AGCC Sun. a.m. 12/9/2001
#4 (The "7 Questions of the Backslider" Series -- Malachi)
"WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE SERVING GOD?"
TEXT: Mal. 2:17-3:5
INTRO:The world is full of injustice … and sometimes this makes us feel like it doesn't really matter how good we live, especially since those who do evil seem to get away with evil unpunished.
Does it makes a difference how we live? Will those who do evil always get away with their sin? Will there ever be a time when everyone will be judged properly?
It DOES MAKE a difference how we live … and there will come a time when this will be very clear even if it doesn't happen always now!
We would all love justice in the here and now, if only everything was like this:
ILLUS:Wouldn't it be nice if this was the kind of justice that always happened, consider these true stories:
Like a woman from Prague in the Czech Republic. She had discovered that her husband had been cheating on her, and feeling like he was getting away with this while she only suffered she decided to jump out a window and commit suicide. She jumped and would have died from the 3 story fall but she landed on a man down below and his body broke her fall and she was ok, unfortunately it killed the man -- who was the man, it just happened to be her cheating husband!
Or like the man who was a suspected drug dealer. The police could never seem to catch him. One day the man called one of his dealers who owed him for a drug deal they had made and the man was late paying him, but accidentally he had dialed the wrong number … he ended up getting the police station by accident and they played along and an undercover cop met the suspected drug dealer where he had been told to meet … the police man met him with open arms … and handcuffs, they were able to arrest him with evidence in hand and firearm possession.
Or like the bank robber that tried robbing a bank in Buffalo, NY a few years ago. He stepped up to the teller and said, "This is a stick up!" The teller responded back with, "Don't you have a note demanding money?" The crook responded that he was noteless and added that this was an oral robbery. The teller then demanded to see his gun as proof! The rattled and gunless robber said, "Lady, you're crazy!" … and then fled!
Or like another bank robbery attempt, in this one the robber did give the teller a note. After reading it she told the robber, "Just a minute sir, amounts of this kind must be approved by my superior." She promptly left him and went to the back room and sounded the silent alarm while the robber waited patiently. Upon returning she told the robber, "My superior would only approve $150 sir." The crook said that would be fine, and as she counted out the money she requested he sign a receipt, which he did! Just then the cops walked through the door and arrested him! -- Unknown
If only life was ALWAYS like this, but we know better! The truth is that sometimes people get away with evil … but only temporarily! We must not lose heart in serving God even when we aren't always rewarded here and now and when evil doers seem to do well … here and now. God will one day settle all the balances and it will prove good serving the Lord!
Usually people have two ways of responding to the present inequities in justice in this world:
1. They keep faith in a God who one day will right all wrongs and reward the faithful.
2. Or, they become cynical about God and faith and live without scruples to get everything they can here and now in any way they can.
Israel was doing the second one in Malachi's day, they had developed the attitude of "What difference does it make serving God?" They saw evildoers get away with evil and go unpunished and saw the righteous suffer for doing good … and they got tired of the injustice and got sloppy in their walk with God. They were cynical instead of stable.
PROP. SENT: The Bible clearly states that God is fair and that one day everyone will be judged correctly and fairly. Yes, injustice appears to happen at times … but it has not gone unnoticed by God who will correct the injustices in the future. Our confidence in God should help us stand against the injustice of this present age, there is a sure reward for the faithful as much as there will be punishment for evil.
I. "IT DOESN'T PAY!" -- THEY SAID! 2:17
A. Cynical! 2:17a
1. They had wearied God with their constant complaints about injustice in the world!
a. They were constantly pointing out to God that evildoers were often getting away with evil, apparently without punishment.
b. They were also contrasting this with those who had lived faithful lives and yet suffered … "where was the justice God?" they constantly griped!
2. Sounds a lot like the arguments the world still uses to dismiss Christianity!
3. Sounds like some Christians who become bitter and complain about living for God in a world where injustice so often is observable!
a. Essentially they were saying, "What difference does it make serving God?"
b. They had lost their motivation to serve God by focusing on the injustice presently in the world.
c. And that was the problem, their focus was on the wrong thing!
ILLUS:A soap manufacturer and a pastor were walking together down a street in a large city. The soap manufacturer casually said, "The gospel you preach hasn't done much good, has it? Just observe. There is still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!" The pastor made no reply until they passed a dirty little child making mud pies in the gutter. Seizing the opportunity, the pastor said, "I see that soap hasn't done much good in the world; for there is much dirt, and many dirty people around." The soap manufacturer replied, "Oh, well, soap is only useful when it is applied." And the pastor said, "Exactly, so it is with the gospel." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 354.
4. Their failure to look beyond the momentary injustice to God made them cynical.
a. It may explain their sick sacrifices too, they had been bringing for sacrifice animals that were diseased and ill.
b. They had no heart for God, they got lost in the cynicism of a chaotic world where injustice could be found.
B. Careless! 2:17b
1. With a cynical attitude it was easy to see how they would live, in a very careless way … because they thought, "why does it matter how we live?"
2. They joked around that God was pleased with evil people … evidenced by the fact that God never punished them, so he must like them!
a. They had become hard!
b. They had not reached this point overnight, it was the gradual process of being frustrated longer and longer.
c. In the process they had slowly exchanged their confidence in God with cynicism.
ILLUS:Like the rumblings in 79 A.D. of Mount Vesuvius and the nearby cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum … because of the constant rumblings that occurred from the volcano they had become cynical about any real possible explosions, to the point where they literally ignored the rumblings totally. This of course proved to be a disaster for these cities and their citizens when Mount Vesuvius errupted and totally destroyed the cities and all the inhabitants that had ignored the warnings. They had plenty of time to move and change things, but their cynicism proved their demise! - Unknown
3. Careless living is the result of having a cynical attitude.
II. "I DEFINITELY PROMISE!" -- HE SAID! 3:1
A. Confidence! 3:1a
1. God responds to their cynicism by affirming an old promise again … that the Messiah is coming and His coming will change everything!
a. While things in the moment seem unjust this is only a temporary thing.
b. The Lord is coming to His temple … and His coming will change the equation of injustice.
2. God does not let evildoers escape punishment, it is only delayed in mercy so they have time to repent.
a. This is hard to accept sometimes, especially with some hardened people we see at times.
b. But some of the hardest people have broken before God … look at the murderer Saul who became the Apostle Paul!
3. The very thing they griped about was the thing that could save them … that God in mercy did not punish sin right away! This meant they too had time to change their ways before REAL justice comes to them!
a. God will not allow evil to go unpunished, it is just a matter of WHEN it will be dealt with.
ILLUS:Nemesis was the daughter of the Night and the Greek goddess of justice. She pursued and punished the proud, the insolent, and the criminal. This gives rise to the expression "met his nemesis." Of course, many do not, at least not in this life. Our lives experience many injustices and only in eternity will all wrongs be righted and perfect justice done. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
b. Injustice is only apparent on this side of eternity, God will bring to justice every wrong that is done by evildoers if they leave this life without having repented of their sins.
c. They are not escaping judgment, only delaying it!
4. God has a plan … the Messiah IS COMING, and it will be the beginning of the end for evildoers.
a. Once the Messiah has come sin's fate will be sealed!
b. They need to be confident about God's promises.
5. The same is true for us today, while we wait for Jesus' second coming we must not become dismayed at the apparent success of evildoers in this world, it will be a short lived success for them … they will be brought to justice, if not in man's court, certainly in God's courtroom!
6. Eventually, justice will prevail even if it isn't right up front!
ILLUS:The man who invented the Radar gun used by police today is named Sir Robert Watson Watt. Several years ago he was arrested in Canada for speeding, having been caught in a Radar trap! He wrote a small poem about the experience:
"Pity Sir Robert Watson Watt, strange target of his radar plot, and this, with others I could mention, a victim of his own invention." -- Unknown
7. In a sense they were right, God is NOT fair!!! Fairness would have meant all evildoers getting their just desserts immediately … but it would have meant destroying all humans right away for all have sinned and come short of God's glory!
a. God is NOT fair in this sense … He is gracious and slow to anger, He delights in mercy and so we are not consumed right away!
b. Thank God He is not fair immediately!!!!
8. But God is just, and His justice will prevail in time!
B. Covenant 3:1b
1. God's purposes will stand no matter what man does … and God's patience now with evildoers is simply to allow for two things:
a. For time that they might repent of their sins and be saved.
b. To prove their hardness of heart by their actions and God's fairness one day in judgment on them because they failed to take advantage of God's love and forbearance.
2. God's plan included the Messiah's coming … but even in this first coming the Messiah would not bring final judgment, He would die for sin and sinners so they have an opportunity to be saved before His second coming when He does come in judgment against all sin.
a. We are living in the covenant of grace right now!
b. The Messiah's second coming will usher in judgment against all sin.
3. God was telling Israel in Malachi's day that there is a plan, they need to be patient.
a. They must not think that evil is escaping punishment, it is only postponed.
b. The day will come when everything will be fair!
ILLUS:Back in 1908 on December 28 in a beautiful city in Italy called Messina an unusual event occurred that remind us of God's ultimate justice. Messina was a city of great cynics. The populace had an unusual hatred toward God and early on that day the city fathers had passed several resolutions mocking God and His Word. Their local paper that very day printed in its Christmas issue an abominable parody, daring this so-called "Almighty" to make Himself known by sending a destructive earthquake to their city! God did just that on Dec. 28, 1908 … 84,000 citizens were killed in it and the city was laid waste! Of course, the cynics among us today will simply point out that this was an unfortunate coincident! -- Unknown
4. God's covenant will stand … they need to give it time!
III. "I DESIRE PURITY!" -- DO WE? 3:2-5
A. Cleansing! 3:2-4
1. When He comes it will be as a refiner's fire or laundry soap! 3:2
a. In other words, He will clean up the mess made by man!
b. In other words real justice will take place, for past and present sins.
2. The idea here is a call to purity … for everyone!
a. The world nods smilingly at sin today, we must not!
ILLUS:A very unscrupulous man applied for a job as press secretary for a congressman. Not long after submitting his application he was called by the congressman's office and told the following, "Your resume is full of exagerations, distortions, helf-truths, and outright lies … so when can you start work on Monday!?" Obviously (Hopefully!) this is fiction, but so much the mentality of our culture today! -- Unknown
b. It is almost a joke to the world about evil, but it won't be a laughing matter one day.
3. Only those whose sins have been forgiven will escape that future judgment on sin … the first coming of the Messiah would be a call to again live a pure life, to walk in the light and not the darkness.
a. And in His second return He will judge the living and the dead!
b. Today we live in a time of opportunity, a time to have our sins forgiven and our lives controlled by God and not our sinful nature.
c. Today is the opportunity for cleansing, have you taken advantage of this opportunity so you can escape the day of judgment when it comes, for it will surely come!
B. Conviction 3:5
1. This is Malachi's final point as God responds to their question, "What difference does it make serving God?" … God's judgment will not only come against those evildoers but against them too if they are not living for Him.
a. He will be fair to all.
b. He desires a life lived in forgiveness.
2. They should not despair in doing what is right, God will justify the righteous in time as much as He will judge the unrighteous.
ILLUS:In November, 1989, author William L. Shirer, best known for his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, received the Beck award for his distinguished career. The Beck award is named for Edward Scott Beck, former editor of the Chicago Tribune, who fired Shirer as a reporter in 1932! Not all of life's injustices are made right, but some of them are if we wait long enough. Shirer had to wait fifty-seven years. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
3. Does it matter if we serve God? YOU BET IT DOES! It will matter in eternity even if it doesn't always show right up this way right now.
a. It is not fair to judge God on the moment when evildoers seem to be winning or escaping punishment.
b. No one will escape, except those who have accepted the sacrifice Christ made for them so that their sins can be forgiven.
c. Christ already paid the high price for our sins, only those who fail to accept the gift of God's love in Christ will one day stand for judgment.
4. Today is the day of salvation … are you taking advantage of it? It really will pay to serve God!
CONCLUSION: Is there injustice in the world now? YES! Does God care? YES! Are evildoers getting away without being judged? SOMETIMES FOR THE MOMENT THEY ARE! -- but their judgment hasn't come in full measure yet, but it will one day! Does it matter how we live -- ABSOLUTELY YES! All accounts will be settled one day, don't lose heart serving God nor get frustrated when evil appears to go unpunished now, it will pay to serve God in the end!