songs. I'm not even going to listen to the sound of your harps, your pipe organs, or your electric guitars. You know what I want? I want people who know me. Who walk with me. Who let justice roll down like waters. You have known me oh, man. You want to know what I require? Kindness, justice, humility, and love. Not that you do, but that we do together as I live inside of you in intimate relationship with you."
When you live like that, when you are those folks, then it makes all the sense in the world that you gather together at a certain geography at a certain time to celebrate a certain God who has done a certain amazing thing that all of history pivots on. Do you see that? Do you see how Malachi is so relevant? Let me just show you another thing that offends God.
7._ We receive Communion without real self-examination._ For those of you who are new to the family of God or who are still investigating who this Jesus is, he has given us a ceremonial rite we go through together. Not a sacrament which brings grace but a picture that illustrates what grace is. It is called Communion.
It's when we take bread and we break it as a reminder of God's body being broken for us and when we drink wine or we drink some other fruit juice and say this is symbolic of his blood which was shed for us, which instituted a new relationship between us and God through the provision of his dying Son, and as often as we gather together we proclaim his death, burial, and resurrection together until he returns.
What God says is if you do that just because the church has always done this, if you do it because the guy says walk forward now like a cattle call and let somebody dip something and stick in your mouth and you go back and get on about your business, that's a terrible problem. In fact, in one of the Scriptures in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, this is what he said.
He said, "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself…" That's what he wants you to do. "…in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly."
What he means by that is if all you do is some cultural expectation, I don't care what it is, showing up in church or going through certain rites/sacraments in some denominations of the church, you're missing it. "I want you to do business with me. I want you to realize it's your sin that required his body to be broken.
It's your rebellion that caused his blood to be shed. It's my grace that makes it available to you. I want you to rejoice before me. I want you to be aware of what this week you reintroduced into your relationship with me that caused our certain union to have tension in it. I want you to deal with it. I want you to thank me that I've forgiven your sins past, present, and future.
I want you to again experience the joy of your salvation, but please, don't think because you dunk some piece of flour and yeast in some cup that somehow I'm impressed by that. In fact, what you're doing when you do that is you're making it worse on yourself because you're declaring that you know you're a sinner in need of grace. Yet you act like you're not." Here's another how we despise and disrespect God today.
8._ We are holding Bible studies but withholding our hearts._ We show up at our country club or our friend's house or we do our own morning devotional, but we don't ever let that Bible wash over our life and produce a transformed life.
We delude ourselves into thinking that because we do certain activity on a Monday night or a Thursday night or a Thursday morning or a Monday morning or Tuesday afternoon…whatever it might be for you…that because I do this specific thing that somehow God must be appeased and, "If anybody is going to have protection from it, it would be me."
Then we resent it when our life doesn't circumstantially look like we think it should. Because, "I go to church. I go to Bible study. This person doesn't. They're getting married. I'm not. Their business is prospering. Mine is not. What's up with that, God? My child is sick. Theirs isn't. What's up with that, God?"
Now does this mean we shouldn't worship? Does this mean we shouldn't celebrate Communion? Does this mean we shouldn't pray before we eat? Does this mean we shouldn't hold Bible studies and go to Bible studies? Absolutely not. What he is saying is if you do the form without doing business with me, not when you get there, but in an ongoing and abiding way…
This is the New Testament poured into the Old because it's the same story, the same God, the same Martian loving the same group of Venetians. He's saying, "I want to know you. The way you guys just don't want somebody to show up and go superficially through a time with you is the way I want to be with you because you're made in my image. What you want from each other is what I want from you."
9._ We take part in accountability groups that have no intention of holding one another accountable._ If I go to one more funeral with one more person who stands up and talks about how this guy was in their accountability group. "We met together every Thursday morning for 10 years. You know, we don't know how this happened. We don't know why he killed himself. We don't know why he did this."
I want to stand up and go, "Really? Well, I'll tell you." Because going to accountability group is not the same as holding yourself accountable. Answering questions the way you're comfortable answering questions is not the same as not isolating yourself from other people. Going through the motions, calling yourself something doesn't make you that something.
I'll tell you how it happened. This guy completely isolated himself even from those, and maybe you guys who genuinely wanted to know him, but he never really lets you in. He never really shared with you the heart issues of his life. Or maybe he did and you just go, "That's kind of messy. We don't go there. Go see the professional. Let the professional deal with it. We can't really get in there and fix that. I mean, golly, that's a little tender." That's how it happened.
10._ We call ourselves believers but are not standing for and growing in our own beliefs._ Gang, what I'm saying is this is how the church today despises and disrespects God. We check the box, and we say, "This is who I am. This is what I want," but we don't ever go forward towards maturity. We don't ever learn. We don't ever become more of what God wants us to be. We don't take a stand on our own.
Specifically, we have something come up here called a baptism. There are a number of folks who have never taken that step where they do the very first act of obedience for a believer in Christ. Where they stand before other people and say, "You want to know who I am? I am a broken rebel who, by the grace of God, has become made aware of the grace of God, and I have come to understand how holy God is and how completely unholy I am.
I realize there is no way I could ever, ever impress him. There's no way I could ever present to him a résumé that would make me right with him. I want you to know I am done with ceremonies. I am done with efforts in attaining my own salvation. You can count me as right with God for one reason. That is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that I completely want to publicly say is what makes me acceptable to God by his grace."
If you have never done that, I'm telling you it's time to do that if you're a believer in Jesus Christ. You might say, "Well, hey man, when I was a kid, when I was 3 or 4 months old, 8 days old, 2 years old, my parents had me baptized." I say, "Well, that's fine. That's great." "Do I need to be baptized again?"
Let me just ask you this. When you were 6 months old, did you come to be aware of your great and grievous sin and the way that you have alienated yourself from God, the holiness of who he is and how there is no way through any effort or life you could ever appease that incredible, thick separation that has come because of your sin?
By faith did you declare yourself as one who is trusting in God's provision through Jesus Christ? Did you appropriate that faith in your life by confessing with your lips Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart God raised him from the dead? If you did that when you were 6 months old, then there is no need to be baptized again. On the other hand, if you just became aware later in life that maybe in anticipation of your parent's great desire that you had been made aware of the greatness of God and your need before him, then as a believer be baptized."
I want to tell you something. We preach grace here, I think, as well as you can preach it consistent with the Scriptures, but may we never be confused as we preach grace with people who don't call folks to a right response to grace. You are not saved by baptism. I want to ask you this. If you have been saved, if your salvation is so great, why would you not want to stand before all your friends and your community and watching world and say, "Count me with Jesus."
That's something we do one time, all of us, as believers. Then on an ongoing basis, when we take Communion, we declare that corporately. Do you see that? Have you ever put yourself in a position where you stand for your beliefs? If not, God says, "You know, you tell me you love me all day long, but please."
Conversations. How many of you have said, "You know what. I'm going to go incognito at work. I'm not going to really let folks know where I stand with Jesus Christ." Because I know when you say… Not that you go to church. People don't expect people who go to church to act differently, but when you say, "I'm a Bible-believing, by the grace of God, rightly related to God, follower of Christ," they go, "Oh, really? Well, we're going to watch you Mr. So-and-so. Let's just see how you do."
It's a lot easier to not say that than to go public and to say, "I love Christ. I want to honor him with my life. So the way I treat with you, the jokes I laugh at, the jokes I tell, the way I comment about how you dress, where my eyes go, where they fix, how I do business, how I turn in expense reports, what I watch when I travel, how I act when I'm with people I don't know and when I'm with people I do know. All that all of a sudden is in play.
When conversations come up at work, talking about relevant things that are out there…world issues believers ought to be able to speak into because of the hope God has given us…I am an informed believer. I have been diligent to show myself approved as a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed. So I can speak the truth in love with grace seasoned with salt, as it were, to other people. I am willing to go online at my country club. I'm willing to talk to the guys I share my life with. I'm willing to tell my neighbors, meet them in the street."
This last week, there was an incredible tragedy that happened in my neighborhood with a sweet little 6-year-old, first-grade girl, Ann Kathryn, walking to school. She got hit by a car. By the grace of God, a friend of mine called me right away and said, "Todd, I thought you would want to know. There has been a little girl who was just hit." I said, "Thank you." I jumped in my car. I raced right away right to where they told me the accident was.
One of the first folks I saw right there was another believer who knew that if God had ever saved us, it was for such a time as this. I was standing there with a bunch of numb neighbors who knew this little girl, who walked to school with that mom, who just saw the mom get in the ambulance and go. I sat right there and said, "All right, folks. Come on. Let's get together. Let's talk."
Another believer, Lanier Burns, all of a sudden parks his car. Out he comes. He is right there. He says, "Let's talk." We prayed together. I left there and went right up to the school. I walked in. I said, "Where's the principal? Where's the guidance counselor? Where are the folks who are going to deal with this?" They said, "They're in that office." I didn't ask, I just walked right in. I opened the door, and I sat down. I said, "What are we going to do? How can I help?"
I walk out the doors of that school. There are other believers who are out there in front praying for the family. Willing to engage. Willing to say, "Look, man. We have answers. We have hope. This is painful. We're never going to understand exactly why this happened, but we know why there is darkness in the world. We know what Jesus is going to do about it. Meanwhile, we're here to love and comfort with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted."
I'm going to enter in. You guys might be out there going, "Oh my gosh! I would have no idea what to do." I'm going to tell you it's time you learn. You disrespect God if you don't understand God wants you to be salt and light in those times. You don't look and go, "Where is my pastor? Where is this…? Oh, where is the counselor? Where is somebody who has been trained?"
You are a follower of Jesus Christ who has the same hope and information that I do. It's time to learn it so we can love one another just like my sweet friend, Julie Anders, who knew this girl from college. Boom! Right over there. Let me just cry. Let me just be here. Let me hug you. Enter into this world and engage people. If we refuse to do that in moments like that or other moments, do you realize we despise, disrespect, and reject our calling and, in so, don't love our God? Lastly, in that little section right there, is just…
11._ We have the wrong perspective on lost friends_. Do we talk about life like it's not ending? Do we treat hell as if it's a myth? Do we make the issue of belief in Jesus Christ alone as a method to be reconciled to God optional? Do we initiate intentionally with lost folks? Do we love and serve them? Do we call them to a place where they can hear about the love of God?
Do we pray for them as if their eternity hangs in the balance? Do we share our story of grace with them? If not, we despise and disrespect our God. I'm going to tell you guys, this is why this is such a big deal to the Lord. He's saying it bothers him for this reason. It's because when our indifference to God's greatness exists in our life, it breeds others' indifference to God's realness.
If you're here as a guest today, if you're here as a visitor, if you're somebody who is processing Jesus Christ and you're so sick of the deadness and irrelevance of the church, or specifically the people who attend churches in this country today, you have a friend in God. Because so is he. He is absolutely disgusted by it.
I'm going to show you something that is going to shock you. Not only does he say, "I wish you'd quit your singing," not only does he say, "I wish you'd quit your little festivals," he says, "I wish some of these churches would shut their doors and never open again. Let them be a mosque. Let them be something else, but don't make them a place that says they represent what it means to know me." That's from your Bible.
This is why it's such a big difference. This is what is says in Romans, chapter 2. He says, "You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?" Watch this. "For [the name of the Lord] is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'"**
In other words, what he is saying, and this is a whole other message the next time we gather together, is there is no difference in the church and out of the church. As a result of that, people joke and mock that anybody should believe in God. Do you see why he's so upset with the leadership of that day? And the leadership of what we call the church in America today? Let me just read to you from verse 10 down in Malachi what God says next. We wrap up. Look what it says here. Starting in verse 10, he picks up.
"Oh that there were one among you who would [have the courage to] shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you…nor will I accept an offering from you. For from the rising of the sun even to its setting [I am going to do what I said I was going to do.] My name will be great among the nations."
It's going to happen. What he did shortly after he wrote the book of Malachi is he subbed out Israel. Out they went. "Wagner, get in there. Other knuckleheads, Gentiles who don't know Christ, come on over here. Meet Jesus. Begin to know Jesus. Love Jesus. Walk with Jesus. Be filled with my Spirit. Be salt and light amongst the world. Be a kingdom of priests just like I wanted my Jewish nation to be.
I'm going to use you for a time called the time of the Gentiles before either you become so bastardized as a people I get rid of you or I take you up to be with me and, in doing so, reconstitute my work with the Jew."
Are there currently people who are Jew and Gentile who make up this subbed-in group? Absolutely. Will God reconstitute his work specifically with that nation that Malachi is addressing? Absolutely? Who is he using right now? People who know Jesus Christ, just like he will use the nation who as a nation comes to know Jesus Christ.
The point is, is he is going to do it. He's doing it right now through the church of Jesus Christ. Not the gathering church. Not the attending church, but people who apply God's Word to their lives and by grace cling to Christ.
He goes on to close this little section of Scripture. He says, "But you are profaning it, in that you say 'The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.' You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!'"
What he is saying is there are so many folks who are wearied with religiosity. They're wearied with worship. They can't go out to their little lake house because they have to go to church. They have to serve in the nursery. "I can't use my money the way I want because I have to give a certain cut to God. It wears me out, but it's what I do because I was raised in a family that does it."
He goes, "Really. Well, I just wish you'd quit doing it. I wish you'd go ahead and live in the darkness that you really do walk in so you'd experience what it's like to not know me so you maybe would come to a place where you do need me so we can go through this world together."
He closes this right here. He says, "When you tell me, when you swindle me by making an offer and promising me you'll show your commitment to me by doing something, by giving me the best of what you have, and then you slide in a swayback pony as a last minute offering, you know what? I don't really take kindly to that."
Here is as crass an illustration as I can give you of what would happen in our day and age. You're in the real estate world and say, "All right, God. Listen. I really need this deal. It's a big deal. It's the biggest deal I've ever had. It would advance me in my company. It would really give me an incredible amount of security, but it's not about my security. It's about, God, you resourcing me as a steward so I can be available to you to use what I have for your glory.
I know that as your servant you don't want me to be naked, hungry, or homeless. I am sure, Father, that you will provide for me a piece of whatever it is that you allow my family to make and me to make through this deal. I want to let you know something, God, this is really about you. If I get this deal, you're in. I'm looking at you first. What do you want? Not how much should I give to you? But how much do you want me to keep for me? That's the way I'm going to look at this thing." Then all of a sudden the deal triggers.
Man, you make more money than you ever thought you'd make. This money is coming in on a regular basis now because of residuals. You can't believe it. In fact, because you did so well there, the next deal comes. The first thing you do is look to upgrade your life.
You head over to the Lexus dealership and upgrade your car. The next thing you do is you upgrade your wardrobe. You upgrade your vacations. You go, "Oh, yes. I told God I'd cut him on this deal. Well, let's just figure out how to do that. I understand certain people say we should give 10 percent. Well, let me start with 5."
By the way, as we've talked before, if you've never heard The Green, The Gray and The Gold, the series where we talked about giving from God's perspective, you need to know the tithe is not a biblical idea in the New Testament.
In the New Testament he says, "You know what? I just want you to engage with me and wrestle through what you want me to do knowing that I love you, and I want to provide for your family food, clothing, and shelter. I want you to enjoy life. I want you to have a blast. I also want you to honor and worship me and be available to me with all that you have, but if you're just going to say, 'God, what I have is yours,' and cut me in every now and then, that's just, frankly, going to grab my attention."
Here's the application I want you to know. This is going to be something that might surprise you that I'm about to say. Look what it says again in Malachi 1:10. He says, "I wish somebody had the courage to shut the gates." What he means by that is, "Look, Israel. Quit what goes on in the temple. Don't come with your little offerings anymore. Don't come during certain times of the year anymore. I just wish the doors would be shut."
Here's the application. In an age where much is talked about regarding church planting, church growth, and evangelism, where they are greatly stressed, it is possible, and I'm going to say it's even probable, that the greatest advance of God's work could be accomplished not by the opening of some new churches but by the closing of some dead ones.
Here's where this applies to you. Do you know that your attendance at certain places of worship, do you know that your giving sustains certain godless churches? You go, "Man, Wagner. What godless churches are you talking about?" Any church that the leadership of that church is not actively engaged in pursuing Jesus Christ, calling you to a life of full devotion, expressing that as normal for the believer, not as something you do as an extra-curricular activity or that you might be sanctified, that you might go through some act of beatification or some act of sainthood, but because it's what you do because you know Jesus.
Any church that does not preach the necessity and uniqueness of Jesus Christ. If that pastor does not stand on the authority of God's Word and say, "We will be firm where it is firm and flexible where it is flexible." If the leadership of that church budges, if he won't look you in the eye and tell you, "We will stand for Christ here. We will stand on his Word here. We believe it's true, and we will be gracious in our communication of it, but we will execute. We will not make ourselves available to the rich and influential and not offend them so we can sustain this ministry, but we will be about the call of Jesus Christ."
If the church is not doing that, if the pastor of that church will not say that to you, your giving to that church and attending that church not only is not currying you favor with God, it is quite possibly working distinctly and radically against the will of God. You are wrong to go there and to give there.
God says, "I wish somebody would shut it down." Do you realize that you're funding it to keep it open is not showing your honor of him but hurting his purposes? What does that have to do with you and me? Everything. Because our job today is not to tell you what churches not to go to. Our job is to tell you what kind of church we must be lest God wants somebody to say that about us.
I'm going to tell you that if this is not a place that does all those things I just said, get out of here and get out of here quick. Don't ever give another dime. Because you are sustaining what God wants killed. If, on the other hand, this is a place where his kingdom purposes are being advanced, and his Son is being exalted, then you can't give radically enough with your life and your resources. You must decide. Do you realize that?
Do you realize you vote what church should prevail for Jesus Christ by your participation? I'm not talking church locally here now. I'm not talking about addresses. I'm talking about what is the true church. I have to tell you, God's going to hold leadership of these churches accountable. He is absolutely, but he is going to hold those of us who accept their leadership accountable. What God wants us to do is to be his people who together pursue his purposes. He doesn't take kindly to those who mock him by superficial response.
Father, I pray that the guest who is here today, the person who doesn't know Christ is greatly encouraged. Not because they go, "Man. That was pretty strong, judgmental," but because they go, "That was clear. That's exactly what I've been hoping somebody would say."
Father, we don't like it when somebody just gives us superficial attention or who comes late consistently to be with us. Who just dreams through our time together. We want somebody who engages with us, just like you. Father, you're sick of hypocrisy. You're sick of our love of experience that feels good to us or our love of ritual that feels familiar to us.
You want us to be in love with you. I pray today we would be called to that like never before. That we would say, "You know what this about Lord? Today this is not about this denomination, this church. This is about me. Who am I? How do I lead my family? How do I love my wife? How do I seek your Word? How do I engage in conversations? Have I stood up and told folks who I am about in response to God's Word? What do I support? What do I give life to? How are my gifts making a difference?"
Father, we know you want your church everywhere to prevail. I pray today there would be a spirit of conviction that would sweep over leadership of churches that they can't explain. I pray they would begin to lead their people in the path of righteousness. If they won't, I pray you shut the doors. Lord, I pray you close churches. Big ones, small ones, new ones, and old ones, and I pray, Lord, you'd take this church out if it's not in line with your will, but if it is, may it prosper for your glory alone as we make our lives an offering.
When it comes to communication, men and women often struggle to understand one another. Even though we care, at times we just can't make sense of what's being said. In the same way, the nation of Israel misunderstood what a relationship with God should look like, even though He repeatedly revealed His heart to them. And even today, churches and followers of Christ miss what He's trying to say. In "God is from Mars, We are from Venus", you'll see God's effort to clearly communicate what a vital, abundant relationship with Him entails as expressed in the book of Malachi. You can learn volumes from this small book that caps off the Old Testament as you consider who God is, who we are, and what it takes to live in right relationship with Him.This series includes the 5-part sub-series on marriage entitled "Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God".