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New life! – Ephesians 4:17-32

New life! – Ephesians 4:17-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 5, 2017

There are times in everyone’s life that they wish they had a do over. You know a new start in life. There are those who wait for others to make their life better and there are those who decide to make their lives better and they do. However, as much as one tries to make things better in reality you are the same person except with window dressing.

There is a way to make your life new both inside and out and it is guaranteed to do so. Twelve men were going about their daily lives when they were approached by a man who said he could change their lives forever if they were willing to follow him. While they all said they would only eleven were willing to completely give their lives to him and in doing so they found a new life. Paul now makes the same argument to the church at Ephesus; let’s discover what he teaches us about this new life.

READ: Ephesians 4:17-32

At one time Paul was one of the most up and coming young men in his nation’s ruling class both spiritually and intellectually known as the Sanhedrin. Paul would write his experience by writing the church at Galatia, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” Galatians 1:14 NIV) But then God set him apart and called him by his grace. Paul writes the Ephesians that they were to…

I. Remember their new lives! (Vv. 17-20)

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.

1. This new life for Paul was not some esoteric concept. There are those today who think that by simply being good they are totally good inside and out. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is why Paul wrote, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” Paul was not being racist in his remarks rather he was referencing how all of us are “gentiles” or futile in our thinking until we come to Christ by faith! Paul understood that everyone is “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” We are all sinners by nature and by choice! Just as non-Jews, Gentiles, did not understand God and lived in spiritually sin-dark lives, all of us are until we also come to Christ! In fact we are separated from the life of God because of our spiritual ignorance and the ungodly world’s hardening of our hearts! We are to remember our new lives! Lest we forget good people do not know God and good people do not inherit all that God has for them; goodness does not get one into heaven! Even acts of “goodness” come from a sinful heart that exists in a sin-fallen world. We may think we are good enough for God to love us but in fact we have “lost all sensitivity” we might have toward God and have “given (ourselves) over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more!” When we fail to realize the ungodliness of even the “good” things of the world we fail to understand why God humbled himself and came as Jesus to die on a cross for us. We must truly understand what Paul teaches, namely that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 NIV) He reminds his readers therefore “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” We are to remember our new lives!

EXAMPLE: Even though my father has been dead for almost 50 years, there are times I can still hear him and sometimes when I walk into a room if there are certain smells it is as if he was right there. Of course I know he isn’t but our minds help us to remember these kinds of things in this way. Today at the end of worship we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It does not impart any special dispensation, extra forgiveness, or grace. In it we discover anew the sacrifice of Jesus for us so that we might live for him. In observing the Lord’s Supper it helps us to remember our new lives!

Living a new life in Jesus begins with our trusting him by faith and then we are to daily decide to live for him. In doing so we are to…

II. Put off the old life and put on the new life! (Vv. 21-25)

Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

1. Paul continued by reminding his readers that “Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” Their hearts were no longer darkened, their lives were now made new in Jesus! They had heard, they had been taught, and now they fully realized the truth that is in Jesus! Only those who intimately know Christ can understand what Paul is writing here. We come to faith in Jesus and are spiritually changed. We were taught this and understand this but now “with regard to your former way of life” we are “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires”. Anything or anyone that keeps us from living the lives we are to in Jesus we are to get rid of in our lives! Paul was not being uncaring here; he knew that this could be awfully hard for new believers to do. But he was trying to encourage them in any way he could as individuals and as a church to live for Jesus! Jude would write, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23 NIV) Therefore we are “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” It is a conscious decision on our part! To put it into terms we can understand: If we live for Jesus we become more like Jesus! If we try to stay comfortable in the ungodly world we will never attain to what God truly desires for our lives in Jesus so Paul writes, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Again Paul is speaking to the church, to believers. If we want a church, a life, a second chance that truly works we have to make the decision to put off the old life and put on the new life!

EXAMPLE: This past Wednesday is known as “Ash Wednesday” by millions of believers all over the world. However, many fail in their spiritual thinking concerning what this means and if it is worthwhile for them to do. Living for Jesus is more than doing an act of contrition one day a year. An ashen cross pasted on one’s forehead can remind us of Jesus’ humility and how we are to live, but it is meaningless unless one has given their life to Christ in the first place. Then we are to put off the old life and put on the new life!

Getting rid of old habits can be hard unless we propagate new ones that are beneficial to our new way of life. It is more than repeating the mantra of “Everyday in every way I am getting better and better.” It is a conscious decision on our part to live this new life. Paul related that…

III. We are not to sin in our new life! (Vv. 26-32)

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

1. Paul gets real here in his letter to the Ephesians in sharing with them exactly how they were to live for Jesus. He bluntly writes, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Anger is one of the most destructive forces in a person’s life. It is easy to respond in anger, just look at all the protests, riots, and anger being expressed by those who think they deserve something or are being deprived in some way. When we respond in anger we give ungodly thoughts and actions a foothold in our lives. We allow satanic influences to gain territory. We thwart such ungodliness when we respond in God’s love right away. Paul continued that “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” A crook, whether it is the government or the individual is one who steals from others what they did not earn with their own hands. Instead we are to share as believers with those within the church who are in need. We are to show that the love of God lives in us even to the things we participate including what we say; “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In fact we are not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” We can “grieve” God who dwells within each believer when we do not walk in Christ. We walk in Jesus when we “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” And when we are “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”, we are living as Jesus did. This is what we are called to and how we are to live; we are not to sin in our new life!

EXAMPLE: God knew we could never be perfect and never sin. This is why he gave us himself in Jesus and empowered us through his presence of the Holy Spirit. However, like a good parent that reminds their kids when they are leaving the house to be as good as they can be until they get home, God reminds us to live good lives in him until he returns again. We are not to sin in our new life!

Conclusion:

We are to remember our new lives! Put off the old life and put on the new life! We are not to sin in our new life!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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What America needs now is: You!

What America needs now is: You!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 25, 2016

A clear and perfect example that America’s Christians are losing the battle of the soul is seen in the acceptance and embracing of younger generations to ungodly ideals of homosexuality, abortion, legalized drugs, alcoholic pleasure, and sexual relations out of marriage, adultery and pornography. However the other side of the coin is also seen in the outcome of decades of lousy preaching, shallow spiritual teaching, and the acquiescence of Christian parents to train their children in the way they should go. “The chickens have come home to roost.” Nothing occurs in a vacuum and the air has been sucked out of the spiritual construct of letting minors decide for themselves what they will eventually believe spiritually. Make no mistake we are reaping what we have sown and we have sowed very little spiritually into the minds and hearts of future generations. What was once seen as abominable, a few decades ago, many believers today are touting as the new Christian ideal for the modern era. I find it almost laughable that there are those who sanctimoniously say they cannot vote for a certain candidate because it isn’t what Jesus would do and yet project in their lives a failure to follow him by willingly submitting themselves, or their bodies, to the world’s notion of acceptance through what they wear, what they read or watch, and what they do to their own carcasses.

What is the answer? Certainly not rolling over like our dead dog Rover by going further into the darkness of sin. It is time those of us who have spiritual backbones to speak boldly and bluntly to not only the issues of the day, but to actually preach the “negative” aspects of spiritual neglect. You know, the entire Bible even the Old Testament. And not some hyped up notion of trying to massage a new form of legalism but where the New Covenant is far superior to the old because it was completely fulfilled through Jesus! We must preach the straight forward message that if one does not chose Jesus one will suffer the eternal consequences of their stupidity. Instead of watching for signs of our Messiah’s return we would do well to be about his business instead. Following the latest mega chart of some hapless hipster of the last befuddled “daze” we should realize we have been living in those days ever since Jesus ascended home! We must return to the spiritual truth that holiness is not felt but worked out in faith and that if the believer does not walk with Jesus daily one will drift away into the spiritual oblivion of compromise. (Kind of like the church has.)

Scripture is not our personal handbook to pull out in order to feel good about our temporal relationships, natural eating habits, marriages, parenting skills or for that Facebook pithy Pinterest Tweet of the day. It isn’t the Hello Kitty meme of the moment. Scripture is a message from God to a waiting sin-sick world in need of a spiritual cure that only God can provide through Jesus!

Following Jesus is not something you put on when it feels good to you like a good pair of warm jeans out of the dryer. When you decided to follow Jesus you decided to live for him alone; and that included everything that goes with it. He sacrificed it all for you and when you turn your life over to him you are sacrificing your all to follow him! It can personally pinch. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no turning back in Christianity! Stop whining that life is not fair for you or that you are not having fun; faith is found in trust and joy is discovered moment by moment as you decide to let go of your pathetic life and follow him alone.

Return to him because he has always been there for you. It is time America’s Christians to live like Jesus not just in word or feeling but in life. You are the leaven that will give rise to the truth; you are the light of a darkened world and you should not hide under the bed any longer. What America needs now is: You!

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Sticks and Stones and Little Boys

Sticks and Stones and Little Boys
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 6, 2014

Sticks and rocks are beautiful things, if you do not believe me then you do not have any little boys because sticks, rocks, and little boys go together. I am not sure why, they just do. Perhaps it is our “aggressive” natures outwardly manifesting themselves. I certainly believe this is why too many little boys in our day and age have little or no imaginations because their overly protective parents do not let them enjoy the simplicity of a good stick or rock. Of course the Darwinist would postulate that it comes from our Neanderthal background as cavemen! I do not think so. I believe it is simply the outward expression of boyhood to have a good stick or rock on hand.

I remember well my mother telling me in no uncertain terms, “If you run with that stick young man you will poke someone’s eye out!” Or how she would grumble as she emptied my pockets before doing the laundry, knowing that if she did not then she would hear the clanging of the rocks in the dryer I had treasured in my patched jean pockets. She never realized that you would have to have the stick at just the right angle and then you would have to meet the other unsuspecting person’s head at just the precise time for certain impact. Of course these kinds of miracles happen all the time in the life of young boy because it seems they are always poking someone’s eye out with a wayward stick, scrapping their knees, running in the house, or carrying a ton of rocks in their pockets to pound dents into the inside of the dyer with. I digress. My mother would often lovingly place each rock by the door where the dryer was so I could replace them in my clean jean pockets again!

Just a few years ago I opened the backdoor of our church just in time to see a trio of boys walking by with their sticks. They had scrounged them from the trash bin where I had thrown them after tripping over them for the umpteenth time. When I asked them where they had gotten their sticks from, they answered, “What sticks?” I almost immediately responded, “The one’s you will poke someone’s eye out with!” but I held my tongue. Instead, I pointed to the wooden pikes they held in their grubby hands, too which they responded, “Oh, you mean these sticks!”

My grandson has a pile of stones and sticks by the front door our house. If we are buried under a pile of ash from Mt. St. Helens in the next few days I am sure future archeologists will dig up my front door and determine that we worshipped at some shrine whereby we placed certain prized rocks and sticks! And yes, we find them in his pants pockets as well. When asked why he saves them or if we dare ask him to part with even one rock, you would think we are robbing gold from Fort Knox. Each is a prize to be kept and treasured. And in fact he cannot be outside for long without finding a wayward stick to carry, tap on things, and use with his imagination.

See, these two stories prove my point that little boys and sticks and rocks go together. In fact there may be some kind of unknown magnetism between inert discarded branches and random stones and little boys. And I am sure that just as Grog’s mom once told him a millennium ago, “You play with stick, you poke um eye out!” a future mom will declare, “You play with that stick with your anti-gravity belt and you’re gonna poke someone’s eye out!”

Sadly, in our day and age too many “adults” have lost the imagination of sticks and stones and only think of them in the politically correctness of their convoluted narrowly focused world. However, my advice is to let little boys have sticks and random rocks to treasure and play with, as long as they do not poke the dog, hit their little sister, or bonk one other on the head with them. Of course if this happens, so what? You may as well as give up now because even if you do not live where your little boy can find sticks and stones, a boy will find a stick or rock of sorts somewhere. In fact, if you ever go camping they will suddenly appear in your campsite, and fathers, you may never have to hunt for firewood or rocks to make a fire or fire pit with again!

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 11, 2014

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life.” (Job 2:3-4 NIV)

Hey there dear brother or sister in the Lord, what excuses do you come up with when you know you should not be doing what you are doing with your life? Did you know that way back when God allowed Satan to consider Job, we discover Satan telling God that sinful people will give up anything and anyone to make excuses for their sin or for their troubles in life. In fact, “Skin for skin” was a proverbial saying, possibly about bartering or trading animal skins! Whose “skin” are you willing to trade? You see, Satan was insinuating that Job would willingly trade the skins (lives) of his own children because in return God had given him his own skin (life). He was implying that Job was selfish. Now you may think, “I would never do that!” But we can do this very thing when we trade the lives of our children, parents, family, or friends for our selfish choices. We often skin others when we say, “I need this relationship” or “I deserve this thing” or “I don’t do this very often”. And, when we do, we skin our children, family, and friends alive for our sin because our sin has consequences not only for our life, but it always spills over into the lives of others around us. Now, I know God knew Job and his integrity before Him, but remember He also knows you and your integrity or lack thereof. Does Satan smile when you make your excuses for your sin knowing you will give up anyone or anything, including God, for your sin? Makes one wonder…

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Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!

Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 8, 2012 AM

Being a parent is tough, but I cannot imagine being a single parent. When we were kids my mother, after a particularly hard day, would tell us, “You kids are going to wear your old mother out!” Looking back on this I find it kind of humorous since at the time she was only about 35 years old and she had the backup of my father! Perhaps it was the constant care she had to give to two young active little boys who were always on the go? Being a good parent can, at times, make one feel a little worn out.

I wonder how God feels when his constant care of his children wears on him. Not that God can be worn out, he is God after all. However, when his children continually distrust, disobey, and disrespect him, God tells us he becomes “weary.” Malachi tells the Israelites that God has grown weary of their endless spiritual platitudes. Who were they trying to fool? They did not trust God. We discover that Malachi’s message is just as valid today as it was when he first presented it! As God’s children we are to fully hope in God and not weary him! It’s a matter of being hopeful, let’s discover how…

READ: Malachi 2:17-3:6

God’s people can begin to think and act without faith. We can begin to blame God for the outcome of our own sinful choices. Israel did just that. God’s people need to remember that faith begins and ends in hope. In fact, we discover that in being hopeful…

I. Godly actions speak louder than empty words! (V. 2:17)
1. How we live says more about what we believe than all our empty words of praise!
1) The Israelites had no hope because they were spiritual beggars! They begged God for blessing without investing anything themselves. They are accused of wearing the Lord and ask, “How have we wearied him?” The implication was, “It’s not our fault, its God’s fault!” They were blinded to their sinful manipulation! The Psalmist related they “soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for (Psalm 106:13-14 NIV)!” They were acting and talking as if they had no God to hope in! This world is a spiritual desert, a wasteland and Christians can give into their cravings when they beg God and then blame God for their choices!
2) The Israelites had no hope because they trusted in themselves, in their judgment, and in their own decisions of what was right or wrong. They had the gall to sarcastically declare, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them.” Can you imagine a nation where God had blessed it and manifested himself daily, saying this? Christians can do this very thing when they question why God allows the ungodly to prosper and then question why God doesn’t make them prosper too!  This is defining for God what sin should be according to our standards!
3) Finally, the Israelites had no hope because they wanted to know, “Where is the God of justice?” In other words they demanded, “If God is real, where is he when we need him?” And this was coming from God’s own people! WOW! Talk about audacity! They questioned God’s justice by saying that he delighted in evil people more than those he chose to love! Yet they were the guilty ones, they were the ones who were unfaithful! God was only God to them when they could see the benefits!
EXAMPLE: Have you ever known people who are always demanding attention, wanting more for themselves but never giving anything in return? What do we call children who act this way? Spoiled! This is what God’s people had become, Spiritually-spoiled brats! They had begun to think that they deserved being blessed because they were God’s chosen people and not because they were faithful. Their hope was not in the God of Jacob, Abraham and Isaac. Their hope was only in what they could get from God now! They had become like the pagan world around them, seeing God as a good luck charm, something to be manipulated for personal gain. We can weary God when we do the same thing. A God who is infinitely patient and loving was pushed to the point of judgment by those who should have been placing their hope in him.

It would be about 500 years before John the Baptist would be a voice crying out in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Messiah. The Israelites would be defeated again, taken into national captivity, and enter into a time of spiritual desperation. Through it all the Israelites had a reason to not despair and we discover that…

II. Malachi brings a message of hope! (Vv. 3:1-6)
1. “In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21 NIV)
1) First, Malachi writes about the coming of God’s wonderful messenger! (V.3:1a) This title “the messenger of the covenant” occurs only here in the Bible. This is God’s messenger to our Messiah, Jesus. Many believe it points to John the Baptist, others believe it references Jesus. Malachi relates that “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” Yet, what if they aren’t prepared and are still sinning? Jesus has come into his temple. Jesus “entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” and that he “did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” (Hebrews 9:12 & 24 NIV) There is hope, the coming messenger has come and the Messiah has entered his temple!
2) Secondly, Malachi mentions God’s judgment! Malachi asks two questions, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?” The answer is “No one.” The day of the Lord will be a day of judgment on the whole world, a day of disaster and death to those who do not know the Messiah, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” No one will escape Jesus’ judgment! In fact “he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” God tells them, “I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me.” No one will escape his judgment. God will judge what we believe and how we live!
3) Yet, in all of this there is the basis for hope! Will God’s people be totally destroyed or put to shame? God says, “No.” “I the Lord do not change!” We can trust in God to do what he says he promised, “So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” God has left a remnant in those who believe in Jesus his Messiah. Peter reminds us that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV) Those who trust in Christ are never put to shame. He is our real hope in this world!
EXAMPLE: Hope is a gift of God. It does not come wrapped in fancy packaging. In fact real hope came in the form of a very ordinary looking man. He wasn’t anyone you would notice or think of as a hero or a celebrity. Yet at just the perfect time he came to give us all hope, the greatest gift of all. This hope is a free gift as well. It isn’t a come on or a con. Although the hope offered by this one man, changes the con or the priest or the seeker of truth. He is God’s Messiah. He is the hope of the world. He is Jesus Christ. What the Israelites had a tough time understanding in Malachi’s day, we can have in hindsight this morning. Jesus has already come, proven his love for us in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is hope!

Conclusion:
Dave Franco talks about his young married life as a writer. He had lost his job, his apartment building evicted his family and was becoming a co-op. His wife was pregnant with their second child. In New York City, out of a job, in a place with high rent, and a new family–Dave was frantic. One day they were walking home and he could not stand the pressure of a silent God. “What is God doing?” he angrily demanded of his wife Nicole. Just then his three-year-old son Julian threw a fit because they had passed an ice cream truck and did not stop. “Not now,” they told him. That didn’t work. Finally, after all else failed, Dave told him, “Julian, you’re just going to have to wait!” Dave’s wife remarked, “You know, Julian’s doing exactly the same thing to us that we’re doing to God. God is saying, ‘Wait,’ and we’re telling him we want our ice cream and we want it now.” Israel had become spoiled and negligent spiritually. They failed to place their hope in the One who gives us hope. Dear child of God, have you? God offers you hope this morning.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 4, 2011 AM

My Mom used to play mind games with us kids when we did something bad. A lot of mothers do this. Here’s what I mean: Right in the middle of scolding us over our bad behavior, she would innocently ask, “Don’t you love your dear old mother?” Or she would declare, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” It was a form of psychological warfare to get a response from us and to have us think about the consequences of our actions. It’s called guilt.

Malachi is kind of like my mother. His message is for God’s wayward children. Didn’t they love God? Didn’t God love them? If that were true, then why were they acting the way they did? Had they gotten spiritually soft? God’s chosen people had gotten so lackadaisical about their faith that they forget what their relationship to God meant! Malachi’s message from the Lord is to illicit a response from his people. Malachi’s message applies to us as much as it did for the spiritually lax Israelites of his day. They needed to be responsive to God and what he continually did for them. The same is true for us today, let’s discover how…

READ: Malachi 1:1-6

Malachi ministered in the fifth century BC, about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree in 538 BC which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. Life was not easy under the political rule of Persia. Most hearts were indifferent or resentful toward God. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Much like today, their hope in God’s promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their (a) intermarrying with nonbelievers, (b) divorces and (c) general moral apathy. They needed to respond to God’s love. Let’s discover what occurred and perhaps find a proper response for our day and age. We discover that…

I. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message! (V. 1)

1. One man’s message is another man’s burden!
1) Malachi had a spiritually heavy message he had to share with his people. The word mas-saw’ (“burden”), which this book begins, sets kind of a sober mood. The NIV translates this word as “An oracle.” In the prophetic books mas-saw’ introduces messages of a threatening nature and this gives the prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding. Contrary to many modern religious pundits God’s messages are not always welcome and can often be sinister in nature! Especially if we know how we have been acting and we know how we should be responding! Notice that this spiritually heavy message was from God Himself! Traditionally Malachi, “My messenger”, has been viewed as the last prophet of the Old Testament period before John the Baptist, whose ministry Malachi predicted (Malachi 3:1). Nothing is known of his family and he is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the Bible. However, his message is so personal and intimate that the contents clearly indicate it was written by an actual person. Malachi was God’s voice speaking a heavy message to God’s spiritually lax people. Using a series of questions and answers, Malachi engages his listeners in a debate many would have rather ignored, but God’s people from all ages need to respond to Malachi’s message because it is a “word of the Lord” for his people!

EXAMPLE: My Dad always knew when I wasn’t listening to him when he was getting after me. I would let my eyes kind of glaze over and roll back in my head. Perhaps the blank expression on my face also gave me away. My father knew I wasn’t listening to him and he would confront me about it by declaring, “Young man, you haven’t listened to a single word I said to you!” I would try to play innocent, but we both knew better and the clincher would be when he would say, “All right, tell me what I just said to you.” He wanted me to respond appropriately and I knew I was in real trouble when he would finish by telling me, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This is kind of the way God deals with Israel and us through Malachi. However, our sin and its consequences often hurt us more than it does God. Yet God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message!

We can forget that while God is love, his love demands a response from us. Not that we can earn his love because God indeed always does love, but that we need to realize that when we fail to respond the way we should to his love we are rejecting what he has done for us! Malachi reminds us of…

II. Our failure to respond to God’s love! (Vv. 2-5)

1. An appropriate response to love is devotion!
1) Malachi brings the claim of God’s love for Israel (1:2a)! God had always loved Israel. In fact, He could have chosen anyone else but He chose Israel. The Lord’s claim over Israel was vindicated by two considerations. His love expressed in his free choice of his election of Jacob and his rebuff (hatred/rejection) of Esau. Yet, like a spoiled child, Israel’s questions God’s claim (1:2b)! How had God loved them? What a question to ask! God had deliberately decided not to follow the prescribed law of choosing the eldest son Esau over the younger brother. Instead God chose, out of love, Jacob! While Jacob had his deceptive faults, we soon learn Esau was willing to give up and cave in to his own natural sin rather than follow God. The Hebrew words here for “love” and “hatred” do not refer to emotions but rather actions. How can a child question a parent’s love when it was shown so dramatically? Yet, spoiled Israel did. Can we be like that as well? Yes! God has loved us and shown his love through Jesus Christ. In fact that Bible tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son”! (John 3:16 NIV)

2) The vindication of God’s love claim is given by him (1:2c-5)! The verbs “I have loved” and “I have hated” (vv. 2b-3a) are in the perfect tense and therefore express not only God’s past relationship with Israel and Edom but also His historical and present dealings (in Malachi’s day) with these people. This then provided the second consideration which vindicated God’s claim of love. Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been like if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. God restored Israel and not Edom. In fact, God would turn Edom’s “mountains into a wasteland” and leave “his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may try to rebuild, but God would not allow it. They would be called “A Wicked Land,” as opposed to God’s “Holy Nation.” God tells spoiled Israel that if she doesn’t believe it, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel was guilty, like Edom, perhaps like we often are, of failing to respond to God’s love! What about you this morning, have you failed to respond to the love of God?

EXAMPLE: I remember my mother giving me the parent’s curse. It goes something like this: “One of these days I hope and pray you have children just like you.” While God’s declaration through Malachi isn’t quite like this, it is similar in that he tells Israel, “You dare question my love after all I have done for you? Let me tell you something, Buster, there will come a time when you will see my love with your own eyes and recognize it for what it is.” That time would come through Jesus Christ. Paul says not only will spoiled Israel ultimately recognize God’s love, but every wayward child of God will: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).” We can be guilty of failing to respond to God’s love in our lives!

Conclusion:
Perhaps you have forgotten just how much God loves you or like Israel, you may question God’s love. Let me remind you that God loves us with an everlasting love and proved it by sending Jesus into the world. Paul reminds us that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” and that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6 & 8 NIV) The heavy spiritual message of Malachi is just as valid this morning. God is telling us, just like he did when Israel questioned his love that he does indeed love us and has proven it through Jesus. How will you respond?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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