AGCC Sun. a.m. 12/30/2001
#5      (The "7 Questions of the Backslider" Series -- Malachi)

"WHY DO I HAVE TO REPENT?"

TEXT:  Mal. 3:6-7

INTRO:

There are some things in this universe that never change, if they did we could not use science to predict anything. The molecular structures of certain elements are always the same, certain laws of physics are considered constants or we could not predict anything for sure. Even now physicists are trying to discover the one constant in the universe that they believe exists to help build the Grand Unified Theory (G.U.T) that they believe will open up all kinds of understanding on the universe that now befuddles mankind. There is one constant in the universe IT IS GOD! He never changes, He is the one constant you can count on. It is the one thing that gives us comfort, for if God changed we could never know from one generation to the next what He wanted or who He was. The fact that He does not change means that we can have each generation discover Him and pass along those great truths from one generation to another. Ironically, we both love change and fight it at the same time. We like it because it helps us grow, but we fight it because we like things to stay predictable. ILLUS:This letter was written to President Jackson on Jan. 31, 1829 at the beginning of a new technology called railroads.
     "President Jackson,
    The canal system of this country is being threatened by the spread of a new form of transportation known as railroads. The federal government must preserve the canals for the following reasons. One, if boats are supplanted by railroads serious unemployment will result. Captains, cooks, drivers, hostlers, repairmen and lock tenders will be left without means of livelihood, not to mention the numerous farmers now employed in growing hay for horses. Two, boat builders would suffer and towline, whip and harness makers would be left destitute. Three, canal boats are absolutely essential to the defense of the United States. In the event of the expected trouble with England the Erie canal could be the only means by which we could ever move the supplies so vital to waging modern war. As you my well know, Mr. President, railroad carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by engines which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fires to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed." Sincerely Yours, Martin Van Buren -- Governor of New York. -- Copied, Unknown
The good news about God is that He never changes, this means that we MUST change if we want a relationship with Him! Why? Because our sins separate us from God, and if He can't change it means we must! Fortunately, Christ came to bridge that gap, to be perfect for us so that in Him we can once again have fellowship with God. We must therefore repent of our sins to enter into God's grace. It also means that we follow His ways and not our own to experience His blessings. PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that God never changes, and since we are sinners by nature we cannot have fellowship with God unless we repent of our sins and accept the gift of His son Jesus who alone can bring us to God.

I. THE NATURE OF GOD     3:6

A. Immutable!     3:6a 1. To understand God's immutability is rather simple: a. For something to change or be capable of change it must be IMPERFECT, for if it is already perfect any change would make it imperfect and therefore unnecessary! b. God cannot change, He is perfect and any change would render Him less than perfect. 2. Actually, this is comforting in one important way, since God does not change it means that He is the same for every generation, we don't have to keep rediscovering who God is or what He is like since He never changes. a. We can all work from the same model. b. We don't have to worry that God will be one thing in one generation and another thing in another generation. c. God's ways are predictable based on a solid model of who He is. d. This means the revelation of who God is can be passed down to every generation without fear of His changing. 3. To have a relationship with God then means that we must change since He cannot change! a. This is what we humans resist, we don't want to change! b. We would rather have God change, not us we would like God to change His rules to fit ours but guess what, He won't change the rules to satisfy us, we must alter our course if we want to be saved! ILLUS:There was an officer in the navy who had always dreamed of commanding a battleship. He finally achieved that dream and was given commission of the newest and proudest ship in the fleet. One stormy night, as the ship plowed through the seas, the captain was on duty on the bridge when off to the port he spotted a strange light rapidly closing with his own vessel. Immediately he ordered the signalman to flash the message to the unidentified craft, "Alter your course ten degrees to the south." Only a moment had passed before the reply came: "Alter your course ten degrees to the north." Determined that his ship would take a backseat to no other, the captain snapped out the order to be sent: "Alter course ten degrees--I am the CAPTAIN!" The response beamed back, "Alter your course ten degrees--I am Seaman Third Class Jones." Now infuriated, the captain grabbed the signal light with his own hands and fired off: "Alter course, I am a battleship." The reply came back. "Alter your course, I am a lighthouse." No matter how big or important any of us think we are, God's Word stands forth as an unchanging beacon. All other courses must be altered to His. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 208. 4. God's will doesn't change, His principles won't change, He won't change! a. Society will change, people will change, mankind may change the laws of morality, but God's Word will not change! b. We will always be faced with decisions of what we hold to, the shifting sands of culture or the solid rock who is Christ. 5. Israel's problem in Malachi's day is a familiar one, they wanted God to adjust to their sinful ways rather than repent of their sins and do things God's ways, and God wasn't accommodating them or blessing them. B. Inescapable     3:6b 1. They felt that God had removed His blessings from their life, they were right but they wanted God to adjust Himself to their ways and still bless them, and they were mad that He hadn't. a. They didn't think that they should have to follow God by His rules, they wanted God to adjust to theirs. b. They had decided that God was not keeping up with the times, that they were the smart ones and God was behind the times. c. Their arrogance had cost them dearly, pride usually does! 2. Whenever we decide that God needs to adjust to us we have set ourselves up higher than Him, and while we may convince ourselves we cannot fool God and others! ILLUS:In 1715 Louis XIV of France died. Louis, who called himself "THE GREAT" was the monarch who made the infamous statement, "I AM THE STATE." His court was the most magnificent in Europe, and his funeral was spectacular. His body lay in a golden coffin. To dramatize the deceased king's greatness, orders had been given that the cathedral should be very dimly lighted, with only one special candle set above his coffin to make his coffin the most visible and wondrous sight in the cathedral. Thousands waited in hushed silence, then Bishop Massilon began to speak. Slowly reaching down, he snuffed out the candle saying, "ONLY GOD IS GREAT!" -- copied, Unknown 3. God had not forgotten His promises of blessings, they were not living obediently in order to experience them however. a. They maintained their free will, yes they didn't have to obey God, but then they didn't get His blessings either! b. They wanted God's blessings but not God's ways a combination that is impossible! 4. They kept waiting for God to change but He wouldn't! 5. Some of them thought that if they simply ignored God they would be free of Him. ILLUS:"Just because God is ignored doesn't mean that be doesn't exist." -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990). a. This is the way many people live their lives today! b. Someday we will all face God whether we want to or not. 6. God's reality however was the reason for their very existence, and in fact, His unchangeableness is what kept them from being destroyed! a. God had promised their forefathers that He would preserve them. b. God was keeping His promise the fact that God had NOT changed is what kept them in existence, God will not break His word! "So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed." c. They SHOULD HAVE BEEN glad that God DID NOT CHANGE, it meant their very existence in spite of their sin! 7. This is still true today! a. Just because people get away with sin right now doesn't mean God's laws have changed, or that God doesn't feel the same way about sin, it is only because God is allowing this period of grace for us to choose to follow Him, so He is allowing man free choice. b. The lack of judgment on sin in the present moment is not a sign that God has relaxed or changed His mind on things, it only means He is being gracious in giving time for us to repent and follow Him. 8. He does NOT change and even in the Old Testament it says, Ex. 34:6 "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." a. This is said at least 9 times in the Old Testament!! b. See: Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Psa. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3 9. God's unchangeableness is what gives us hope and security! II. THE NATURE OF MAN     3:7 A. Insolent!     3:7a 1. Man has always tried to redefine God, to make God in his own image! a. This is the reversal of creation, where God made us in His own image. b. When we make God in our image He will have flaws and be just as imperfect as we are! 2. We like God being like us because then we don't have to worry about sin, if He is just like us then we are ok! ILLUS:Like the small boy drawing a picture for Art Linkletter. When asked by Art Linkletter what the boy was drawing he replied, "A picture of God." Linkletter told the boy that no one knew exactly what God looked like, to which the boy responded, "they will when I get through with my picture!" -- copied, unknown 3. Idols were nothing more than man's attempt to redefine God in a way that he was comfortable with. a. No wonder idols often had little demands on their followers, they allowed for orgies and perversions to satisfy the appetites of sin. b. Or, idols would demand painful sacrifices and losses, man's attempts to punish himself out of guilt. 4. History is full of man's attempts to reshape God after our own image always with disastrous results for the individual and society. a. God invites them in this verse to look back and see how even their forefathers had a tendency to turn away from God, to remake God into their own image. b. He also invites to them to look at what happened to their forefathers in history, the tragic losses of life, of a nation taken into captivity, of brokenness of the family unit all because they forsook the Lord and worshipped images other than the true God! c. Any nation that turns away from God and His ways will still experience this kind of tragic loss over time, every kingdom in the past 6,000 plus years that turned away from God has ended up on the ash heap of history. d. It will be no different for America if we turn our backs on God. 5. When mankind or an individual thinks they can do just fine without God or His ways they will discover that they lose in the end. 6. This was Israel's problem in Malachi's day, they were seeing their nation fall apart and yet they were mad at God because He wasn't blessing them like He once had they failed to look at themselves or their own ways to discover the problem, they wanted God to change, not them! a. God won't change because He cannot change, any change would be for the worse since He is already perfect! b. The only choice was for them to change! c. God was hoping that by bringing up their own history they would see this. B. Invitation!     3:7b 1. Even now God is not harsh with them, His offer is gracious, "Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty." a. The one who left wasn't God, it was them but if they return to God they will discover that God will return to them immediately! b. God does not develop laws to take fun away, or to make life boring, He has laws to protect our hearts and minds and by returning to God they would rediscover joy and blessings again and a healthy nation! 2. God wasn't interested in punishing them, He wanted to bless them, but they would have to return to Him to experience this. a. God graciously makes them an offer, one that they should not have refused! b. This is God's heart, He will bless any returning soul to Him. 3. How quickly God will accept us, all we have to do is honestly confess our need of Him, return to Him and we will find freedom from sin and punishment! ILLUS:Lloyd H. Steffen wrote in The Christian Century how when King Frederick II, an eighteenth-century king of Prussia, was visiting a prison in Berlin, the inmates tried to prove to him how they had been unjustly imprisoned. All except one. That one sat quietly in a corner, while all the rest protested their innocence. Seeing him sitting there oblivious to the commotion, the king asked him what he was there for. "Armed robbery, Your Honor." The king asked, "Were you guilty?" "Yes, Sir," he answered. "I entirely deserve my punishment." The king then gave an order to the guard: "Release this guilty man. I don't want him corrupting all these innocent people." -- Donal W. Brenneman APO, Miami, Florida. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 2. 4. Their question was "How are we to return?" a. This indicated a hardness of heart, they knew it meant repenting of their ways, something they were unwilling to do. b. They needed to accept God as He was, not as they would like Him to be. c. This of course meant confessing that they had been wrong and changing God won't change, they must! d. They didn't like the idea of their having to change, this is the essence of sin! 5. God gives opportunity, but He does not force us their failure to repent and thus return to God would mean the fall of their kingdom, something that does happen later because they persisted in their sins. a. How about us? Are we demanding that God come around to our ideas? b. Do we need to repent and return to God? c. We can have the same hard heartedness that Israel had and lose God's blessings on our life too! 6. When a change is necessary, remember who it is that must change US! CONCLUSION:    When something is perfect it cannot change except to be less than perfect. Since God is already perfect He cannot change since any change would mean being less than perfect. Since He won't change we must if we are to have a relationship with God. Israel felt God was far away -- but it wasn't because God had changed, it was because they had drifted away from God and His truth. The only solution was for them to change to return to God. The way back to God was through repentance. Will you change so you can know His blessings and joy?